The University of Arizona football team wrapped up another unbeaten non-conference portion of its schedule last night by overwhelming a smaller, less-skilled team from the Big Sky Conference.
When the game mercifully wound to a close, the Wildcats had posted a 77-13 win and set a number of school records in the process. But maybe these marks should include an asterisk because the Lumberjacks are an FCS program that plays in a lower-tier D-I conference.
Maybe the Wildcats should have to pick on someone their own size to be able to put a notch in the record books.
No. 20-ranked Arizona scored 35 points in the second quarter alone and ran up 391 yards in the first half to bury the visiting Lumberjacks by intermission and remove any doubt early as to who the winner would be. It was a long night for those fans that traveled down the hill from Flagstaff to provide some support in what they knew would be a steep uphill climb. Their ‘Jacks have lost 13 of the 14 games between the two Arizona schools.
But this time, the only show they got was watching the bully in the room pick on the little guy.
The Cats set new school records for most points in a single game, most rushing yards (499), and most total yards (792). Before the third quarter was over, head coach Rich Rodriguez was able to begin using some of the others in his stable of quarterbacks – working his way down to fourth-string QB Zach Werlinger in the final minutes.
Werlinger, a local product from Basha High School in Chandler, scored a touchdown. So did third-stringer Brandon Dawkins. And back-up signal caller Jerrard Randall picked up a pair of his own. It was like turning kids loose in a candy store.
Oh yeah…Anu Solomon, who started as usual under center, collected four TDs before being replaced late in the third quarter by Randall. Solomon threw for 285 yards on a shortened 25-for-35 night.
Arizona put 11 touchdowns on the board.
So how much good is this game going to do in preparing the Wildcats for their Pac-12 opener next week against No. 9-ranked UCLA. Probably not much.
And therein lies the danger of setting up an entire slate of soft non-conference games that Rodriguez uses each year to start his schedule with some easy wins and gradually bring his players along before they have to begin playing with the big boys in one of the toughest football conferences in the country.
After UCLA, the Cats have to take on Stanford, which just pulled off the stunner of the season so far by beating No. 6 USC. The unranked Cardinal were a double-digit underdog before pulling the huge 41-31 upset of USC.
This year, the non-conference portion of the Wildcats’ schedule was particularly non-threatening.
Arizona opened against University of Texas San Antonio, a team that plays in Conference USA, where they were picked in the pre-season to finish in last place in their division. The Roadruners are win-less at 0-3, with the last loss a 69-14 rout by Oklahoma State.
The second game, against Nevada, provided a little more of a challenge. But not much. Arizona won that one by 24 points against a team that didn’t even get to .500 last season (7-8) and has one win so far this season – against UC Davis, another Big Sky team like NAU, which hasn’t won a game yet this season.
That’s a pretty smooth road to take to a 3-0 record.
Which means it’s definitely not going to impress the Bruins.
(Photo: Arizona Athletics)