The Arizona Wildcats had, so far in 2012, been shouldered by Matt Scott's arm.
Maybe the Rich Rodriguez offenses are simply more effective as run-heavy schemes rather than by relying upon the pass. Or maybe, Ka'Deem Carey has become the team's most dynamic player, and that is by no means a knock on Scott.
Arizona rode Carey's 29 carries and 172 yards, making Scott's job easy in a 52-17 victory against the Washington Huskies at Arizona Stadium Saturday. The Wildcats also used a strong defensive effort in the second half to improve to a 4-3 record in earning Rodriguez's first Pac-12 victory in front of a season-high crowd of more than 50,000.
Carey had 20 carries in the first half and more than 100 yards, and it was a bullying run game thanks to the offensive line's best performance of the year that set the tone for a dominating UA victory.
The defense also surprised by keeping a Washington offense that has struggled this season off its game. Quarterback Keith Price connected on 28-of-50 passes, threw two interceptions and fumbled the ball for a turnover as UA recorded four sacks on the evening. The Wildcats held UW to 5-of-17 third down conversions.
Scott only threw 22 passes, completing 14 for 256 yards. Four went for touchdowns -- two to Austin Hill on his two-reception, 70-yard day. Dan Bucker led the team with five receptions for 86 yards and Garic Wharton was third in his first important action of the year. The speedy inside receiver caught three balls for 59 yards and a score.
Arizona responded to a Huskies field goal on the first drive of the game with a seven-play, 75-yard drive that took only two minutes despite it being a heavy dosage of Carey runs (five rushes to two passes). Scott found David Richards for a 27-yard touchdown pass on the receiver's double-move, and Arizona would go up 10-3 with a field goal on the next possession.
On the first UW possession of the second quarter, Tra'Mayne Bondurant picked off Price's pass and returned it 43 yards to the Washington 41-yard line, and the Wildcats used a bruising, 4:31 drive to punch in a touchdown with a Scott 1-yard run for a 17-3 lead.
Under pressure on a blitz, Scott found Wharton -- in place of Richard Morrison and the injured Johnny Jackson -- for a 33-yard touchdown pass less than five minutes before the half to go ahead 23-3, but Washington scored a touchdown on a quick drive to respond.
After a stop, the Wildcats seemed poised to score quickly before halftime.
With 1:02 before the break, Arizona was driving. Scott was hit on a pass that went off with 41 seconds in the half, leading to an interception and a UW touchdown with 14 seconds remaining. It was a striking 14-point swing to put the halftime score at 31-17 -- and it was a good piece of evidence that Arizona should not have gone for a score with a similar situation and a tied game toward the end of the Stanford contest.
The Wildcats started the second half giving the Huskies more hope and more momentum. Carey fumbled on his first touch, but Price put the ball on the grass while flushed from the pocket and attempting to tuck the ball on a Marquis Flower tackle.
Arizona would not squander such a break, scoring three minutes into the second half. UA added the kicker with a Morrison 63-yard punt return for a touchdown to go ahead 45-17 with 9:35 to play in the third quarter.
Washington had a solid drive going in response, and a double-flag on Jourdon Grandon for targeting and taunting gave the Huskies 30 free yards. But on the drive, Grandon made up for his error, picking off Price's pass in the end zone to give UA the stop.
Kyle Dugandzic wouldn't see the field for an Arizona punt until three minutes remained in the third quarter.
And in the punting game, Jeff Casteel's defense forced six punts from Washington's Travis Coon's, a testament to a crew that, again, made its presence known.
All-around, Saturday could have been called the Wildcats' best performance of the year. Unlike the game against Oklahoma State, the mistakes by the Huskies seemed more forced than committed. Arizona gave Washington the chance to come back a couple of times, but that only turned the Wildcats' ears out and made them more alert.
And more importantly, Arizona not only earned a victory to get back to its winning ways, but may have altered the offensive and defensive formulas that will make more wins less by way of upsets and more thanks to dominating play.