The Cats are hoping a bowl win, and not a loss to ASU that included this interception by Osahon Irabor, defines their season.


The story will be sanitized over time, cleaned up when Garic Wharton tells it to his friends and family in Las Vegas, and - eventually - to his own kids and grandkids.

What's a tiny detail worth, anyway?

Wharton caught a career-high three passes for 59 yards and a touchdown the UA's 52-17 win over Washington last week, a breakout performance that was as unlikely - and unexpected - as any on the team this year. His 33-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Matt Scott was a thing of beauty, a fourth-and-three conversion that became, with a cut and a dash, arguably the most electrifying offensive highlight of the game.

Except that, well … 

"He ran the wrong route," Scott said with a smile. "He was supposed to go deep, I guess, but he ended up finding his way there."

Found his way. There's no better way to explain how the 5-foot-11-inch, 164-pound Wharton has gone from scout team to possible starter in a matter of weeks.

The speedy sophomore figures to play a lot at slot receiver when the Wildcats host No. 10 USC on Saturday night at Arizona Stadium. The game will pose the latest big test for the Wildcats (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12), who are hoping to carry over their success from last week.

The Star talked to Wharton, 20, about his hot start, where he fits in and what he'll do next:

On his touchdown catch: "I did run the wrong route, but basically, I got to the same spot. I just did a little different version, I guess, and that got me more open. I was supposed to do a cross-face, sort of like a slant, but I just stopped and jerked with it. I went full-speed, Matt read it, and the rest is history."

On what he brings: "Speed, absolutely. I feel like that's what I bring to the table: I have big play (ability), a lot of speed. That's what I showed Saturday. … This offense, for one, is built for people with speed. I'm doing everything to the best of my abilities."

On how fast he runs the 40-yard dash: "4.4s? Low 4.4s? But I've never really ran it officially, so I don't know."

On whether he was that fast Saturday: "When you have guys chasing you, the adrenaline is way faster. It's like a race in a track meet: I just feel it."

On why he's playing all of a sudden: "Injuries. Basically, I feel like this is my turn to step up. It's a lot of people's turn to step up. Like Coach says, 'When somebody steps down, the next person steps up.'"

On whether it was frustrating to watch from the sidelines: "Yeah, definitely. I felt like all along, I knew I could do the things I've showed. That's not meant in a cocky way; I just had confidence in myself. I wanted to play."

On the key to his perseverance: "I didn't work on anything different as much as I just wanted to keep my head right. There were a lot of moments when I was down on myself, when I doubted myself, but I stayed mentally strong. I stayed confident, and when that time came, I shined."

On what his teammates taught him: "I've learned from other guys on this team, when your time comes, that's your opportunity. Nobody can tell you that you can't do anything."

On getting noticed for Saturday's touchdown: "I got 20 text messages, probably. After I tweeted a couple times, I got a lot more love. The first person I talked to was my dad, and then I talked to my cousin. … My dad's in California right now. He was in L.A. with my grandmother. He saw the game. He was excited, but I felt like he already knew I could do that. He was happy for me, but he wasn't shocked."

But … "I was definitely shocked. It felt unreal. When I scored - I was telling (teammate) Tyler (Slavin) - if you look at the replay, we're kind of butting heads. I'm telling him, 'Is this really happening right now? Is this really happening?' I rode the bench the whole time. I was on the scout team, bro, and now I'm balling."

On StarNet: Join Ryan Finley to talk about the Arizona Wildcats, Pac-12 news and college football in a live chat at noon today at

Up next

• Who: No. 10 USC (6-1, 4-1) at Arizona (4-3, 1-3)

• When: 12:30 p.m. Saturday

• TV: Channel 9

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