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UA’s Rodriguez: Utah’s size, experience present challenge for Arizona Wildcats

LISTEN: Rich Rodriguez, Head Coach UA Football

At first glance, it may seem the Arizona Wildcats have a small break in their Pac-12 Schedule.

They play Pac-12 newcomer Utah at 7 p.m. Saturday in Tucson for their only home game over a 55-day span, and then head to Boulder, Colo., to take on a Colorado team that hasn’t won a conference game since its Pac-12 opener in 2012.

But Utah upset then-No. 5 Stanford on Saturday, and UA head coach Rich Rodriguez said the Utes present a unique challenge to the Wildcats (3-2, 0-2 Pac-12) with their size and maturity. Rodriguez said Utah (4-2, 1-2) has five players older than 24, and added that Stanford coaches — whose Cardinal are typically regarded as the biggest and most-physical team in the conference — said the Utes’ size gave Stanford issues in its 27-21 loss.

“They have a bunch of grown men,” Rodriguez told Arizona Sports 620’s Doug and Wolf Tuesday. “These guys are huge. Strength-wise, size-wise, it’s something we’ve struggled with…we’re a small team.

“We’ve got to play with a whole lot of passion to have a chance in this one.”

Rodriguez said that Arizona’s players likely took Utah seriously before it upset Stanford, but added that the Utes’ upset of Stanford may have confirmed what the Wildcats had seen on film.

“It wasn’t a fluke thing,” Rodriguez said. “They, physically, did some great things against a very physical Stanford team. They controlled the game the whole time.”

Arizona has split its two games against Utah since the Utes joined the conference for the 2011 season, winning 34-24 at Utah last season and losing 34-21 at home in the second game following Mike Stoops’ firing.

The Wildcats are looking for their first Pac-12 win of the season, but Rodriguez said the team’s record isn’t a talking point. Instead, he said Arizona’s coaches harp on making a number of correct decisions over a small time period instead of focusing on big-picture results.

“A lot of coaches talk about the process, but that’s really what we do,” Rodriguez said. “You look at Oregon and as much success as they’ve had with ‘win the day,’ we don’t even look at trying to do that. We talk about winning the play. We really narrow our focus down, especially when we’ve got a lot of young guys.”