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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona needs a fast start against Oregon State

Mike Christy
Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat The No. 9 Arizona Wildcats hosted the Oregon State Beavers at Arizona Stadium Saturday, Oct. 9, 2010, in Tucson, Ariz. Oregon State upset the home team 27-29.

240 minutes.

That’s how much game time has elapsed since Arizona last led an opponent. Four games, 33 days and not one lead. Since defeating NAU 41-10 on Sept. 3, the Wildcats have redefined the phrase “playing from behind.”

They’ve been outscored 55-3 in their last four first quarters, at various points trailing 21-0 to Oklahoma State, 10-0 to Stanford, 14-0 to Oregon and 17-0 to USC.

If Arizona hopes to snap its nine-game FBS losing streak, a fast start in Corvallis, Ore., against Oregon State this Saturday at 12:30 p.m. is a must.

“We haven’t started well, and I wish I had an explanation for it,” said head coach Mike Stoops. “We need to get off to better starts. This will be an important game heading into a bye week and gaining some momentum.”

Arizona’s first quarter defense has been atrocious, to put it lightly. Over the course of their last four first quarters the Wildcats have allowed an average of 13.75 points and 178 total yards.

They’ve given up a touchdown on the opponent’s first drive in three of the last four games — they forced a punt against Stanford. Overall, the Wildcats are allowing 503.6 yards per game, good for 115th in the NCAA.

“To be good you’ve got to play good defense and right now we’re not playing good defense,” Stoops said. ”That’s really the heart of a lot of our issues is our inability to get off the field consistently, or at all in the case of the other night, and it’s hard to win any games like that.”

But while the first-quarter defense has been nonexistent, the offense has been nearly as ineffective. The Wildcats are averaging a measly 0.75 points and 75 total yards in their last four first quarters.

In their first two possessions of each of the last four games the Wildcats have punted seven times, had four three and outs and thrown one interception. During those possessions they’ve gained only 113 yards on 44 plays, yielding an average of only 2.5 yards per play.

“It just makes it hard in general,” running backs coach Garret Chachere said of the slow starts. “There’s so much that we have to wait on to get going. The sand is running out of the hourglass and then also you don’t have as many possessions left. We have to start from the beginning and get going.”

The Wildcats won’t win any games with that combination of first-quarter offense and defense. But luckily for Arizona, that came against top-tier competition, which the winless Beavers (0-4) certainly are not.

Like Arizona, Oregon State is a slow-starting team, scoring only nine points in its four first quarters. So if the Wildcats hope to break out of their early-game slump, the Beavers seem to be the perfect opponent.

Quarterback Nick Foles should also have his way with a mediocre Beavers pass defense that’s given up 10 passing touchdowns through four games.

Arizona should also continue to improve on the ground against a rush defense that yields 149.5 rushing yards per game. As Ka’Deem Carey continues to develop and the young offensive line builds continuity, the Wildcats’ ground attack is getting stronger, and that should continue against the Beavers.

“The highlight of the game was that front line just coming together,” Carey said after the Wildcats rushed for 129 yards and two touchdowns against USC. “Seeing them come together, get a push, open up some holes, that was just a highlight. That just means there’s more where that came from.”

But for the Wildcats to get their first FBS win since Oct. 30, 2010, they need to come out with their hair on fire, while stopping the Beavers’ pass-happy offense. One week after Robert Woods grabbed 14 balls for 255 yards, Arizona will face two of the Pac-12’s top receivers in James Rodgers and Markus Wheaton, who ranks second in the conference in catches and fourth in receiving yards.

“They’re extremely quick on the outside with the two receivers Rodgers and Wheaton and the quarterback’s getting better every week,” said defensive coordinator Tim Kish. “They stretch the field. We’ve got to be prepared for all of it.”

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