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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Has Mike Canales really left?

    PROVO, Utah – When the Arizona football team brought new offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes over from Texas Tech, this wasn’t what it had in mind.

    Seven points. One passing touchdown. And the team didn’t even score until the 60th minute of the game.

    Perhaps the team from the ever-so-strong Pacific 10 Conference overlooked a team from what’s considered a much weaker Mountain West Conference.

    Or perhaps Mike Stoops was right last week when he said he thought it would take a while for the new offense to work out some kinks, adding, “”I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of mistakes.””

    If that’s the case, then the Wildcats just suffered the tough luck of playing their season-opening game against the underrated powerhouse Brigham Young.

    Whatever happened, Arizona’s hyped new offense hardly looked different than it did the last three seasons with former offensive coordinator Mike Canales leading the way.

    “”We all have great expectations, but it takes time,”” Stoops said. “”This system is foolproof, believe me. It’s a good system. Our kids identify with it. We just have to clean up some things. We’ll be fine.””

    In no way at LaVell Edwards Stadium did it ever look like Arizona stood a chance against a stifling Cougar defense.

    BYU looked like they were in midseason form. Arizona on the other hand, looked like they were still in spring ball.

    If there were any indications of rust on the offensive side of the ball, it showed throughout the entire first half, when Arizona could only muster up one first down and accumulated only 41 total yards. By that point, BYU already had a 13-0 lead and 202 total yards, as Cougar backup running back Harvey Unga had 71 more yards than the entire Wildcat offense.

    The Arizona defense also got tired early on, with BYU controlling possession for more than 17 of the first 30 minutes. In the third quarter, Arizona was on offense for only 2:37, going three-and-out twice.

    “”I thought the defense was on the field way too much,”” Stoops said. “”We kind of had our backs to the wall.””

    Even though it didn’t allow any points in the third quarter, the defensive unit missed key tackles, including one by linebacker Ronnie Palmer, who thought Unga was down after a short pass. Unga’s knees never hit the ground and turned the play into a 48-yard gain.

    “”Look at what happened to Ronnie,”” said fellow linebacker Spencer Larsen. “”He thought the guy was down, and (Unga) just kept running. That’s just a tough break.””

    There was also a bit of conservative playcalling late in the game. On third-and-10 from Arizona’s own 37-yard line with 6:04 left to play, down 13-0, Dykes opted for a rush, only to see Xavier Smith get stuffed three yards later.

    “”It didn’t look like there was a ton of running space,”” Stoops said. “”We tried to run the ball, but it was still a challenge getting some yards rushing.””

    Cougar quarterback Max Hall came out of the gates a bit nervous, fumbling away the first drive, but on his ensuing drive he threw away any sense of doubt that he was the right replacement for John Beck at quarterback when he connected with Unga for a 27-yard touchdown.

    From there, it was all uphill for the Wildcats.

    “”For the first game, we expected a lot,”” said running back Chris Jennings. “”We had high expectations, but we just came short.””

    Arizona can take solace in the fact that in BYU’s first game with a former Texas Tech offensive coordinator, Robert Anae, who coached with Dykes, the Cougars were pounded 20-3 by then-No. 22 Boston College in the opening game of 2005.

    In that game, BYU had a total of 338 yards, 330 of them passing, and like Arizona could not capitalize on big plays.

    Dykes effectively implemented his short-passing scheme in his first career game calling plays, but for the Wildcats, more playmaking was needed on offense.

    “”We’ll go to the drawing board, watch some tape and try to get better,”” said quarterback Willie Tuitama.

    The season isn’t over. Not even close. The Wildcats will have the chance to walk over its two remaining nonconference cupcakes, NAU and New Mexico, the next two weeks, and really test out what works for Tuitama going into week four at California.

    Some positives for Arizona in the game were the team did start to see the development of potential play-makers like Rob Gronkowski and Delashaun Dean, who led all Wildcat receivers with 84 yards.

    The offensive line also kept Tuitama healthy for the majority of the game. He had the wind knocked out of him late in the game, but was able to come back two snaps later.

    Punter Keenyn Crier also shined in his debut, as well as new kicker Jason Bondzio.

    “”It wasn’t all bad,”” Stoops said. “”I’m real proud of our kids. We’ve just got to learn from it. We’ll be better next week, I promise you that.””

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