Arizona undergoing culture change

Arizona has already done something it could not do for two straight years when it beat Oklahoma State. Read on to see how Arizona is already undergoing a culture change.

Can the culture of a football program change in the matter of months? Can you take much from beating a ranked team at home that proved it probably shouldn't be ranked? Can a team making a dramatic transition from one system to another adjust so quickly that teams on the schedule have now begun to target them?

If you ask most Arizona fans after Saturday's 59-38 drubbing of Oklahoma State, the answer is an emphatic "Yes".

At this point, it is difficult to blame them after what the Wildcats showed on Saturday.

Arizona's football team showed guts that haven't been displayed in many years. Before Saturday, the last time Arizona eliminated a two touchdown deficit at home to a ranked opponent was in 2006 when the Wildcats came back from being down 17-3 against Cal to win 24-20.

In recent years, that was always a tough task. Falling behind by double-digits usually spelled doom for UA despite having one of the strongest offensive attacks in the country.

That wasn't the case on Saturday for the Wildcats, who instead ignored the lead and continued to go about their business as if nothing had hit them square in the mouth.

On offense, they continued to attack through the air as well as the ground and Oklahoma State just couldn't hang for all four quarters. The Cowboys looked as if they were going to run away with the game early in the contest, but this new coaching staff appears to have these players focused and motivated.

The scariest part of it all? They are still learning.

The play of Scott has really opened the eyes of some fans this season, but anyone who has followed him since his days at Corona Centennial High School knew he was capable of these types of performances.

All Scott needed was a coaching staff who knew how to get the most out of him. If there is one thing Rodriguez should really thank former head coach Mike Stoops for, it's redshirting Scott a season ago.

When you pair Scott with a running back with the natural gifts Ka'Deem Carey possesses, it can potentially be a deadly combination to have in the backfield under the system Rodriguez runs.

Carey is still progressing as well (as is the offensive line in front of him), but his early season output has the UA fan base gushing with excitement.

It goes beyond just two players on the offensive side of the ball. The wide receivers have all performed above expectations. Everyone heard in the offseason how much Rodriguez prefers to attack on the ground as opposed to the air, but it's hardly noticeable due to the pace he keeps his offense at.

The pace of the attack has helped the passing game tremendously. The quick style he runs with the no-huddle approach has kept both opposing defenses the Wildcats faced on their heels.

Both Toledo and OSU had difficulty keeping up with Arizona's receiving corps. Austin Hill has been stellar, as have Dan Buckner and Terrence Miller. Even Richard Morrison – who struggled mightily in the first game of the season – had a huge performance on Saturday.

The offense has already bought in to what Rodriguez is teaching and if this is just the beginning, the attack should become even more deadly as the season progresses.

The attitude Rodriguez and his staff have brought has carried over to the defensive side of the ball as well. While there have been some obvious struggles, the unit has been very opportunistic and has gotten better as time passed in the first two games.

There was plenty of talk regarding how depleted the depth was with the loss of Adam Hall and the lack of bodies in the front-seven. There were many concerns heading into the season and while it's quite evident the group has a long way to go, the strides that have been made thus far are nothing short of remarkable.

Credit Jeff Casteel for the quick improvement. In his years as West Virginia's defensive coordinator, the unit finished towards the top of the national rankings on a regular basis.

Now, with a unit littered with youth and many walk-ons, Casteel is developing a defense that can cause problems for anyone it faces.

The loss of Hall in the spring had concerns running at an off-season high and put some in panic mode, but the coaching staff found a player in Jared Tevis who has performed at a level no one could have predicted.

The walk-on safety who has forced his way into the starting lineup finished with nine tackles against the Cowboys and also picked off a pair of passes.

A year ago, no one would have envisioned Tevis making an impact at any point in his career let alone starting within 12 months. Once the new coaching staff arrived, however, everyone was forced to fight for their jobs and Tevis took advantage.

Could Tevis have done it without the arrival of Rodriguez, Casteel and the rest of the assistants? That will never be known, but it's hard to imagine the new staff not making a significant impact in the improvement and development of Tevis.

The most promising aspect of this impressive beginning to the Rodriguez era is that the players are still getting used to everything.

The Wildcats proved themselves this past Saturday, but the road is going to be much tougher with the Pac-12 looking stronger than expected and Arizona is going to need to show strides have been made on a weekly basis.

A lot of the progress that's required comes in the conditioning department, which should develop as the season grows older.

Given how UA has performed over the first two games (not to mention the improvement displayed from week one to week two), this squad could be very dangerous in a few weeks. By that point, the players should be that much more acclimated to the system and in better physical condition.

Arizona will get another real test in two weeks when it has arguably its toughest matchup on the schedule in a road game against Oregon.

The Ducks like to run their offense at the same pace the Wildcats run theirs at, but UO has been doing it for much longer.

After that, UA still has three more games against teams who are currently ranked and two others against teams (Oregon State and Arizona State) who look much improved over last year's installments.

In years past, this may have struck some fear in the hearts of Arizona football fans, but Rodriguez and his staff seemed to have changed the attitudes of everyone.

The players saw it first-hand over the offseason and believed they could surprise fans across the nation and, after two games, Rodriguez is winning over the fan-base faster than anyone could have predicted.

The big tests start soon and if Rodriguez continues to prepare his squad the way he has all offseason, there is no reason to think any game left on the schedule is unwinnable.

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