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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona football takes step forward with throttling of South Carolina State

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Larry Hogan / Arizona Daily Wildcat

If anything can be drawn from Arizona’s 56-0 win over South Carolina State at Arizona Stadium on Saturday, it’s that the Wildcats won’t be taking any opponent lightly.

No. 22 Arizona (3-0) held a 28-0 lead at the start of the third quarter, but kept its starters in because head coach Rich Rodriguez didn’t feel that the team performed as well as it could have.

The Wildcats recorded a school-record 43 first downs and added 689 yards of total offense, two yards shy of the UA record.

“We got some first downs, but there were some possessions I thought we could have been better at,” Rodriguez said. “The guys took care of business. They were very businesslike all week and focused and did what they were supposed to do.”

The Wildcats’ offense hummed along as usual, putting up over 500 total yards for the third consecutive game and scoring over 50 points in a second consecutive game, thanks to another solid performance from senior quarterback Matt Scott. Scott racked up 349 yards of total offense and four total touchdowns on 30-of-36 passing.

Arizona battered SCSU with a potent mixture of running and passing.

Both facets of the offense compiled over 300 yards with a 56-46 run-pass ratio. Running back Daniel Jenkins led the team in rushing with 76 yards, including a pile-pushing five-yard touchdown.

“I was just trying to focus on my fundamentals, stay low and keep my feet moving,” Jenkins said.

Rodriguez acknowledged that it wasn’t easy to get his team fired up to play the Bulldogs, who have never beaten a BCS team, but that the Wildcats’ focus was in the right place all week.

The rout marked the first shutout for Arizona since the 2008 season opener against Idaho, a game the UA won 70-0.

“A shutout is always big,” sophomore safety Jourdon Grandon said.

“As a defense, we look to go out and shutout every opponent. To go out there and get the first one in a couple years, it feels really good.”

Arizona held the Bulldogs to just 154 total yards on 54 plays, a stark contrast to the 636 yards on 90 plays given up in last week’s upset of Oklahoma State. It may have been against a lesser opponent, but the Wildcats’ shoddy third down defense improved, allowing just two conversions in 13 tries.

“We’re coming together,” linebacker Marquis Flowers said. “We struggled last year, obviously. There were times we struggled against our offense [in preseason scrimmages], but to get a shutout, that’s big. That shows you that we have pride.”

By the time the fourth quarter started, Scott and sophomore running back Ka’Deem Carey, who was unable to extend his streak of 100-yard games with a 71-yard performance, were on the bench, prompting Rodriguez to send in his backups and give some of the team’s younger players some action.

Backup quarterback B.J. Denker led a 14-play, 87-yard scoring drive on his first possession, including a 17-yard scoring strike to a wide-open Sean Willet.

“I think B.J. did good,” Jenkins said. “He’s another guy that’s been working hard and finally got a chance to show what he got out there.”

In addition to developing some depth at a paper-thin quarterback position, Rodriguez wanted to reduce the number of hits Scott was going to take in a game that was essentially over by halftime.

Of course, to Scott, the number of hits he took Saturday night was all relative to how he played the game.

“Tonight, I was trying to get out of bounds a little bit, I don’t think I took too many hits,” Scott said. “I’m not going to sit back there and curl up or anything. (Rodriguez) knows I’m a tough guy … It was really good to get out a little after halftime and let some other guys get some work in.

“It’s going to really help us in the future.”

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