Arizona football preview: Wildcats will treat Colorado like 'biggest team in the nation'
Right now, the Arizona football team is reeling — it’s only one loss, but the manner in which Arizona was humiliated by UCLA makes the USC upset seem like months ago. The Wildcats have no choice but to bounce back on Saturday against Colorado at 11:30 a.m. at Arizona Stadium.
The final score against UCLA (66-10) and the way the Bruins effortlessly marched down the field for touchdown after touchdown was embarrassing for the Wildcats, but the lingering questions about quarterback Matt Scott’s health after his concussion makes it that much worse.
Not only did Arizona (5-4, 2-4 Pac-12) suffer its worst defeat of the season, but Scott, the nation’s fourth-most productive offensive player, is doubtful to play this weekend because of a concussion.
“We certainly didn’t play well in any of the three phases,” head coach Rich Rodriguez said. “I thought we had a good week of preparation, but maybe we didn’t and maybe that goes back to me … Certainly you have to give UCLA credit, they dominated us in every facet.”
But as bad as things are at the moment, there is a ray of sunlight peeking over the Wildcats’ horizon.
Arizona might not be in a good place at the moment, but Colorado’s (1-8, 1-5) current location is much, much darker.
The Buffaloes enter the game with the 115th ranked total defense in terms of yards per game, and 116th total offense in terms of yardage. They also allow the most points in the nation, 46 per game, and their scoring average of 16 points is only better than Idaho.
“Colorado, they have losses, but I mean, we can’t look at it like that,” linebacker Marquis Flowers said. “They could come out, they could put points up. As a defense we just got to come together and work at it.”
Over their last three games against USC, Oregon and Stanford, Colorado has been outscored 168-20 with the majority of its points coming in garbage time during the Ducks’ 70-14 rout.
Even though this is only the Wildcats’ second opponent that hasn’t been ranked at all during the season, nose tackle Sione Tuihalamaka said they can’t take the Buffaloes lightly.
“We have to treat ‘em like we’re playing Stanford, we have to treat ‘em like we’re playing SC, we have to treat ‘em like we’re playing the biggest team in the nation,” Tuihalamaka said. “That’s the only mentality we have to go in there with.”
Arizona has a pretty recent case study of what happens when it overlooks a one-win team.
Last year, the Wildcats traveled to Boulder, Colo., for a Nov. 12 matchup against a then 1-9 Buffalo team and were humbled 48-19.
“This is the same team that beat us by  last year,” said Rodriguez, who wasn’t Arizona’s coach at the time. “They got eight starters back on defense from a team that beat us by . It wasn’t a win at the last minute deal, from what I watched on film over the summer, it was a pretty thorough beating.”
Colorado hasn’t put up much of a fight this season, though, and head coach Jon Embree announced that either Connor Wood or Nick Hirschman will make their first career start at quarterback thanks to the struggles of Jordan Webb. But running back Christian Powell will still be in the lineup, and after UCLA ran for 308 yards last week against the UA, Flowers said every team is going to continue to run until Arizona can stop it.
“I think every team from here on out is gonna do what UCLA did,” Flowers said. “The blueprint is out on us, I expect their team to do it. We’ve got to get better, we’ve got to except it and we’ve got to play harder.”
With the UA defense allowing more than 600 yards in back-to-back games and quarterback B.J. Denker most likely making his first career start, a game against one of the Pac-12’s bottom feeders is a lucky draw for the Wildcats. But Arizona was in a similar situation to rebound last year and was instead beaten badly — and the same could happen this time too.
“Our guys better understand [Colorado] has players,” Rodriguez said. “The same guys that whipped on ‘em last year are coming back to our place this year.”