On the heels of Ka'Deem Carey's record-setting performance last week against Colorado, the Arizona Wildcats have shifted their attention to a big problem this week when they travel to Utah. Much bigger. A 6-foot-4, 320-pound kind of problem.
No doubt, the Wildcats' offensive line will be keeping an eye out for Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, the wrecking ball in the middle who eats up blockers and alters game plans with his bulky presence.
"We don’t have any players that are similar to his size, strength and speed to emulate it in practice," said Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez. "He has been a dominant player in this league for a couple of years and he will be a first-round draft pick. They will move him around as well and he won’t be lined up on the same person each time. Our guys up front have to watch the film and play with great leverage and intensity.”
The Arizona running attack is feeling pretty good about itself after last week's showing from Carey, who rushed for a Pac-12 record 366 yards with five touchdowns against the Buffs.
"On Saturday, Ka’Deem was really good with his eyes," Rodriguez said. "There were times where he may have missed a cut or two but for the most part, his vision was really good with regards to how the play was unfolding. I think he can get better at that part and he’s only a sophomore.”
Despite a tough season, Utah still poses one of the toughest rush defenses in the conference, ranking third while allowing 110.7 yards per game. Lotulelei is a big part of that, because running up the middle is a challenge for most teams when he's clogging the interior gaps.
“He’s a big, physical player and an anchor of the defensive line," said Arizona offensive lineman Trace Biskin. "For us it’s just going to be a matter of handling assignments and playing physical off the ball. If we do that and allow Ka’Deem to run and open some passing lanes, we’ll be okay.”
Not only is this Utah's final home game, but it's also a do-or-die game for the Utes and their postseason hopes. Utah (4-6 overall, 2-5 Pac-12) has to win out to reach bowl eligibility. The Wildcats (6-4, 3-4) locked it up last week with their home win over the Buffs.
Arizona has been one of the most efficient running teams in the conference, trailing only Oregon and averaging 215 yards on the ground per game with 25 touchdowns. They won't alter who or what they are because of one player.
“It’s too late in the season to change what we are doing," Rodriguez said. "We really just need to play well up front. We have not gotten a lot of push at the line of scrimmage this year so I wouldn’t expect to do it against Star and their front. They are bigger and stronger than our previous opponents. The key for us is to have great leverage.”