Fresh off what was already their second bye week of the 2019 season, the Arizona Wildcats (2-1) are now just days away from hosting the UCLA Bruins (1-3) in their first Pac-12 game.
Both teams come into the matchup feeling good after victories against previously unbeaten schools, as the UA stepped up on defense and ran through Texas Tech two weeks ago for their second straight victory, and this last weekend Chip Kelly’s squad got their first win of the year when they produced a miraculous 32-point comeback to beat Washington State 67-63 in Pullman.
If the Wildcats are to capture a third consecutive victory and only their second win over UCLA since 2011, their defense will need to perform like it did against the Red Raiders and not how it did against Hawaii and NAU to start the year.
That side of the ball will be key, as the Bruins racked up a whopping 67 points in their comeback win against the Cougars.
Before Saturday night’s 7:30 MST kickoff, we spoke to several Arizona players about the upcoming game and what they are expecting from UCLA.
Here is what they said:
Arizona cornerback Jace Whittaker on UCLA and Washington State’s record setting game: “I watched the first half and kind of cut it off. I didn’t believe it (when UCLA won). Actually, one of my teammates told me but I just I didn’t believe it.”
Whittaker on what Arizona can take from the Bruins’ remarkable comeback against WSU: “Never underestimate a team. We’re playing in the Pac-12, that’s power five football right there. Everybody’s good. And they’ve got a lot of guys that can go over there.”
Arizona tight end Bryce Wolma on what he remembers from last year’s UCLA game: “It was kind of cool, because my best buddy Rhett (Rodriguez) got to make his first career start. But it was definitely a tough loss. I think we definitely should have won that game. We had a couple turnovers in the red zone that kind of cost us at the end. But hopefully we get we’ll get some revenge this Saturday.”
Wolma on if he watched the Bruins’ game vs Washington State: “Yeah, it was funny, I actually turned it on in the second half and it was just kind of on in the background. Me and my buddies were just hanging out and then every once in a while, we looked over and they were down 32, and then it was like they’re down three scores and then two scores and then it was like, what the heck? It was definitely a crazy game. But yeah, they’re obviously really explosive and can make plays.”
Wolma on what stood out to him about UCLA in their comeback: “I think special teams wise, they had both a kick return and punt return (for touchdowns), which definitely really helped them out down the stretch. Then defensively they finally created some turnovers. They forced four fumbles on Washington State’s receivers, so ball security is definitely a huge focus for us this week.”
Arizona wide receiver Cedric Peterson on playing against UCLA as a Southern California kid: “I’m from the Inland Empire area, Riverside County, but growing up I wasn’t really a big UCLA fan. I was kind of a USC fan, but it’s always good playing against a hometown team that, you know, didn’t really show no interest in you. It kind of gives you a little chip on your shoulder just to show everybody what they kind of missed out on.”
Peterson on what he remembers from last year’s game against the Bruins: “It was a really close game. We had a few injuries that set us back and there were a few plays that we could have fixed, or we could have avoided that really cost us the game, but we won’t make the same mistakes this year. They are coming off a big win up in Pullman and are going to be fired up and ready to go, but we’re coming off this bye week and we had a good week of practice and we’re going to have another good week this week and be ready to go.”
Peterson on if he watched the UCLA/WSU game: “I didn’t really watch too much of it. I caught the end of it. UCLA were down a lot but, it all comes down to four quarters of playing, you know, whoever could play four quarters the best is going to end up coming out with the win. And that’s what they did.”
Peterson on if he relishes playing a defense like the Bruins’ who allowed a lot of points in their last game: “Oh yeah, as an offensive player, you always love to put as many points as you can on each team. Coming into that game they probably didn’t expect them (Washington State) to have that many points, you know, so they’re going to come back this week and they’re going to try to fix whatever they need to fix to try to avoid that. But we found some points in the film that we can try to exploit and we’re going to do what we need to do to make sure we come out with the win.”
Arizona running back Gary Brightwell on UCLA: “I know UCLA is a great team. Better than what everybody’s trying to make them out to be. But I feel like with the proper preparation we can beat anybody.”
Brightwell on what he’s noticed about the Bruins on film: “They got a lot of players that can fly to the ball. And just like any other team, they practice hard as we do, but it’s about who practices harder and who comes to play.”
Brightwell on if he relishes playing a defense who allowed a lot of points in their last game: “Nah, I just let Coach Mazzone call the plays, let the game come to me. I’m not trying to force anything or go out of character. Just play.”
Brightwell on if he’s preparing for this game differently because of J.J. Taylor’s injury: “Same way as every week. Practice hard, win easy.”