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Arizona coach Rodriguez knows big game awaits his team

LISTEN: Rich Rodriguez, Head Coach UA Football

Following a 33-28 win over California, the Arizona Wildcats are bowl eligible for the second time in Rich Rodriguez’s two years with the school, and the fifth time in the last six seasons.

For a school that has had its share of struggles on the gridiron, it’s actually a pretty solid accomplishment.

“It feels good,” Rodriguez told Doug and Wolf Tuesday. “I’m really happy for the seniors because your senior year, you want to play in the postseason. You want to play at least one more game.”

Assuming they do get invited to a bowl, the Wildcats have at least five games left in the season.

At 6-2 (3-2), they are very much in contention for the Pac-12 South title. Led by senior quarterback B.J. Denker and junior running back Ka’Deem Carey, Arizona has won its last three games, two of which were on the road. However, a cursory glance at the schedule reveals the Wildcats have not exactly beaten anyone of note, so it’s reasonable to wonder just how good the team is.

They’ll get a chance to prove themselves a bit Saturday, though, as the No. 19 UCLA Bruins come to Tucson for a nationally televised game.

“Certainly we’ve got to play a little bit better than we did this last weekend,” Rodriguez said when asked what has to happen for the Wildcats to pull the upset. “We’ve got to take care of the ball — which we’ve been doing a good job of, and defensively, we’ve played OK at times but we let some big plays out again.

“We can’t let them get a bunch of big plays, and UCLA is obviously capable of doing that.”

The coach also praised the Bruins’ defense, saying they’ve always had athleticism and talent, but now have a scheme that fits them well.

“Their front-seven is as good as anybody, I think, in our league, and that’s saying a lot,” he said. “It’s going to be a challenge.”

Rodriguez added that his team struggled against UCLA’s defense last season, when his high-powered offense was limited in a 66-10 loss. So for the ‘Cats to have pull the upset Saturday, something is going to have to change.

Rodriguez said his team is aware of the game’s implications, but tries to make sure they focus on the process and not the end result. However, he admitted there is “no question our guys will feel the buzz.”

“We’re finally back home again, we’re playing a nationally-ranked team, so they understand the ramifications.”