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Arizona Wildcats turn attention to Oregon after encouraging 3-0 start

Ka'Deem Carey

Ka’Deem Carey plays to the crowd after scoring on a 7-yard run in the first half. Photo by Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE

The Arizona Wildcats have a 24-hour rule. Win or lose, forget about the previous game.

Nobody needs that long to savor, digest and then flush the 56-0 victory over South Carolina State at Arizona Stadium on Saturday night.

“I may need an hour,” said senior center Kyle Quinn.

No doubt, the game against the lower-division Bulldogs was nice. Lots of statistical tidbits that will go into the record book: A school-record 43 first downs; a school-record 102 snaps from scrimmage; 689 yards, the second-most in school history.

No serious injuries. The program’s first shutout since the 2008 season-opener vs. Idaho.

Super. Let’s now talk about Oregon.

The good feeling of Arizona’s 3-0 start runs head-first into the reality of Autzen Stadium, where the Ducks, the three-time defending conference champs, will sit in wait for a Saturday night game on ESPN. Oregon (3-0) entered last week ranked No. 4 in the nation and should inch up after USC’s loss at Stanford.

Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez was only about 40 seconds into his postgame press conference before flipping the script.

“We have a huge task in front of us next weekend,” he said.

“I think our guys understand it’s a little different deal starting next weekend. … Certainly, everybody is going to be talking about it.”

That the game will be a topic of conversation is thanks to Arizona bringing itself up to somewhere near the Ducks’ sphere of superiority. It will be, unexpectedly, a matchup of ranked teams. It will be a game in which, if the averages through the early season hold, the teams combine for 1,200 yards using the read-option offense that Rodriguez devised two decades ago and that Ducks coach Chip Kelly further popularized and perfected.

“They’ve got fast dudes,” Rodriguez said of Oregon. “I mean, fast, fast. They’ve got fast guys playing fast.”

Arizona’s defense has tackled well and survived Oklahoma State’s 636-yard onslaught two Saturdays ago by coming up with four turnovers. Oregon is a different beast. Fast, fast. And the Ducks haven’t had to mash the accelerator yet, cruising through the softest early schedule in the Pac-12 — a trio of home games vs. Arkansas State, Fresno State and Tennessee Tech.

And, oh yeah, good luck trying to corral Oregon sophomore running back De’Anthony Thomas. He has four touchdowns on 13 carries. Those scoring runs are from 33, 39, 51 and 59 yards.

Rich Rodriguez

On your marks … the Pac-12 season is about to begin for Rich Rodriguez and Arizona. Photo by Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE

“We have emphasized running to the ball and playing as hard as we can and making solid tackles,” safety Jourdon Grandon said after UA held South Carolina State to 154 yards, with second-stringers playing much of the second half. “Things have been working out well for us.”

True enough. Arizona is in as good of a place as it could have hoped for as it peers into the possibilities of Pac-12 play.

This is a confident team that has a quarterback, senior Matt Scott, playing as well as any in the conference. He bowed out after three quarters Saturday night after completing 30 of 36 passes for 288 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for 61 yards.

UA, in only a trio of games under Rodriguez, has posted two of the top three single-game yardage totals in school history. Arizona is averaging nearly 605 yards per game.

“I thought they were a well-oiled team,” said South Carolina State coach Oliver “Buddy” Pough.

“I thought they did a nice job mixing it up and making you defend that whole field in a way that you couldn’t gang up on the run game. The run game, really, isn’t all that good, but the way they make you defend the entire field so widely, it creates more space that you have to defend, more than at any time we’ve faced.”

Arizona might be saying similar things about Oregon late Saturday night.

We’ll find out if the Ducks are too much, too soon in Rodriguez’s rebuilding effort.

“Would I like to be faster and bigger and stronger and all that? Sure. We’ve got to get that,” he said.

“But the one thing that I have been pleased with is that they have sat up and paid attention so to speak. They’ve been eager to learn. And when you have a team like that, one, it’s fun to coach, but, two, it gives you a chance.

“I think the guys are hungry. I think they played like it and they have certainly practiced like it.”

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