Thursday, November 15, 2018

Three and Out: Arizona Heads to Pullman to take on Gardner Minshew and the Washington State Cougars

Posted By on Thu, Nov 15, 2018 at 11:22 AM

Arizona sophomore quarterback Khalil Tate strides past Robert Taylor of Washington State during the Wildcats 58-37 victory on Oct. 28, 2017. - CHRIS HOOK | ARIZONA ATHLETICS
  • Chris Hook | Arizona Athletics
  • Arizona sophomore quarterback Khalil Tate strides past Robert Taylor of Washington State during the Wildcats 58-37 victory on Oct. 28, 2017.
The Arizona Wildcats have a shot at throwing the college football world into complete and utter chaos this weekend.

The Wildcats (5-5, 4-3) travel to Pullman, Washington to face off against seventh-ranked Washington State (9-1, 6-1).

It's a game that means a great deal to both sides, with the visiting Wildcats desperately seeking a sixth win, which would guarantee a bowl game for Kevin Sumlin's squad. The Cougars, meanwhile, are two wins away from clinching their first-ever appearance in the Pac-12 football championship game.

A win over the Wildcats, teemed with a victory over in-state rival Washington in next week's Apple Cup showdown could vault the Cougars into the College Football Playoff discussion. It's a stage that the Cougs' haven't been in very often, making the Rose Bowl four times in school history (1915, 1930, 1997 and 2002).

Mike Leach's squad has reached the pinnacle of Pac-12 excellence, thanks to its usual pass-happy offense that's spearheaded by mustache-aficionado Gardner Minshew.

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Thursday, November 8, 2018

Arizona Routs Houston Baptist in Season Opener

Posted By on Thu, Nov 8, 2018 at 3:01 PM

Sophomore forward Brandon Randolph throws down a dunk against the University of Oregon during his freshman season on Jan. 13, 2018. - STAN LIU | ARIZONA ATHLETICS
  • Stan Liu | Arizona Athletics
  • Sophomore forward Brandon Randolph throws down a dunk against the University of Oregon during his freshman season on Jan. 13, 2018.
The University of Arizona Wildcats overcame a night of skittish play and erratic offense to rout visiting Houston Baptist in the home side's opener on Wednesday, 90-60.

Ninth-year Wildcats Coach Sean Miller described the team's play against the Huskies as a tale of two halves.

Fortunately for Miller and his players, the tale had a happy ending, thanks to shooting 57.6 percent from the field in the latter half of the contest, with the squad hitting seven of their final nine shots.

"We didn't have a great deal of confidence, which, you know, that's kind of who we are right now," Miller said. "We're a group of guys kind of playing together for the first time and I think our hope is to continue to work, practice, go through experiences, we will improve."

The Wildcats were led on Wednesday by sophomore guard Brandon Randolph, who scored a game-high 25 points on 8-of-12 shooting in 31 minutes of action.

"Brandon Randolph has done really well and it's more about opportunity, confidence that he's done really well this whole week," Miller said. "Sometimes that jump from a freshman to a sophomore is significant, and Brandon has always been able to shoot the ball. I think he is learning the game and he is more of a complete player."

Miller heaped praise on Duke University transfer Chase Jeter, who pulled down a double-double (11 points and 10 rebounds) in the victory.

"Chase is really bright kid. Great student, maybe the best student we've had. Very cerebral, thinks things through, and intelligent," Miller said. "Not many big guys draw charges, he does that a lot."

Miller has high hopes for freshman guard Brandon Williams, who scored 13 points in his collegiate debut.

That confidence stems from Williams' ability to get to the free throw line in his first start, making 8-of-9 attempts to finish as the team's second-leading scorer, despite shooting 2-of-11 from the field.

"He didn't have his typical night," Miller said of Williams. "I will say this though, he had five assists and zero turnovers playing in a game like that, against that type of pressure. That's a job well done."

Looking forward

The Wildcats return to McKale Center to face California Polytechnic University at 3 p.m. on Sunday.

The Mustangs have not played a regular season game this season, coming off a year in which they went 9-22, with a 4-12 record against fellow Big West opponents.

Miller said he hasn't watched much of Cal Poly's tape from last season, but expects his team to be ready for the challenge come Sunday.

"I think we've got a great group of kids," Miller said. "[They're] very coachable, they like each other, they want to do things the right way. And how all that comes together, we'll see."

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Pac-12 Power Rankings: Washington State Survives Cal, Stays Atop the Conference

Posted By on Thu, Nov 8, 2018 at 12:20 PM

Welcome to another wild and (sure-to-be) wacky weekend in the Conference of Champions, which nobody wants to win, evidently.

Last week, we saw the Washington State Cougars win an ugly game in the Palouse against Cal, the Sun Devils hammering an injury-stricken Utah squad, the Arizona Wildcats surviving against a woebegone Colorado team and much, much more.

This week, we'll be treated to a trap game of sorts for Mike Leach's bunch, as they'll travel to the libertarian enclave known as Boulder for a Saturday matinee against the Buffs.

ASU hosts a UCLA squad that squashed any of its midseason momentum by losing to Utah and Oregon in succession by a sum of 83-31.

Elsewhere, the Oregon Ducks head to the SLC to face the Utes, the Oregon State Beavers head to Palo Alto to face Stanford, and Cal heads to the City of Angels to face the USC Trojans in Saturday's nightcap.

It'll be interesting to see whether the conference's relative heavyweights, in Washington State and Washington, can avoid a face-planting defeat this week.

It'll also be interesting to see whether Utah can keep its Pac-12 title game hopes alive, now that starting quarterback Tyler Huntley is out indefinitely with a broken collarbone.

Without further ado, here's how I see the conference that made bad officiating and Bill Walton famous shaking out:

1. Washington State Cougars (8-1, 5-1)

Last Week: Beat Cal, 19-13

This Week: At Colorado, 1:30 p.m. (ESPN)

The Cougars proved that they can win ugly in their six-point victory over Cal in Pullman last Saturday. The Cougars did so, thanks to a last-minute heave by mustache aficionado-turned-quarterback Gardner Minshew, who hit receiver Easop Winston Jr. for a 10-yard score with 32 seconds remaining to ensure the home side's victory. The win propelled the Cougs' to their first 8-1 start since Mike Price led the team to the Rose Bowl in 2002. The mighty Cougars will be put to the test again this Saturday, when they'll head to Colorado to face a Buffs squad that's fallen and can't get up, before closing out the year with consecutive home games against Arizona and Washington. A win over the Buffs, and the Cougars might be in for a year that no one in scarlet and silver will forget. A loss, and it's Alamo Bowl or bust for Leach's band of misfits in Pullman. 

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Thursday, November 1, 2018

Derrick Rose Scores Career-High Against Utah Jazz

Posted By on Thu, Nov 1, 2018 at 3:35 PM

Rose with the Cavaliers in 2017 - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • Wikimedia Commons
  • Rose with the Cavaliers in 2017
It’s not easy to bring a bunch of NBA fans together with teams like the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers holding fierce rivalries. But all of that was put on pause last night after Derrick Rose was able to put a smile on everyone’s face achieving an unexpected career-high 50 points, last night against in a tight win over the Utah Jazz.

The Minnesota Timberwolves were not necessarily expecting to win with Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague sitting out with minor injuries. This meant Derrick Rose was moved to starting point-guard and made sure not to disappoint.

Derrick Rose played 41 minutes, more than any other player, and put up a stat line of 50 points, six assists and four rebounds. Despite his offensive success, it was ultimately his clutch defense that secured the win for Minnesota.

With the game only at a three-point difference, Dante Exum received the ball for the Jazz in the corner to tie the game, but Rose had other plans as he leaped perfectly for the shot-block, putting the icing on the cake to a wholesome basketball night.

To say Rose’s career has had its ups and downs is understatement. After winning MVP in 2011, consistent injuries left fans wondering if they would ever see the dominant force that Rose was in his younger years, ever again.

Rose’s 50 points are the fourth most scored by an NBA player so far this season.

5 things to think about:
1. With Teague coming back, will Tom Thibodeau still keep Rose on the bench?
2. Can Rose put together his first successful healthy season since 2012?
3. Will a Butler exit give Rose a more important role with the team?
4. Does a team want to involve Rose in a Butler trade after his great performance?
5. Would Thibodeau even want to give Rose up, if a trade was offered?

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Three and Out: Khalil Tate and Arizona host Colorado in Friday night showdown

Posted By on Thu, Nov 1, 2018 at 10:35 AM

Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate readies a throw against the University of Southern California on Saturday, Sept. 30. - ARIZONA ATHLETICS
  • Arizona Athletics
  • Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate readies a throw against the University of Southern California on Saturday, Sept. 30.
Welcome to the home stretch of the college football season, better known as the time when Arizona football jumps out of the bushes to ambush unsuspecting pray.

That's exactly what happened to the Oregon Ducks a week ago at Arizona Stadium.

The Ducks, who entered last week's contest with a 5-2 record and a spot in the AP top-25, fell flat instantaneously, with junior QB Khalil Tate hitting generational wide receiver talent Shaun Poindexter for a 22-yard touchdown some 3 minutes and 52 seconds into the evening.

The Wildcats never let off the gas, torching the Ducks' staunch defense to the tune of 276 rushing and 189 passing yards in a 44-15 Wildcats win.

Fast-forward some 144 hours, and the Wildcats are back within the concrete walls of their home stadium, with a wounded Colorado Buffaloes squad toeing the opposing side.

The Buffs of Boulder enter Friday night's contest on a sour note, after somehow choking away a surefire win at home against Oregon State.

The Buffaloes entered the final quarter of that game with a 31-10 lead, against a Beavers team that entered with 22-straight conference road losses.

The Buffs left with a 41-34 sucker-punch of a loss, with the Beavers clinching the victory in overtime on a one-yard rushing touchdown by Jack Colletto.

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Thursday, October 25, 2018

Three and Out: Arizona Hosts Justin Herbert and the Oregon Ducks on Homecoming Saturday

Posted By on Thu, Oct 25, 2018 at 11:36 AM

Arizona linebacker Colin Schooler chats with teammates Tristan Cooper and Scottie Young Jr. during the Wildcats' 31-30 loss to UCLA on Saturday, Oct. 20. - CONNOR BUSS, FOREWORD FILMS
  • Connor Buss, Foreword Films
  • Arizona linebacker Colin Schooler chats with teammates Tristan Cooper and Scottie Young Jr. during the Wildcats' 31-30 loss to UCLA on Saturday, Oct. 20.

The course of the University of Arizona's football season hinges on the outcome of Saturday's contest with a juggernaut from the Pacific Northwest.

The Wildcats (3-5, 2-3) return to Arizona Stadium this Saturday, with the Oregon Ducks coming to Tucson for the first time since their stunning loss to the Wildcats in 2014.

That loss, which stemmed from a late strip-sack by do-it-all linebacker Phillip 'Scooby' Wright, propelled the Wildcats to a 10-2 regular season and their first (and only) appearance in the Pac-12 Football Championship Game.

Fast-forward some 48 months and much has changed. The Ducks have gone through two coaches (Mark Helfrich and Willie Taggart), while Arizona canned Rich Rodriguez in the offseason.

The Ducks have emerged from their recent slumber with vigor, thanks to first-year coach Mario Cristobal and junior QB Justin Herbert, with a 5-2 record, despite recent losses to Washington State and Stanford.

It'll be a tall task for the Wildcats to spring the upset at home this week, with Vegas putting the home team as a 9.5-point underdog.

It's hard to blame them, given Arizona's anemic defense, which ranks 10th in the conference in points allowed (29.0), 11th in yards per game allowed (440.6) and 11th in rushing yards per game allowed (195.9).

The Ducks, meanwhile, have found their groove offensively, ranking second overall in yards per game (460.7), with Herbert averaging 269.0 passing yards per game (second-best in the Pac-12).

It'll be interesting to see how Arizona's linebacking unit, led by sophomore Colin Schooler fares against Herbert and his stacked wideout corp.

Schooler has been a tour de force defensively for defensive coordinator Marcel Yates, with a team-high 81 tackles and 14.5 tackles for loss this season.

Schooler is also solid in defending the pass this season, sitting in a tie atop the team leaderboard with two interceptions this season.

He'll go against a Ducks offense that includes his brother, Brenden, who has 10 catches for 116 yards this season.

It's unclear whether Khalil Tate or sophomore backup Rhett Rodriguez, who completed 15-of-34 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns in his first collegiate start last week, will start on Saturday night.

This contest looks like it'll be one-sided (and not in Arizona's favor), though odd things are known to happen for the Ducks when they toe the lines of Arizona Stadium after dark.

How to Watch: Arizona and Oregon will play at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, with ESPN carrying the contest.

Who to Watch: Oregon junior quarterback Justin Herbert is a Heisman candidate and potential first round pick in next year's NFL Draft. He's thrown for 1,883 yards and 18 touchdowns, with 5 interceptions in 212 pass attempts. Junior receiver Dillon Mitchell has been solid for Cristobal's team as well, with a team-high 608 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns on 42 receptions this season.

How to Bet: Vegas has Oregon as a 9.5-point favorite, as of Thursday morning. The over/under for the contest is listed at 65.

Score Prediction: Oregon is far too good of a team to lose back-to-back road games, so I'll say that the Ducks will win this one easily. Oregon 42, Arizona 10

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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Pac-12 Power Rankings: Washington State Takes Top Spot in Conference Shakeup

Posted By on Wed, Oct 24, 2018 at 2:06 PM

Welcome to another week of college football in the Pacific 12 Conference, where the last remaining College Football Playoff contender (Oregon) has gone up in a cloud of smoke.

The Ducks fell victim to the Mike Leach Experience in Pullman in what was a one-sided romp on the Palouse, with the Cougars beating Oregon, 34-20, in front of a packed house at Martin Stadium in primetime.

The win propelled the Cougars within a half-game of in-state rival Washington in the Pac-12 North standings.

The two rivals will have a shot at settling that spot on Nov. 23, when the Huskies will play in Pullman.

We'll have to wait and see whether the Cougars will still be in contention by then, but as of now they're the best story in the Conference of Champions.

Here's how I see the conference shaking out from top-to-bottom ahead of a jam-packed week of conference action:

1. Washington State Cougars (6-1, 3-1)

Last Week: Beat Oregon, 34-20

This Week: At Stanford,  4 p.m. (Pac-12 Network)

The Cougars put on a show last week, ripping the Oregon Ducks limb for limb in front of as packed and energized a crowd as I've ever seen in Pullman. East Carolina University transfer QB Gardner Minshew was electric for Mike Leach's team, completing 39-of-51 passes for 323 yards and four touchdowns in the win, with eight different receivers snagging at least two catches in the team's 14-point wire-to-wire victory. The Cougars gave up 270 passing yards to the Ducks, but stuffed the team's rushing attack, which was held to 58 yards on 24 attempts. It's clear that the Cougars are a threat to be reckoned with in the conference, especially if they're able to knock off the Cardinal in Palo Alto on Saturday afternoon.

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Monday, October 22, 2018

Rose Bowl Blues: Rhett Rodriguez and Arizona Fall Flat Against UCLA, 31-30

Posted By on Mon, Oct 22, 2018 at 12:10 PM

Offensive lineman Cody Creason, left, consoles running back JJ Taylor after he fumbled the football in the first half of Arizona's 31-30 loss to UCLA on Saturday night. - CONNOR BUSS, FOREWORD FILMS
  • Connor Buss, Foreword Films
  • Offensive lineman Cody Creason, left, consoles running back JJ Taylor after he fumbled the football in the first half of Arizona's 31-30 loss to UCLA on Saturday night.
The tide of Arizona's one-point defeat to the UCLA Bruins at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on Saturday night turned on a gallant run by running back JJ Taylor.

Taylor, who finished the night with a game-high 154 rushing yards on 19 carries, found a huge hole in the UCLA defense, racing into the void for a 55-yard gain.

It appeared to be the offensive shot in the arm that the Wildcats, who struggled for most of the first half offensively, needed.

His seeming triumph came to an abrupt end on the well-timed punch by Bruins safety Darnay Holmes, who chased Taylor down from behind to knock the ball loose and through the back of the UCLA end zone for a touchback.

The play erased a surefire seven points for Arizona, allowing the hometown Bruins to go into the half with a 17-7 lead on Kevin Sumlin's Wildcats.

Arizona (3-5, 2-3) was able to storm back in the latter half of the contest, with sophomore QB Rhett Rodriguez, who made his first career start in place of injured Khalil Tate, finding his rhythm in the pocket.

The two sides traded offensive blows in the third quarter, with Rodriguez finding senior wideout Shawn Poindexter for an 11-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 17.

Senior kicker Josh Pollack gave the Wildcats their first lead of the night on a 39-yard field goal with 4:58 left in the third, giving them a 20-17 lead on the Bruins.

The Wildcats defense was unable to stop Michigan transfer QB Wilson Speights though, with the gunslinger connecting on a 25-yard passing touchdown to help the Bruins regain the lead.

Taylor found a bit of redemption on Arizona's next drive, scoring from the shadows of the goal-line to give the Wildcats a 27-24 lead with 12:34 left in the fourth.

The Wildcats defense, which surrendered 460 yards to the Bruins, were unable to stop UCLA on its final two drives, with the home squad scoring on a Joshua Kelley rush, before killing the clock on their final drive of the night.

Sumlin gave the Bruins credit for their ability to close out the victory, but said his side did plenty to aid in their own eventual downfall.

“I think that down the stretch you have to give UCLA credit for how they handled the tight situation in the second half, but we also did some things that allowed them to extend drives. Really some penalties that we did not have in the first half," Sumlin said. "I think we had two in the first half to their ten. Then we had four critical ones late third quarter, late fourth quarter that helped extend their drives. I think they only had two penalties in the second half. We had two turnovers in the end zone. Punch out on JJ and pick in the end zone which certainly would have translated to more than one point in the game. We had our opportunities and basically if you look at the sum of the whole game they made plays with the turnovers.”

Poindexter, who finished the night with 106 yards on six catches for the Wildcats, spoke of the sting that losing to UCLA in Pasadena left in the locker room.

“This one was just personal because I was hurt my first year and couldn’t travel to UCLA," he said. "So this is my first time in the Rose Bowl. So for me this one hurts."

The Wildcats have not beaten UCLA in Pasadena since 2010, when they beat the Bruins 29-21, having lost each of their last four contests with the Bruins in Southern California.

Rodriguez said the team's defeat at the venerable Southern California venue had nothing to do with the squad's effort.

“Effort on this team is never the question. This team always plays hard. So I wasn’t surprised. We felt good going into the game, at least I felt good into the game. I was confident that we were going to come out with a victory, but we were just one point short.”

Duck hunting

The Wildcats' schedule doesn't get any easier from here, with the Oregon Ducks (5-2, 2-2) coming to Tucson at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Senior linebacker Colin Schooler, who had a team-high 10 tackles against UCLA, knows how tough it'll be for the Wildcats to spring the upset against the Ducks, especially after Mario Cristobal team's 34-20 loss to Washington State last Saturday.

The senior linebacker knows how tough the Ducks are, with his brother, Brenden, taking snaps at wide receiver for Cristobal's team this fall.

He also knows how well this year's team can play when they're all on the same page. He believes the team can do what's necessary to upset the Ducks if they can figure out how to channel the energy they had in Saturday's second half over an entire 60-minute contest.

“We just need everyone to do their job for four quarters, and as simple as that sounds it’s not," Schooler said. "The games are so fast and there are so many key factors with different responsibilities and different plays. If we can slow the game down and getting everyone doing their job at the same time, I think we’ll have a good chance.”

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