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Rich Rodriguez praises many for success of Wildcats’ run game

Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez yells from the sideline during the first half of an NCAA college football game against California Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
LISTEN: Rich Rodriguez, UA Football Head Coach

Arizona football is positioned to compete for a Pac-12 South championship this season after seven games thanks in large part to a dynamic rushing attack.

The Wildcats (5-2, 3-1 Pac-12), who have averaged the most points (43.1) and most yards (514) per game in the conference, have ran the ball for a Pac-12 best 342.7 yards per game, 84 yards more than the next best team, Stanford (258.7).

Sophomore quarterback Khalil Tate has certainly helped the Wildcats’ running game flourish in recent weeks. In the last three games, the Inglewood, Calif. native has averaged 231.3 yards per game.

“We’ve got some talented guys that can run the football,” Rodriguez told Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM, Arizona’s Sports Station. “This last game was a challenge, when your top two tailbacks are out. Certainly the quarterback’s ability to run has helped.”

Arizona running back Nick Wilson injured his ankle in the first quarter against the Golden Bears, and fellow tailback J.J. Taylor was ejected on the second-to-last play of the opening quarter for targeting.

But Tate and third-string running back Zach Green helped make up for the Wildcats’ losses. In a 45-44 win last Saturday, Green averaged 6.5 yards per carry on 20 attempts for a total of 130 yards.

Rodriguez did not address any injuries specifically in his weekly Monday news conference, but he said he was “hopeful” everybody could play this week against Washington State.

Besides Tate’s dual-threat ability, Rodriguez said the offensive line has changed what the team can do in the backfield.

“The guys up front have some experience and have done a nice job,” Rodriguez said. “Up front, we’re just a blue collar group that continues to work hard.”

Not only has the offensive line opened up holes for Tate and the running backs, but Rodriguez said the tight ends and wide receivers have played a crucial role.

“We’ve gotten good production out of our tight ends blocking,” Rodriguez said. “You know what else is probably overlooked is our wide receivers, the pride they take in their downfield blocking. I think that has allowed us to get some big, big runs.”

The Wildcats’ run game should be tested this Saturday against Washington State. The Cougars have only allowed their opponents to average 119 yards on the ground per game, the third best mark in the Pac-12.

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