TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona used its go-all-the-time tempo to wear opponents down and open the season with three straight wins. After two losses and no letup in pace, it's the Wildcats who are starting to wear down a little.
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona used its go-all-the-time tempo to wear opponents down and open the season with three straight wins.
After two losses and no letup in pace, it's the Wildcats who are starting to wear down a little.
"As you can imagine, playing five straight games and playing a lot of plays, our guys are a little beat up," Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said.
Arizona (3-2, 0-2 Pac-12) has been one of the fastest-snapping teams in the country, averaging 88 plays per game, right behind Marshall for most in the nation.
The pace has been good at keeping opposing defenses off-balance; the Wildcats are 10th nationally with 538 yards of offense per game.
It's also taken a toll.
Arizona opened the season playing against four straight up-tempo opponents — the first two games featured an eye-popping 182 plays each — and Oregon State didn't exactly bog the game down last Saturday.
The problem isn't keeping up. After struggling with conditioning when Rodriguez first arrived, the Wildcats are in pretty good shape.
They're just not very deep, particularly on defense. Without much help, the starters and key backups are on the field for a lot more plays, maybe more than anyone else in the country.
From the first game of the season, Rodriguez has lamented the amount of time his defense has clocked, which figures to be a continuing problem for the rest of the season.
More time on the field means more chances to get injured or worn down, which is already starting to happen.
"We aren't a very deep team, We aren't very experienced in many positions," Rodriguez said. "Any injury certainly hurts just like a lot of teams are experiencing as well. We are barreling through and hopefully it will be a good week for the guys. If it's not and we have guys who can't play, we will put the next guy in and move on."
One player who has had it particularly rough is quarterback Matt Scott.
One of the fifth-year senior's best attributes is his ability to run, but that also puts him in position to take plenty of punishment. And with an offensive line that's been shaky at times this season, he's taken plenty — whether he runs it or not.
Scott was beaten up pretty good the past two games and limped off the field after being dragged down against Oregon State on Saturday night. He sprinted back onto the field the next play and finished the game, but was still limping later.
With Scott taking a beating, Rodriguez has been forced to find a balance between keeping him healthy and running a read-option offense predicated on the quarterback's ability to keep the ball and run it himself.
One of the nation's top rushing quarterbacks the first three games of the season, Scott has 38 yards on 10 carries the past two.
"I think Matt understands that we're trying to protect him," Rodriguez said, "But at the same time, we're trying to run our system."
It doesn't get any easier for Arizona this week.
Up next is a road game against No. 18 Stanford, one of the biggest and most physical teams in the country.
So far this season, the Wildcats have played teams that rely mostly on speed and spreading things out. The Cardinal play more like a steamroller, running right over teams with their huge offensive line or throwing to their oak-sized tight ends.
For a team that's a little worn down, this will be a huge test.
"They're definitely a larger team," Arizona defensive lineman Tevin Hood said. "The offensive front isn't sloppy big; they're just big, confident guys. We just have to play low, maintain a low center of gravity and hit them in the mouth."
The good news for the Wildcats is that they'll get a break after Stanford.
Of course, after that it starts all over again, the remaining schedule including games against No. 23 Washington, No. 13 Southern California, No. 25 UCLA and rival Arizona State.