Three ways the Arizona Wildcats win against Utah, three ways to lose
Keys to the Utah game
Three ways to win
Whether you’ve been pleased with his overall performance this season or not, you have to admit senior quarterback B.J. Denker was effective last week against USC, especially late in the game. He pushed the tempo and wore down a talented Trojan defense. Though it lost, Arizona still outplayed USC in the second half, due in no small part to Denker’s improved passing.
The senior threw for a career-high 363 yards and four touchdowns last Thursday against the Trojans.
The Wildcats won’t be doomed if Denker fails to repeat those statistics against Utah this Saturday, but another strong performance will be needed. The Utes host one of the nation’s best rush defenses, at No. 31, allowing just 133.7 yards per game, which could limit Arizona junior running back Ka’Deem Carey. Despite Denker’s performance last week, Utah, like most opponents, will not stray from game-planning around the All-American running back.
Defense uses the force
In the last two games — consecutive losses — Arizona’s defense has forced just one turnover, which resulted in a loss in the overall time of possession.
Last week against USC, the defense forced zero turnovers and couldn’t stop the Trojans’ offense at the end, when it mattered most. USC and Washington had a combined 50 percent conversion rate on third down against the Wildcats’ defense (15-30). Arizona will need more playmakers to show up on defense next week if it hopes to compete with a Utah team that is riding a lot of momentum.
Fischer can swim upstream
Despite a tweaked ankle, senior linebacker Jake Fischer played in last week’s game. It would take a lot for Fischer, who is one of the veteran leaders of the defense, to miss a game due to an injury. But against USC, his ankle clearly appeared to affect him on some plays — especially when he was responsible for covering receivers.
The Wildcats will need him to be fully healthy by Saturday, because Utah has a talented and experienced quarterback in Travis Wilson, who will pick apart the Arizona defense and will be looking to exploit a possibly injured Fischer on single man coverage.
—Follow Luke Della @LukeDella
Three ways to lose
Better with age
Utah has size, there’s no question about it. Not only does it have size, but it has maturity.
Several of Utah’s players are older, around the age of 25. In Monday’s press conference, head coach Rich Rodriguez said that the fact is, older players are just stronger.
“You’re not as strong when you’re 18 or 19 as you are when you’re 22, 23 or 25,” Rodriguez said.
With that being said, Utah has a huge offensive line. And the Wildcats’ defense is … not so huge. Not just physically, but depth-wise and age-wise. Not to mention that its consistency has suffered of late.
A win goes to the Utes if their maturity and size can wear down the Wildcats.
There’s something that comes with beating a No. 5-ranked team: It’s called momentum.
Utah, an unranked team, beat No. 5 Stanford. This was the biggest upset the Utes have ever pulled off — at home, that is — and put an end to the Cardinal’s 13-game win streak.
So when players pull off a win like that, they have confidence. They have momentum. They feel like they can come play an unranked team in its home and beat it.
Last year, when the Wildcats upset the No. 18 Oklahoma State Cowboys, they came out the next week and destroyed the South Carolina State Bulldogs, 56-0. Granted, the Bulldogs weren’t a high-caliber team, but the momentum from the upset was still there.
Momentum isn’t something you train for; it’s something you earn. And the Utes have earned it.
Don’t keep calm, don’t Carey on
Everyone knows that Arizona has an all-American running back in junior Ka’Deem Carey. The key to beating the Wildcats is to put a stop to the run game.
You think the Utes don’t know that?
Arizona will lose if senior quarterback B.J. Denker doesn’t have a game like last week against USC, when Denker passed for 363 yards, the most in his career.
The Wildcats need to rely less on rushing, and instead try to keep the ball in the air. If they don’t, the Utes will take the win on a silver platter.
—Follow Scarlett McCourt @scarlettnoelani