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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona working overtime to fix receiving woes

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Larry Hogan / Arizona Daily Wildcat UA beats OSU 59-38 on Sept. 8, 2012.

In the opening moments of the fourth quarter against Oregon on Saturday, the way things were going, Arizona didn’t have much of a chance of coming back from a 28-0 deficit.

Quarterback Matt Scott was in the midst of his worst game of the season. But on the first play of the fourth quarter things almost turned around.

Scott had sophomore receiver Tyler Slavin one-on-one with Oregon defensive back Troy Hill and threw a perfect ball toward the front of the left side of the end zone, away from the defender.

All Slavin had to do was secure the ball, and the Wildcats would have scored their first points of the game.

Instead, the ball hit his hands and went to the ground. Arizona ended up losing 49-0.

Receivers drop balls all the time, but in recent weeks (and in particular against the Ducks) it has been a reoccurring, and costly, problem.

“We have to clean it up,” receivers coach Tony Dews said. “None of us are happy with the way everything went. We did not play particularly well as a group, in my opinion. There’s certainly a lot of room to grow and a lot of room to make corrections.”

On numerous occasions Scott did not appear to be on the same page as the receivers, which might have been a contributor to the Wildcats’ 0-for-6 tally in the red zone.

It wasn’t a factor on every one of his three interceptions or 22 incompletions, but it certainly didn’t help Arizona’s chances of winning the game.

“In a hostile place like that — we had some miscommunications on some routes,” Scott said. “I thought some guys were going deep and they pulled up and I thought guys were going to pull up and they went deep. We just have to get that fixed this week, and we will.”

“We just all weren’t on the same page,” receiver Richard Morrison added. “We just were unfocused and weren’t doing what we were taught to do.

“It didn’t have anything to do with the environment [at Autzen Stadium], it was all us.”

So, Morrison and other receivers have taken to the JUGS machine, which fires footballs at a rapid rate from different angles to help wideouts practice catching the ball, to fix the problem.

Morrison in particular struggled in the first two weeks with drops, and he said the main issue with himself and the rest of the receiving corps is a lack of concentration.

Against Toledo in week one, Scott and the offense were moving the ball up the field on the first drive of the game before Morrison dropped a potential touchdown, forcing the UA to settle for a field goal.

Then, against Oklahoma State in week two, Morrison had another drop in the first half. As he dove for a potential touchdown grab, the ball slipped through his hands.

Still, despite the drops, Scott continued to show confidence in the junior receiver as he was targeted 20 times in the first two weeks and is third on the team with 18 receptions for 141 yards and a team-best two touchdowns.

Morrison feels like the drops do stick with him, but he’s forcing himself to catch 50 balls for every catch he missed in a game using a JUGS machine to overcome the problem.

“It sticks in the back of my mind. It’s failure to me, a missed drop,” Morrison said. “If you wanna be an All-Pac-12 player you can’t drop balls, thats how I look at it. I hate to miss balls, so if I miss them I really harp on myself about it.”

During games, when it comes to coaching a player that just dropped a potential touchdown, Dews tries to avoid getting too angry at receivers because they already know they’ve made a mistake.

“Last thing they need is you to remind them,” Dews said. “So it comes back to, ‘ok, it’s over. You gotta move on to the next play.’”

Even so, the coaching staff keeps track of drops in each game and Dews isn’t particularly happy with the team’s number this season.

“One drop is too many,” Dews said. “You don’t get so many opportunities in games so we need to take advantage of the opportunities we have.”

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