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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Tough final homestand against Utah awaits Arizona football on senior day

Arizona fans have been given a little bit of hope following the Wildcats’ 38-30 loss at USC last weekend. In a game where they were supposed to be blown out by the Trojans, the Wildcats showed they still have some fight left despite the difficult season.

Up next is No. 10 Utah, which is currently sitting in first place in the Pac-12 South. The Utes (8-1, 5-1 Pac-12 Conference) were tabbed as an early season dark horse in one of college football’s most competitive divisions. The Utes have exceeded that expectation, upsetting teams like Oregon and Michigan. Their only loss came on a 42-24 beatdown from the Trojans in Los Angeles.

“I thought [Utah] would be pretty good because of the number of guys they had coming back,” Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez said. “They have an experienced quarterback. He’s played a whole bunch in his career and has gotten a lot of experience, and [they have] one of the best running backs in the league in [Devontae] Booker.”

The Utes have been led by Booker, quarterback Travis Wilson and a defense that ranks third in the Pac-12 in points allowed per game with 21.6. Utah also has the best-run defense in the conference, allowing only 114.3 yards per game.

“I think it always helps if you bring a lot of experience back and they stay healthy,” Rodriguez said. “Experienced players have the tendency not to panic when things go really bad. That’s the biggest thing about experienced players is they adapt quicker.”

To put the Utes’ defense into perspective, Oregon scores 42.2 points per game and averages 543.3 yards per game. The Utes went into Eugene, Oregon, and blew the Ducks out, 62-20. They only allowed Oregon to gain 400 total yards while also forcing three turnovers.

Booker is currently third in the conference with 124 yards per game on the ground. He has scored 10 times this season with his best game of the year coming against California on a 34-rush, 222-yard and two-touchdown performance.

‘Cats prepared for senior night

Arizona had a revival game of sorts against USC. After losing a close game to Washington State, then suffering a blow out at Washington, the Wildcats needed something to go their way. Rodriguez and company, at this point, are playing for bowl eligibility.

A win over Utah in the Wildcats’ last home game of the season would officially make them bowl-eligible, and it would be a huge way for the seniors to go out.

“They’re a good group of guys,” Rodriguez said. “The leadership is there. It’s kind of a quiet leadership, but that’s what their personality is and I wouldn’t want them to change who they are.”

Some notable seniors on the team include safeties Will Parks, Jamar Allah and Anthony Lopez, receivers Johnny Jackson and David Richards, quarterback Jerrard Randall, running back Jared Baker, offensive linemen Cayman Bundage and Lene Maiava, punter Drew Riggleman and kicker Casey Skowron.

“They’ve done a good job all four years,” Rodriguez said. “A lot of these guys have been through a coaching transition. A lot of them have changed positions, and they’ve been pretty consistent in their approach and been really good examples for the young guys on how to lead themselves and how to be an Arizona student-athlete. So I’m really proud of them.”

Arizona will kickoff against Utah at 8 p.m. Saturday at Arizona Stadium. The game will be televised on Fox Sports 1.


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