Arizona Football

Five off-the-beaten-path storylines of Arizona Wildcats vs. Washington State Cougars




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Former Arizona player and coach Joe Salave'a  equates the Wildcats' offense to the Indy 500

Former Arizona player and coach Joe Salave’a equates the Wildcats’ offense to the Indy 500

Thinking all things Arizona-Washington State while wondering if the Cougars’ defensive line coach, Joe Salave’a, one of the best defensive linemen to play for the Wildcats, still secretly bleeds cardinal red and navy blue …

For four years, from 1994-97, Salave’a was one of the most rugged and true Wildcats to wear the uniform. He was Dick Tomey’s captain in 1996.

Stuff of legends: During his freshman season, a dislocated left wrist sent him from Arizona Stadium to the emergency room of University of Medical Center, where he implored the staff to hurry. When X-rays were negative, he was rushed back to the game, forcing two fourth-quarter fumbles despite the soreness as the Wildcats rallied to beat UCLA 34-24.

After serving on Mike Stoops’ last staff at Arizona in 2011 as the defensive line coach, Salave’a was hired by Mike Leach in the same capacity at Washington State. Salave’a is now the enemy. His defense will try to contain Arizona’s potent offense tomorrow afternoon in Pullman, Wash.

After Washington State’s 24-17 upset win over Arizona last year at Arizona Stadium, Salave’a did not hold back from celebrating:

After Salave’a’s NFL career came to an end in 2006, I ran into him in Las Vegas, where he lived briefly. At the end of our conversation he said, “Bear Down”. No, allegiances do not die easily.


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Can the Cougars put a wrench into Arizona’s offensive engine?

When interviewed this week by, Salave’a mentioned that Arizona’s offense is the “Indy 500″ of offenses.

“They’re the Indy 500 — You’re talking about the Indy 500 versus Pullman traffic,” Salave’a said. “There’s a big difference, and it’s worked for them, and those are the things that they present as a challenge.

“You can only practice at it but you can never duplicate it. Our kids understand the magnitude of the tempo we need to work at.”

Arizona, behind redshirt freshman Anu Solomon, ranks fourth nationally in total offense at 557 yards per game. Washington State, led by the most prolific passer in the FBS, senior Connor Halliday, ranks seventh averaging 534.7.


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“The tempo (of Arizona) hasn’t slowed down one bit,” Salave’a told “So our tempo in our practice is going to be critical, and our work this week is going to be critical in trying to make sure we don’t half-step anything and trying to keep up with the pace of the offense.”

Reports indicate Salave’a’s defensive line was “dominant” in practice this week. The Cougars’ front seven must be a factor because their injury-riddled young secondary has accounted for only two interceptions this season. Arizona is plus-2 in turnovers while Washington State is minus-7.

Thank goodness the game is not at Berkeley, Calif.

When ranked No. 15 or higher in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, Arizona is 16-11-1 on the road dating back to the Jim Young era in 1974. The Wildcats’ record as the No. 15 team on the road: 7-1.

That lone loss was a painful one at California in 1989 after the Wildcats led 21-0 in the first half and 28-10 in the third quarter. The Golden Bears recorded their biggest comeback in school history that resulted in a victory, 29-28. Arizona’s Rose Bowl hopes were dashed as they lost to Cal for the second straight season when the Golden Bears entered the game without a conference victory.

Arizona is 1-2-1 at Cal when ranked in the top 15. The other loss — 24-20 in 1993 — also knocked Arizona out of the Rose Bowl race and the tie — 33-33 in 1983 — occurred when the Wildcats reached No. 3, their highest ranking in school history.

The Wildcats are 2-0 in Pullman, Wash., when ranked in the Top 15. They won 45-6 in 1983 when ranked No. 7 and 10-7 in 1994 when ranked No. 14.

Leach vs. Rodriguez Round Two

Rich Rodriguez and Leach were hired about a week apart late in 2011 after Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne lured Rodriguez back into coaching. Leach, rumored to be an Arizona candidate, and Rodriguez were briefly part of the media in the previous season. Leach was an analyst for Sirius/XM while Rodriguez worked for CBS.

Rodriguez is charismatic behind the microphone. Leach has a dry wit.

When asked this week for advice on naming a son, Leach said, “Avoid the trends but have veto power (on the wife) so your kid has a fighting chance to hang out with the cool kids.”

Leach beat Rodriguez last year in their first meeting — Arizona and Washington State did not play each other in their first seasons of 2012 — but Rodriguez has the upper-hand in overall record. Rodriguez is 21-11 at Arizona. Leach is the exact opposite with Wazzu, 11-21.

Rodriguez’s record in his first three seasons as head coach is the best at Arizona since Young went 26-7 from 1973 to 1975. Larry Smith was 17-15-1 in his first three years. Tomey was 19-12-3.

Recruiting ties to Florida means Rich Rod headed that way?

That’s one reason why Rodriguez’s name has surfaced as a potential candidate for the Florida job when the embattled Will Muschamp is likely fired by the end of this season.’s Pete Thamel and Thayer Evans offered this bold line this week: “Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez has the offensive ingenuity and head coaching success to fit in Gainesville, but the low-key Rodriguez and hard-driving (athletic director Jeremy) Foley seem like an odd couple. Rodriguez’s success recruiting Florida while at West Virginia would be a plus, but he’d likely need a staff upgrade. It’s debatable if he’d do that.”

That’s somewhat of a slap at Rodriguez’s staff at Arizona, which he considers family. The bond between Rodriguez and his assistants — going back to his West Virginia days — is in stark contrast to how Stoops related to his top aides.

The line about the recruiting in Florida has meaning. Eight players from Florida are on Arizona’s roster. Rodriguez and his staff have recruited the South well in general, most notably in Louisiana.

Would a slightly increased salary lure Rodriguez?

Muschamp reportedly earns $3 million annually at Florida. Rodriguez earns almost that ($2.4 million) at Arizona.

Factors for Arizona:

— He can build a Rose Bowl program and become a legend similar to what Lute Olson did with the basketball program. Rodriguez and his family by all counts love Tucson. His daughter is an Arizona cheerleader.

— The abrupt departure of Urban Meyer after winning two national titles at Florida must be a red flag for any coach considering that program. Rodriguez already had to put up with (and succumbed to) the excessive expectations at Michigan. With what was written by about what his staff must be at Florida, that noise is already starting. publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.

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