FORT HUACHUCA — The Arizona defense picked up right where it left off last year when it was dead last in the Pac-12, surrendering 460 yards a game, giving up eight touchdowns to the Wildcats offense during Saturday night’s intrasquad scrimmage at Bujalski Field on Fort Huachuca.
Rodriguez’s offense was nothing short of spectacular, though by the end of the scrimmage, Rodriguez’s main focus was his defense, as after giving the entirety of the blue shirts a tongue-lashing, he hit the artificial turf and did punitive push-ups with them.
In the offense vs. defense competitive spirit of training camp, seeing the defense so humbled was rewarding for senior quarterback Matt Scott, who led a simply unstoppable first-unit offense.
“I love that,” Scott said. “I’m a winner; I like to win and I hate losing. At the end of the day, the losers gotta do something, so it feels good to watch them do pushups.”
Linebacker Jake Fischer, who played his high school ball at Ironwood Ridge High School in Tucson, said he was disappointed by the defense’s showing, but also appreciated the skill of his team’s offense.
“We’ve made a pact. We’re all going to work as hard as we possibly can the next 2 1/2 to 3 weeks, but we can’t go out against anybody playing like this,” Fischer said. “But I feel we have one of the best offenses in the Pac -12. They’re senior driven, they’ve got the quarterback and the whole offense line back and so many weapons. So it’s good for us. I told the linebackers, not making excuses, but we’re going against an offense where every one of them is capable of starting on any Pac-12 team.”
Rodriguez spent the entire scrimmage on the offense side of the ball, as one might expect considering his credentials as the architect of the spread option offense that lifted West Virginia to its peak. Rodriguez’s first real interaction with the defense was the push-up session — a polar opposite role taken by former head coach Mike Stoops, whose expertise tended to the defensive side.
Fischer said that’s not a problem.
“It doesn’t change much just because we have a very good coach and leader in Coach (Jeff) Casteel,” Fischer said. “It doesn’t really matter, and it’s actually a little better because it’s kind of like going against another team in practice, kind of an ‘us against them.’”
For the agile Scott, who decided to redshirt his senior year last year to wait out the senior year of quarterback Nick Foles, who threw two touchdown passes for the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday, Rodriguez’s offense fits him like a glove. He said the new offense caters to his talents better than the Air Raid style of spread instituted by former offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes.
“I think it’s better, it’s kind of similar to the offense I ran in high school,” Scott said. “I’m getting comfortable with it and getting better each day.”
The Wildcats go through the Leadership Reaction Course on Fort Huachuca today at 8:45 a.m. to wrap up their fifth year at Camp Huachuca before heading back to Tucson to resume practice ahead of their Sept. 1 opener at home against Toledo.
Rodriguez said he’s looking forward to coming back next year.
“Nothing in our schedule got interrupted, we had a great dinner last night with soldiers and some commanders,” Rodriguez said. “(Next year) I might make a few adjustments here and there, but the layout and the support, it gave us a little more of a camp atmosphere.”