The only thing missing from Rich Rodriguez’s weekly news conference Monday afternoon was Aretha Franklin and her fleet of backup singers.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to Rodriguez.
With the fifth-ranked Oregon Ducks coming to Tucson on Saturday, all the coach is askin’ for is a little respect.
“It’s a huge game on a lot of levels for (Oregon), but for us too, to try to get some national respect,” Rodriguez said. “This is a top-five team and a team that has national respect. I think every player wants to have respect; they want to feel like they belong and can play with anybody in the country. If they don’t play that way, they have the wrong mindset. I want our players to think that way.
“This is the game you can prove it.”
The second-year coach said his plan for his team this week is to “appeal to their competiveness” and make them all understand the opportunity they have against one of the country’s very best.
Is a win on Saturday a severe long shot? Sure. But that doesn’t mean the coach doesn’t want to see the very best shot his team has, especially coming off a disappointing 24-17 loss to Washington State.
“You talk about how ‘I can play with anybody in the country’ and all this and that, but until you do it, it’s just talk, right?” Rodriguez said. “Well, this weekend, you don’t have to talk about; you can show it. If you can play with Oregon, if you can line up with that guy and beat him and he’s going to be an NFL guy or he’s talked about nationally and you’re not, well now you have a chance to get some national respect.”
“That’s where it goes to the competiveness,” the coach continued. “I’ll be very disappointed if our guys don’t compete as hard as they’ve ever competed just because of the opportunity they have with the Ducks.”
Rodriguez’s group still has a few days to fully understand the opportunity in front of them, but on Monday, it was clear this won’t be just another game.
“You like to take every opponent the same, but an opportunity like this, on national TV, an afternoon game with everyone watching, we get really jacked up for it,” senior nose tackle Tevin Hood said. “We definitely will get excited.”
Oregon will come to Tucson with a 9-1 record. The Ducks control their own destiny in the Pac-12 after Stanford fell to USC on Saturday night in Los Angeles, and still have an outside chance at a shot at a national championship.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota, who has battled a left knee injury in recent weeks, told reporters Monday in Eugene that his knee is “good” and he may not wear a brace on it Saturday against the Wildcats like he has in recent weeks.
The sophomore is a Heisman candidate and has thrown for 2,819 yards, 25 touchdowns and no interceptions so far this season. He’s also rushed for 477 yards and nine more scores.
“Just about every pass is right on the numbers,” Rodriguez said of Mariota. “He’s as good of a college quarterback as there’s been out there the last couple of years. He’s a top-five (NFL) pick.
“Without question, he should be in New York for the Heisman and I think, one of the favorites.”
— UA junior receiver Garic Wharton missed Saturday’s game against Washington State with a hip flexor injury. He was listed as questionable going into the matchup and didn’t play a snap.
Rodriguez said Monday that “hopefully” Wharton will play against Oregon.
Sophomore David Richards played against WSU, but had his time limited because of a groin injury. Redshirt freshman Trey Griffey started in his place and saw more time than Richards.
Richards missed the first three games of the season after undergoing offseason foot surgery.
“I don’t think he was 100 percent,” Rodriguez said of Richards. “Hopefully with a good week, he’ll be better Saturday.”
— Arizona’s Nov. 30 Territorial Cup game at Arizona State will kick off at 7:30 p.m., the Pac-12 announced Monday.
The game will be televised by Pac-12 Arizona.
The night contest will break a streak of two straight day games for the Wildcats.
The game against the Sun Devils will mark the seventh time this season an Arizona game has been broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks.