TUCSON, Ariz. -- Coming off a win over a ranked team and arguably the biggest game of the season up next, Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez was concerned about his team taking South Carolina State lightly.
He had no reason to be concerned. The Wildcats did exactly what they were supposed to against an overmatched opponent.
Scoring almost when it wanted and barely giving South Carolina State's offense room to breathe, No. 24 Arizona breezed through its final nonconference game, rolling over the Bulldogs 56-0 on Saturday night.
"The guys took care of business," Rodriguez said. "They were very business-like all week, very focused, did what they were supposed to do."
Arizona knocked off No. 18 Oklahoma State last week and opens the Pac-12 next weekend at No. 4 Oregon.
Sandwiched in between was a game against the Bulldogs, one the Wildcats couldn't afford to take lightly.
Instead of a letdown as Rodriguez feared, Arizona (3-0) handled a team from the Football Championship Subdivision as any good program would, racing out to a 28-0 lead by halftime and a school-record 43 first downs overall.
Matt Scott threw for 288 yards and three touchdowns on 30-of-36 passing, and added a 10-yard scoring run in another stellar performance to start his senior season.
Arizona's try-to-keep-up-with-us offense ran a school-record 102 plays and had 689 total yards, two short of another record.
The defense was just as dominant, holding South Carolina State (1-2) to 154 total yards for its first shutout in four years.
Yep, this was just the kind of confidence-building tuneup the Wildcats needed before heading to rowdy Autzen Stadium for their first road game of the season.
"We executed really well tonight," running back Daniel Jenkins said. "There's room for improvement, but we're headed in the right direction
South Carolina State had little chance against Arizona's athleticism, unable to top the Wildcats from marching down the field or get anything going on offense.
The Bulldogs failed to crack double-digits in first downs (8) and had virtually no running game, gaining 65 yards on 29 carries. Quarterback Richard Cue trouble against Arizona's speedy defenders, badly missing several receivers while going 12 for 25 for 89 yards with an interception.
It doesn't get any easier for South Carolina State, either. Up next is a road game against Texas A&M.
"The game got away from us to the point where it got ugly," Bulldogs coach Buddy Pough said. "I wish we would have played better offensively, because if we had, we would have given ourselves a chance to keep the game close defensively."
After rolling over Oklahoma State 59-38 last week, the Wildcats moved into The Associated Press poll for the first time in nearly two years.
They needed an easy win with a tough Pac-12 run coming up next. After the Ducks next weekend, Arizona plays a conference schedule that includes No. 2 Southern California, No. 21 Stanford, No. 22 UCLA and rival Arizona State.
The Wildcats had no trouble moving the ball against the Bulldogs, but did have a little problem getting out of their own way in the early going.
Arizona raced to a touchdown on its first possession, Scott capping it with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Richard Morrison.
Moving quickly again, the Wildcats lost the ball near midfield when Morrison fumbled and the Bulldogs recovered. Another fast-moving drive ended with John Bonano, the reigning Pac-12 special teams player of the week, pushing a 25-yard field goal wide right.
Those turned out to be just blips in the Wildcats' march of dominance.
Scott hit Taimi Tutogi on a 14-yard touchdown to open the second quarter after the Bulldogs bit hard on a play-action fake. Ka'Deem Carey capped the next drive with a 7-yard touchdown run around the right end.
Scott closed out the impressive first half by pinballing off several defenders into the end zone for a 10-yard run that made it 28-0.
Scott, who entered the game tied with Syracuse's Ryan Nassib for the national lead with 836 total yards, threw for 175 yards and ran for 61 more in the first half.
Arizona's offense had 323 yards by halftime and its defense held South Carolina State to 69.
"They are a well-oiled team," Pough said. "I thought they did a good job mixing it up and making you defend the whole field in a way you couldn't gang up on the run game."
If it wasn't over already, the Wildcats made sure in the third quarter, when Scott hit Dan Buckner on a 27-yard touchdown pass and Jenkins carried half of South Carolina State's defense with him on a 5-yard scoring run that made it 42-0.
By then, pretty much all of Arizona's starters were on the sideline, resting up for what will certainly be a much tougher task against the fast-flying Ducks.
"Will the intensity be cranked up a little bit next week? I would think so," Rodriguez said.
The Wildcats will at least go there on a high instead of coming off letdown after taking care of the Bulldogs.
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|North Carolina A&T||7-1||10-2|
|North Carolina Central||7-1||8-3|
|South Carolina State||6-2||7-4|