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September 14, 2013

Arizona, UTSA meet in battle of spread offenses

Arizona has hinted throughout the week that the offense has yet to delve too deep into the playbook. The Wildcats may need to look significantly more sharp Saturday against a counterpart that has no problem piling up points.

UA will look to remain unbeaten against UTSA in the final tune-up before a bye week and the start of Pac-12 Conference play. Kickoff at Arizona Stadium is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

The Wildcats (2-0) are coming off a second consecutive impressive rushing performance, and equally lackluster passing game, in last week's 58-13 rout last week at UNLV. But, despite completing just 8 of 21 passes, UA head coach Rich Rodriguez was pleased with senior quarterback B.J. Denker's decision-making.

Denker has turned the ball over just once, thus far.

"He hasn't panicked, at all," Rodriguez said of Denker, who has run for three touchdowns and thrown just one. "We tell the guys they have a certain timing based on the route and the protection that they're given.

"He's done a good job taking off. If everybody's covered, then he and the rest of the guys run well enough that they shouldn't hesitate to take off."

Still, Rodriguez would like to see an improvement in moving the ball through the air. Of the Wildcats' 39 first downs, just seven have come via the pass.

Rodriguez and Denker have said teams will likely continue to load the box with the presence of star running back Ka'Deem Carey, who ran for 171 yards and a pair of touchdowns in his season debut last week.

"When you give us the numbers to throw, we've got to be able to throw," Rodriguez said. "If you give us the numbers to run, we've got to be able to run. That's the whole base principle of our offense, anyway."

Roadrunners head coach Larry Coker brings to Tucson his own spread offense that put up 504 yards and 35 points last week on No. 13-ranked Oklahoma State.

The only problem is that the Cowboys generated 605 yards and handed UTSA (1-1) a 21-point defeat.

"We've got to build on this," Coker said. "I think if we build on the positives, I think we've really got a chance to really have a good football team. I think the thing we can't do is say, 'Well, we scored some points against Oklahoma State, now we've got this thing figured out. We've arrived.'

"Because we haven't arrived."

But Rodriguez said UTSA quarterback Eric Soza may have already done so. The senior threw for 308 yards and three touchdowns in the loss, and the Roadrunners had 14 different receivers make a catch - including six players with at least three grabs but none more than four.

Denker has connected with just seven different targets in two games.

So far, Soza has completed 60 percent of his passes and thrown for 545 yards and five scores this season.

"Boy, he's really efficient," Rodriguez said. "You can tell he's a smart guy. He's been in the system. He gets rid of the ball quick. I've just been really impressed with him.

"I don't know if a lot of people know about him, but they're going to find out about him - especially if he does a performance like he did last week against Okie State."

Added Rodriguez: "They've got some speed, too. They've got some skill guys. So, there's a lot of concerns for us."

Unlike UTSA, however, Arizona has had no issue stopping opponents. The UA defense, with the help of a blitzing third-down "SWAT unit," has allowed just 276 yards and 6.5 points per game.

Junior safety Tra'Mayne Bondurant leads the nation's 19th-best defense with three interceptions - including two touchdown returns in as many games - to exceed his entire 2012 total.

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Tracy McDannaldTracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor

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