TUCSON, Ariz. — It wasn’t exactly about punishment, but instead polish.
Even though Arizona was dominating Texas-San Antonio in the fourth quarter, coach Rich Rodriguez wanted his starting offensive linemen in for one more set of downs — to get some things straightened out ahead of next week’s Pac-12 Conference opener against Washington.
Practice makes perfect? Actually, there’s nothing like game-time situations, particularly for a group that must open holes for running back Ka’Deem Carey for the Wildcats to be successful.
Rodriguez said he liked the group’s aggressiveness, “but the technique wasn’t there sometimes.”
When a coach uses phrases like “whiffing” and “missed blocks” and “things to clean up,” you’d think he was disappointed in his veteran group.
But not really.
His naked eye felt the line “could play better fundamentally,” adding that offensive coach Jim Michalczik is working “his tail off to get them to be more consistent on their fundamentals.”
“It’s not really complicated in what we are asking them to do,” Rodriguez said. “It’s still a work in progress, too.”
So he kept them out there for a drive in the game’s final five minutes with the Wildcats ahead 38-13.
“We expect to play the whole game, regardless of the score,” said left tackle Mickey Baucus. “That’s what we train for. If he wants to keep us in there the whole game that’s cool; if he wants to pull us at halftime, he’s the coach.”
Junior center Steven Gurrola had a different take.
“All we knew is we needed to do is get that first down,” said Gurrola, a junior college transfer. “We needed to keep the clock running … We just had to get the first down so we can get the other guys (a chance) to play.”
Two plays and one first down later, the second-team line replaced the starters. Mission accomplished.
“We’ve come together as a group, but there is still another level we can get to,” Baucus said.
“We’re never satisfied because we want to do better,” he said. “We’re happy that we’ve gotten the three wins. Now we have Washington.”