TUCSON, Ariz. — Given a chance, Rich Rodriguez joked, he’d have one more Arizona Wildcat player in uniform this weekend when the Wildcats face Utah.
That Wildcat would be Tedy Bruschi, the 100-watt, 100 mph former Arizona All-American turned three-time Super Bowl champion turned college football analyst. Bruschi will be in Tucson for a celebration for his induction into the 2013 College Football Hall of Fame.
Rodriguez, whose team is 3-2 and on a two-game losing streak, would welcome a second pep talk from Bruschi, who spoke to the team at the end of the team spring drills and helped inspire them through the summer months.
“The guys on the team who were here, most of them who are here, I’m sure will be anxious to (hear him again),” Rodriguez said, adding that nothing is scheduled, but he hopes a pep talk can be arranged.
“I’d rather suit him up. There is probably a rule against that … Utah has got some guys (on the roster) about that age.”
Rodriguez said Bruschi epitomizes what Arizona football is all about — especially on the defensive end. It was more 20 years ago when Bruschi roamed the Arizona Stadium sidelines and terrorized opposing quarterbacks and running backs for UA’s vaunted “Desert Swarm.” He became a consensus All-American.
“Tedy is special,” Rodriguez said.
And he apparently delivers special, inspiring speeches. The last one had the players “on the edge of their seats,” Rodriguez said. Bruschi talked about his pride for Arizona and how everyone has to play hard every play. And that he was one of those players who had to work for respect every day.
“It was so intense,” UA quarterback B.J. Denker said of the speech. “That’s why he was so good on the football field, because of his intensity and passion for football. After we were done he yelled and screamed. We were all ready to play. We all walked out of that meeting with chills. It was one of the greatest speeches from a player I’ve ever experienced.”
Rodriguez said it was one of the best in his 28 years of coaching. Reason enough to get Bruschi back for another speech. The last one was unscripted, like his fly-to-the-ball style.
“I have a feeling that when he practiced, hit the weights, did conditioning and (did) anything football-wise, Tedy was the same way,” Rodriguez said. “That’s the way he played games. It’s the way he played in the NFL. If you want to win championships, you have to have a Tedy Bruschi mentality. That’s easier said than done. But that’s what you have to have.” Erickson’s influence
Former Arizona State head coach Dennis Erickson is now one of the offensive coordinators for Utah. He’s also in charge of coaching the running backs. It’s been a pretty good fit as Utah comes in at 4-2 and just days from upsetting then No. 5 Stanford 27-21 in Salt Lake City.
Rodriguez said he sees Erickson’s offensive influence in Utah’s games.
“You can tell it’s him,” Rodriguez said. “They are still doing things they did last year, but there are some of Dennis Erickson’s (tendencies) with spreading you out a bit, movement in the backfield. And (regarding) tempo, they are going faster than last year.”
Rodriguez admitted his team wasn’t up for Thursday’s game against Southern California, or at least not up to his liking. UA fell behind 28-3 but rallied in the second half of a 38-31 loss.
Rodriguez said he wasn’t sure why it happened.
“The effort was pretty good, but there was a certain intensity that wasn’t quite what I thought it could have been, playing USC Thursday night on national television at the Coliseum,” Rodriguez said. “Hopefully being back at home will help us play with great intensity because we’re going to need it.”
Denker said he was frustrated in seeing “the points we left on the field.”
“I don’t know if we came out flat, but you can definitely see on the film if we would have done a couple things, if I would have a different read here or there, especially on the drive where we missed the field goal, there were probably two plays where we could have gotten in the end zone,” Denker said. “Then, the one to Nate (Phillips) where I threw it a little too high, if I would have put it on him, that’s seven points instead of three.”