The Hot Sheet: RichRod's football squads usually hit the ground running

The Arizona Wildcats kick off their 2013 season tonight at 7 p.m. against NAU (Pac-12 Arizona, 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM Spanish). Dive into the fray with the Star's first UA football Hot Sheet, which includes good news for Rodriguez-coached team in openers, Jake Fischer sharing his feelings on 2012, a group of highly-educated Cats and what happened the last time Arizona faced the Lumberjacks.

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  • Rich Rodriguez’s first game as a major college head coach came on Sept. 1, 2001, in front of 42,482 fans at Boston College. Rodriguez’s West Virginia team scored the first 10 points of the game and led 10-0 after the first quarter.

    But BC running back William Green then put up 237 yards of total offense and three touchdowns as the Eagles scored 24 straight points to hand Rodriguez a loss in his debut.

    Since then, Rodriguez’s teams have won eight of 10 season openers. Rodriguez coached at WVU from 2001-07 and at Michigan from 2008-10.

    Here’s a closer look:

    2002: West Virginia 56, Chattanooga 7. Player of the game: West Virginia QB Rasheed Marshall threw for 163 yards and three touchdowns in the win.

    2003: No. 21 Wisconsin 24, West Virginia 17. Player of the game: Wisconsin QB Jim Sorgi was 20 for 34 for 215 yards and a TD.

    2004: West Virginia 56, East Carolina 23. Player of the game: Rodriguez’s star running back Kay-Jay Harris had an incredible game, rushing for 337 yards and four TDs on 25 carries.

    2005: West Virginia 15, Syracuse 7. Player of the game: There obviously wasn’t much offense in this one, but freshman Pat White, who went on to be a phenom for Rodriguez, made his debut and accounted for 83 yards of total offense in part-time duty.

    2006: No. 5 West Virginia 42, Marshall 10. Player of the game: Mountaineers running back Steve Slaton ran for 203 yards and two TDs on 33 carries.

    2007: No. 3 West Virginia 62, Western Michigan 24. Player of the game: Slaton was great again, accounting for 170 yards of total offense and four TDs.

    2008: Utah 25, Michigan 23. Player of the game: Current Utah co-offensive coordinator Brian Johnson threw for 305 yards as the Utes won on the road.

    2009: Michigan 31, Western Michigan 7. Player of the game: Tate Forcier was solid for Rodriguez, throwing for 179 yards and three TDs and leading the Wolverines to a win.

    2010: Michigan 30, Connecticut 10. Player of the game: Sophomore QB Denard Robinson was electric, throwing for 186 yards and a TD and rushing for another 197 and a score.

    2012: Arizona 24, Toledo 17 (OT). Player of the game: Matt Scott chucked the ball 46 times, going 30 for 46 for 387 yards with two TDs.

  • Middle linebackers are angry by nature. As defensive leaders, they make their careers by rocking quarterbacks and throttling rushers, seeking and destroying.

    Even by linebacker standards, UA senior Jake Fischer is ticked.

    The Ironwood Ridge High School product still takes the missteps of last season personally. Arizona ranked 118th out of 120 FBS teams in total defense last season, giving up 499 yards per game.

    It still eats at the linebacker.

    “We can’t wait for this season. You go through camp, and we were just kind of pissed the entire camp. The coaches bring it up the whole time; we were 100th or whatever in defense. It’s been in the back of our mind, eating at us. We don’t want to forget about it; we want to learn from it. You use it as extra motivation, bulletin board material.

    “I’ve seen numerous articles with the stats. We use it as motivation when we come out to practice. We don’t want to be anything remotely near that (again). We want to be the best defense we can possibly be, and I think we’ll be OK this year.

    “We’re deeper, more talented, and I think we know what to expect now from our coaches, from how we practice to how we have to prepare. Our coaches do a great job. Also, it’s one more year we have under Coach (Jeff) Casteel. It’s a huge difference. We’ve added a few more wrinkles. We have a few more coverages. We have more blitzes. We know how to adjust on the fly. Come the game, there’s not going to be that craziness on the sideline like last year when guys didn’t know what was going on.”

  • The UA ranks fifth nationally with eight players that have already received their degrees from the UA. The fifth-year seniors will now begin working toward receiving their graduate degrees. A closer look at the graduates:

    • Eric Bender-Ramsay, OL, Social behavior and human understanding
    • Kylan Butler, RB, Social behavior and human understanding
    • Daniel Jenkins, RB, Public administration and policy
    • Terrence Miller, WR, Social behavior and human understanding
    • Richard Morrison, WR/CB, Social behavior and human understanding
    • Derrick Rainey, CB, Science, technology, health and society
    • Justin Samuels, CB, Business management
    • Sione Tuihalamaka, DL, Social behavior and human understanding
  • Date: Sept. 3, 2011

    What went down: The UA outscored NAU 27-0 in the second half to win its season opener at Arizona Stadium 41-10. The game marked the debut of the UA’s new videoboard in the south end zone.

    How it read: Greg Hansen told UA fans to take the win, but was weary about what was ahead for the Wildcats. He wrote:

    “It took three quarters for Arizona to apply its superior manpower and break loose from the Jacks. Some of it was understandable; reserve offensive linemen Shane Zink, Addison Bachman and Jaack Baucus were on the field early, in part by injuries and also because of some experimenting to the All New Offensive Like That Has Everybody Chewing Nervously On Their Fingernails.

    “But if those guys don’t get some break-in mileage against NAU, then when?

    “Now to the positive news: UA quarterback Nick Foles was tackled only twice all night.

    “Given the UA’s thin quarterbacking situation, Foles played the full 60 minutes but stayed out of harm’s way and put up numbers the way a senior QB from the Pac-12 should put up numbers against a Big Sky team.”

    Turning point: Leading just 14-10 at halftime, Foles tossed three TD passes in the third quarter to blow the game open. His first one was an 18-yard pass to Keola Antolin. He followed that up with a 24-yard strike to Richard Morrison and another 24-yard TD pass; this one to Austin Hill. Foles added his fifth TD of the game in the fourth quarter when he found Gino Crump for an 18-yard score.

    It’s history: The Wildcats lost their next five games and eight of their next nine en route to an 4-8 season. The win over NAU marked the final UA season opener for Mike Stoops, who was fired after the team’s 37-27 loss to Oregon State in Week 6. NAU went 4-6 the rest of the way.

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