The University of Arizona

Cats, Bulldogs to Face Off on Saturday

Arizona Athletics | September 12, 2012

The 24th-ranked Arizona football team (2-0) will welcome South Carolina State (1-1) to Arizona Stadium on Sept. 15. The game will be televised on Pac-12 Arizona beginning at 7:30 p.m. MST.

Arizona upset No. 18 Oklahoma State last weekend. (Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics)
Arizona upset No. 18 Oklahoma State last weekend. (Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics)

Two land-grant institutions separated by nearly 2,000 miles will square off for the first time on the gridiron Sept. 15 when Arizona hosts South Carolina State at Arizona Stadium. The game will be televised on Pac-12 Arizona beginning at 7:30 p.m. MST.

The Cats will face a school from the Palmetto State for just the second time after The Citadel visited the Old Pueblo back in 2010.

Arizona will continue its season-opening three-game homestand riding a four-game winning streak and sporting a national ranking of its own a week after downing No. 18 Oklahoma State.

Arizona entered the national rankings this week at No. 24 in the Associated Press Top 25 and No. 25 in the USA Today Coaches' Poll. It is the first time the Wildcats have appeared in the Associated Press Top 25 since the week of Nov. 22, 2010. Arizona was ranked 11-consecutive weeks during the 2010 season, including as high as No. 9, before dropping out after a third-straight loss.

This weekend, the UA will vie for its first five-game overall winning streak since its storied 1998 season.

Can Rich Rodriguez and Co. bring their squad back down to Earth after the thrills of last week's performance to refocus on a new opponent and the bigger-picture goals of a 12-game season? Indeed, 2-0 is nice, but the upset-minded Bulldogs will have a say in which side of the ledger the outcome falls this week.

It will be another opportunity for the Wildcats to fine-tune an offense that has moved the ball at an exceptional pace in the first two games. The first two games have produced a record number of plays – will the breakneck pace continue?

The game will mark another appearance on the Pac-12 Networks for the Wildcats.

Last Week, Rodriguez and his team believed there was no better way to earn national relevancy than to beat a ranked team, so they did just that as they outplayed No. 18 Oklahoma State in a 59-38 victory on Sept. 8 at Arizona Stadium.

Despite an ominous start (like a 14-0 first-quarter deficit), the Wildcats proved to be the more disciplined and more consistent team throughout. The Cowboys gained 636 yards (sixth-most ever by a UA opponent), but turned the ball over four times, were penalized a UA opponent single game record 167 yards in penalties and were able to score on just six of their 16 offensive drives.

The UA defense had a lot to do with that, stopping the Pokes on six consecutive possessions in the first half to let the Wildcat offense reel off 23-unanswered points to claim a 23-14 halftime edge. Another score to open the second half gave the UA 30-straight points before Oklahoma State roared back with 17 third-quarter points to make it a six-point ballgame going to the fourth quarter.

That was when the UA's defense perked up again, sparked by Jonathan McKnight's 48-yard interception return for a score and Jared Tevis' second pick of the game to seal the game later on. The offense, paced by Ka'Deem Carey's four total touchdowns and Matt Scott's 375 yards of total offense, was a perfect 8-for-8 in the red zone and did not turn the ball over. In fact, with four turnovers forced by the Cats' defense, the UA finished the game plus-four in turnover margin for the first time since the season opener in 2008.

Also promising was how Arizona closed out the game, out-scoring its favored foe 22-7 in the final quarter. The ground game was convincing as it gained 87 yards on 14 carries for a 6.2 yards per pop clip in the final stanza to finish off the Pokes. It was Arizona's first win over a ranked team since Sept. 18 when the Cats upended No. 9 Iowa (34-27) in Tucson.

Up Next: Arizona will delve into Pac-12 Conference action with its first road game at No. 4 Oregon on Sept. 22. The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN with kickoff slated for 7:30 p.m. PDT at Autzen Stadium.