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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona running game a three-headed Cerberus

Tyler Baker

Arizona running back Nick Wilson (28) dodges a tackle by Oregon State’s Caleb Saulo (35) at Arizona Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 10. Wilson leads the Wildcats’ rushing attack with 683 yards and eight touchdowns.

Arizona football has found its own three-headed Cerberus in the form of its rushing attack displayed against Oregon State in a 44-7 victory Saturday night. 

The Wildcats’ multi-threat trio is made up of sophomore Nick Wilson, senior Jared Baker and freshman Orlando Bradford. The three tallied 368 yards on the ground of the total 644 yards of offense against the Beavers.

Wilson, who rushed for 78 yards and two touchdowns, comes as no surprise to Wildcat fans. But passing the 2,000-yard rushing mark in his first year and a half was the true highlight of his day, which put him at No. 14 on the UA all-time rushing list.
Baker and Bradford are two backs that fans may not be as familiar with. 

The backups stepped up when Wilson went down with a minor injury in the first quarter. Wilson would later return, but in the meantime, few expected what would occur. 

“I was just excited,” Bradford said. “I was doing my job. Coach called my number, and I just wanted to produce for my team.”
Baker rushed for a career-best 123 yards on 10 carries, including a 73-yard burst. Bradford tallied more than 80 yards and three touchdowns. 

“He just tells me to always be ready, so I’m always preparing to be ready,” Bradford said.

These three won’t be the next Heisman candidates like LSU’s Leonard Fournette or Oregon’s Royce Freeman, who have combined to tally close to 2,000 yards on the ground this season, but they are making the Wildcats’ offense dangerous. 

The Wildcats rank third in the country for total rushing with 1,791 yards, trailing only Oregon and Georgia Southern. In terms of yards per game, nearly 300 of Arizona’s yards come on the ground.

“Every offense would like to have balance, and we are no different, but we don’t want a forced balance,” Rodriguez said. “We always have to talk about running and throwing the ball. We always want at least three running backs, which now we have. If you have that balance, and it’s not a forced balance, then that’s a good thing. If a team is going to force us to throw the ball the entire game, though, we have to be ready for that.”

Bradford is the newest back to see the field out of the three, and as a freshman, he really seemed to open up the field against the Beavers. 

“He has a great feel for the game, and he’s faster than you think,” Rodriguez said. “He’s going to keep getting better, he kind of reminds me of what Nick was last year; he’s a freshman, but he’s learning quickly. Orlando will be part of the regular rotation, as will Jared and Nick. Nick is a bit banged up right now, so it’s good to have the other two ready.”

The way Rodriguez speaks on the matter, it sounds like all three of their names may be called Saturday when the Wildcats take on Colorado in Boulder. 

A huge game-changer for the Arizona Cerberus is the return of quarterback Anu Solomon.

“As a receiver, we don’t expect to get the ball every play,” receiver Samajie Grant said. “When we go out there, we are just trying to do our job. We come and block and do whatever. When it is a passing play, Nick Wilson, Jared Baker or Orlando, they all take a hit to give Anu more time to pass the ball. I feel like there was good blocking up front, they ran the ball hard.”

Overall, the three-headed running back beast can be the highlight of the season. Now the team must put the monster to work.

Follow Matt Wall on Twitter.

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