The first half of the season of the Rich Rodriguez era in Tucson started with a bang after a 3-0 start including an upset win over Oklahoma State. But things have tapered off since as the Wildcats have dropped three straight to three ranked teams in the Pac-12 to fall to .500.
Coming off a bye week, the Wildcats have regrouped, gotten healthier and are not thinking about the highs and lows of the first half. Instead they are eyeing an improved second half of the season which starts with Washington this Saturday.
“It’s not a clean slate as much as it is the second half,” said coach Rodriguez. “The first half is over. There were some good and some bad and now we’re in the second half. Every conference game is really important. Our guys understand that.”
“We’d like to come back in full strength, and our goals and expectations haven’t changed,” added Arizona linebacker Jake Fischer. “We still have a chance to win the Pac-12 South. It all starts with the next game, so we’re looking forward to playing against Washington.”
After one half of the season, quarterback Matt Scott, running back K’Deem Carey and the Wildcats offense are second in the conference in total offense. Conversely, the Arizona defense which has dealt with injuries, is last in the conference in total defense.
If you compare the Arizona season thus far to a single game, it’s a close high scoring first half of football. With the bye week being half time, the Wildcats now need to make the necessary adjustments to come out on top in the third and fourth quarter.
“Halftime is when you rejuvenate, get ready for the second half and give it all you got, explained Arizona running back K’Deem Carey. “This is exactly what we needed, especially our bye week being in the middle of the season. Now we just have to go out for the second half of the season and finish strong.”
“You have to adjust accordingly,” added Rodriguez. “Our jobs as coaches are to try to adjust to the strengths of what guys are playing and play those strengths. It’s a challenge because this is still our first season. As a coaching staff, I took a little bit of time to evaluate the first half of the season and to try to think about what we can do better for the second half.”
The Washington Huskies arrive in Tucson having had a very similar story to the Wildcats in the first half of the season. Knocking off a ranked team at home (Stanford), getting blown out on the road by a top five team (LSU) and are 3-3. The main difference is Washington is in the top tier in the conference on defense and toward the bottom in the conference on offense.
“I think you have to treat them as team that is going to be ranked by the end of the season,” Rodriguez mentioned. “They’ve beaten a ranked team. They’re without a doubt one of the most athletic teams in our league. (Head Coach Steve Sarkisian) and the rest of their guys are really excited, and they should be, with where they’re at right now. Keith Price is as good as any athlete. They have some of the best skilled players in the league. They have a very athletic defense. Our guys can see that on film. You can paint whatever picture you want, but when you see them on TV or on film you know they’re good.”
Wildcats get their first test of the second half of the season Saturday against the Washington Huskies on Saturday at 7:00pm in Tucson.