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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona football notes: bye week a needed break for Wildcats

Larry+Hogan+%2F+Arizona+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0AUA+vs+SCSU+on+Sept.+15%2C+2012
Larry Hogan / Arizona Daily Wildcat UA vs SCSU on Sept. 15, 2012

Arizona’s recent bye week couldn’t have come at a better time — the Wildcats are riding a three game losing streak, including a second-straight heartbreaker, falling to Stanford in overtime.

But more than a chance to regroup and refocus, the extra week also gave the injury-bitten Wildcats the opportunity to finally recover and heal.

“[The] bye week was real good,” receiver Austin Hill said. “Bye weeks are for rest. It was a tough first six weeks, so [there were] a lot of injuries. So [we’re] glad we have a bye week when it seems like everyone’s being injured.”

It hasn’t quite been everybody, but the Wildcats have been hit hard in several key areas and with the lack of depth on the roster, they needed time to rest more than ever.

“It helped,” head coach Rich Rodriguez said about the week off. “I think some of the guys that were really just sore and beat up, that didn’t really have an injury that kept them from practicing, I think they feel a lot better.

“The guys that were out — it’s still a couple days until we see if any of them are going to come back. Some of them we know aren’t going to be back, but that’s just the way it is. We’re going to have to deal with it.”

The statuses of safety Jared Tevis and offensive linemen Kyle Quinn and Trace Biskin are still up in the air, but the chance for some of their replacements to get off their feet and recover is definitely something the Wildcats welcomed.

Home Sweet Home

Arizona Stadium isn’t the most daunting atmosphere in the national landscape, but there has been a significant difference between the Wildcats’ play at home and on the road.

Arizona is 3-1 in Tucson this season and has outscored its opponents by an average of 17.8 points a game. The 56-0 blowout of FCS South Carolina State skews that number a lot, but the Wildcats still beat then-ranked Oklahoma State at home and lost a close one to still-undefeated Oregon State. Compared to their winless record away from Tucson, Arizona Stadium has been something of a sanctuary for the Wildcats.

While home wins are viewed as a building block for some coaches, Rodriguez said the only block that matters to him is winning. Still, he said there are some advantages to winning at home.

“It makes the home folks happier,” Rodriguez said.

But for him the pain of an away loss puts an equal emphasis on both games.

“The problem when you lose away games is that it makes it a miserable on the plane or the bus on the way back,” Rodriguez said. “But the home games, you want the home folks to go happy for sure.”

Other than the crowd, Rodriguez said he doesn’t see much of a difference in how his team prepares for games at home versus on the road.

With a tough game with Washington this weekend, Rodriguez isn’t upset to be playing in Arizona Stadium.

“I hope that the home crowd gives us a little jolt,” Rodriguez said. “It should.”

Cornering the Opposition

Statistically, Washington isn’t the best team through the air — in fact, they have the worst passing attack in the Pac-12.

But junior quarterback Keith Price has displayed immense talent in his year and a half as the signal caller for the Huskies, and because Arizona has the second worst pass defense in the conference, it should be a good matchup.

Rodriguez said he’s quite impressed with the athleticism of Washington, specifically receiver Kasen Williams, and he’ll give Arizona’s corner Shaquille Richardson a big challenge this weekend.

That’s especially true since Richardson hasn’t had a stellar season so far — he has zero interceptions and has occasionally been picked on by opposing quarterbacks, most notably against Oklahoma State. But Rodriguez hasn’t lost faith in his junior cornerback.

“[Richardson’s] been okay,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t think anybody on defense has been great, but I think we have some guys who’ve been pretty good at times and other times they’ve been okay. Shaq’s got a lot of ability and he just needs to play with confidence all the time because he’s a talented guy.”

Arizona’s other starting cornerback, Jonathan McKnight, has statistically been better than Richardson, leading the team with three interceptions and one defensive touchdown. But both Wildcats will have to bring their ‘A’ game if they want to outperform their counterpart on the Huskies, Desmond Trufant.

Trufant, a senior, has started at corner all four seasons for Washington and was a Pac-12 honorable mention last season. He’s also the younger brother of two NFL players, Isaiah and Marcus Trufant.

McKnight said he watched Trufant play last week against the Trojans and was impressed by the Huskies captain.

“Trufant, he’s a good corner,” McKnight said. “He’s a corner that can play at the next level too. He’s a very nice cornerback with his size and how he plays.

“I’m gonna say he’s probably the best cornerback in the Pac-12 — other than myself.”

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