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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Arizona football awakened the beast


Arizona running back Orlando Bradford (21) darts through holes in Oregon State’s defense Saturday, Oct. 10, at Arizona Stadium.

Remember the scene in “Rocky IV” when Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) was one punch away from completing tapping out of the fight against the Russian prodigy Ivan Drago (Dolp Lundgren), and then Balboa made a miraculous comeback to win? Arizona’s defense proved Saturday that even though they were wounded to a pulp the previous two games, the Wildcats are capable of coming back and hitting teams in the mouth.

After opening up Pac-12 Conference play giving up 111 points and getting thumped by UCLA and Stanford, the concerns and questions loomed over Arizona football head coach Rich Rodriguez’s inexperienced defense.

During the performance against Stanford, the Arizona defense took a huge step back, allowing 570 total yards and averaged eight yards per play. Then once the Wildcats returned home, the speculation of the 3-3-5 defense not working emerged and Arizona’s defense was on the hot seat.

This week against Oregon State, all eyes were on the defense and how they would respond to the critics.

In the first half, Arizona safety Will Parks laid the wood on Oregon State receiver Jordan Villamin, leaving him on the field for a few minutes to catch his breath. For once this season, Arizona’s defense finally put the emphasis on “Hard Edge football,” according to Rodriguez.

“There was talk about us getting our edge back, and we talk about hard edge all the time. The tone setter was Will’s hit,” Rodriguez said.

Even the starting players on defense were in awe from Parks’ hit in the first half. Paul Magloire started at linebacker Saturday and was stunned from the hit, but was more excited for his fellow teammate to make the play.

“I didn’t see it on the video board,” Magloire said. “I was in Will’s face the whole time hyping him up.”

The argument can be made that the injury bug that has hit the team hard could be the issue for the defense, but Saturday was an opportunity for the understudies to step up their game.

One defensive back made his season debut after having a productive last season for the Wildcats. Jarvis McCall Jr. is a player competing with Cam Denson and DaVonte’ Neal for minutes, and it’s difficult considering both players were once big-time recruits. With Neal out due to injury, it was McCall’s chance to compete and scheme his way back into the starting lineup.

“I felt good. I went around and was jumping around with my team. Like my man Paul said, we were out there clapping each other up, and it felt good just to be out there and cheering and having fun,” McCall said.

Arizona’s inexperience at defensive back went down the drain Saturday after not allowing over 100 passing yards for the first time this season.

Granted Seth Collins went out earlier in the game, but the defense capitalized on the opportunity. So the 3-3-5 argument on whether it worked can be put to rest for the time being, as Saturday’s defense was a no fly zone.

Rodriguez even mentioned his pleasure with defensive effort from not just this week, but the season in general.

“I’ve never had a hard time getting this team’s attention since spring practice,” Rodriguez said.

Since the defense performed well, and it was the first time this season that Paul Magloire Jr. spoke to the media, his expectations threw members of the media for a loop. And perhaps a few chuckles were exchanged.

“I expect everyone to give me a follow on Twitter,” Magloire said.

Arizona’s defense was revived and positioned the Wildcats to compete once again in the Pac-12 South despite losing terribly the previous two games.

Follow Justin Spears on Twitter.

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