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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona defense throttled by Trojans in Los Angeles

Michelle A. Monroe
Michelle A. Monroe / Arizona Daily Wildcat The Arizona Wildcats lost to the Southern California Trojans 41-48, at the LA Colosieum.

LOS ANGELES — Excuses are no longer valid.

Arizona’s defensive unit would have been burned by Washington State or Colorado with the way it played Saturday afternoon.

USC isn’t Oregon, Stanford or Oklahoma State. Matt Barkley is no Andrew Luck. Robert Woods is no Justin Blackmon.

But that didn’t matter to Arizona on Saturday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum where a good-not-great USC team scored 48 points on 582 yards, both season highs, in the 48-41 victory against the Wildcats.

“We just couldn’t get off the field on third down. We gave up big plays too,” said frustrated defensive coordinator Tim Kish. “We’re still not in a position where we made any negative plays. That’s not going to bode well over the course of a game.”

The Wildcats (1-4, 0-3 Pac-12) couldn’t force even one USC punt. The Trojans scored on every drive but three, and two of those drives came in the final minutes with the game out of reach. It’s time to face the facts: Arizona’s defense is flat-out bad — one of the worst in the NCAA.

“Defense continues to be our issue,” said head coach Mike Stoops. “Our inability to stop them, just periodically — not consistently — just periodically, would give us a chance. We lack playmakers. Right now we are just young and inexperienced up front with our defensive line and linebackers.”

The numbers don’t lie.

In its past four games, Arizona’s given up 564.8 yards per game. If stretched over five games, that would make them the worst defensive team in the NCAA.

Consider where the Wildcats rank defensively compared to the rest of the country:

• 115th in total defense giving up 503.6 yards per game
• 111th in rush defense giving up 209.6 yards per game
• 110th in pass defense giving up 294.0 yards per game
• 112th in scoring defense giving up 37.6 points per game
• 116th in pass efficiency defense giving up a 73.97 completion percentage
• 116th in turnovers gained, forcing only three turnovers
• 115th in sacks with only five on the season.

There are only 120 FBS schools. Regardless of the opponent, injuries, youth and inexperience, Arizona is statistically one of the country’s worst defensive teams and the Trojans exposed that Saturday afternoon.

USC quarterback Matt Barkley broke the school record for single-game passing yards, becoming the second player in as many games to break a school record against the Wildcats after Oregon running back LaMichael James rushed for a program-best 288 yards.

Barkley completed 32-of-39 passes for 468 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. He was the benefactor of zero pass rush and an inept Arizona secondary that made the junior quarterback look like the Heisman frontrunner.

“It’s very frustrating and disappointing,” said senior safety Robert Golden. “I just feel like the secondary didn’t step up to the challenge. Players just got to go make plays. We have great coaches that are teaching us the best they can. They’re giving us everything we need to know as far as scouting reports, details and everything.”

The Wildcats knew sophomore wide receiver Robert Woods was the focal point of the USC offense and on the second play from scrimmage, he took a screen pass 82 yards to the house. Woods knifed through the Arizona defense and fell five yards short of breaking the school-record for receiving yards in a game, finishing with 14 catches for 255 yards or 18.2 yards per catch.

“He tore our zone up, man,” said cornerback Shaquille Richardson, who picked off Barkley in the third quarter but was burned consistently.

That’s been the theme of Arizona’s season so far. The Wildcats haven’t been able to stop any of their opponents, and they once again failed to come out with any fire as USC led 17-0 at the end of the first quarter. Arizona has now been outscored 55-3 in its last four first quarters.

“The sand is running out of the hourglass and then also you don’t have as many possessions left,” said running backs coach Garret Chachere. “We have to start from the beginning and get going.”

Arizona tried Jowyn Ward at defensive tackle and freshman Hank Hobson at linebacker, but the same sorry Wildcats defense showed up. Safety Adam Hall and linebacker Jake Fischer should help considerably when they return — possibly next week at Oregon State — but it remains to be seen how they’ll react from the ACL injuries. The Wildcats defense needs help, and neither Tedy Bruschi nor Antoine Cason are going to come walking through the door.

“We’re going to re-evaluate where everyone’s at,” Kish said. “We’ve got what we got. We’ve got to dig deep and reach down and pull it out of ourselves because there’s no free agency in this market.”

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