While Arizona students and fans will be enjoying kegs and eggs this morning on the outskirts of Arizona Stadium, Rich Rodriguez and the Wildcats will be having their own variation of the tailgating tradition.
But don’t worry; kegs will be nowhere near Rodriguez’s team.
“It’s literally just get up, eat a couple of pancakes and eggs, get on a bus and come over here,” Rodriguez said this week. “I don’t know if the players like it early, but I’m looking forward to it.”
When the Wildcats arrive at the stadium early this morning, there certainly won’t be the sizzle of last week’s game-day atmosphere. It’s not homecoming. This isn’t a nationally televised prime-time game, and Washington State is nowhere near the top 25; at 4-5 overall and 2-4 in Pac-12 play, the Cougars are among the league’s worst teams.
Rodriguez wasn’t worried about his team being ready to play last week. Is it a concern today?
“No, this should be an easy one to get ready for, too,” Rodriguez said. “I mean, we have a lot at stake. And they’ve had a long time to get ready for us. I’ve felt our focus has been pretty good this week.”
The Wildcats insist they’re over the disappointment of a 31-26 loss to UCLA last week and ready for today’s test. Rodriguez’s players must abide by his 24-hour rule, where you get one full day to get over a tough loss.
“For those 24 hours, you can literally just dread on it and pay only attention to that,” running back Ka’Deem Carey said. “Now that it’s out the window and those 24 hours are gone, it’s time to move onto the next.
“But we needed those 24 hours, because we needed to realize what we let slip and make sure we don’t let it happen again.”
So the mission today is make sure UCLA doesn’t beat Arizona twice. Today, it’s all about the pass-happy Cougars.
Washington State has run 680 plays this season and has thrown it 524 times. Cougars quarterback Connor Halliday set an NCAA record earlier this season when he had 89 pass attempts in a loss to Oregon.
Arizona’s defense doesn’t need an in-depth scouting report for this game. It’s clear what’s coming.
“Everything has to be perfect with the coverages and everything we do on defense,” junior cornerback Jonathan McKnight said. “They can run the same play a million times and keep going to it over and over again. If they mess up one time, we have to take advantage of it. It’s going to be a busy day, but we’re in good shape. We’re ready for it.”
On the flip side, look for Arizona (6-3, 3-3) to do most of its damage on the ground. The Wildcats are second in the Pac-12 in rushing offense, averaging 271.3 yards per game. The Cougars are 10th in the league in rushing defense, allowing 183.9 yards on the ground.
But whether it’s with the rush or through the air, the Wildcats will just be looking to get up off the ground and avoid their second two-game losing streak of the season.
“Now we don’t control our own destiny in the Pac-12 South race, but a lot of things can happen,” Rodriguez said. “We have to focus on what’s immediate and what’s next.”