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Fast track: Arizona’s rout of Washington shows offense with ‘endless’ possibilities

Matt Scott David Richards

Matt Scott (right) and David Richards celebrates the first of Arizona’s seven touchdowns vs. Washington. Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

It has happened fast. It was supposed to happen fast, of course, but not this fast.

From the moment Rich Rodriguez was hired last November, we knew the Arizona Wildcats would have a fabulous offense, one on the leading edges of college football.

That’s his track record. Mr. No Huddle. That’s who he is.

Can’t wait to see it all in a few years …

But with senior quarterback Matt Scott leading the way, sophomore Ka’Deem Carey emerging into an All-American-caliber running back and sophomore receiver Austin Hill becoming a touchdown-maker, the Wildcats have cast aside any painful break-in time and gone right into the good stuff.

The latest flurry resulted in a 52-17 victory over Washington on Saturday night at Arizona Stadium, the most points the Cats have ever scored against the Huskies and their largest margin of victory against U-Dub.

Arizona ended a three-game losing streak and improved to 4-3 overall, 1-3 in the Pac-12. Washington lost its third in a row, dropping to 3-4 and 1-3.

“It’s endless, man. Endless,” sophomore receiver Garic Wharton said of the capabilities of the offense. “We’re just rolling. We can do anything.”

The victory re-injected energy and optimism into Arizona’s season, and this will be a week full of hope leading up to Saturday’s home game against USC.

At this point, you have to ask of Arizona’s offense: Who is going to stop these guys?

The Wildcats stopped themselves in the shutout at Oregon, going scoreless in six red-zone opportunities. Otherwise, consider this:

Arizona has scored more points this season than anybody against Oklahoma State, Oregon State and Stanford. Its 52 points Saturday night matched what the Ducks used to smack down the Huskies.

“It feels great,” Carey said of the win. “When we can finish a game like this against a good team like Washington, all you can do is celebrate.”

Arizona is averaging more yards (548.7 per game, fifth nationally) than Rodriguez ever did when he was winning three Big East titles at West Virginia, and the points per game (39.1, 20th nationally) are a hair better than what the Mountaineers averaged in 2007 when Rodriguez had them a game away from playing for the national title.

What learning curve?

“I think our tempo was good in our heyday back then, but that was several years in the making,” Rodriguez said.

“This is the fastest transition to this tempo that I’ve had, but it’s also been more of an emphasis since day one. We’ve made it more of an emphasis than ever before, and, frankly, we’ve done different things to make our tempo faster.

“There are other teams that go fast. We want to be the best at it. I don’t know if we’re the best at it right now.”

Close enough.

Arizona’s tempo against Washington was particularly impressive in the first half, when the Wildcats scored on their first five possessions.

“I thought our pace was pretty good in the first half,” Rodriguez said.

“The second half we dialed it back a little bit. But in the first half, that was a key. Because, let’s face it, we’re not big and strong enough just to move people off and let them know, ‘Here we are, here we come.’”

And yet Arizona kept coming in the first half, taking a 31-17 lead into the break. It could have been a bigger advantage, but Washington linebacker Travis Feeney intercepted Scott at midfield in the final minute, returning it 47 yards to set up a touchdown.

While Carey kept pounding away on the ground for a career-high 172 yards on 29 carries — “running angry,” Rodriguez said again — Arizona had more of the explosive plays that the coach says has been missing:

A 27-yard touchdown pass to David Richards to start UA’s scoring; a 33-yard scoring pass to Wharton; a 53-yard touchdown pass to Hill; a 63-yard punt return by Richard Morrison.

The Cats went 4-for-4 in red-zone opportunities, too.

This isn’t Rodriguez’s typical read-option offense that keeps defenses off-balance with the quarterback running the ball, but Scott is dabbling just enough in that to keep opponents guessing.

What’s impressive is that Arizona had offensive success against Stanford with Scott passing 69 times, yet the Wildcats down-shifted against Washington, throwing only five times after halftime.

“It worked out great,” Scott said. “Any time we can do that and get an outcome like this, that’s fine by me.”

At this rate, Arizona will shatter the school record for total offense (471.9 yards per game, set in 1999). UA also is ahead of the school-record pace for scoring (38.5 points per game, 1954).

It’s all working, very quickly, in Rodriguez’s first year.

“There is a lot more we need to accomplish,” Rodriguez said.

“Trust me, this is a really nice win and we’re going to enjoy it. But I’m here to tell you that there is a whole lot of stuff we’ve got to get better at. But from day one … everybody has pulled in the same direction. Everybody has bought in.

“There are going to be lots more bumps in the road, but it’s good when the momentum is all pulling with you, even when you lose.”

For the first time in more than a month, though, the Wildcats are celebrating a win … and the offense keeps rolling along.

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