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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona football: Secondary shows improvement, still a work in progress

Alex McIntyre
Arizona linebacker DeAndre’ Miller (32) dives to tackle Hawai’i quarterback Dru Brown (19) against Hawai’i at Arizona Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016. The Wildcats won the game 47-28.

Arizona football’s defense has played much better than last year, and one reason for improvement has been Arizona’s defensive backs.

The Tigers were gashing Arizona’s defense in the first half of the Wildcats’ game against Grambling State. After trailing 21-3, the Wildcats’ defense ramped up the intensity and pitched a shutout.

“We made a couple of adjustments and we put more players in better positions to make plays,” cornerback Dane Cruikshank said. “So hats off to our coaches.”

When Grambling State looked to be driving in the second half, cornerback Jace Whitaker recorded his first interception of the season to kill the Tigers’ momentum.

“We were in man coverage,” said Whitaker on how one defensive back’s disruption helped cause a turnover by another. “I took my man out of bounds and Jarvis McCall forced a high throw.”

The defensive backs come into every game knowing what their role is and how they can disrupt an offense.

“Three turnovers a game, we want to limit passing yards and we want to limit yards after the catch,” Whitaker said. “We are going to give up a catch here and there, but as long as we are on the catches, we will be all right.”

RELATED: QB emerges from battle, defensive puzzle left unanswered ahead of Washington. 

The defensive backs only recorded one turnover against Hawaii. The Wildcats limited Hawaii’s success for most of the night. They held Rainbow Warrior quarterbacks Dru Brown and Ikaika Woolsey to a combined 21-of-43 for 261 yards, just one touchdown and an interception. A good chunk of their passing yards occurred after Arizona had already opened up a 34-7 lead.

RELATED: Arizona football notches second win of season in convincing fashion.

Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles recorded the team’s only turnover this game and that was caused by a tipped pass from fellow defensive back Tristan Cooper on the play.

“He is a good player and he is going to be a really, really good player,” said Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez on the heads up play by Cooper.

With possible injuries to Cruikshank and Tellas Jones, Arizona is going to need the reserves to step up and make plays now. Washington is next up so they have no time to get their feet wet or the Huskies could dominate offensively. Arizona’s offense might utilize a lot of backups like Brandon Dawkins and J.J. Taylor on Saturday, so it will be up to both sides to help each other out.

Huskies quarterback Jake Browning is 53-of-74 for 744 yards with 12 touchdowns to only one interception. Washington does not seem to have a favorite receiver, so Arizona must focus on every weapon at Browning’s disposal on Saturday. Whether it is John Ross, Chico McClatcher or Darrell Daniels, Arizona has to play Washington’s receivers tough as Browning will find them.

Follow Ivan Leonard on Twitter.

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