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Wildcats soaring after win over USC

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Wildcats soaring after win over USC

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) The Rich Rodriguez desert project, by most accounts, is ahead of schedule.

Despite a thin roster and a brutal schedule, Rodriguez has led Arizona to five wins, the most recent over a top-10 opponent, putting the program on the cusp of bowl eligibility in its first season under the new coach.

The Wildcats weren't supposed to be this good this soon, but Rodriguez had an inkling they might have some resiliency when he and the coaching staff pushed them during spring practice.

``We had a new coaching staff and were teaching a new system, and just tested them a little bit mentally to see whether they would respond or go in a shell,'' Rodriguez said. ``We were hard on them about all the things you're supposed to teach and develop and to see how they react. I saw that early in the spring that these guys do want to get better and they're trying to take to the coaching and system. I saw that in the spring and see that now in the fall.''

This first season under Rodriguez was supposed to be a foundation-setter with a sharp learning curve.

The transition to a new coach often takes time and it figured to take a little longer with Rodriguez's non-stop, no-huddle offense and 3-3-5 defense, schemes that were drastically different from what the Wildcats had been running.

Arizona's players weren't in the best of shape when Rodriguez took over, either, so the coaches had to spend extra time working on conditioning to keep up with the go-all-the-time style.

From the start of his tenure in the desert, Rodriguez tried to temper expectations, particularly when he looked at the lack of depth on his roster. Sure, he wanted to win right away, like all coaches would, but building a program takes time, sometimes a few years.

The Wildcats decided not to wait for the building process.

Charging ahead with a nearly unstoppable offense and a scrappy defense, Arizona opened the season with three straight wins to return to the AP Top 25 for the first time since November 2010.

The Wildcats faced a gauntlet of ranked team to open the Pac-12 season, losing to Oregon, Oregon State and Stanford. Arizona had a chance to win two of those, though, losing to the Beavers by three and the Cardinal in overtime.

Beaten up and worn down, the Wildcats recuperated during their bye week and bounced back with resounding 52-17 win over Washington, a team that had been ranked earlier in the season.

They followed it up with easily the biggest win so far under Rodriguez, outlasting No. 10 Southern California 39-33 in an offensive shootout last Saturday in Tucson.

The win improved Arizona to 5-3 overall, 2-3 in the Pac-12 and moved them back into the rankings at No. 24. The Wildcats also debuted in the BCS standings at No. 22 this week.

``I do think it makes us more relevant,'' Rodriguez said of beating USC. ``It should. It doesn't make us a top 10 team - we've lost three games - but it hopefully gives our guys confidence. Hopefully, it makes recruits sit up and notice.''

It's certainly been easy to notice what the Wildcats have done on offense.

Snapping the ball almost as soon as the officials place it down, Arizona has left opponents breathless, putting up more yards than all but three teams in the country, averaging 553 per game.

Fifth-year senior Matt Scott, once brushed aside by predecessor Nick Foles, has been dynamic in leading the Wildcats with his arm and legs, ranking second nationally with 386 total yards per game.

Arizona also has developed a solid run game behind hard-running sophomore Ka'Deem Carey and its defense has done its best to fight through a lack of depth a numerous positions.

The Wildcats also have confidence, particularly after beating USC, and a schedule that gets a little easier after that brutal stretch.

Arizona faces UCLA in Los Angeles on Saturday, then has Colorado, Utah and rival Arizona State to close out the season. The Wildcats should at least have a chance at winning all four of those and, who knows, have a shot at winning the Pac-12 South to earn a spot in the conference championship game.

``Our goal is to build the best program in America,'' Rodriguez said. ``We've got a long way to go, but the process has started.''

And they've done it lot faster than anyone expected.

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Before Capitals' Barry Trotz, here are other coaches who didn't return after a championship victory

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USA TODAY Sports

Before Capitals' Barry Trotz, here are other coaches who didn't return after a championship victory

 Barry Trotz resigned as the coach of the Washington Capitals, the team announced Monday, less than a week after the team's Stanley Cup championship parade. 

In part of a statement via Trotz's agent, the departing coach said:

After careful consideration and consultation with my family, I am officially announcing my resignation as Head Coach of the Washington Capitals. When I came to Washington four years ago we had one goal in mind and that was to bring the Stanley Cup to the nation’s capital.

As shocking as the news may be to fans who are still celebrating the team’s first Stanley Cup championship, Trotz isn’t the first coach to not return to a team following a title.

He joins a handful of hockey coaches who have made similar moves for differing reasons, including:

— Scotty Bowman (1978-79 Montreal Canadiens)

— Bob Johnson (1990-91 Pittsburgh Penguins)

— Mike Keenan (1993-94 New York Rangers)

— Scotty Bowman (2001-02 Detroit Red Wings)

But this isn’t exclusive to hockey.

Multiple coaches in other sports have also called it quits after raising their respective trophies, and here are some of the notable ones.

Most recently, Zinedine Zidane caught everyone by surprise when he resigned as Real Madrid’s manager five days after leading the team to a third straight UEFA Champions League title.

After the Chicago Bulls’ 1998 NBA championship — also Michael Jordan’s final season in the Windy City — Phil Jackson resigned and took a year off before returning to coaching.

In 1990, Bill Parcells won a Super Bowl with the New York Giants and didn’t return, while Dick Vermeil did the same thing with the then-St. Louis Rams in 1999.

Jimmy Johnson led the Dallas Cowboys to back-to-back Super Bowl titles during the 1992-93 and 1993-94 seasons before parting ways with the team.

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In a stunner, Barry Trotz steps down two weeks after leading the Capitals to the Stanley Cup

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In a stunner, Barry Trotz steps down two weeks after leading the Capitals to the Stanley Cup

Less than two weeks after Barry Trotz helped deliver the first Stanley Cup in Caps’ history, the veteran head coach has chosen to resign in a decision that stunned the hockey world Monday afternoon.

Under the terms of the four-year contract Trotz signed in 2014, winning the Cup at any point during the duration of the deal triggered a two-year extension. But with coaches’ contracts having exploded in value in recent years, Trotz’s representatives sought to negotiate a new extension for a bigger salary and a longer term.

The sides attempted to hammer out an agreement in recent days that would appease both the team and the coach but failed, leading to Trotz’s decision to step down.

Shortly after the team announced that Trotz would resign, the coach released the following statement via his agent, Gil Scott:

"After careful consideration and consultation with my family, I am officially announcing my resignation as Head Coach of the Washington Capitals. When I came to Washington four years ago we had one goal in mind and that was to bring the Stanley Cup to the nation’s capital.

“We had an incredible run this season culminating with our players and staff achieving our goal and sharing the excitement with our fans.  I would like to thank Mr. Leonsis, Dick Patrick and Brian MacLellan for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this great organization.  I would also like to thank our players and staff who worked tirelessly every day to achieve our success.”

The Caps released a statement of their own, expressing disappointment in Trotz’s decision to walk away while also thanking him for his contributions.

“Barry Trotz informed the organization today of his decision to resign as head coach of the Washington Capitals,” the statement read. “We are obviously disappointed by Barry’s decision, but would like to thank Barry for all his efforts the past four years and for helping bring the Stanley Cup to Washington. Barry is a man of high character and integrity and we are grateful for his leadership and for all that he has done for our franchise.”

Monday’s announcement was as much of a surprise as the Caps’ unexpected breakthrough in the playoffs, particularly given Trotz’s recent public comments. As recently as last week, in fact, he indicated that he was interested in staying.

The team’s plans to fill its suddenly vacant head coaching position were not immediately known, though its possible associate head coach Todd Reirden will receive serious consideration.

Trotz’s next move is also unclear. He’s technically under contract because of the two-year extension triggered earlier this month, but the Caps will grant permission to other teams to talk to him as though he’s a free agent.

GM Brian MacLellan will speak to reporters at 6 p.m. at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.

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