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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Negative yardage

Running back Nic Grigsby jumps to his feet after being knocked out of bounds by three Iowa defenders.
Running back Nic Grigsby jumps to his feet after being knocked out of bounds by three Iowa defenders.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — It’s not heaven, it’s Iowa — or perhaps it’s some sort of time portal, because the Arizona football team looked like the Wildcats of the early 21st century in a 27-17 loss to Iowa on Saturday.

A dismal running game, an embarrassing passing attack and a defense that, at times, made the Hawkeye players look like they were dripping with grease all combined to form a team equivalent to one of the Arizona (2-1) teams that missed the postseason for 10 consecutive years.

Various words have been used to describe Arizona’s ugliest game, thus far, of 2009 — sloppy, ugly, putrid — but perhaps the best description is a gigantic step backward.

“”(Iowa) played better than us in all facets,”” said defensive coordinator Mark Stoops. “”This was just very discouraging play from our guys.””

Stoops’ defense — highly touted as one of the best in the Pacific 10 Conference — was poor for the second week in a row. Iowa freshman running back Adam Robinson ran for 102 yards and a pair of touchdown jaunts. Prior to Saturday, Robinson had only 136 rushing yards and one score. In fact, he was in the middle of a running back controversy with fellow freshman back Brandon Wegher. After running wild against Arizona, however, Robinson likely won himself the starting role — much thanks to the Wildcats’ defense.

The same gift was not returned by the Hawkeyes to quarterback Matt Scott — who only became more enshrouded in controversy at the position.

Throughout his third career start, Scott was appalling. He completed only four of 14 passing with zero touchdowns and an interception on a pass that more closely resembled a lazy fly ball than anything that belonged on a football field.

His apparent desire to assert himself as a down-field passer failed as the sophomore’s efforts resulted in simply more overthrows, underthrows and where-the-hell-was-that-going throws.

It was obvious Scott was uncomfortable. When asked after the game if Iowa turned out to be what he expected, the first-year starter responded, “”They were big and physical. That’s what they told us, but I didn’t think they were that physical and strong.””

But the loss cannot be placed entirely on Scott’s shoulders. Wildcats’ running back Nic Grigsby — who averaged over 162 yards per game along with three total scores coming into Saturday — accumulated only 79 yards in Iowa City, with zero touchdowns.

For the second week in a row, the junior failed to put the cap on a long run and was dropped at the 1-yard line. Grigsby and his Arizona offense only moved backwards over the next three plays and were forced to settle for a field goal — just one of the many promising opportunities the Wildcats left unfulfilled during the loss.

“”There were plenty of big plays out there,”” said offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes. “”We’ve got to be able to make those plays.””

Through the first two games, Arizona punter Keenyn Crier punted three times, none of which came against Northern Arizona. Saturday, the junior was forced into action six times — averaging less than 40 yards per kick. Crier was also called upon to pick up two yards on a fake field goal call on fourth down. Failure of execution stung Arizona once more as Crier froze when he was threatened by an Iowa defender and wound up curled in a ball on the ground with no yards gained on the play.

With all of these miscues and issues taken into account, the most disturbing thing about Arizona’s loss Saturday is that it truly was a team loss. Athletes and coaches love to say they won’t use an easy excuse — a specific play or performance of a single player — to explain a loss, even when it isn’t true.

But in the Kinnick Stadium media room Saturday evening, there really weren’t any of those excuses. Not one single player could be individually blamed for the loss because they all struggled.

Even with two wins under their belt, the Wildcats have yet to look impressive. Saturday must serve as a wake-up call for Arizona to fix the multiple holes it has. From sloppy defense to the lack of execution on offense and special teams, things must improve or this team will not only look like an Arizona team from the early 2000s, it will finish the year like one too.

“”We struggled in a lot of areas (Saturday),”” Stoops said after the game. “”We weren’t good enough in any particular category — offense, defense or special teams.””

There’s no question the team has taken a step backward. Now its time for Stoops and his squad to take a few steps forward.

— Bobby Stover can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu

 

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