The Wildcats have bounced back nicely from their lone loss to Oregon State early this month, winning each of their last two outings by a combined 68-21 score. The most recent of the team's triumphs took place this past weekend, a 44-14 thumping of Washington.
"This certainly was a good overall team win for us. We had a great week of preparation," stated head coach Mike Stoops.
Arizona is now 6-1 overall, but faces a daunting schedule the following weeks with the likes of Stanford, USC and Oregon on tap.
UCLA meanwhile, got a crack at the top team in the nation on Thursday and suffered an embarrassing 60-13 loss at Oregon.
"Obviously the game got out of hand," said UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel. "We've got some serious work to do in rebuilding our program, getting back to where we can be a good football team, one that can compete successfully in this conference and we're going to start it as quickly as possible because obviously this isn't good enough."
The Bruins have now dropped two straight contests on the heels of a three-game win streak that includes a pair of wins over Top 25 teams.
UCLA leads the all-time series with Arizona, 19-13-2, but the Wildcats took a 27-13 decision in Tucson last season.
QB Matt Scott stepped in for injured starter Nick Foles last weekend and was terrific in a 44-14 rout of Washington. He completed an efficient 18-of-22 pass attempts for 233 yards and two TDs, in addition to adding 65 yards on the ground.
"Matt Scott did an outstanding job, going 18-for-22," stated Stoops. "We've had a ridiculous throwing percentage for this time of the season. I give a lot of credit to him, our offensive line, and the coaching staff."
Normal starter Foles, who has completed 75.3 percent of his pass attempts this season, suffered a knee injury the prior game versus Washington State, opening the door for Scott. With Foles listed as questionable, Scott could find himself starting once gain this weekend.
Juron Criner has served as the team's main target in the passing game and he hauled in eight balls for 108 yards and a TD last weekend. It was yet another strong performance by Criner, who has made 41 catches for 695 yards and four scores this season.
With a new starter under center last weekend, Arizona relied more on its ground attack, which churned out 234 yards. It wasn't a big shock considering the Wildcats' talented backfield, but the effort is well more then the team's average of just 136.9 ypg. Nic Grigsby and Keola Antolin each scored a pair of TDs on the ground, with Antolin finishing with 114 yards courtesy of a 78-yard burst.
Arizona's defense was once again stingy, as the unit limited Washington to just 290 total yards and 14 points. The group permitted only 98 yards on the ground, while limiting star QB Jake Locker to just 183 passing yards.
"The defensive had a very hard week of preparation," stated Stoops. "Locker and Washington run some very unorthodox plays, and we positioned ourselves well on the defense. It's very lethal to have a group that rushes the quarterback, and we were able to get through and make it uncomfortable for Washington to run the plays that they wanted to run."
The Wildcats, who are allowing a mere 285.1 total ypg for the season, put the pressure on Washington and came up with four sacks. That now gives the defense 25 for the year, to go with 13 takeaways. Ricky Elmore tops the roster with nine TFLs and seven sacks, and he had a sack and a forced fumble in last weekend's triumph.
The Bruins were shorthanded facing the top team in the nation and it showed in a 60-13 setback at Oregon. Starting QB Kevin Prince (knee) and leading WR Rosario Nelson were two of the noticeable players that sat out, as the UCLA offense managed only 290 total yards with three turnovers.
QB Richard Brehaut made his second career start in place of Prince and he threw for 159 yards on 16-of-23 pass attempts. He however, lost two fumbles and was picked off once in Oregon territory. The Bruins haven't gotten much out of their QBs this season, as the team has a mere three TD passes against seven INTs. With Prince expected to undergo knee surgery, Brehaut is now the top option for UCLA.
Johnathan Franklin and the ground attack tried to help take some of the pressure off Brehaut, but the team finished with just 131 rushing yards on 47 attempts. Franklin had 69 of those yards on 21 totes, and despite the mediocre performance, he is still averaging 106.9 rushing ypg for the season. As a team, UCLA is generating 209.9 ypg on the ground, so expect to see a heavy dose of runs this weekend.
UCLA's defense just had no chance of stopping Oregon's electric attack, as the Ducks rolled up 582 total yards, including 270 on the ground. The Bruins haven't been that bad on defense this year, but they haven't had a ton of success either, allowing 194.9 rushing ypg and 205.3 passing ypg.
Though they did well limiting Oregon to just a 2-of-8 effort, the Bruins have struggled greatly on third downs this season, allowing opponents to convert 47 percent of the time. Opponents have also scored 22 TDs in 33 red-zone trips, so the defense had issues in that area as well. Tony Dye and Sean Westgate are the top two tacklers for the Bruins with 55 stops apiece.
Arizona is simply the better team on both sides of the ball and shouldn't have much trouble getting past the Bruins this weekend.