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Arizona takes on Santa Clara Saturday in Santa Clara, Calif. in an important non-conference clash. As Arizona is a D1A independent, these games against D1A contemporaries will be a large part of the Wildcats’ resume come tournament time. They also play Colorado State and Wyoming out of conference.
Both teams enter the contest undefeated, Santa Clara having beaten Stanford, 22-19, last week. The Broncos also have fall wins over Nevada and Loyola Marymount. Arizona’s lone varsity win this season came in the fall against Grand Canyon University.
“It’s always good to have that big first win, and to have it against Stanford I know is huge for them,” said Arizona coach Sean Duffy of Santa Clara’s spring-opener over the Cardinal.
“Paul Keeler and Eugene Mountjoy are my friends in coaching. It’s going to be exciting to really coach against them, and they’re a great staff over there.
“I think Santa Clara is a very smart team, they’re physical. They play in a really tough conference, and coach Keeler’s done an amazing job raising the level every year. For us it’s a perfect preseason game because we want to play a team that’s well coached, and it’s the best prep you can get for our PAC season.”
Arizona returns a good portion of players this spring, but will have to replace flyhalf Andrew Matyas, a military vet who falls victim to the eligbility rules. Sliding in, though, is a talented freshman in Ben Crossley, who joins the Wildcats from the Saracens Academy.
“He’s really loving the campus, and he’s been great as a freshman, so we’re going to give him a crack,” Duffy said of Crossley.
Arizona makes the step up to D1A this season after finishing second in DI-AA to Central Florida last year. The Wildcats, in their first year under Duffy, fell 64-13 to UCF in the national final. Duffy hopes lessons learned in that game will have Arizona better prepared for the advanced competition this spring.
“UCF, really they were able to do a lot in the forwards, and that was a good learning experience for our guys, and I really think we’re better from that,” he said. “Some people might look at that and say weakness, but we look at that and say that’s a point of growth for us – we know we got far, but that made it pretty clear to our guys what’s got to work.”