By Anthony Slater – Aslater@opubco.com - @anthonyVslater
Arizona had a pair of cracks at Oklahoma State’s high-powered offense the past two seasons and, both times, the Wildcats were left overmatched and overwhelmed by their ranked opponent.
Overall, during an 2010′s easy Alamo Bowl win and 2011′s early season domination, the Cowboys outscored Arizona 73-24. And it was worse than the score indicates.
But given a rare third nonconference chance — and likely the last one for the foreseeable future — the Wildcats are confident they can alter OSU’s plans of a clean sweep. And they are using the last two losses as motivation.
“It’s personal,” center Kyle Quinn said. “I feel like we are pretty confident playing these guys. We get them at home this year. Everybody is going to be fired up and the ‘Zona Zoo is going to be rocking. So it’s going to be a good fight on Saturday night.”
Playing in a different setting, Arizona also appears to be a different team than the last two OSU faced. Offensively, they’ve got Rich Rodriguez’s spread and defensively, they’ve got a bit more confidence.
Where does that come from? How about the fact that, for the first time, they won’t have to face Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon.
Wildcat corner Shaquille Richardson knows that dynamic duo all too well. He’s the guy that laid down a little pregame and in-game smack talk to Blackmon before last year’s meeting. Then OSU’s All-American wideout proceeded to put a 12-catch, 128-yard, two-touchdown game on him.
But Blackmon and Weeden are gone, replaced by an unproven receiving corps and a true freshman quarterback, giving Richardson pregame daydreams about Wes Lunt’s 18-year-old composure.
“I know he’s young,” Richardson said. “That’s going to be fun.”
Here’s a few more notable quotes from Arizona’s press conference previewing Saturday’s game:
Linebacker Jake Fischer (Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week) on Wes Lunt…
“Yeah, he’s young, but he’s starting there for a reason. The kid can throw. Like I said, even though he is young, he makes good reads. (Oklahoma State’s) a very, very potent offensive school. We are going to try to put him in some uncomfortable positions, but we are going to approach it the same way (as any quarterback). We are going to be aggressive and go all out to the ball.”
Fischer on OSU’s rushing attack…
They ran the ball very well that last game. With a younger quarterback, they may just carry that over to our game. They have a couple of very experienced running backs that are both back. Both of them run downhill hard. So, I mean, we are going to try to stop the run first and put him into some uncomfortable situations.
Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez on OSU’s defense…
I think they do a good job, scheme-wise, of putting pressure of you. Sometimes when the team gets pressure, they get a little careless with the ball. So Oklahoma State will put some pressure on you and mix it up. They do a lot of different zone blitzes and sometimes that will cause some pressure. And that’s the thing, as good as they are offensively, I think they’ve been one of the tops in the country in getting turnovers defensively and that’s been a huge key in their success the past couple years.
Rodriguez on the revenge factor…
No. I mean, last two years, even last week, is irrelevant. It’s an opportunity for us. An opportunity for us to play a ranked team. And I told our team that there’s not that much talk about Arizona football in certain circles and if you want to become more relevant, best way to do it is beat a ranked team. It’s a great challenge but also a great opportunity.
Rodriguez on OSU kicker Quinn Sharp…
I think 11 of their 12 or 10 of their 12 (kickoffs) were in the end zone. We are going to practice kickoff returns, in case he has a bad moment, but they have one of the best kickers in the country. He doesn’t just put it in the end zone, he puts it out of the end zone. He’s got a really strong leg.
Center Kyle Quinn on OSU’s defense…
It’s going to be a great challenge for us. They are a well-established program with great coaches and athletes on the defensive side of the ball. Just watching film today, they fly around, make plays and blitz a lot.