Blowout win has UA looking toward Oregon
TUCSON, Ariz. -- It took all of 2 minutes, 59 seconds, and the rout was on.
The haboob started early. All Arizona had to do from there was stay healthy.
Mission -- er, tune-up -- accomplished. And the last person who was going to apologize for the Wildcats' 56-0 blowout of FCS opponent South Carolina State was head coach Rich Rodriguez, who said "as long as it counts as one" victory, he's fine with it.
"I'd bet you there was a I-AA that beat a I-A this weekend," Rodriguez said. "One gets beat every weekend, so you can't take them lightly. Those kids come and play hard. ... At this point, every win we are going to take and learn from it and move on. Our guys understand it's a little different deal next weekend."
Different indeed. The Wildcats head to Oregon next week to take on the fourth-ranked Ducks (3-0) in what will be the program's most significant game since taking on No. 20 USC in Los Angeles on Dec. 5, 2009 (a game Arizona won en route to a Holiday Bowl appearance).
Rodriguez called going to Oregon a "tough task" and later referred to the game as "huge."
"Everyone is going to talk about it," Rodriguez said.
Oregon had its own blowout win Saturday, beating Tennessee Tech 63-14 in preparation for next week's game in Eugene. Rodriguez said he got a glimpse of the game -- and isn't that usually all that can be gotten of the the always-quick Ducks?
"They have a lot of fast dudes," Rodriguez said about his early observations. "Fast, fast. They have fast guys playing fast."
Arizona played fast Saturday night, too. South Carolina State couldn't keep up, giving up 689 yards of total offense and compiling just 154. Arizona also had a school-record 43 first downs.
Still, there were some concerns. Really.
"I wasn't particularly pleased at half(time) offensively, because we weren't particularly executing as well as we could have," Rodriguez said. "We got some first downs, but I thought there were a couple of possessions we could have been better at."
Remember that the Wildcats scored on four of their first seven possessions. They could have made it five but lost a fumble in what looked to be a likely scoring drive.
Perhaps the biggest question was not how many Arizona would win by but when starting quarterback Matt Scott would be pulled. The answer: the start of the fourth quarter after going 30 for 36 for 288 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for one.
"He was really sharp," Rodriguez said of the redshirt senior. "He missed one deep throw that he needed to connect on. To beat a team like the one we have coming up, if the guy is open, you have to hit it. It's only his third game in a new offense. He's still learning, and there are things we can get better at."
Still, the Wildcats gave the Bulldogs a steady dose of, well, everyone, with the catalyst being Scott, who continues to impress in his first year as starter after taking over for record-setting former quarterback Nick Foles.
On the ground, Daniel Jenkins had a game-high 76 yards. Ka'Deem Carey had 71 yards. Each had a touchdown.
In the air, nine receivers had at least one reception.
How quickly was it over?
Arizona's first drive: nine plays, 75 yards in 3:06. Arizona's second score: seven plays, 53 yards, 2:14. Arizona's third score: 12 plays, 72 yards, 3:41. Arizona's fourth score: six plays, 39 yards, 2:01.
The Wildcats went into halftime up 28-0 and in complete control.
"We are really in rhythm. We know what we are doing and executing the offense," said Scott. "We have to continue to get better, though. I see improvements, but we have to still improve."
UA scored 28 more points in the second half, but the game was all but over by the break.
The defense, which still has still plenty of questions, didn't disappoint either. South Carolina State didn't get into Arizona territory in the first half. In fact, the Bulldogs didn't cross midfield until it was 35-0 and there was 6:35 left in the third quarter.
By then, many of Arizona's starters had been removed, giving way to the reserves -- some of whom hadn't previously seen the field this season.
"We had to get some more guys in there," Rodriguez said. "We needed some of those other guys to get some reps. This was good to get those guys some experience."
And to be part of the haboob.