TUCSON, Ariz. — Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez came off the practice field on Tuesday still upset that his players hadn’t done enough and were not properly getting ready for Saturday’s showdown with No. 16 Washington at Husky Stadium. Arizona, 3-0, is coming off a bye week.
How’d they react to his tongue-lashing?
“I don’t care,” Rodriguez said. “It’s more important how they react on Saturday.”
Now that the warm-up acts are over, Arizona will find out just how good it is — or isn’t — when it faces the much-improved Huskies, a team UA defeated 52-17 a season ago.
Revenge for the Huskies?
“That’s all overrated,” Rodriguez said. “That may help with motivation in the offseason, but once the ball is kicked in a game, last year is the last thing on anyone’s mind.”
Kickoff is at 4 p.m. in a game that will be nationally televised for FOX.
To say Arizona’s strength-of-schedule (Northern Arizona, Nevada Las Vegas and Texas-San Antonio) is getting a major upgrade would be an understatement. No. 16 Washington (3-0) just might be the best team the Cats will face until a late-November date with Oregon.
“Our season began week one,” said UA quarterback B.J. Denker, when asked about the real season starting Saturday. “There are no pretend games in football.”
When Arizona arrives in Husky Stadium, there will be nothing pretend about it: 70,000 fans; a nationally ranked opponent with an explosive offense; and, more than likely, a slippery surface. There’s an 80 percent chance for rain.
“It’ll be a little different for us,” Rodriguez said.
Arizona worked plenty this week with soaked footballs, getting ready for what’s ahead.
“It’s been good, but we can’t simulate a constant rain,” Rodriguez said. “But we’ve talked a lot about ball security. We’ve worked as much as we can on it.”
Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey said it wasn’t a big deal. In fact, when he was given some wet gloves so he could get used to wearing them, he asked instead for his usual ones.
“It’s going to be exciting, everybody wants to play in the rain as a little kid,” Carey said.
He’s also intrigued in seeing Washington runner Bishop Sankey, who has rushed for 1,219 yards in his last seven games and is No. 2 in the country with 148.7 yards per game this season. Carey was the nation’s leading rusher last year, so the comparisons are unavoidable.
Carey said he’s never seen Sankey play. “I like to see great backs play in person, take some style from them if I need to,” Carey said. “But I can’t wait to see running backs. I can’t wait to see the dude from Oregon. I love to go up against competition.”
When asked if he was looking forward to his showdown with Carey, Sankey reportedly just shrugged.
“Not too much,” he was quoted in the Seattle Times. “I haven’t been really thinking about it. He’s a great back, and I respect his game. I’m more worried about his defense. Maybe if he played outside linebacker, I’d be more worried about him.”
Both teams will have their challenges. Washington in facing Arizona’s 3-3-5 defense and Washington’s attempt at “stuffing the box”, sending a number of players to the front of the defensive line to stop Carey and force Denker to beat them through the air.
“If they are smart they would,” said Denker. “If they are going to try and win the football game they will. That’s going to be every team’s (strategy) we play. But we’re going to try to run the ball and throw when necessary. I feel if they try to stop the run, we will be successful.”