The lasting image of the Arizona Wildcats' 2012 season has nothing to do with Austin Hill's hands or Ka'Deem Carey's legs - or even, for that matter, Matt Scott's (upset) stomach.
It's the sight of dozens of UA players, in full uniform, pretending to shovel fake food into their mouths. Coach Rich Rodriguez planted the "gotta eat" mantra last week, as the Wildcats - winless in Pac-12 play - prepared to face Washington.
Players bought in with both their hearts and hands. Following every meaningful play the last two games, someone - whether it's the guy making the plays or a teammate - pantomimes eating with a giant fork.
Let center Addison Bachman explain the logic.
"It doesn't matter what our record is, you always gotta eat," Bachman said after the Wildcats' latest win, a 39-36 upset of 10th-ranked USC on Saturday night. "We're going to eat until the very end. It's a buffet."
The 24th-ranked Wildcats are surging, thanks to …
• Hot wings. Well, one hot wing. Scott's 2,724 passing yards are tops in the Pac-12 and fourth nationally. He has thrown 20 touchdowns this season, a total that ranks second in the league behind Matt Barkley's 25 for USC. Scott also leads the league in total offense with 386.1 yards per game.
On Saturday, Scott completed 27 of 50 passes for 369 yards and three touchdowns. He was named the Walter Camp Player of the Week for his efforts. The UA returned to The Associated Press poll, at No. 24, after a monthlong absence; this week's opponent, UCLA, is 25th. The Wildcats are 22nd in the BCS.
"I've said it before: Matt Scott's a stud," Rodriguez said.
• Beef. The UA's patchwork offensive line has played the last two games without allowing a sack, impressive numbers given their opponents. On Saturday, Arizona stopped USC with Bachman, a backup, at center and true freshman Cayman Bundage at guard. Chris Putton switched between guard and tackle all afternoon.
An emotional Bachman called it "a big, big victory and something that I'll never experience again."
• Pizza. Carey is the football equivalent of every college kid's favorite food: He's usually great, and even when he's not, he's still pretty good. The sophomore tailback rushed for 119 yards against USC, his lowest single-game total since Week 5. He was limited to one touchdown for the second straight week after scoring a combined five against Oregon State and Stanford.
But Carey made every big play late. His bruising running style - and some key blocking from the line - allowed the UA to gain two first downs with backup quarterback B.J. Denker in the game. By the time Arizona punted, up by 3, there was 1 minute remaining on the clock.
"I knew they were getting tired and I saw that the momentum was going our way, so we just kept pounding the ball," Carey said.
Rodriguez said it may have been the most impressive sequence of the game.
"When everybody in the stadium knows you're running," he said, "that's when you have to do it."
• Turnovers. The football kind, not the flaky kind, have worked in Arizona's favor the last two weeks. The Wildcats are plus 5 (8 to 3) in turnovers in their two Pac-12 victories, and minus-3 (5-8) in their three league losses. Arizona intercepted Barkley twice Saturday and recovered three Trojans fumbles, including one that occurred when USC's Jawanza Starling coughed the ball up on an interception return.
The turnovers "were big, and they came at the right time in the game," UA safety Tra'Mayne Bondurant said. "The defense definitely takes pride in those as a unit."
• Refreshments. The Wildcats entertained 25 recruits on either unofficial or official visits Saturday. On Sunday, one of them verbally committed for the 2013 season. Mario Alford, a junior college player from Georgia Military College, figures to play either running back or cornerback at the UA. Alford is the second Georgia Military player to verbally commit in the last two months: Linebacker Brandon Golson committed last month. The Scout.com recruiting service lists Alford as a three-star recruit.
• And for dessert … cupcakes? Saturday's win could be the start of something special. Consider: Arizona's four remaining opponents - UCLA, Colorado, Utah and Arizona State - are a combined 15-17 this season. The Wildcats have had the nation's second-toughest schedule so far this season; the rest of the way, however, their slate ranks 79th out of 120 FBS teams.
Arizona should be motivated to finish strong: If Oregon can beat USC next week and Arizona can edge UCLA, the UA will control its own destiny in the Pac-12 South.
Saturday's game changed everything.
Said Carey: "We can definitely build off this."
On StarNet: Follow the Cats as they try to qualify for a bowl at azstarnet.com/finley
• Who: No. 24 Arizona (5-3, 2-3) at No. 25. UCLA (6-2, 3-2)
• When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
• TV: Pac-12 Network
• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM
SCOTT DOWNPLAYS FOURTH-QUARTER SICKNESS
UA quarterback Matt Scott downplayed his apparent concussion in a tweet Sunday, providing hope that the Pac-12's leading passer will be able to play this week against UCLA.
Scott vomited multiple times on the field after taking a hit to the head during the UA's second-to-last drive Saturday. He stayed in long enough to throw a touchdown pass to David Richards, then was pulled. Backup B.J. Denker finished the game.
Scott tweeted Sunday that the sickness was more a byproduct of his running than the hit. He finished with a career-high 100 rushing yards.
"Man all those people thinking I threw up because I got hit when I was really just tired haha I haven't ran like that since high school," he wrote.
If Scott suffered a concussion - and Scott's teammates said Saturday that they thought he had - he will have to pass a series of tests before being cleared to practice or play.
Coach Rich Rodriguez could address Scott's status during his weekly news conference, held today. The UA typically doesn't release injury news until Thursdays, when Rodriguez issues the team's weekly injury report.
- Ryan Finley