Arizona football looks to avoid Roadrunner trap
Wildcats to face unknown competitor
Up on the outfield wall of Arizona’s practice facilities is a large 2013 Wildcats football schedule. However, the only game posted is Saturday’s home matchup against Texas-San Antonio.
With the Wildcats’ first conference game against No. 19 Washington just two weeks away, playing a fairly new program in UTSA could be a trap — just don’t say that to head coach Rich Rodriguez.
“I won’t even pay attention to the question you just asked,” Rodriguez said with a stern face when asked about calling this a trap game. “I don’t even think our guys pay attention to the next game. Tuesday, they’re just looking to get through Tuesday’s practice; today, they’re just looking to get through today’s practice.”
Nevertheless, the Wildcats can’t afford to overlook their opponent this week. Unlike their two previous opponents, the Roadrunners are a confusing team that will give Arizona’s defense a variety of looks. Communication will be key in making sure Saturday ends up an upset.
“We just need to make sure we’re focused and understanding our roles and be prepared,” junior safety Jared Tevis said.
In 2008 the Wildcats lost on the road to New Mexico, which finished the season 4-8 (2-6 Mountain West). Similar to UTSA, that game was Arizona’s third game of the season and was just one week before the conference opener against UCLA.
The loss to New Mexico did not completely ruin the Wildcats’ season, though, as they finished 8-5 (5-4 Pac-10) and ended the season by beating No. 18 BYU 31-21 in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Current Arizona players don’t seem worried at all about the 2008 team or even last week’s game against UNLV. The mindset is to “pull the rope” and win Saturday’s game.
“I don’t use games before,” junior safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant said about taking his strong performance from last week into this week. “Once the game is over, it’s over. Now we just got to move forward and worry about UTSA.”
Bondurant is off to a strong start in his third year in Tucson. He has two interceptions, both returned for touchdowns. He is also second on the team in tackles with 11, and in week one, he was named Pac-12 defensive player of the week.
“Like I said, I’m not worried about the games before. I’m just on to the next one,” Bondurant said. “Just got to keep doing it every week and focus on what’s next.”
Bondurant’s mental focus is like the schedule posted in the Kindall-Sancet practice facilities. It’s a precise mindset, and one that Arizona hasn’t had in the past.
It’s a change that has been one of the biggest improvements to the Wildcats’ defense, which was the worst in the conference last season. But two games into 2013, it is ranked fourth in the conference and 19th in the country.
“For the most part, our guys have understood the shell of our defense,” Rodriguez said. “This week’s game will be the biggest challenge for the season so far.”
— Follow Luke Della @LukeDellaDW