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Arizona football: Unusual route lands Wharton in spotlight

2012-10-25T00:00:00Z 2014-10-10T11:31:55Z Arizona football: Unusual route lands Wharton in spotlightRyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
October 25, 2012 12:00 am  • 

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 live.azstarnet.com

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)

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Pac-12 South football standings

Team W L T PCT
Utah 6 1 0 0.857
Arizona 6 1 0 0.857
ASU 6 1 0 0.857
UCLA 6 2 0 0.750
USC 5 3 0 0.625
Colorado 3 5 0 0.375

Pac-12 North football standings

Team W L T PCT
Oregon 7 1 0 0.875
Stanford 5 3 0 0.625
Washington 5 3 0 0.625
Oregon State 4 3 0 0.571
Cal 4 4 0 0.500
Washington State 2 6 0 0.250
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