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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Football’s $1 million question

    Ari Wasserman/Assistant Sports Editor
    Ari Wasserman/Assistant Sports Editor

    In last week’s press conference, Arizona head coach Mike Stoops said he would “”be a millionaire”” if he could figure out what the football team’s problem is.

    Well, he is a millionaire, but the answer remains to be seen.

    Though there may not be one underlying “”problem,”” the fact of the matter is the Wildcats are a capable team seemingly incapable of playing consistent football.

    During any given game, it seems it’s either the offense or defense that shows up ready to play. Rarely does the whole picture seem to come together, but when it does – like in the Washington State game – the team appears unstoppable.

    Though Arizona may have played one of its best games in Saturday’s loss to USC, the Wildcats still suffer from some fundamental issues.

    So here is the verdict – a unit-by-unit breakdown of Arizona, with each section given a particular grade. Heck, if I figure out what is wrong with the Wildcats, maybe I’ll be a millionaire.

    Offensive line
    It all starts up front with the offensive line, but so far this season – excluding the WSU game – nothing has happened for the Wildcats on the ground, as they average 76.9 yards rushing per game. Though they have provided adequate protection for quarterback Willie Tuitama, there is still much room for improvement. “”We have a lot of stuff to build on,”” said sophomore tackle Eben Britton. “”We need to make sure we get all of these little things corrected and make sure nobody is getting down on themselves.”” C+

    Tuitama – the face of the Arizona football team – has shown flashes of excellence throughout the season, but struggles with accuracy downfield and is sometimes quick to dump the ball off to the running back in the flats. He has had a history of getting smacked around quite a bit from the defense, but it may be good to hold the ball a second or two longer and take some shots downfield.

    “”(Tuitama needs to improve) his decision-making,”” Stoops said. “”Quarterbacks can always get more comfortable in seeing the field and understanding when we get an open receiver we’ve got to get him the football.”” B

    Wide receivers and tight ends
    Some of the best depth you will find on the Arizona squad is at wide receiver. Mike Thomas leads the Pacific 10 Conference in receptions per game (7.14) and can be an explosive contributor to the rushing attack. Tight end Rob Gronkowski has shown he is capable of making big plays – averaging 21.7 yards per reception – but could be utilized more. B+

    Defensive line
    Coming into the season, the defensive line was all about quickness and sacks. Well, the only player on the line that has excelled in sacks is Lionel Dotson, who has registered 4.5 so far this season. Louis Holmes hasn’t been what was expected, and the unit as a whole has struggled with pressuring the quarterback.

    “”Sacks (are) what I like to do, I like putting pressure on the quarterback,”” Dotson said. “”Getting to the quarterback from the inside isn’t an easy thing to do.”” C

    Coming into the season, the linebackers were expected to be the anchor of a solid Arizona defense. It turns out they are the anchor – Spencer Larsen and Ronnie Palmer are the team leaders in tackles with 66 and 45, respectively – but the solid defense part is questionable. B+

    Aside from star cornerback Antoine Cason, the secondary has really struggled this season. The Wildcats are allowing 239.7 yards through the air per game. Assignment mistakes have repeatedly come back to haunt them, especially in the USC game when Trojan quarterback Mark Sanchez threw a 25-yard touchdown strike to a wide-open Fred Davis to essentially ice the game. The Wildcats vastly need to improve their coverage. “”Defensively, we were in good position about 95 percent of the game,”” Stoops said. “”We got out of position a couple plays, and it really cost us.””

    Yeah, it cost them an upset over USC. D+

    Special teams
    Special teams have been the only thing that has been consistent throughout the year. Kicker Jason Bondzio has done an outstanding job filling in for former Wildcat Nick Folk, while freshman punter Keenyn Crier booted an 83-yard punt Saturday and was honored as the Pac-10 Special Teams Player of the Week. So kudos to the special teams for earning the only A. A+

    The Wildcats are far from a bad team. Each and every category broken down above has potential to shine. Each one has bright spots that could in turn make them successful. And for the most part, they have played good games at some point during the season. But there is the “”problem.”” Consistency has been Arizona’s biggest foe so far this season – not Brigham Young, New Mexico, California, Oregon State or USC. C

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