It’s been a year of firsts for University of Arizona head football coach Rich Rodriguez.
First recruiting class.
First time implementing his dangerous spread offense at UofA.
First mild winter in Tucson.
First year playing the Pac-12.
Friday will be a first many close to the Wildcats football program will remember for quite some time.
His first chance to play in-state rival Arizona State and keep the Territorial Cup in the Old Pueblo after Arizona stormed back for a 31-27 win last year in Tempe.
Rich Rod and the ‘Cats have been one of the more pleasant surprises in the Pac-12 South this season sitting at 7-4 (4-4 in Pac-12) with the season finale against the Devils this weekend. They’re going to a bowl game and feature the leading rusher in the nation in Ka’Deem Carey. They’re also in the midst of a $378 million renovation to the north end zone of Arizona Stadium.
“I really liked the guys’ attitudes,” Rodriguez told Brad Cesmat Tuesday on ‘Big Guy on Sports.’ “We had to have a lot of things go right for us and fall into place. The attitude has been good.”
For many, even with the success, Rodriguez’s report card will be weighed heavily by how the Wildcats fare against the Sun Devils. He’s taking it all in stride.
“I think you can sense a certain excitement certainly as it should be for a rivalry game,” he explained to Cesmat. “But for us, as coaches, it’s business as usual. There’s a certain intensity because you hear about it everyday from your fans, your alumni. It should be an easy game to get your players excited about.”
Rich Rod has coached in some of the biggest rivalries in college football including West Virginia-Pitt and most recently Michigan-Ohio State and knows ASU-UofA ranks among the nation’s best.
He also knows fellow first-year coach Todd Graham’s Sun Devils will present plenty of challenges to the Wildcats young, undersized defense.
“I thought coming in they were one of the most talented teams in the league. They’ve got a lot of outstanding skill players and they’re playing with a lot of confidence. We’re going to get their best shot we know that.”