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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Too many red zone mishaps for the Wildcats

Mike Christy
Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat The No. 15 Wildcats took on the UCLA Bruins in a Pacific 10 Conference college football game Saturday, Oct. 30, 2010, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. Arizona held off a late fourth-quarter push to beat the home team 29-21.

Arizona’s offensive attack is lethal, but deep strikes to receiver Juron Criner and long bursts from running back Keola Antolin mean nothing if the Wildcats don’t cross the goal line or split the uprights to close out drives.

“”We still have to do a better job inside the red zone,”” said co-offensive coordinator Seth Littrell after the UCLA win. “”I don’t know how many turnovers we had inside the red zone this year but it’s too many, and we’ve got to get a lot better in that area.””

Arizona committed two red-zone turnovers against UCLA last Saturday – a fumble by quarterback Matt Scott at the Bruins’ 14-yard line and an interception in the end zone on a fade from Scott to Criner.

“”I’m disappointed we didn’t score more points,”” said head coach Mike Stoops. “”Red zone efficiency wasn’t great.””

But the UCLA game was just a reminder of a problem that’s plagued Arizona throughout the course of the 2010 season.

While the Wildcats have done a nice job limiting turnovers with 12 overall – fourth in the conference – they’ve turned it over five times inside their opponents’ 20-yard line this season. Arizona also committed two turnovers just outside the red zone at the 21- and 24-yard lines.

“”That’s what you can’t do,”” quarterback coach Frank Scelfo said.. “”We’ve really been pretty good taking care of the football, but when you get an eight, 10, 12-play drive down the field and then you turn it over, that’s the mistakes you’ve got to stay away from.””

Two of Arizona’s turnovers also came on special teams. That means 50 percent of Arizona’s offensive turnovers came inside their opposition’s 20-yard-line.

The Wildcats’ offense becomes predictable inside the red zone, as their options are usually a fade to Criner or plunge by  Antolin or fellow running back Nic Grigsby. The non-existent receiving tight end position heavily contributes to the lack of options and Arizona’s 61.1 touchdown conversion percentage (22-for-36).

Scelfo said that playing in the red zone comes down to “”one-on-one matchups”” and aside from Criner, the Wildcats don’t exactly have endless options in that regard.

The minimal red zone targets have led to three endzone interceptions between Scott and quarterback Nick Foles. One came in the UCLA win and another in the thriller victory against Cal, so they didn’t prove too costly.

But Foles tossed an interception into the endzone against Oregon State in a loss that will haunt the Wildcats all season long. It’s costly mishaps like that keeping Arizona from an undefeated record.

“”We’ve got to maximize the chances that we get when we’re down there. We’ve got to take advantage of them,”” Scelfo said. “”We can’t just say ‘ah we’ll just take a shot and let a guy go get it.’ It’s got to be calculated when you do it.””

Arizona definitely can’t afford to let any scoring opportunities slip away this weekend at No. 13 Stanford on Saturday. The Wildcats may not even be able to settle for field goals against the Cardinal.

“”Going on the road and getting three points in (a red zone) situation against a really good team will hurt you,”” Stoops said. “”We just hot to convert more.””


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