Scott Olmos-US PRESSWIRE
We did a Q&A with our buddies over at Arizona Desert Swarm in advance of today's matchup with the Wildcats. Here are our questions and their responses.
1) I think that everyone pretty much thought that Rich Rodriguez was a great hire for Arizona when they brought him on last season. Certainly, there have been flashes of what he could do in Tucson. How does the fanbase feel about the job he has done in his first half season?
I think as a whole they're very pleased with the results, though attendance at Arizona Stadium has actually been pretty poor. Much of that probably has to do with expectations. A 3-3 record with this schedule isn't too shabby considering this very well was looked at as a 4-8 team at the beginning of the year. I think everyone is surprised about how quickly RichRod has implemented his system on offense and how Jeff Casteel has brought in the 3-3-5 scheme on defense.
Now, depth and injuries have really killed Arizona, but Mike Stoops didn't leave a completely bare cupboard for RichRod. That said, the team looks leaps and bounds improved from an execution standpoint compared to last season. Most of all, they're playing hard and in good shape (very, very good shape, actually) so it's just a good sign to see people buy into the coach. After last year, I think that pleases most Wildcat fans.
2) Honest question: do you think they should have tried to win the game against Stanford in regulation and not gone to OT?
My gut-reaction was, "What is he doing?" After thinking about it over the next 24 hours, I see where he was coming from. Yes, the offense was moving quickly and there was time to score, but going 82 yards with 42 seconds left is a tough task for even a fast-paced team. There are too many bad things that could have happened even to get into field goal range (and then, the field goal unit is dicey at best) that could've allowed the Cardinal to score to avoid an overtime. Greg Hansen at the Daily Star did some research and concluded Arizona hadn't had a game-changing drive of less than a minute in 30 years. So the odds were greatly against them.
I mean, something bad DID happen in overtime -- Scott's pass was batted up in the air and picked before Stanford scored. If that had happened in the final minute? RichRod would've been in an even hotter oven afterward.
3) What are some areas that Arizona might have a matchup advantage?
Receiver and running back. Arizona has Austin Hill and Dan Buckner, two guys at 6'3 and 6'4 that can win jump balls and generally are dangerous against man coverage. Ka'Deem Carey has been the big story at running back, however. He's put up close to 700 yards thus far and that's behind an offensive line that's both mediocre and injured. Arizona has put Carey out in receiving positions to get him more touches without having to worry about run blocking, and once he's in open space he's going to get five or more yards. The kid was born to play football.
4) If you were defending the Wildcat offense, what things would you do to slow down Matt Scott and his cast?
Blitzes. Lots of blitzes. And early. Scott has speed, but I'm thinking that teams would rather have him run than pass. He's not that big of a guy and is already pretty banged up. I'm sure the bye helped him recover, but I'd be pretty surprised to see him take off very often, at least off initial play calls. Arizona's offensive line is beat up, so if the Huskies get to Scott early, then he might start rushing things. And when he starts rushing things, his mechanics go.
In short, the Huskies should cover the big receivers and Carey, then settle with Arizona throwing mid-level passes. If it's a zone-read play, Washington should probably assume that Carey is getting the ball, and if Scott takes off, he can pay the price by getting hit.
5) The Washington offense has struggled throughout most of this season, but the Arizona defense has had its issues as well not holding a BCS opponent below 38 yet this year. Do you think the Huskies can put up points on that defense, or is it good enough to keep giving Steve Sarkisian headaches for another week?
I think that's the biggest thing in this game. Washington's offensive line that has struggled will get a breather of sorts against a UA pass rush that has only six sacks this year. Starting DE Dominique Austin is out and rotation end Reggie Gilbert could be out as well. Keith Price should have a good amount of time in the pocket, and if the Huskies stay committed to running the ball they should beat up a very small Arizona defensive front.
6) Who are some less talked about Arizona players to keep an eye on this weekend?
Not sure if you guys have much exposure to Austin Hill, but the sophomore has made us feel OK about Juron Criner playing in the NFL. He plays a lot like Criner and is in the top 15 in the NCAA in receiving yards.
And while the defense has been pretty bad, one guy whose name I always love to throw out there is Tra'Mayne Bondurant, who plays the "spur" safety/linebacker hybrid position in the 3-3-5. He's be utilized a lot in the box as a fast but physical tackler. Also don't be surprised if they dial him up on some blitzes.
7) Where do you see Arizona at the end of the year?
I honestly think they can get to a bowl game with six wins. Of course, a lot has to do with this game. On the remaining schedule, Arizona should be able to beat Colorado and Utah, and it should take one of two against ASU and UCLA. So if the Wildcats don't get upset and win against the two newbies to the Pac-12, then they're at six wins. Of course, winning against Washington will help account for any slipup, so that's why this game is so paramount in being bowl eligible or not.