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Arizona Wildcats football notes: Running game gets ‘amped up’

Ka'Deem Carey

Ka'Deem Carey cuts his way through the UCLA defense on an 18-yard touchdown run. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Here is something you might not have heard an Arizona opponent say in while:

“They imposed their will on us and we weren’t able to bounce back.”

That was UCLA linebacker Patrick Larimore after Arizona’s 48-12 victory on Thursday night, when the Wildcats ran 46 times for 254 yards.

Consider: UA had topped 100 rushing yards only once this season, and the 254 yards were nearly double the previous season high of 129, set against USC.

“We were just amped up,” said running back Taimi Tutogi.

“We wanted to get those yards. And we did it. The holes that opened up, opened up perfectly. All together, it wasn’t too bad.”

Arizona has increasingly discovered its running game throughout the first seven games after it was slow to use the full-house “bone” formation it worked on during spring practice and fall camp.

Having three backs along with quarterback Nick Foles in the shotgun formation has given the Wildcats a more physical presence and allowed for better pass protection. With three running backs occupying defender’s attention, Arizona’s two wide receivers in the formation have a better chance of getting single coverage.

“What it does, it just gives us versatility,” running backs coach Garret Chachere told us last month.

“It balances up the offense, which balances up the defense. We’re even. We can go to the right, we can go to the left, we can go up the middle. … Because you’re balanced, the defense has to balance up and play basic. It allows you to do a bunch of things.”

Arizona will try to impose its will on Washington on Saturday night in Husky Stadium. The 5-2 Huskies have been thoroughly pushed around up front in their two losses — allowing 309 rushing yards to Nebraska and 446 rushing yards last week to Stanford, a Cardinal school record.

Now, Arizona is in no way anything like those two teams in terms of being physical and persistent up front, but the Cats do seem to be on to something that works.

“Guys just came out and had a goal — to run it down their throat,” center Kyle Quinn said after the victory over UCLA.

“It’s the middle of the year and guys are getting comfortable playing with each other. We’re just getting better with every game right now.”

Arizona, with a big lead by halftime, rushed a season-high 46 times vs. the Bruins. Keola Antolin, Ka’Deem Carey, Daniel Jenkins and big back Tutogi (who had a season-high seven carries) all ran well and finished their carries with authority.

“I think we have several backs who can run the ball, and it’s good to go run and pass,” Foles said of balance in the offense. “It’s easier on me if we can run the ball.”

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Four Pac-12 players were among the 16 semifinalists for the Davey O’Brien Award, given to the nation’s top quarterback, but Foles wasn’t among them.

Stanford’s Andrew Luck, USC’s Matt Barkley, Oregon’s Darron Thomas and Washington’s Keith Price made the cut.

Foles is averaging 363.7 passing yards per game, which is fourth in the nation. (The blowout over UCLA actually hurt his stats since he left the game after three quarters.) Foles is 19th nationally in passing efficiency with a rating of 153.21.

Foles has completed 227 of 320 passes; only Texas Tech’s Seth Doege (238 of 342) has completions and attempts.

* * *

Quarterbacks coach Frank Scelfo is the most quotable person on the Arizona team, and he delivered an honest opinion about the streaker that interrupted Thursday night’s game against UCLA.

“I thought it was awesome,” Scelfo said. “You don’t need that, but it made for great entertainment.”

* * *

Washington opened as an eight-point favorite against Arizona but the spread was down to six points by Monday night. … Tutogi’s younger brother, Thomas Tutogi, is a sophomore backup linebacker at Washington, having transferred last winter from junior college. Thomas Tutogi has 11 tackles. Might we see some Tutogi-on-Tutogi collisions? … Former UA coach Mike Stoops was 4-3 against Washington, which hasn’t managed more than 290 yards against the Wildcats in any of the past three meetings.

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