12/1 Football Notebook

Rich Rodriguez met with the media on Sunday to discuss facing Oregon, making it to the Pac-12 title game, and much more. Read on for all of the latest.

  • Even though Arizona and Oregon will be playing for the second time this season, Rich Rodriguez believes that the overall feel to this game will be different.

    “I think it is a little bit different dynamic,” Rodriguez said. “Certainly we are both probably going to look at film from our game earlier in the season and break that down numerous times and go back to our scouting reports before, but you also have to look at what has happened in the last five or six weeks as well.

    “Sometimes you have injuries or sometimes you have things that force you to change not philosophically, but change a few things scheme wise.”

  • Arizona has been able to defeat Oregon in the last two meetings and much of that had to do with the Wildcats’ lack of mistakes.

    “I think our guys have competed well,” Rodriguez said. “Offensively we have been able to get some first downs and keep them off the field a little bit. I think that is always the key.

    “We didn’t play as clean a game earlier this year as we did a year ago against them, which was the cleanest game we have played since I have been here. That is going to be the key again.

    “You can’t give them extra possessions and you can’t get a lot of three and outs offensively. They are just too explosive and too dynamic to give them the ball that many times. I think we were able to run the football and get first downs in those games.”

  • When asked why the Wildcats have been able to have success against Marcus Mariota, Rodriguez downplayed that success.

    “I don’t know if you can say we have stopped him,” Rodriguez said. “If you look back at his stats, he had a whole lot of yards and a lot of big plays, but we got a couple turnovers.

    “Some of it was great individual effort and some of it was a little bit of luck. In this game or even if you go back to the game last season, he still got his yards and he is still going to get his yards and make his plays.

    “You’re talking about a guy who is probably going to win the Heisman trophy and a first round pick. I don’t know if maybe he can declare now and get out before Friday, but he has really been a phenomenal player.

    “He’s been really good against us too, we’ve just been lucky to be able to get some things offensively to keep him off the field more often.”

  • Scooby Wright continues to put together one of the best seasons in school history and, statistically speaking, it may be the best season of any defensive player Rodriguez has coached.

    “Without going through the whole career of stats, probably nobody with those kind of numbers,” he said. “I think some of it is because he plays both defensive end in certain passing situations and linebacker, so he is going to have opportunities to get more numbers.

    “I have had other guys play as hard as him, but to be as productive and get as many stats, he is the first one. He is setting a precedent because he never comes off the field defensively.”

  • Rodriguez does not expect the Oregon coaches to watch film and choose to change the overall game plan from the last meeting.

    “I am sure they are looking at the past game like us as there are moments in every game that we want to have back, execute better,” he said. “They moved the ball and like us, they want to play a clean game, don’t want to have turnovers.

    “They have some young guys that have emerged for them. I don't know if either team this late in the season and with this short of a week can overhaul. Why would you even need to?

    “Looking at the scores, what they have done in the last five or six weeks, they have just been scoring at will against everybody.”

  • This week’s practice strategy will be similar to last week’s with the overall message remaining the same as well.

    “We will have a very similar week this week that we did last week,” Rodriguez said. “We talk about keeping the main thing the main thing, which is just getting ready to work every day, practice the way we practice, focus on your opponent, and don’t worry about things that you can’t control. That message hasn’t changed over the last 15 weeks.”

  • One of the main reasons why the Wildcats continue to have success if their competitiveness.

    “If you’re a competitor at all, you want to play for championships,” Rodriguez said. “That is one of the first things Greg Byrne and I probably talked about when I got here and I think we talk to every player about when we are recruiting him.

    “We want guys that love football, not like it. We want guys that love to compete and compete for championships. I think one of the best characteristics of this team is that it loves playing football.

    “We keep score in practice and they are always griping and complaining to Billy, who keeps the score, that he cheated them a point on offense or cheated them a point on defense, so the competitive part of them has shown up and I think it has shown up in the games too.”

  • The wins are certainly going to help Arizona on the recruiting trail, but it may not happen right away.

    “So much of recruiting is done before the season starts anyway that you have a few that maybe you can flip or a few guys you are trying to get, but recruiting has been so overloaded before the season starts that I probably wish it wasn’t at times,” Rodriguez said.

    “Not just because we are winning and in the championship game, but because there are players that emerge late in their senior year and you don’t have any room for them. We talked about that last year and here we are again about filled up wishing we had a few more spots.

    “I don’t know if it makes a huge impact, but most really good players in high school want to go to a program they can make a difference in and they want to have success and play in games like this.”

  • By now you are likely familiar that Arizona has adopted the motto of “60 minutes of Arizona football,” and the Wildcats continue to play with that in mind.

    “That’s been our mantra all year, let’s just play,” Rodriguez said. “I’m not going to stick my head in the sand and say our guys aren’t aware of the score or how much time is left, but I don’t think they focus or are worried about it.

    “I think most teams are probably told the same thing, but I truly think our guys take it to heart. The last game it was tied and it was so quiet in there I was wondering what are we thinking about and then our guys just go out there and play.

    “That’s the thing I think you have to do. There’s so much more parity in college football, particularly in our league, and that is not going away, it is going to be like this every year I think.”

  • With Samajie Grant facing possible discipline, it is likely Tyrell Johnson’s opportunity to step up.

    “He probably needed to be playing more anyway,” Rodriguez said. “He is the fastest guy on the team, a really competitive guy, and we probably need to find ways to get him more involved anyway.

    “In the return game he has been close a couple times, but also offensively. He can play tailback as well, he was a really good tailback in high school.”

  • Austin Hill continues to play well in his role as a tight end and H-Back with the game against Arizona State being his best.

    “Austin probably had his best day blocking in that tight end role since he has been there all year,” Rodriguez said. “Mentally he has bought in 100 percent. There was one play in particular that he really got a good shot on a guy and you could really see him getting fired up.

    “I think he is enjoying that part of it and his versatility has allowed us to do that. We have been able to do that more than we thought because we weren’t sure Austin could play in there with the big guys, but he can.”

  • Cayleb Jones has struggled as of late and Rodriguez points to a few factors as to why.

    “I think he is one of those guys that is ultra competitive and I think he gets frustrated when he is getting double coverage, which is not all the time, but there are some really good corners he is facing every week,” Rodriguez said.

    “I think it is a matter of him staying patient and staying disciplined in his technique and frankly us being able to get the ball to him with some time. It’s been tough because we have faced some real good, aggressive defenses and you don’t have a lot of time.

    “To Cayleb’s defense, the last few weeks he has been banged up with his hand. I think he was better this past week and will be better this week, but we have to try to find a way to get it to him because he is an explosive player and we need him to make plays to be able to win Friday.”

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