TUCSON, Ariz. -- Rich Rodriguez's offense rolled up three school records -- total yards (792), rushing yards (499) and points (77) -- in Arizona's blowout win over Northern Arizona on Saturday, but the Wildcats coach didn't seem eager afterward to inscribe those numbers onto a plaque that he could hang from his office wall. In fact, he'd pretty much moved on the moment he walked out of his postgame news conference.
No. 9 UCLA is coming to town on Saturday. ESPN's College Game Day will set up camp in Tucson in advance of college football's national matchup of the week. The Bruins are now the highest ranked Pac-12 team. No. 16 Arizona is the defending South Division champion.
"Before I take a shower -- as soon as this game was over, I started thinking about them," Rodriguez said.
The matchup is big in itself, but Rodriguez has reason to be personally motivated. He's 0-3 against Jim Mora and the Bruins, the only South team he's yet to beat.
In each defeat, the Wildcats were ranked. Moreover -- Mora-over? -- the losses have been ugly in various ways. In 2012, the Bruins rolled 66-10, the most points UCLA had scored since 1997. In 2013, the Wildcats became the platform to introduce Bruins two-way star Myles Jack to the nation, as Jack rushed for 120 yards on six carries, recorded eight tackles and recovered Ka'Deem Carey's fumble in the UCLA end zone as the Bruins won in Tucson for the first time in a decade.
Last year? Arizona turned its worst offensive performance of the season in a 17-7 loss, perhaps its worst performance under Rodriguez, who begins his answer to a question on that game before the question is finished.
"We played awful -- it was them and us," Rodriguez said. "They did a good job against us and our lack of execution was awful.”
Awful? Wildcats QB Anu Solomon completed just 18 of 48 passes, a miserable 37 percent completion percentage, averaging a measly 3.6 yards per attempt, about half his season average. The Wildcats rushed for just 80 yards on 31 carries, averaging 2.6 yards per carry.
Offense doesn't at present seem to be a worry for Arizona, which is averaging 54 points per game, tops in the Pac-12 and tied for the third in the nation. The issue is defense, as a unit that was already questionable entering the season has been hit hard by injuries, particularly among the front seven. Everyone knows about All-Everything linebacker Scooby Wright, who is decidedly questionable for UCLA's visit, but he's one of five injuries at linebacker.
While the defensive numbers haven't been lousy against a notably weak schedule -- 21.7 points per game and 5.0 yards yielded per play -- the Bruins, with running back Paul Perkins, a veteran offensive line and a deep crew of receivers, represent a significant upgrade in competition.
Of course, the big question will be how UCLA's true freshman quarterback Josh Rosen handles himself in his first Pac-12 road start. The 'Zona Zoo is notoriously hostile, and Rosen struggled for much of the game against BYU, throwing three interceptions and only completing 11 of 23 throws for 106 yards.
"He thinks he can get away with some things that you cannot get away with at this level," Mora said after the Bruins outlasted the Cougars 24-23.
Rodriguez, like every coach in the nation, is familiar with Rosen, who was widely considered the No. 1 QB recruit a year ago.
“We didn’t have a chance to get him," he said. "He’s a great player. Everybody wanted him, and rightfully so.”
While Rodriguez doesn't buy that his team is untested after playing a lackluster nonconference slate and claims he and his coordinators have held nothing back, he also acknowledged that this weekend's game is an entirely different event. He won't have to use any motivational ploys or sell the quality of the upcoming opponent to his team.
“I don’t think you have to tell them how big a game it is," he said. "They know. They feel the buzz. They read. They watch TV. They can feel it. There won’t be any problem getting their focus this week.”