Arizona wants pressure (and win) against Washington State

TUCSON, Ariz. — Arizona senior defensive lineman Tevin Hood has all but one quarterback sack this season. Of course, he’d like another.

In its entirety, the defensive line has just 4.5 total on the season, and the team has 14 overall. That’s just under two a game. Defensive back Tra’Mayne Bondurant is the team leader with two.

Not a lot of sack attacks going on this year for the Wildcats, to be sure. It’s not like they aren’t trying, but in Arizona’s 3-3-5 defensive scheme, pressure from the front doesn’t come easy.

“It’s always physically demanding when you are mismatched like that,” Hood said of the defensive alignment. “It’s not a common defense in college football. It’s three (on defense) on five (on offense), and sometimes six if you add the running back.”

This week would be as good a time as any to generate some pressure, though, and Arizona (6-3, 3-3 Pac-12) will have plenty of chances when Washington State (4-5, 2-4 Pac-12) visits Arizona Stadium on Saturday. The Cougars like to pass … and pass … and pass. The catch: Cougars quarterback Connor Halliday gets his passes off quickly, just as the offense intends for him to. Washington State has allowed an average of two sacks a game this season, just below average nationally.

“You still have to get hits on the quarterback,” Hood said with a smile. “It’s about getting hurries, battled balls and, more than anything, get them rattled.”

The defensive line “has been pretty solid,” Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said, despite the numbers. Similar to the rest of the defense, that’s an improvement from a season ago, when it just wasn’t any good. This year, it’s better. But it could be even better, just like everything else. And Rodriguez is hoping to see a step forward this week against pass-happy Washington State and coach Mike Leach.

“That’s going to be key in this game,” Rodriguez said. “We won’t be able to send five or six guys on the blitz; we’ve got to do it with the base (defense).”

Keeping players in coverage is crucial against the Cougars, who rank seventh in the country in passing with 365 yards per game (3,098 yards on the season). Earlier this year, Halliday threw an FBS-record 89 passes in a loss to Oregon.

Between the two offenses Saturday, there could be a whole lot of yards racked up.

“It would be fun to watch,” Rodriguez said of Leach’s offense, “if you didn’t have to play him.”

Arizona also is expecting a new wrinkle or two from Leach and his offense this week, as Washington State is coming off a bye and hasn’t played in 16 days. Leach, of course, is considered one of the sport’s more eccentric and mad-scientist-type coaches. Rodriguez, though, said every team Arizona has played this season has done something new and that it’s his job to make his players “not panic” in the situation.

On the other side of the ball, the Wildcats likely will need to put up some points, and quarterback B.J. Denker said he’s expecting a big, physical defense in front of him. One way to offset that size and strength: tempo.

“They do what they do in the secondary,” he said. “If we play fast, we should wear those big guys out and be pretty successful.”

Another advantage for Arizona: Ka’Deem Carey, who at 3,575 career yards is just 349 yards shy of the school’s all-time rushing record, held by Trung Canidate.

Carey said that while he’s not keeping track of exactly how many yards he needs to get the record, he does have a general feel for how many he’s gotten in a particular game. More important than the yardage total, though, is the point total.

“My focus is on winning the games,” Carey said. “Just trying to get the best bowl that we can. The numbers are going to come. We just have to play hard.”