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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Arizona’s defense just not cutting it after two blowout losses

Rebecca Noble

UCLA running back Paul Perkins (24) evades a tackle by Arizona during the Wildcat’s loss on Saturday, Sept. 26. at Arizona Stadium.

There’s something to be said about your defense when you allow 1,067 yards in two games. Arizona has managed to do just that, allowing 570 yards against then-No. 18 Stanford and 497 yards against then-No. 9 UCLA.

Sure, both opponents were ranked in the top-20 and both have clicked on the offensive end. But overall, the 3-3-5 defense is struggling against the Pac-12 Conference as Arizona now sits 0-2 in conference play.

“I’m going to evaluate my staff, myself, my players,” Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez said after his team’s loss against Stanford. “It’s about time for us to regroup in a hurry.”

It’s tough when you lose two games straight but it’s worse when you get blown out in both.

It starts with inexperience, which is understandable. Do-everything-captain and linebacker Scooby Wright III is injured and out for several weeks. His backup, Haden Gregory, has also sustained an injury and is out. Thus, Rodriguez and the defense have had to make numerous adjustments.

On the most recent depth chart, Derrick Turituri was breplaced by redshirt sophomore RJ Morgan. Redshirt freshman Tre Tyler has replaced Wright and Gregory.

The Wildcats still have a number of experienced players on the field. Defensive end Reggie Gilbert, tackle Luca Bruno, linebacker Will Parks and free safety Jamar Allah are all seniors. Added to that list are multiple juniors in nose tackle Sani Fuimaono, linebacker Jake Matthews, linebacker Tellas Jones and cornerback DaVonte’ Neal.

So why is the defense making Pop Warner football mistakes, including missed tackles and poor reads?

It starts with the 3-3-5 defense. Without its captain at the reigns, it’s broken. This is the exact reason why Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey was able to run for 156 yards and Barry Sanders was able to break free for a 65-yard score on the ground.

At the same time, Arizona’s secondary has looked lost, giving up huge gains on the opponents receiving end.

If the Wildcats want to end the season on a positive note, the defense simply can’t allow that to happen.

Let’s take a look at some statistics: The Wildcats rank 106th nationally in scoring defense, from which they surrendered more than 35 points per game. In terms of passing and rushing defense, they rank 103rd by allowing 260.6 yards per game and 97th by giving up 192.6 yards per game, respectively.

Oregon State will head to Tucson to face a frail Arizona football team Saturday. The Beavers have won the past six meet-ins in Tucson, dating back to 2000.

Which team will come out to face the Beavers on Saturday? Will it be the dynamic offense that won the first three games of the season, or the battered and vulnerable defense that we have seen the first two Pac-12 showdowns.

Follow Matt Wall on Twitter.

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