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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Rich Rod talks Trojans, rankings and walk-ons

Tyler Baker

Arizona football head coach Rich Rodriguez and athletic director Greg Byrne celebrate Arizona’s 31-24 win over then-No.2 Oregon at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore., on Thursday.On Monday at his weekly press conference, Rodriguez talked about the USC Trojans, being a top-10 ranked team and walk-ons.

Arizona football has its “24-hour” rule, but the Wildcats didn’t need that long after beating then No. 2 Oregon on the road.

UA football head coach Rich Rodriguez gives the Wildcats 24 hours to celebrate a win or dwell on a loss before focusing on the next game, but he said they were quiet five to ten minutes after take-off on the way home after Thursday’s 31-24 win in Eugene, Ore.

No. 10 Arizona (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12 Conference) is in the top-ten rankings for the first time since 2010, but Rodriguez said it doesn’t matter.

“It matters at the end of the regular season, but it don’t matter right now,” Rodriguez said. “But if it helps get a little bounce in our guys’ steps and the fans to be happy and sell out the stadium Saturday night, then so be it.”

Rodriguez said praise is like poison: “It’s OK if you don’t swallow it.”

“I don’t mind if people pat them on the back and all that, talking good things about them,” Rodriguez said. “It’s probably the same people who weren’t even mentioning them a week or two weeks ago.”

Rodriguez pointed out that only one UA player was recruited by USC, former Trojan and current UA reserve quarterback redshirt senior Jesse Scroggins.

“From what I understand, USC is still favored,” Rodriguez said. “And we understand why.”

The unranked Trojans (3-2, 2-1) are favored by Las Vegas bookmakers by 2.5 points as of Monday afternoon.

“I’m glad we [are] the underdog that just keep[s] the guys focused [on] the task at hand,” UA junior safety William Parks said.The Ducks are the second-highest ranked team the Wildcats have beaten on the road, behind No. 1 USC in 1981.

“You got to be careful when you pat them on the rear that you don’t get a mess made on your hand,” Rodriguez said. “They should feel good about themselves; that was a big road win, but that’s not going to get us a first down against USC.”

Hail to the Hail Marys

While Arizona knows the joy of connecting on a Hail Mary, the Trojans know it, too, as well as the sting of getting burned on one.Since Arizona’s “Hill Mary,” the Trojans completed a 48-yarder at the end of the first half in their 35-10 win over Oregon State and lost on a 46-yard Hail Mary to ASU.

Rodriguez liked Arizona’s Hail Mary more than ASU’s.

“Well, ours was a hell of a lot more fun for me,” Rodriguez said. “They’re always improbable; there’s always different reasons why they had success.”

Rodriguez said he doesn’t expect the Trojans to suffer a post-Hail Mary hangover.

“As hard as it was probably the next day, they’ll get those guys refocused again and we’ll get the best USC team Saturday night,” Rodriguez said.

Parks said he was surprised at how the Trojan defensive backs just stood there against ASU on the final play.

“It was pretty shocking,” Parks said. “I was just like, ‘Man, if it was us, we’d probably get fired on the spot.’”

Parks said the Wildcats work on Hail Marys every Thursday.

“You gotta practice it, but it’s one of those things,” Rodriguez said. “They’re kids in a competitive situation and things are happening fast, and sometimes, it’s hard to locate the ball.”

Walk-ons walk over Oregon

Against all of Oregon’s highly touted recruits, former walk-ons shined for the Wildcats.

Redshirt senior safety Jared Tevis had eight tackles, four of them solo, redshirt freshman nose tackle Parker Zellers had five tackles and redshirt senior running back Terris Jones-Grigsby ran for a game-high 115 yards and had a game-high 95 yards receiving.“We’ve got to have guys like Parker and Terris and Jared,” said Rodriguez, a former walk-on at West Virginia.

Rodriguez said he knows of programs that have different locker rooms for scholarship players and walk-ons, but that everyone is respected at Arizona.

“A lot of times guys, don’t know who’s a walk-on and who’s not, and that’s the way we like it,” Rodriguez said. “It doesn’t matter to me whether he was a highly recruited guy, a five-star guy or a no-star walk-on guy; the best guys play.”


Follow James Kelley on Twitter.

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