- Associated Press - Friday, September 12, 2014

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - NFL coaches get four chances to see how players respond to the game spotlight, plenty of opportunity to figure out their strengths and weaknesses, which players they’ll be able to count on.

College coaches have no such luxury. Their first glimpse of how players handle pressure comes in games that matter.

“We have no preseason or scrimmage games in Division I football, so you almost have to sort things out in the first few games of the season,” Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. “Not only what you’re doing and how you’re doing, but who you are doing it with.”

The Wildcats have been fortunate so far - the feeling-out process has included a pair of wins.

Arizona (2-0) opened the season with a blowout victory against UNLV and last week went on the road for the first time, outlasting a veteran Texas-San Antonio in the noisy Alamodome.

The road gets tougher this week.

Up next for the Wildcats will be their toughest test yet - Nevada on Saturday at Arizona Stadium.

The Wolfpack and their Pistol offense can be hard to defend, especially with multidimensional Cody Fajardo running the show, requiring lots of discipline by the defense.

The bigger test for Arizona will be Nevada’s defense.

The Wolfpack are aggressive and love to blitz, putting pressure on opposing offenses to make quick, good decisions. They corralled one of the nation’s best passing teams last week, allowing Washington State to throw for 389 yards, but holding them scoreless in three trips to the red zone in a 24-13 win over the Cougars last week.

“They will do a lot of inside blitzes with their linebackers and they will do it against anybody,” Rodriguez said. “They will really pressure you and force you to execute, so we will have to be ready for that.”

Here are a few things to look for when the Wolfpack and Wildcats meet in the desert:


NEVADA’S CHALLENGE: The Wolfpack have faced two straight spread offenses and held up fairly well. Their next test will be the biggest so far. Arizona has had one of the nation’s most prolific offenses in three seasons under Rodriguez and is fifth nationally this year with 620.5 yards per game. The Wildcats have playmakers all over the field and set a school record with 787 total yards in their opening win over UNLV. “It will be a litmus test, for sure,” Nevada coach Brian Polian said.

REMATCH TIME: The last time these teams met was in the 2012 New Mexico Bowl. And, what a game it was. Nevada led 21-0 early and was up 48-25 with 1:48 left, seemingly in control. Then Matt Scott hit Austin Hill on a short touchdown pass, Arizona recovered the onside kick and won it 49-48 when Scott threw another TD pass.

FAJARDO’S FINALE: Fajardo has struggled with injuries during his career, but appears to be healthy for his senior season. He is the only returning FBS quarterback with 7,000 passing yards and 2,000 rushing, and has accounted for 581 total yards and two touchdowns so far this season. Fajardo had arguably the best game of his career against Arizona in the New Mexico Bowl, throwing for 256 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 140 and another score.

RUNNING WILDCATS: Arizona has had no trouble running the ball so far without Ka’Deem Carey. A two-time All-American and the school’s all-time leading rusher, Carey left a big hole when he headed to the NFL. Terris Jones-Grigsby and Nick Wilson have been just fine filling his shoes. Jones-Grigsby ran for 124 yards and a score in the opener before missing the UTSA game with an injury. Wilson had an 85-yard TD run against UNLV and ran for 174 yards against UTSA.

PACK IN THE RED ZONE: Part of Nevada’s success defensively has been keeping teams out of the end zone when they get in close. The Wolfpack have allowed opponents to score three times - one touchdown - in seven trips inside the 20-yard line, ranking fourth nationally in red-zone defense. Limiting Arizona’s scoring in the red zone will be key for Nevada to have a chance at winning consecutive games against Pac-12 schools for the first time in school history.



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