Arizona vs. UNLV Football: 10 Things We Learned from the Wildcats' Win

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Arizona vs. UNLV Football: 10 Things We Learned from the Wildcats' Win
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Arizona quarterback B.J. Denker runs for a 35-yard TD in its 58-13 win Saturday at UNLV.

Arizona made a laundry list of statements about how the 2013 season might turn out following its dominant 58-13 win Saturday night at listless UNLV.

By putting together one of their most dominant road performance in school history, the Wildcats are starting to turn some heads outside of the Southwest.

Here's a few things we learned from this latest contest.

 

1. It doesn't matter who's carrying the ball.

Arizona's school record for average rushing yards in a season is 276.5, according to its media guide. That was back in 1954, when the forward pass was still a scary, untested approach.

After two games, the Wildcats are averaging 351.5 per game after getting 397 yards against UNLV. Having the 2012 FBS rushing leader in the backfield certainly contributes to these numbers, but Arizona is getting contributions, no matter who is running the ball.

Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey's first carry of the 2013 season with a big one.

 

2. Ka'Deem Carey responded to his suspension the best way possible.

Carey sat out Arizona's season-opening 35-0 win over Northern Arizona because of a team-imposed suspension, then didn't get into the UNLV game until late in the first quarter.

Once the junior tailback finally got a chance to run, he did it in spades, rushing for 171 yards and two touchdowns. He now stands at 2,525 for his career, ninth-best in school history.

 

3. The Wildcat defense deserves as much hype as their offense.

The 2012 Arizona defensive unit gave up 35.3 points per game, ranked 102nd in the nation.

In its eight quarters this year, it's allowed just two touchdowns, while forcing six turnovers. Five of those takeways have been on passes, with three getting returned for TDs.

 

4. The SWAT attack is legit.

By shifting just before the snap into a 7-man front that includes extra defensive backs and only one linebacker, the Wildcats make it look like a blitz is coming even if that's not what's happening.

The result? Five sacks and five interceptions, as well as the first two opponents converting just eight of 34 third-down tries.

 

5. The passing game is still a work in progress.

As potent as the running game has been for Arizona, the need to throw the ball has been minimized through two games. But when the Wildcats have thrown the ball, the results have been spotty.

B.J. Denker was 8 of 13 with a touchdown in the win over Northern Arizona, but against UNLV he completed just nine throws on 20 attempts. Denker's main contribution to this point has been in his adept handling of Arizona's read option offense, not to mention the 134 rushing yards and three scores he's contributed. 

 

6. Playing on the road might have loosened things up for Arizona.

The Wildcats scored 28 points in the second quarter against UNLV, the most the school has ever put up in a road quarter.

And the 58 total points were the most Arizona has scored in a game game since putting up 59 in a 2008 win at Washington State.

 

7. Smack talk from opposing defenders provides ample fuel for Arizona's offensive line.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal's Mark Anderson reported that UNLV defensive end Jordan Sparkman, speaking about Carey, said "We’re going to dominate him, I mean every play. We want him to get no yards."

That prophecy held true until early in the second quarter, when Carey got his first touch—he promptly turned that into a 58-yard TD run. 

 

8. The kicking game remains an issue.

Senior kicker Jake Smith shanked a relatively easy field goal for the second straight week, though he was also good on tries from 41, 29 and 30 yards. He made all seven point-after attempts, setting a school record for points (16) by a kicker.

 

9. Rich Rodriguez will still find ways to be unhappy, even in a lopsided win.

The Wildcat backups allowed a garbage-time 79-yard TD run to UNLV, but that didn't stop Rodriguez and defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel from tearing into the second and third stringers as they came off the field. 

 

10. Arizona's schedule difficulty will only go up from here.

The two worst teams on the Wildcats' 2013 slate are now in the books. It only gets harder from here, starting with a Sept. 14 home game against Texas-San Antonio.

The acronym school might not sound like too much of a challenge, but the Roadrunners did score 35 points in a home loss to Big 12 power Oklahoma State on Saturday, and the week before they went on the road to win at New Mexico.

Beyond that, Arizona opens Pac-12 play with road games at Washington and USC, who is still a formidable foe even after its shocking home loss to Washington State—it has an all-time record of 28-8 in the series.

 

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