No. 21 Wildcats look to rebound against Buffaloes
Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez says he sees a Colorado team on the verge of breaking through with a victory.
His No. 21 Wildcats (6-2, 3-2 Pac-12) are out to make sure the Buffaloes (2-7, 0-6 Pac-12) put that breakthrough off until after the teams meet Saturday night.
“We see them as a team with bad luck,” Rodriguez said. “Their numbers are pretty much equal to ours in a lot of respects and they are playing really hard. They have the right attitude, and the next step for them is to win some of those close games.”
In the Buffs’ current five-game losing streak, two of the losses (to California and UCLA) came in double overtime and one was by five points (to Oregon State). Last week against Washington, Colorado was leading until three late third-quarter turnovers.
Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre talks about how much closer the Buffaloes have played teams this year than last, and about the work ethic and attitude of his players, even as the losses mount.
“I’m tired of losing,” he said. “I want to win a bunch. But I do think that that teaches them that you have to just keep going, just keep going, you keep going. When they punch through, they’re going to have a foundation and a fortitude instinct inside that other people wouldn’t have.
“I really believe that. So, when it happens, it’s really going to be special.”
The Wildcats have to have a victory to stay in Pac-12 South contention after they were beaten at UCLA 17-7 last weekend.
“There were so many things that we could have done better and calls we would like to have back as coaches,” Rodriguez said.
Here are things to watch when the Wildcats face the Buffaloes.
CATS ON THE GROUND: Colorado ranks last in the Pac-12 in run defense, giving up 197 yards per game. Arizona is averaging 179 yards per game, sixth-best in the conference. But the Wildcats ground game has diminished lately, topping 100 yards only once in the past three games.
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, Ka’Deem Carey is gone. Last year against Colorado, Carey rushed for a Pac-12 record 366 yards and scored five touchdowns in Arizona’s 56-31 rout.
SENSATIONAL SPRUCE: What success the Buffaloes have often involves wide receiver Nelson Spruce.
With 90 catches, he leads major-college football in receptions per game. He has 1,002 yards receiving and has tied the Colorado season record for TD catches at 11. He had 13 catches for 138 yards last weekend against Washington.
“I have never seen him drop a ball,” Rodriguez said.
FAST AND FASTER: Don’t turn away from the TV if you’re watching this one or you’re liable to miss a handful of plays. There are liable to be close to 180 of them in the game.
Rodriguez’s teams have a reputation of playing fast, but Colorado is even faster, averaging 90.1 plays per game. That’s second only to Baylor’s 91.6 in big college football. Arizona ranks fifth at 87.2 per game.
“I think given their offense and ours that there will be a good pace,” Buffaloes quarterback Sefo Liufau said.
It was a bit of an understatement.
ANU AND SCOOBY: Arizona freshman quarterback Anu Solomon looks to bounce back from a rough game against UCLA, when he completed only 18 of 48 passes for 175 yards and one touchdown. He threw his fifth interception of the season and was sacked three times.
Linebacker Scooby Wright, on the other hand, had another outstanding performance.
The high-energy sophomore had 19 tackles, three sacks and 4½ tackles for loss against UCLA, a performance that earned him a second straight Pac-12 defensive player of the week honor.
“Scooby, what a great name,” MacIntyre said. “He is a heck of a football player. You’ve got to know where No. 33 is at all times.”
BACK HOME: The Wildcats will be playing at home for the first time in almost a month. Their most recent game in Tucson was their only loss there this season, 28-26 to USC. Arizona’s Casey Skowron missed what would have been a game-winning 36-yard field goal at the end.
Three of the Wildcats’ remaining four games are at home. After Colorado, Arizona is home against Washington, at Utah, then home against rival Arizona State.