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Arizona’s defensive line a ‘concern’ heading into Territorial Cup

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The Wildcats’ d-line suffered several injuries vs. Oregon

Oregon State v Arizona Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats entered last Saturday’s game vs. Oregon with a nearly spotless injury report.

They departed Eugene with a bevy of banged up players, especially on the defensive line.

Starters Justin Belknap, Dereck Boles, and Luca Bruno all suffered injuries in Saturday’s 48-28 loss, while another starter, Parker Zellers, did not make the trip for disciplinary reasons.

“We had been relatively lucky most of the year,” head coach Rich Rodriguez said Monday at his weekly presser. “When we would get a guy (injured) it would be maybe one guy at one position, not three or four.”

Oregon took advantage of the UA’s ravaged defensive line, rushing for 353 yards and five touchdowns. Rodriguez is worried the Arizona State Sun Devils could do the same in the Territorial Cup this Saturday.

“It is a concern,” he said. “We’ve got a few days to figure it out. I don’t know who’s going to be back. We’re certainly going against a team that can run the ball with big running backs and an athletic quarterback so we have to figure something out in a hurry.”

Rodriguez believes Zellers will return Saturday assuming, “he does what I think he will do” but isn’t so sure about the others.

When asked if Arizona could move an offensive lineman to defense, Rodriguez said, “We’re thinking about everything. If we thought a guy that was an o-lineman could be in the mix, we probably would have moved him over last week or the week before, but we gotta look at all options. We were down three or four starters. You gotta have some size. You just can’t put 200-pounders in there at this level, so we’re looking at any and all options with a short amount of time.

“We have three practices to really get somebody to fill in 10-12 snaps per game. We’re going to be discussing that all day, probably."

Rodriguez said burning junior college transfer Sione Taufahema’s redshirt “doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.”

“That’s what’s silly about the redshirt rule,” Rodriguez said. “You don’t want to burn a redshirt for one game because the guys that are injured, if we don’t get them back this week, they should be back for the bowl game.”

Arizona releases its weekly injury report Thursday, so we will have a clearer picture of who will and won’t play in the Territorial Cup then.

But it’s not a promising start to rivalry week for an Arizona defense that already has enough trouble stopping the run to begin with.

The Wildcats are ninth in the Pac-12 in rush defense, surrendering 183.6 yards per game.


Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire