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Arizona vs. UTSA: What Rich Rodriguez and the players are saying about the Roadrunners

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A lot of praise coming from the Wildcats for the highly-experienced UTSA squad

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Wildcats take on the UTSA Roadrunners Thursday night in the second of a three-year series between the two teams. UTSA returns a ridiculous amount of starters this year (9 offense, 10 defense, punter, kicker), which is what most of the talk from Rich Rodriguez and the players has been centered around.

Here's a look at what they're saying around campus.

Head coach Rich Rodriguez:

On how UTSA stopped Houston's running game

"They just completely shut 'em down. They got off blocks, Houston couldn't block 'em. They broke on the ball well. They tackled in the open field extremely well. Houston really spread them out and Houston went fast too. They had a fast tempo with spread. They had a good plan and they followed the plan."

On what concerns him most about UTSA

"How many seniors they have, 42? And most of them are probably fifth-year guys that all redshirted the first year when they started the program, so that concerns me the most. They're playing a bunch of grown men, we ain't playing no kids. 483 career starts. They may be next to BYU as the oldest team in the country."

On going on the road before Pac-12 play

"From what I understand they'll have a big crowd. They're supposed to maybe sell out. It'll be a tough environment, and we're going to practice for it with a little crowd noise. I'd rather play 12 home games. I wonder if Greg (Byrne) can work that out. Use some of his magic."

On when he started watching UTSA/Houston

"I saw a little bit of that before our game. So I saw briefly, wasn't really half paying attention to it. But right after the game, we saw the scores, and told the team that we're going to have a tougher opponent on the road next week. And our guys who played against them last year got a lot of respect for them and for how hard they play. And I knew coming into the season in summer scouting that according to one or two magazines they were the most experienced team coming back. And what they did to Houston. I think a lot of people had Houston as one of the favorites in that league, and they handled them pretty well at Houston's new stadium."

On keeping UTSA's third down conversion percentage low

"One thing that UTSA does well is they don't have a lot of third-and-long situations. They get some positive yards, and we've gotta try and curate more negative yards plays, and I don't think we did a lot of that in the last game. We didn't create a lot of negative yards plays, and that's why we didn't have as many three-and-outs as we'd like to have."

On UTSA's pass rush compared to UNLV

"I think they have more guys they play and more veteran guys. They roll their front pretty consistently. They have not been a big pressure team, but they will bring blitzes. UTSA doesn't (play cover zero as often), because they can get some pressure with their four down linemen, and we struggled somewhat with their front last year. We gotta do a little better job this year. UTSA does as well as anybody we play coaching guys on how to use their hands on a pass rush. I'm talking about slapping hands down, doing quick swim and rip moves. They're as good as anybody we've seen on film. They're extremely well coached, and their pass rushers are very active, and violent with their hands."

Running back Nick Wilson:

"They're a pretty good team, solid team. They beat Houston, which really surprised me. It just shows that we have to really focus in and get ready for the game on Thursday."

Wide receiver Tyrell Johnson:

"I see they're very physical. They get after the ball and they stay on their keys."

Center Steven Gurrola:

"We know they're big and they're physical and they're finesse with their hands. I think they're going to be a good challenge and they're going to be a good matchup for us. Our biggest focus is leverage and aiming points. They're pretty good at slanting and doing all kinds of moves up front."

Linebacker Scooby Wright:

"Coach Casteel said their pretty up-tempo. They were a pretty hard-nose team (last year).They play downhill, have a lot of formations. Just gotta pay attention to what's going on and everything will be good."

Defensive end Dan Pettinato

"They're a physical team. They'll stay low, they come off the ball. I think they're the team that really played us the most physical last year."

Cornerback Jarvis McCall Jr.

"All the moving and motion any shifting that they do. We're not really used to seeing all that motioning and shifting and all that, but that's what practice is for. To adjust to it and gameplan it. I just make sure I keep my eyes in the backfield and the receiver and that tells me what kind of coverage or what I do according to the receivers and the backs. (The older guys) tell me you gotta be physical. Just gotta be physical and keep your eyes on the receivers cuz they do a lot of play action because they do run the ball."

So there you have it. Physicality is the name of the game on Thursday. That should work out to Arizona's advantage on the offensive side of the ball. It's the defense that may become a little worrisome and the ability to get pressure on the quarterback and stop the run.