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Arizona football: Forget ranking: Cats look to 'main thing'

2012-09-11T00:00:00Z 2013-09-16T13:47:56Z Arizona football: Forget ranking: Cats look to 'main thing'Ryan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
September 11, 2012 12:00 am  • 

The Arizona Wildcats are relevant - and ranked - again, thanks to Saturday's upset win over Oklahoma State.

To stay that way, the Wildcats must forget what they've accomplished so far this season. First-year coach Rich Rodriguez said Monday that his team is focusing more on the process than their progress. He even has a phrase for it: "Keeping the main thing the main thing."

The 24th-ranked Wildcats can't afford to stray, even with a game against Division I-FCS opponent South Carolina State looming. The UA (2-0) can move halfway to a bowl berth by defeating the small-college Bulldogs this weekend at Arizona Stadium.

SCSU is coming off a loss to Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference rival Bethune-Cookman last week, and is 1-1 on the season.

The way Rodriguez sees it, though, the Wildcats aren't talented enough to take anybody lightly. That they're ranked for the first time in two years means little this early in the season.

"The reality is, they shouldn't have any rankings until mid-October, because who really knows?" Rodriguez said. "I've said it before: We're not going to concede anything. We're going to go out there, play as hard as we can and if we get a few breaks and they help us out a little bit, we can win … .

"Have we arrived? Are we a top-15, top-20, top-25 team? That's yet to be seen. But from Day One, I've liked for the most part the attitude of the team. That's why it's such a goal for the team."

Arizona's coaches harped on the word "relevant" a week ago, telling the players that the only way to get back on the television "ticker" and in people's minds was to defeat a ranked team at home.

"Now that we are, we want to stay relevant and not be cast under a shadow again," guard Chris Putton said. "This week, we don't want to overlook our opponents."

Concussion ends Hankins' career

Sophomore linebacker Rob Hankins' football career is over because of a concussion suffered during training camp.

Hankins' father, Rob Sr., posted on his Facebook page Monday that "after more than 5 weeks, the concussion symptoms have not entirely resolved. He has worked with an excellent training staff, team doctors, coaches and neuropsychologists but must now undergo some treatment. The best decision is to retire completely from football. The risks in going forward in football are far too great."

When asked about Hankins' status by the Star earlier Monday, Rodriguez questioned whether the linebacker would ever play again.

"I'm not a doctor or anything like that, but the early signs are not encouraging as far as Rob being able to play football," the coach said.

Hankins' father announced his son's retirement hours later.

Hankins played in 10 games as a true freshman in 2010, starting three of them. He was on track to start as a sophomore when he suffered the concussion in camp. Hankins will remain enrolled in school, his father wrote, and will stay close to the program as he pursues a degree in sports psychology.

Bonano earns conference honor

Kicker John Bonano was named the Pac-12's special teams player of the week Monday, two days after a perfect night in the UA's upset win. Bonano connected on field goals from 22, 46 and 24 yards and hit all six of his PAT attempts. The showing came one week after arguably the worst game of Bonano's college career: He missed two short field goals, including one that would have defeated Toledo in regulation. The Wildcats eventually defeated the Rockets in overtime.

"It was great," Bonano said, "to have a comeback game like that."

Bonano was joined Monday by UCLA running back Jonathan Franklin and Oregon State linebacker D.J. Welch, who earned offensive and defensive honors.

Bonano is the second Wildcat in as many weeks to be honored by the conference. Linebacker Jake Fischer was named defensive player of the week following the Toledo game.

Extra points

• Next week's Pac-12 opener against Oregon will kick off at 7:30 p.m. and be shown on ESPN, the schools announced Monday. The game will be the UA's fourth consecutive late start. While waiting all day is "torture" for players and coaches, Rodriguez said, he understands it's part of coaching on the West Coast and playing on TV.

"It makes for a long day," he said, "but if it helps the fans, it's good."

• Rodriguez said he knows when the Wildcats will debut their new copper helmets, "but I can't tell you."

"The players don't know, either. I don't think my wife knows," he said. "I'd tell my mom, bless her heart, but if I did, it'd be all over the Internet. If I want something to get out there, I tell Arleen Rodriguez and within 15 seconds it's nationwide."

The Wildcats unveiled the lids last summer, a nod to the state's centennial and copper-mining history, but did not say when they will be worn. Two of Arizona's six remaining home games - Oct. 27 against USC and Nov. 23 against Arizona State - make sense for a debut.

Up next

• What: South Carolina State at Arizona

• When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

• TV: Pac-12 Arizona: Comcast (Ch 103); Cox (Ch 75); Dish Network (Ch 445); DirecTV, not avail.

• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Sp)

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