That was better. Much, much better.
Coming off a pair of losses in which they were outscored by a 111-47 margin, the Arizona Wildcats returned to the win column by way of a 44-7 thrashing of the Oregon State Beavers Saturday in Tucson.
It was a complete effort led by an efficient offense and a resurgent defense.
“I was really proud of our guys,” Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez told Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Monday morning. “We had a big week for us as far as getting our edge back and being competitive. I’ve liked our guys’ attitude all along, we just didn’t play well for two straight weeks.
“We’re banged up and all that kind of stuff, but our guys really came out focused.”
Rodriguez added he thought it was a “perfect scenario” for his team Saturday because they were at home and the gametime temperature sat in the low-90s. The coach said his team embraced the atmosphere and made some big plays in all three phases of the game.
The Wildcats racked up 644 yards of total offense — 368 yards of which were on the ground — while holding the Beavers to a meager 249. Back in the lineup after missing last week’s game with a concussion, quarterback Anu Solomon completed 17-of-30 passes for 276 yards.
Needless to say, there was plenty to be pleased about, though Rodriguez was especially happy with how his defense responded after a really tough couple of weeks.
“Our defensive staff did a good job,” he said. “We’re still banged up at linebacker — moved some DBs to linebacker, moved some guys around a little bit, played some young guys in the secondary — and what they did was they really strained, got a few three-and-outs, got a big turnover inside their goal zone, and really changed the momentum of the game.
“Our offense was doing pretty well, but the key was our defense getting so many three-and-outs early.”
In all, Arizona forced four three-and-outs, with three coming in the first half. They also held the Beavers to just 98 passing yards, putting forth a defensive performance the likes of which had not been seen in years.
There was also this crushing hit laid on Beavers receiver Jordan Villamin by safety Will Parks, which may very well have been a couple weeks’ worth of frustration being unloaded in one single play.
At any rate, it appeared to be about as good a game as Rodriguez and the Wildcats could have asked for, one that improved their record to 4-2 (1-2 in Pac-12) and, if only for one week, restored some sense of optimism in the Old Pueblo.
That’s not to say everything that happened Saturday was good. Even if everything was perfect, you’d expect Rodriguez, as a coach, to find a few flaws.
“Obviously defensively we had to get some stops, we had struggled so much, and we still didn’t get many turnovers — but the one we got was huge, it was a seven-point turnover getting the ball on the one yard line,” he said. “I was pleased that we took care of the ball again, but there were a couple times it was close. Our quarterback, Anu, he was solid but it wasn’t his best game — I think he’d even tell you he could play better.
“But I was really proud of, in an uncomfortable atmosphere, which it was — it was probably 105 (degrees) on the turf, our guys embraced every bit of it.”