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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Ground game still finding its stride

Gordon Bates/ Arizona Daily Wildcat

UA Wildcats loss to OSU Beavers at Arizona Stadium on Saturday, Oct 9.
Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates/ Arizona Daily Wildcat UA Wildcats loss to OSU Beavers at Arizona Stadium on Saturday, Oct 9.

As the season nears the midway point, something that has been noticeably limited from Arizona’s playbook has been the number of rushes.

“”I understand where people would think that we’re not running the ball, well, because what we’re averaging, and what we’re doing in the game so far,”” said co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach Seth Littrell. “”We have to continually get better at the run game.””

But this weekend against Washington State might be the perfect time to fix that for the Wildcats.

The Cougars have given up an average 254 yards per game on the ground so far this season, a mark that Arizona has not yet eclipsed.

Last season, the Wildcats ran the ball 54 times against WSU, the most against any team on the 2009 schedule. But this season, the Wildcats are averaging 27 carries per game and had only 14 against Oregon State last weekend.

Senior running back Nic Grigsby said that a large part of the rushing game’s stumbling has been due to the offense’s lack of discipline.

“”We always get in situations; like every time this year we’ll have a great play and then next play it will be penalty so it backs us out of running room and we have to throw the ball,”” Grigsby said. “”We’ve been put in bad situations, so this game we’re going to come out and try to establish the run quick and get going.””

Littrell agreed that the number of penalties the Wildcats have been subjected to influenced the sluggish appearance of the running game.

“”That’s everybody. We’re still not all the way there,”” he said. “”We still have not done a complete game of playing with all 11 (members of the offense).””

While Nick Foles and the passing offense enjoy the top spot in the conference in passing offense — and the fifth spot overall in the NCAA — Nic Grigsby and the rest of the running back corps sit eighth, only above last week’s opponent, Oregon State, and this week’s opponent in Washington State.

“”A lot of people are a little bit more worried about that than I am,”” Littrell said. “”Again, you go out there and take what the defense is giving you.””

Littrell cited Arizona’s game against Oregon State as a game in which the running backs had a big influence, but not necessarily by carrying the ball.

“”We do need to get some different aspects of the run game better. There’s no doubt about it,”” Littrell said. “”But at the same time, I look at a lot of our plays that a lot of people don’t see as run plays.””

Foles threw to the running backs six times for 81 yards. From there, both Grigsby and Keola Antolin took the short pass and turned the tosses into touchdowns.

“”I think our running back position, tight end position and really our running back position had over 28-30 plays,”” Littrell said. “”They got their hands on the football, and we only had 65 plays. It’s distributing the ball the best way.””

Also in the Wildcats’ favor is the fact that H-back Taimi Tutogi is getting healthy, giving the running back trio more lanes and a better chance at turning short runs into big plays. Tutogi’s return would lead to bigger play sets, Littrell said.

In addition, receivers like Juron Criner are available to make big plays down the field and force defenses to make adjustments. And hopefully, Littrell said, it would open up lanes for Grigsby, Antolin and Greg Nwoko of which they can take advantage.

“”If they give us the run, trust me we’ll take it,”” Littrell said. “”We’re not going to go out there and put ourselves in bad situations just because we want to run the ball.””

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