Arizona Wildcats notes: QB Rhett Rodriguez, Utah's fake punt

Steve Rivera (middle), Matt Moreno (right) and I react to the loss in video

Arizona sophomore Rhett Rodriguez finished the game at quarterback against Utah on Friday night, and he just might start the next game.

Khalil Tate left the game after the second series after being sacked by linebacker Chase Hansen, who landed on Tate's bothersome left ankle. Tate, limping, headed to the sideline and did not return.

Jamarye Joiner, a true freshman from Cienega High School, came in to direct two possessions before head coach Kevin Sumlin turned to Rodriguez in a two-minute-drill situation late in the half.

Rodriguez, from Catalina Foothills High School and the son of former Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez, who was fired in early January, played the entire second half, completing 20 of 38 passes for 226 yards and one touchdown.

"He's a level-headed kid and he took advantage of his opportunity when he came in before the half and continued to move the team in the second half," Sumlin said on WildcatsRadio 1290. "We didn't get the point production that we wanted, but he did some nice things."

Rodriguez won't wow with his skill-set, but he'll likely get Arizona into the right play before the snap, and he'll probably have his eyes in the correct spot after the snap. He is not a threat to run, and he didn't show nimble feet in the picket, sacked three times.

But he did help the Cats pick their way down field with the smart, short passes. His first drive ended in a missed 34-yard field goal and other scoring opportunities went awry in the second half when Arizona was stopped on fourth-and-1 from the 5, and fourth-and-1 from the Utah 32.

His touchdown pass came on a 42-yard deep pass to Cedric Peterson, who had the defensive back beat by a couple of steps.

Rodriguez's previous playing time at Arizona had been mop-up duty.

"I was glad to get the opportunity," Rodriguez said in a postgame press conference. "But at the same time, I didn't play perfect, the whole team could have played a lot better. I wish it could have been in a better circumstance, I wish I would have helped the team win, but I was glad I had a little opportunity there."

Sumlin will hold his usual weekly press conference Monday, but an update on Tate's status is unlikely.


It certainly was strange to hear "Fake punt!" when Utah had the ball with about six-and-a-half minutes left in the game. Punter Mitch Wishnowsky, rolling to his right on a rugby punt, simply tucked and kept on running as most of the UA punt team on that side had turned their backs to run down field.

Wishnowsky gained 28 yards on fourth-and-7 from the Utah 35.

The trick play didn't indicate bad blood between Utah coach Kyle Whittingham and Sumlin, and it wasn't a horrible display of sportsmanship from the sideline.

Wishnowsky saw an opportunity and he took it. If Arizona doesn't like it, it should have stopped it.

"The best run, I thought of the night, was from Mitch Wishnowsky," Whittingham said in his press conference.

"And just for the record, that is not a called fake punt. When we rugby punt, and roll out, if the defense does not cover correctly, it is the green light every single time. That was not a matter of gamesmanship, it was Mitch doing what Mitch was supposed to be in that situation."


--Arizona made a couple of changes in its starting defensive front.

Sophomore JB Brown, coming off a game in which he had a sack, forced fumble and four tackles, started at defensive end, replacing interior lineman Finton Connelly. PJ Johnson, who has started at end recently, shifted inside at the beginning of the game. Brown made three tackles, including two for loss.

Junior Lee Anderson III replaced Kylan Wilborn at "STUD" outside linebacker. Anderson had two tackles. Wilborn, who sat out the second half of last week's Cal game because of an undisclosed injury, did not play against Utah.

--Josh Pollack, for the second consecutive game since re-taking the place-kicking job, went 1 for 2 on field goal attempts. He missed from 34 but later made a 37-yarder.

--Arizona mostly passed the ball in the second half, but it wasn't having any success on the ground anyway, finishing with a season-low 72 yards on 31 attempts -- 2.3 yards per carry.

--The Wildcats will play at UCLA on Saturday night, kicking off at 7:30 p.m. PT.