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Wildcats have plenty to fix after opener

Associated Press Modified: September 3, 2012 at 9:03 pm •  Published: September 3, 2012

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Rich Rodriguez won his debut at Arizona, something he was unable to do in four previous stops during his 19-year career as a head coach.

Savor it? Sure he did. The goal for every coach is to start off a new era with a victory and Rodriguez had finally done it.

With that joy, though, came a stark reality: The Wildcats have a lot of work yet to do.

And with No. 19 Oklahoma State up next, they need to get things fixed quick.

"I guess it's good anytime you get a win, but there's a lot of things we need to get better at," Rodriguez said on Monday. "I think everybody in the program understands that. The first games you find out a lot about your team and I was really pleased in some aspects and not so pleased in other aspects. A lot of things we can correct and need to correct when a team as quality as Oklahoma State comes to town."

Arizona's debut under Rodriguez wasn't always pretty.

The Wildcats beat Toledo 24-17 Saturday night when Matt Scott hit Terrence Miller on a 10-yard touchdown pass in overtime and the defense held, setting off a raucous celebration at Arizona Stadium.

The 60 minutes before that were filled with a mix of great plays and not-so-great blunders, forcing Arizona to pull out a tighter-than-expected win over a smaller program.

Scott looked comfortable taking over the offense from Nick Foles, throwing for career-high 387 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 74 more yards.

Sophomore Ka'Deem Carey showed some flashes of brilliance, scoring on a 73-yard touchdown run while gaining 147 yards on 20 carries.

Behind Scott and Carey, the Wildcats racked up 624 yards of offense, second-most in school history.

With all that production came the mistakes — and there were many.

Arizona fumbled four times and lost two, while Scott threw an interception. The Wildcats also had two touchdowns called by penalties and kicker John Bonano had a rough night, missing two short field goals, including a 25-yarder that would have won it at the end of regulation.

A win, sure, but not as satisfying as it could have been.

"There's so much more we could have done better with," said linebacker Jake Fischer, named the Pac-12's defensive player of the week after leading the Wildcats with 13 tackles. "We're really focusing on trying to put that together for a great offense coming in."

Arizona will certainly see a step up in competition this weekend.

While the Wildcats had to go down to the wire against a team that had never beaten a Pac-12 school, Oklahoma State was pretty much done after the first quarter against Savannah State on Saturday.

Despite playing without stars Justin Blackmon and Brandon Weeden, the Cowboys made it look incredibly easy against the Tigers, scoring 35 points in the first quarter on the way to an is-that-score-right 84-0 win.

Arizona didn't get much of a chance to look at what Oklahoma State's starters can do since most of them were pulled by the end of the first quarter, but they saw enough to know just how dangerous this team is.

The Cowboys also have dominated the recent games in the series, beating Arizona 36-10 in the 2010 Alamo Bowl and 37-14 in Stillwater last season, so the Wildcats know first-hand how tough these guys are to beat.

"It's personal; it was two years ago in my first start against them," Arizona center Kyle Quinn said. "We get them at home this year. Everybody's going to be fired up, the Zona Zoo's going to be rocking, so it's going to be a good fight on a Saturday night."

To have a chance in this battle, the Wildcats will have to be much better than they were against Toledo.

The turnovers and the missed kicks were the glaring mistakes, but there were plenty of other smaller ones, like penalties, missed assignments and poor technique that cast a bit of gloom over what should have been a nothing-but-joy victory.

"I don't know if I'm ever truly satisfied with where we're at unless we're playing perfect and that's the goal," Rodriguez said. "I'm not saying we'll play the perfect game, but there's a lot of mistakes we made in that game that we didn't make in scrimmages, hadn't made in practice, and need to clean up. We've got to play a whole lot better, but I think our team understands that and the quality of opponent we've got coming here this weekend."


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