The Wildcats have proven all season that in order to win, they must score early, and they must get ahead early.
In every one of their losses this season, they’ve started slow. They’ve gotten behind by a couple touchdowns. History shows that when they’re behind, they can’t come back (see: Washington State).
This week will be no exception. If Arizona comes out of the gate strong and scores early, it has a chance of winning. The Wildcats have to gain a lead early if they want to beat the Sun Devils on their turf.
Last week, Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez said the Ducks needed to help the Wildcats win — they needed to fumble, and they needed to throw picks.
That’s exactly what Oregon did.
ASU will be the same. The Sun Devils are coming off a huge win at UCLA, when they became the Pac-12 South Champs. At home, they are 6-0 with an average margin of victory of 26.8 points per game.
The Sun Devils are no joke at home.
Even if the Wildcats play flawlessly, the Sun Devils will need to make errors in order for Arizona to win.
Lather, rinse, repeat
It’s simple: for the Wildcats to win, they need to play like they did against Oregon.
Senior quarterback B.J. Denker had the performance of his career last Saturday. He completed 19 of 22 passes. Two touchdowns, no interceptions. It was the performance Arizona fans were waiting for.
All-American running back Ka’Deem Carey had a record-breaking afternoon. After rushing 206 yards, he became Arizona’s all-time rushing leader. After four touchdowns, he set the school record with 49 career touchdowns.
Those players who had the game of their lives will have to repeat their performances in Sun Devil Stadium.
Defense left in Tucson
If Arizona thinks it can win a shootout versus its rival, the team might as well not even show up.
The Sun Devils average 41.9 points per game, the 11th most in the country. The Wildcats are 40th with 33.8. The UA held Oregon, which currently averages 47.7 points per contest (fourth), to just 16 points last week because of three turnovers and two failed fourth down attempts by the Ducks.
Arizona doesn’t need to convert a turnover on the first play from scrimmage as it did against Oregon, but it needs to control or at least contain the momentum in the first half with turnovers.
Wildcats quarterback B.J. Denker had the greatest start of his career against the Ducks. Denker was efficient and effective, completing 19 of 22 attempts and constantly picking up first downs, keeping the Arizona offense moving.
For Arizona’s sake, it better hope Denker has another strong performance in him and that it’s not all downhill from here. It needs the senior to be on top of his game. The Wildcats won’t win if running back Ka’Deem Carey has to carry the team on his back.
Denker can’t have too many three-and-out possessions. If he can’t tire out the Sun Devils’ 19th ranked defense and the Wildcats’ offense stalls, Arizona will quickly fall behind.
Fear the spark
Similar to the eating utensil the spork, what makes ASU so dangerous is how versatile it is on both offense and defense. While they don’t do anything amazing, the Sun Devils cover most, if not all, facets of the game better than Arizona, most notably on defense.
The only food that can beat a spork is one that is tough and cold at its core. It has to be impossible to cut.
And the core of every offense is its offensive line. If Arizona’s offensive plays weak, doesn’t open holes and is soft, the Sun Devils’ defense will slice through it.
•This story was courtesy of the Arizona Daily Wildcat.