BERKELEY, Calif. — The Arizona Wildcats weren’t 15 minutes removed from their 33-28 win over Cal before the conversation shifted to UCLA.
“We have a bone to pick with them,” junior free safety Jourdon Grandon said.
A 66-10 loss will do that to a team.
After a thrilling 39-36 home win last year over then-No. 10 USC, the Wildcats traveled to the Rose Bowl with a 5-3 mark and feeling pretty good about the rest of their season. Instead, UCLA’s Brett Hundley threw for 288 yards and three touchdowns and Johnathan Franklin ran for 162 yards and two scores. The UA left with a 56-point loss.
Franklin is now in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers, but Hundley is still around, and facing the Bruins shouldn’t be much easier than last year.
“We’re trying to make this Pac-12 championship,” UA running back Ka’Deem Carey said. “Whether people give us a chance or not. So we have to keep things going.”
And it starts this week against the No. 16 Bruins.
After back-to-back road wins against Pac-12 bottom feeders Colorado and Cal, the UA can now get jazzed for its homecoming matchup with UCLA on Saturday night.
In a season that has lacked a marquee contest so far, Arizona will get its chance in the national spotlight this week.
UCLA will come to Tucson with the same 6-2 record the Wildcats sport. And while Thursday’s Stanford-Oregon matchup will dominate most of the headlines this week, the UCLA-Arizona game is every bit as important in the Pac-12 South.
The Bruins and Cats are both 3-2 in the Pac-12 South, tied with USC for second place in the division behind 4-1 Arizona State. While no one with Arizona is thinking division championship quite yet, a win over UCLA would certainly get that chatter going.
UA coach Rich Rodriguez doesn’t expect any issues getting his team fired up this week in practice.
“Our guys know it’s a big game,” Rodriguez said. “It’s going to be national TV, it’s back home, it’s going to be a great crowd. There’s a lot at stake. There should be a good bounce in their step.”
UCLA is coming off a 45-23 win over Colorado, rebounding from back-to-back losses to Stanford and Oregon.
Even though it may not have looked like it before the season, this week’s matchup with Arizona will be an important one for coach Jim Mora’s Bruins.
“We have four more and a big one this week at Arizona,” Mora said after the win over Colorado. “It’s going to be a great test for us. We have to keep the same effort and execute better.”
With his 152 yards on 32 caries against Cal, Carey maintained his status as the nation’s leading rusher.
The junior is averaging 153.1 yards per game to lead the country. The next closest is Boston College’s Andre Williams, who is averaging 147 yards per game.
Carey’s 1,072 rushing yards rank seventh in the country. Of the six players ahead of him, four have played in eight games and two have played in nine.
Carey has played in just seven games after missing the NAU contest with a one-game suspension.
Carey is now just 399 yards away from becoming the UA’s all-time leading rusher. He has 3,426 yards with five games to play this season. Trung Canidate is the all-time leader with 3,824 yards.
Carey did set one school record on Saturday when he went over 100 yards for the 11th straight game.
The running back needs 804 yards this season to set a Pac-12 record for rushing yards in a season by a junior. USC’s Ricky Bell ran for 1,875 yards in 1975. Carey set the sophomore record last year with 1,929 yards.
UA receiver Terrence Miller and quarterback B.J. Denker hooked up for a 60-yard gain in Saturday’s win — the longest pass completion of the season for the UA.
Denker found Miller on a screen pass on third-and-10, and Miller rumbled downfield. The senior finished with five catches for a season-high 88 yards.
The lone senior of the wide receiver group, Miller has stepped up the past few weeks after a slow start.
“I think we’ve all made improvements since the beginning of the season and we’re all just getting on the same page with B.J.,” freshman receiver Nate Phillips said.
“Terrence had a big game, Samajie (Grant) had a big game, a lot of guys are stepping up.”
— Saturday’s win made Arizona bowl eligible for the second straight year and the fifth time in the past six seasons.
It’s the first time in Rodriguez’s career that his team has been bowl eligible in his first two seasons as coach at a school. He led West Virginia to the Continental Tire Bowl in his second season and didn’t get Michigan to a bowl game until his third year at the school.
— The UA is 3-2 in conference play after an 0-2 start. The last time the Wildcats did that was in 1981 under Larry Smith. That team finished 6-5 overall.
— Grant was named the team’s offensive player of the game by Rodriguez and his Arizona staff on Sunday.
Punter Drew Riggleman was named the special teams player of the game, and Phillips was the hard edge player of the game. The staff did not select a defensive player of the game.