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Arizona's Rodriguez: 'It's a mental game at Utah'

Arizona's Rodriguez: 'It's a mental game at Utah'

By Alex Rivera, KSL.com Contributor | Posted - Nov. 15, 2012 at 2:51 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY — Their backs are against the wall. The Utes control their destiny to be bowl eligible, but they have two teams in their way.

Arizona comes into town to face Utah in what is to be a nailbiter for Utah fans everywhere. Arizona, who was ranked 22nd nationally earlier in the season, is already bowl eligible and is trying to improve its Pac-12 record to 4-4. Utah, on the other hand, is trying to end their season with a .500 overall record.

Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey (25) celebrates with teammate Austin Hill (29) during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Colorado at Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Ariz., Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012. Arizona won 56-31. (AP Photo/Wily Low)
Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey (25) celebrates with teammate Austin Hill (29) during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Colorado at Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Ariz., Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012. Arizona won 56-31. (AP Photo/Wily Low)

Utah hosts the Wildcats Saturday night at 8 p.m. (MST) and the game will be televised on ESPNU.

Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez had these things to say about the Utes.

On playing Utah this weekend:

“We have a big challenge this week. I told the team yesterday that this will be one of the most physical and biggest teams we’ve played this year. It’ll be a tough environment and we will be tested both mentally and physically on Saturday night. We need to play a lot tougher and be more physical than the last several weeks.”

On being mentally tested:

“They have a great home environment and the crowd will be into it. It will be a little cooler than what we are accustomed to. It’s a veteran team on both sides of the ball, especially up front, and we already know our issues with being undersized. We didn’t play very physical at all the last game, and if that happens Saturday, then we will be in trouble.”

On Utah defensive lineman Star Lotulelei:

“We don’t have any players that are similar to his size, strength and speed to emulate it in practice. He has been a dominant player in this league for a couple of years and he will be a first round draft pick. They will move him around as well and he won’t be lined up on the same person each time. Our guys up front have to watch the film and play with great leverage and intensity.”

On Lotulelei’s ability to stop the run game:

Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei (92) tackles California running back Isi Sofele (20) in the first quarter during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei (92) tackles California running back Isi Sofele (20) in the first quarter during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

“It’s too late in the season to change what we are doing. We really just need to play well up front. We have not gotten a lot of push at the line of scrimmage this year so I wouldn’t expect to do it against Star and their front. They are bigger and stronger than our previous opponents. The key for us is to have great leverage.”

On what to expect from Utah:

“I remember early in the year that they were projected to be the team to win the Pac-12. They are a veteran team. They’re a big, physical team with a lot of playmakers. I see that same team. They’re playing their best football in the last couple of weeks. It’s going to be their last game at home so it’s going to be a really, really tough environment. We try to prepare our players for that. They’ll watch film and see the guys and remember them from last year. The guys from last year will remember. I think our guys know the challenge.”

On Utah running back John White:

“He’s a very fast guy and shifty. I think he’s one of the best backs in the Pac-12. He’s extremely explosive. He’s not real big but he’s not small. He’s a strong runner and has great explosiveness. He’s a really great football player.”

Alex Rivera is the assistant sports editor of the UVU Review. You can contact him at arivera.2011@hotmail.com or through his Twitter account @A_River_Uh.

Alex Rivera

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