Arizona returns home against Utah

Arizona will play its first home game in almost four weeks on Saturday when the Utah Utes come to town. Read on to find out what to expect from the game, what the key matchups are, and more.

The Arizona Wildcats were off to a great start on the season three weeks ago before heading to Washington. Since then, Arizona has lost two conference games.

Utah will come to Tucson on Saturday night and give the Wildcats a chance to stay alive in the Pac-12 South and snap the two-game losing streak.

The Utes are riding high after their program-building upset over the Stanford Cardinal last weekend. Utah held on to beat Stanford in a close fought battle ending with the Utes on top 27-21.

Arizona Head Coach Rich Rodriguez knows that Utah will be riding high and needs his team to bounce back from a close loss to USC.

"Now is the time to move on against a team coming off a huge win," Rich Rodriguez said. "They're very talented and have a lot of good players. It's a veteran team; somebody told me they have five players that are 25 years old, so there's a lot of grown men we have to go up against Saturday night."

The Utah offense, specifically quarterback Travis Wilson, bounced back from a tough game against UCLA and executed well against the Cardinal.

"I thought offensively they executed about as well as maybe they had all year against a really good defense, as everybody knows how stout Stanford is defensively," Rodriguez said. "The quarterback played well, they ran the ball well and they really did what they wanted to offensively."

Wilson completed 23 of 34 passes for 234 yards and two touchdowns against Stanford. Just a week earlier against UCLA he threw six interceptions, but still managed to keep his team in the game.

"That's a guy that played a lot as a young guy last year and had some success, but he is even better this year," Rodriguez said of Wilson. "He is a big, physical guy, can run, got a strong arm. He's really taken to some of the new stuff they are doing offensively.

"There was a lot of bad luck (against UCLA) I'd call it. There were tipped balls, balls hit right in the receivers' hands would tip up or a guy got a hand up at the last minute and tipped a ball up. I think four or five of them were tipped balls. We're hoping we get some of that luck on Saturday."

Arizona also built some confidence towards the end of the game against the Trojans, rallying from a 21-point deficit to cut the lead to just seven. The comeback fell short, but one of Arizona's wide receivers believes that the team will carry that confidence into the game with Utah.

"I expect the confidence to carry over into the game with the Utes," Terrence Miller said. "We played well in that fourth quarter and I expect big things from us.

"We will always play hard no matter what opponent is on the field, but we really want to win this one."

Arizona will send out Ka'Deem Carey on Saturday in hopes that he can have a repeat performance of last season, when he ran for 204 yards and a touchdown against the Utes. He may have a tougher time as the Utah defense has improved since then.

"Defensively, they were very active against a tough, physical team," Rodriguez said. "They've played well all year and they have some new guys, they brought in a couple new players, got some junior college players come in, couple older guys that were maybe banged up the last couple years that are now healthy and playing, so they are probably playing their best football right now."

The game won't be easy for the Wildcats. Utah possesses a strong physical matchup at almost every position for Arizona. It will be the most physical team the Wildcats have faced up to this point in the season.

"I think they have always been physical and they pride themselves on that, but in that game where Stanford is kind of what they are known for and what they pride themselves on, there's no question that Utah was as physical in that game and they showed it," Rodriguez said. "Again, they have some older guys, some veterans and grown men, so that helps, too.

"Not just from a maturity standpoint, but from a strength standpoint. If we're running our program the right way, which I think we are, when our guys are fourth or fifth year juniors or seniors, they are going to be a whole lot stronger than they were when they were a first year player."

Arizona will be challenged on Saturday and it may be the game that shows just how far the Wildcats can go this season. A victory could put the Wildcats in line to win three in a row with winnable games at Colorado and California following.

A loss could put the pressure on the Wildcats to get bowl eligible against a much-improved Washington State club later this year.

One thing is for sure: if Arizona comes to play the way that it did in the second half against USC, then Utah and the Wildcats' fans will be in for one incredible game.

Matchups to watch:

Ka'Deem Carey vs. Utah's front seven: The star running back rushed for 204 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries last year. He hasn't had a workload like that so far this season, but Rodriguez and company may pull out all the stops in this one. Carey should get as many touches as the coaches think he can handle and he could definitely be helped out by a solid performance by B.J. Denker.

If the junior back can pull some additional defenders into the box, Utah will have to be careful, as it will open up some passing lanes. Jason Whittingham, Jared Norris, and Trevor Reilly will have to be solid at linebacker for the Utes in this matchup because Carey can make teams pay quickly if he isn't met with force in the box.

Travis Wilson vs. Arizona's defense:This is an intriguing matchup for Arizona, because Wilson may be one of the more athletic quarterbacks they see all year outside of Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley. Wilson can run the read option, drop back and pass, or even tuck the ball and run on a broken play.

The sophomore has had some poor statistics on the season that have been dragged down by the outlying performance against UCLA. In the other five games, Wilson has thrown just four interceptions to his eleven touchdowns.

He is still young and will have to deal with the pressure of being out of Utah for the first time all season, but his decision making will play a huge difference in this one.

Dres Anderson vs. Arizona's secondary: Utah's best wide receiver will likely draw the attention of Jonathan McKnight or Shaq Richardson for the start of the game.

Utah doesn't have a multitude of receivers that can hurt the defense, but Anderson and running back Bubba Poole have been doing most of the work on the receiving end of Wilson's passes.

Anderson will be attacking a defense that has been beaten badly the last two weeks and will be seeking redemption. With Jared Tevis missing the game, there may be a few extra holes in the Wildcats' secondary.

Keys to the game:

1. Contain Wilson: The dual-threat quarterback is going to be Utah's biggest threat on the field. If Arizona can rattle him or even keep him in check, it will be right where it wants to be. If not, then the Wildcats' defense may be in for a bumpy ride and an even worse film session next week.

2. Keep track of Bubba: Poole can be a do-it-all back for the Utes. He has been attacking out of the backfield on all fronts. He has done well rushing and catching balls for Utah, but was slowed considerably in the loss to UCLA. If Arizona can shut down Poole, it takes away a major part of the Utes' offense.

3. Score early and ride momentum: The biggest key for Arizona may be scoring early and grabbing a quick lead. With the way the offense played at the end of the USC game, it would be in the Wildcats' best interest to attack early and get that feeling and rhythm back into the players' hands.

An early passing attack spreads lanes for Carey, while an early rushing push opens the field for Denker to air it out.


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