Season Report Card: Arizona Wildcats
Despite finishing the year at 8-5, many couldn't help but feel that the Rich Rodriguez's team left a couple of wins on the table. A home loss by a touchdown to Washington State? Should have been win number nine. A five-point home loss to UCLA, giving the Bruins their first win in Tuscon since 2003? Possibly win 10.
While we can talk about the what-ifs all day long, the fact remains that Arizona was an above-average Pac-12 team that had an opportunity to take the next step. However, it couldn't make the plays they needed to make in several close games to get themselves over the hump.
It was all about consistency for the Wildcats. Back in early November, they struggled to beat a bad Cal team one week, and then were a play away from beating a Top-20 UCLA team the next. An even better example was when they beat fifth-ranked Oregon by 26 points one week, and then turned right around and lost to in-state rival Arizona State by 37 the following week.
So, with all that in mind, let's grade Rodriguez and company on the 2013 campaign:
As you would expect from a Rodriguez-led team, the offense ran rather smoothly. Arizona finished just outside the Top 10 in the nation in rushing offense, with junior running back Ka'Deem Carey being an absolute monster on the ground. Carey rushed for at least 119 yards in every single game that the Wildcats played, and added 19 touchdowns to go along with that. Quarterback B.J. Denker was just as dangerous on the ground as he was through the air, giving Rodriguez the dual-threat that he likes from that position.
Arizona finished 70th in the country in both passing and rushing defense, but managed to hold opponents to just 24.2 points per game. That's a noteworthy accomplishment in a high-scoring Pac-12 conference. Of course, that number would have been lower had the Wildcats not given up 58 in the season finale against the Sun Devils. The secondary forced 18 interceptions on the year, which was one of the better totals in the nation. Five of those interceptions were returned for a score, which led the nation. But consistency was the bigger problem on this side of the ball, which lowered the grade here despite a few noteworthy statistics.
Seeing as though it was only Rodriguez's second season at the helm, he did quite well in elevating this team to an eight-win season. He still doesn't completely have all the players in place that best fit his scheme, so he and his staff did a great job at playing to the strengths of the current roster. Arizona had a chance to win in pretty much every game that it played, and again, with a bounce here and there, the Wildcats are a 10-win team.
Arizona wasn't expected to be a contender for the Pac-12 crown, so expectations weren't all that high entering the year. The Wildcats would love to have the Washington State game back, but even with that, year two of the Rodriguez era would have to be considered a success.
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