Midseason report: Untimely injuries, big loses the bane of Rich Rodriguez’s Wildcats

Head+coach+Rich+Rodriguez%2C+center%2C+hollers+as+players+head+back+to+the+sidelines+during+Arizonas+overtime+35-28+loss+to+Washington+in+Arizona+Stadium+on+Saturday%2C+Sept.+24.

Rebecca Noble

Head coach Rich Rodriguez, center, hollers as players head back to the sidelines during Arizona’s overtime 35-28 loss to Washington in Arizona Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 24.

Mike Adams

An unsettled lineup that’s been riddled with injuries on both sides of the ball has been the bane of head coach Rich Rodriguez’s team.

Starting running back Nick Wilson has been dealing with an ankle injury that’s kept him limited for most of the season. On defense, senior linebacker Cody Ippolito tore his ACL early in the game against Utah, and junior linebacker DeAndre’ Miller has also been sidelined for three games this season.

Arizona and Oregon are the only schools in the Pac-12 Conference without a win over a conference foe this season. Both far removed from the two’s meet in the 2014 Pac-12 Championship Game, the Ducks were thrashed 70-21 at home last week by the No. 5 Washington Huskies while USC dominated Arizona at home, 48-14.

The upset bid was on when the Wildcats hosted then-No. 9 Washington in late September, as the Huskies had their worst game of the season. 

Arizona’s defense played well in the Pac-12 opener, disrupting quarterback Jake Browning by sacking him four times and forcing a red-zone interception. 

The Wildcats’ offense was able to capitalize on big plays and had the game tied at 28-28 going into overtime, where the Huskies prevailed after a quick score. That was the start of the Wildcat’s current four-game losing streak that sees them now sitting at 2-5 with the possibility of a bowl game almost out of reach.

The possession battle is a department that Arizona has been lacking as the defense has only been able to force one turnover since the Washington game. Arizona’s trio of starting quarterbacks Anu Solomon, Brandon Dawkins and Khalil Tate have accounted for seven interceptions. The then 17-year old freshman Tate was given the start for the USC game last weekend after impressing late in the 23-36 loss to Utah the week prior, and with Dawkins being sidelined with a concussion.

After scoring in the first quarter with a three-yard rush, Tate had two turnovers before being replaced by third-string tight end Matt Morin with the Trojans comfortably in the lead. 

USC quarterback Sam Darnold worked efficiently against the Arizona pass coverage, throwing for five touchdowns in the 48-14 win. 

With the bye week now in the rear-view mirror, Arizona has time to reassess what can be done to salvage the rest of the season. Stanford comes into Tucson next week on Oct. 29 for homecoming, and with the Cardinal sporting a winning record, challenges seem present in Arizona’s immediate future.


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