After taking a week off for spring break, No. 10 Arizona hosts No. 5 Utah Saturday in Tucson, Ariz. The Utes are a half-game ahead of the Wildcats in the league standings.
The Utes are 5-3 on the season and 1-0 in league play so far, after handily beating Colorado State last time out, 49-19. Utah enters the contest 3-0 all-time against Arizona, including a 46-19 win over the ‘Cats last season. Utah also gave national powerhouse Cal all it could handle three weeks ago, dropping a close, 23-22, game to the Golden Bears.
“When you play any caliber opponent like that, especially how we started in a few games earlier this year, it definitely gave (the team) confidence,” said Utah coach Blake Burdette, “and we took the lessons learned, and we performed well against Colorado State. We’ve got to turn around and learn some more lessons from this game.”
The Wildcats, 4-3 overall and a 1-1 in league play, have already proven they’re not afraid of any situation this year, as they've played one of the toughest schedules in the nation. They also earned a gritty comeback win against Colorado last time out, despite missing numerous key players due to injuries.
“Utah has developed as one of the college rugby’s powerhouses. They recruit their backyard very well, and it’s a very bountiful backyard,” Arizona head coach Dave Sitton said.
Some of Arizona’s biggest playmakers in recent years have been backs – Timothy Moxness, Brett Thompson and Peter Tiberio. Those guys aren’t suiting up for the Wildcats this year, but Burdette says Arizona retains punch in the backfield, and has added a lot of size up front.
“They’ve got a good forward pack. We’re going to have to control that,” said Burdette. “We’ve got to take control of the front of the game if we want to be successful.”
This is a must-win game for Arizona, as it's highly unlikely any team will advance to the postseason from the West with two losses. It's equally big for Utah, who will see Colorado, Air Force and Arizona try to displace them before facing top-ranked BYU later this season.
"You have to show up every week, and if you don’t, then they can hurt you," said Burdette of his West foes. "As we saw in the Colorado/Arizona State game last week, who would have thought Colorado would have won by 62 points? You don’t know each week, and so you’ve got to make sure that you show up. Arizona is very capable."
The Wildcats and Utes kickoff 2pm MST.