First look: Arizona at UCLA

October, 29, 2012
10/29/12
11:00
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- Last week's shootout victory over the Arizona State Sun Devils was so much fun, why not do it again?

The general consensus is that when the Arizona Wildcats visit the UCLA Bruins on Saturday for a 7:30 p.m. PT conference game, it will be another high-scoring affair between teams that have shown explosive offenses and vulnerable defenses.

Arizona (5-3, 2-3 Pac-12) and UCLA (6-2, 3-2) are each averaging more than 500 yards in offense while giving up more than 415 yards to opponents. So this key game should offer plenty of entertainment value for Pac-12 Network viewers.

The Bruins came out on top in a 45-43 barn burner last week in Tempe, while the Wildcats put up 588 yards in a 39-36 upset victory over USC in Tucson. So UCLA and Arizona are riding high in this battle to stay alive in the Pac-12 South Division title race.

Asked whether he expected another high-scoring affair, Bruins coach Jim Mora said, “I hope not. But it very well could be, and if it is, then we’ve just got to be prepared to play the whole game.

“We’re going to try to stop them; they’re going to try to stop us. We’re going to try to score; they’re going to try to score. So we just have to go out and execute and play hard throughout and do what we’re supposed to do, and we give ourselves a chance to have success.”

The Wildcats bring an offense ranked No. 4 in the country in passing (354.38 yards per game) and in total offense (553.63 yards per game). Mora, however, said he isn’t all that concerned with number of yards.

“Points matter,” Mora said.

Arizona has scored plenty of those, too. The Wildcats are averaging 39.13 points per game -- second in the Pac-12 behind Oregon and 20th in the nation. They have scored more than 50 points three times this season and had 35 or more in six of their eight games, including four in a row.

Quarterback Matt Scott is the catalyst. He is ranked No. 2 in the country in total offense with 386.12 yards per game and third nationally with 2,724 yards, and is tied for ninth with 20 touchdowns passing. He’s also mobile on the ground, with 365 yards rushing on the season, 100 of which came against USC.

There was some question whether Scott would play against UCLA after suffering an apparent concussion against USC, but The Arizona Daily Star reported Monday that Scott expects to play.

Mora said Scott’s availability wouldn’t alter UCLA’s preparation.

“He’s a great player,” Mora said. “He’s having a tremendous year, but we have to prepare for their scheme. They won’t change what they’re doing whether he’s in there or not.”

Scott is far from Arizona’s only offensive weapon. Running back Ka’Deem Carey is an explosive back who is No. 12 in the nation with 120.12 yards rushing per game. Receivers Austin Hill (6-foot-3, 211 pounds) and Dan Buckner (6-4, 215) are big and fast, and have combined for 105 catches, 1,593 yards and 10 touchdowns receiving. Hill had 259 yards receiving last week.

But as good as Arizona has been at passing the ball, it has been almost as bad at stopping the pass. The Wildcats are giving up 316 yards per game through the air and rank No. 117 in the nation in pass defense. The Wildcats rank No. 110 in total defense, giving up 483.9 yards per game, but Mora said he isn’t buying in to those numbers.

“I think it’s ridiculous that people even rate defenses on number of yards allowed,” he said. “Yards don’t matter. Yards come in many different ways. You may have a huge lead and you change the style of play, and people are throwing the ball underneath and getting some yards that are empty yards. What matters is points and whether or not you win the game.”

If it’s points you want, however, play Arizona. Opponents have averaged 31.1 points per game against the Wildcats, who are 11th in the Pac-12 in scoring defense. Arizona is giving up 38.8 points per game in conference tilts and has given up 35 or more points in all but one of its Pac-12 games.

Arizona also is going on the road for only the third time this season. In their previous two road games, the Wildcats lost 49-0 at Oregon and 54-48 in overtime at Stanford.

Numbers such as those might be enough to get UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley licking his chops, but he says he’s concerned only about figuring out how to win the game.

“I actually don’t look at statistics too much,” he said. “I try to go off game film and try to get a read from them. You just have to come out and play every snap like it’s your last. That’s what our plan is every week. We plan on coming out and not punting, and we plan on scoring every time we touch the ball. We plan on doing that every game.”

The Bruins might need to in this game. And it appears they might be able to.

Peter Yoon

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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