Published October 29, 2014
Pasadena, CA – Pasadena, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - After yet another close call, the 25th- ranked UCLA Bruins will attempt to pull off an upset of the 14th-ranked Arizona Wildcats when the two teams meet in Pac-12 Conference action at the Rose Bowl.
Since its stunning 31-24 victory over Oregon on Oct. 2, Arizona has been a fixture in the AP Top-25. The Wildcats currently sit at No. 14 following a 59-37 shootout win at Washington State last weekend. That victory allowed the Wildcats to bounce back from a 28-26 disappointment against USC, their first and only loss of the season.
UCLA lost back-to-back games to begin October, but it has recovered since with consecutive victories, although the Bruins have just barely scraped by in those contests, topping California (36-34) and Colorado (40-37 in double- overtime). They are now 6-2 overall and 3-2 against the rest of the conference.
Last season, UCLA held on for a 31-26 victory over Arizona, earning its second straight victory in the series. As a result, the Bruins lead by a 21-15-2 margin, which includes a 9-4-1 mark in Pasadena.
Powering Arizona's impressive season has been its strong play on offense. The Wildcats lead the Pac-12 in total offense (541.9 ypg), topping even mighty Oregon in the first seven games. They also rank third in scoring (40.6 ppg).
At the forefront of the attack is a redshirt freshman. Anu Solomon has rewarded head coach Rich Rodriguez's confidence this season, as he has thrown for 2,430 yards and 20 touchdowns, while completing 63.3 percent of his pass attempts and tallying all of four interceptions. By averaging 347.1 yards per game, he is ranked third in the Pac-12. He carved up Washington State last weekend, finishing with 294 yards and five scores on 26-of-38 passing.
"He made some really good decisions, saw the field well and made some really good throws," Rodriguez said of Solomon's performance. "His demeanor and ability to understand the moment have been really good, and I think that is why he has had so much success."
It is clear that Cayleb Jones is Solomon's favorite target. Jones leads the Wildcats in receptions (46), receiving yards (670) and touchdown receptions (seven). Jones finished with 78 yards and a score on seven grabs, and Hill added 63 yards and a touchdown on four catches. Austin Hill (29 receptions, 408 yards, four TDs) and Nate Phillips (23 receptions, 251 yards, two TDs) provide depth in the receiving corps.
Nick Wilson (592 yards, seven TDs) and Terris Jones-Grigsby (406 yards, three TDs) have each been important parts in the running game. Jones-Grigsby got most of the work against Washington State, finishing with 107 yards on 13 carries.
Scooby Wright leads the way for the Arizona defense. The linebacker is second in the Pac-12 in tackles (78) and tackles for loss (14.0), while ranking third in sacks (9.0). However, despite his efforts, Arizona still leaves something to be desired on defense, allowing 28.3 points and 447.9 yards per game.
Although it took two overtimes for UCLA to dispatch Colorado, the Bruins showed a ton of power on offense, finishing with 509 total yards, including 309 on the ground. Their potency on offense is well documented, with the team averaging 35.8 points and 494.5 yards per game.
Paul Perkins really did a number on the Colorado defense, finishing with 180 yards and two touchdowns on only 19 carries. Perkins is the second-leading rusher in the Pac-12 (996 yards), and one of only three players in the conference to be averaging more than 100 yards per game. However, he only has five rushing scores.
Brett Hundley is still the focal point of the offense, at least when it comes to media attention. Hundley has been solid this season, although he has not lived up to the immense hype. He has completed 70.8 percent of his passes for 2,056 yards, 14 touchdowns and four interceptions. He has also added 415 yards and five scores on the ground. He showed off his versatility against Colorado, accounting for 200 yards passing and 110 rushing. Coach Jim Mora liked Hundley's play on the ground, but was a bit discouraged by his passing performance.
"He was a little off. The ball was sailing on him a little bit," Mora said. "(He) ran the ball well. He ran for over 100 yards but the throws, he wasn't as crisp as he's been."
Jordan Payton (47 receptions, 664 yards, six TDs) is the team's top receiving threat, and by a wide margin. Devin Fuller (38 receptions, 297 yards, TD) is second on the team in receptions, while Thomas Duarte (18 receptions, 329 yards, two TDs) and Eldridge Massington (19 receptions, 311 yards, two TDs) are the closest to Payton in terms of yardage.
Obviously, the issue against Colorado was not the offense, but rather a poor defensive effort. The Bruins allowed 500 total yards to the Buffaloes, who are still winless in Pac-12 play. On the season, UCLA is allowing 30.2 points and 434.9 yards per game.