Why Rich Rodriguez Thrives Early at Arizona


In 2008, Rich Rodriguez coached his fourth game for Michigan when they upset the eighth-ranked Wisconsin Badgers, 27-25, to bring his record to 2-2. Despite the opening loss to Utah, things looked positive for Rodriguez’s future at Michigan.

Sept. 1, 2012; Tucson, AZ, USA; Arizona Wildcats head coach Rich Rodriguez reacts after beating the Toledo Rockets 24-17 in overtime at Arizona Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE

That would end up being a rare highlight for the former West Virginia head coach. The Wolverines dropped five straight after the upset, including an awful 13-10 loss at home against Toledo who only finished with three wins on the season. Ironically, that’s all Rodriguez would finish with that season as well, only mustering a victory against a bad Minnesota team in Big Ten play.

Now with a fresh start at Arizona, Rodriguez had another opener that was just as exciting when he faced the Utes – except this time, his team held on to a victory. His offense came to life against Oklahoma State, scoring 37 of their 59 points in an upset. Compare that to his entire first season with Michigan, where they failed to score more than 29 points in a game except for a 48-42 loss to Purdue.

It’s the key difference between how things started for Rodriguez at both schools – he didn’t have a quarterback to implement the offense he had with the Mountaineers. Instead of rotating quarterbacks, he’s been able to adapt senior QB Matt Scott after the redshirt season a year ago. In 2010, Scott played in seven games and completed 71 percent of his passes for 776 yards and four touchdowns. In three games this season, Scott’s at the same percentage with 995 yards and seven touchdowns.

Of course, Scott showed his running ability picking up over 100 yards on 35 carries in 2010 – he’s already in top form with 42 carries and 190 yards with two more touchdowns. Rodriguez saw the potential in him and it’s worked out perfectly to start.

Now, Rodriguez faces another top-ranked team in his fourth game with a new team. Oregon provides the same running attack that he saw against Wisconsin – except the athleticism of new quarterback Marcus Mariota and Heisman candidate De’Anthony Thomas wasn’t on that team. In fact, his Arizona team might be facing a tougher version of themselves on Saturday night.

Brian Spaen is the lead editor for Autzen Zoo. See his banter with other FanSided writers and love for his favorite west coast professional teams by following him on Twitter.

Read his other work on the Iowa State blog, Clones Confidential, and Lacrosse the Web.