Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez expects a ‘refocused’ USC team in Tucson

Austin Hill, Rich Rodriguez
Arizona Coach Rich Rodriguez, right, celebrates with Austin Hill after the wide receiver’s winning touchdown catch against California on Sept. 20. The Wildcats are off to a 5-0 start.
(Christian Petersen / Getty Images)

As USC begins preparations for 10th-ranked Arizona, the Trojans would like to leave behind the memory of losing to Arizona State on a Hail Mary pass.

It might not be easy.

Arizona is experienced at converting Hail Mary passes at Arizona Stadium.

On Sept.20, Arizona defeated California on quarterback Anu Solomon’s 47-yard pass to receiver Austin Hill as time expired.


“Ours was a hell of a lot more fun for me,” Arizona Coach Rich Rodriguez told reporters in Tucson on Monday when asked to compare the Wildcats’ play to Arizona State’s against the Trojans.

Rodriguez does not expect USC Coach Steve Sarkisian or Trojans players to wallow for very long.

“As hard as it was probably the next day, they’ll get those guys refocused again and we’ll get the best USC team Saturday night,” he said.

Arizona is 5-0 for the first time since 1998.


The Wildcats are coming off a 31-24 upset of previously No.2-ranked Oregon, but USC opened as a three-point favorite.

“We all know why,” Rodriguez said, adding, “Our guys know how talented they are.”

Arizona safety Will Parks told reporters, “I’m glad we’re the underdogs. That just keeps the guys focused for the task at hand.”

Previously unranked Arizona’s move to No. 10 in the Associated Press media poll was the largest leap in the poll’s history since it expanded to 25 teams in 1989.

“I don’t mind because it don’t matter,” Rodriguez said of being ranked. “But if it helps to give a little bounce to our guys’ steps and the fans will be happy and sell out the stadium Saturday night, then so be it.”

Arizona has 35 players on its roster from California, including 22 who played at Southland high schools.

Former USC quarterback Jesse Scroggins has completed one of two passes for nine yards. Scroggins transferred from USC to El Camino College before transferring to Arizona.

With a victory at Oregon behind them, Rodriguez said his players “should feel good about themselves.”


“That was a big road win,” he said, “but that’s not going to get us a first down against USC.

“I hope they have a chip on their shoulder because none of them were recruited by them and they want to prove they can play.”

Agholor watch

In 2012, Trojans receiver Marqise Lee caught 16 passes for 345 yards and two touchdowns in a 39-36 loss at Arizona. The game ended when Arizona broke up a Hail Mary pass intended for Lee.

Last season, USC receiver Nelson Agholor caught seven passes for 161 yards in the Trojans’ 38-31 victory over the Wildcats, including a 62-yard touchdown.

“It was like the year before,” Rodriguez said. “Our game plan against Marqise Lee was to have him go for half a mile and then get cramps.

“The only way to stop him was, after he had about 700 yards he got cramped up. It looked like we had the same plan with Agholor last year. I hope we don’t get to that point again this Saturday night.”

Agholor caught nine passes against Arizona State, the third time in the last four games he amassed that total.


“We targeted him a few other times,” Sarkisian said, “maybe even not enough.”

Agholor has 35 receptions this season, three for touchdowns.

He also scored a touchdown against Arizona State on a 53-yard punt return.

“Nelson was due,” Sarkisian said.

Quick hit

USC’s Oct.18 game against Colorado at the Coliseum will kick off at 3 p.m. and will be televised by the Pac-12 Networks.