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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Once more offense fails fab defense

    Oregon States Yvenson Bernard is up-ended by Arizona safety Dominic Patrick (8), as defensive tackle Yaniv Barnett (96) tries to catch up. Bernard had 82 yards at the half, but finished with just 107 yards on 26 carries.
    Oregon State’s Yvenson Bernard is up-ended by Arizona safety Dominic Patrick (8), as defensive tackle Yaniv Barnett (96) tries to catch up. Bernard had 82 yards at the half, but finished with just 107 yards on 26 carries.

    With just over six minutes to play in the first half, linebacker Dane

    Krogstad picked off Oregon State quarterback Matt Moore at the Beaver 42 and bolted 29 yards down the sideline to set the Arizona offense up at the 13-yard line.

    Eight plays later, the Wildcats had nothing to show for it.

    “”Obviously the offense is not caught up to our defense in this program,”” UA head coach Mike Stoops said, “”and that’s probably because we’re a lot younger, and some of our young talent has yet to develop the way it’s going to.””

    It was the theme of the night: the Wildcat defense making big plays and suppressing the OSU offense and the Arizona offense failing to capitalize.

    Two plays into the fourth quarter, it happened again, this time when linebacker Spencer Larsen scooped up Beaver back Clinton Polk’s fumble and returned it to the OSU 41. After a quick three-and-out, Arizona kicking specialist Nick Folk was out for one of his six punts of the game.

    On Saturday night, it was simple. Once again, the defense stepped up. And once again, the offense did not.

    “”We tell each other that it’s on us defense,”” cornerback Antoine Cason said, “”but when (the offense doesn’t) put points up – it’s not easy being on a losing team for (three years), but we have to keep at it.

    “”This group of guys that we play with, we’re not losers, and we work real hard,”” he added later, “”but sometimes we just falter at times.””

    In a conference where the top eight teams combined average more than 28 points per game and nearly 390 yards of total offense, extra pressure falls on the shoulders of the Arizona defense to keep the Wildcats in games – even if they won’t admit it themselves.

    Added safety Dominic Patrick: “”We take it as we should be able to pitch shutouts. If we know our offense isn’t going to put up 50 points, we should take it as a defense to hold them to less points.

    “”We know what our offense is capable of, so as a defense, we’ve got to be able to step it up a little bit and prevent them from having to make so many big plays.””

    Realistically, a Pacific 10 Conference defense shouldn’t be forced to pitch a shutout every game in order to give their football team a chance to win. But no matter how bad it’s gotten this season, the defense has shied away from pointing a finger at their offensive counterparts.

    “”On offense, we have to put points up on the board, but we can’t blame anybody out there because we’re a team,”” Cason said, “”and we win as a team, and we lose as a team.””

    In the rare moments when the offense did manage to get things going, it was running back Chris Henry who seemed to be the spark plug.

    The oft-criticized back didn’t even get a handoff until the second quarter, but it was when he was taking screens and dump-offs from quarterback Kris Heavner that Henry was at his most effective, making something out of nothing.

    With time running out in the first half, Heavner hit Henry on a screen, and the back cut and twisted his way 29 yards down to the Beaver 9-yard line, setting up first-and-goal, and eventually leading to Arizona’s only offensive points of the night, a 30-yard field goal from Folk.

    Then, with time winding down in the fourth quarter, it was Henry who took a pass over the middle and cut it toward the sideline, rattling off 19 yards in his wake and giving Arizona a chance to tie the game with first-and-10 from OSU’s 28 before Heavner was sacked the next play, and a last-gasp Hail Mary fell short.

    But, curiously, when it mattered the most – on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line following that Krogstad interception in the second quarter – co-offensive coordinators Mike Canales and Dana Dimel elected to throw.

    “”They played a nice defensive scheme,”” Canales said of the Beaver defense. “”I think (the pass) is a great call, the right thing to do I think, and they just played it extremely well.

    “”We didn’t get the look we were looking for…and it’s a tough situation when that happens.””

    Heavner’s throw just missed tight end Brad Wood on the play, leaving OSU up 14-0 at that point, and once again putting pressure on the defense to make a stop.

    But even still, after the game, the defense refused to parry the blame onto the offense.

    “”It’s a team thing,”” Patrick said. “”If we can hold (OSU) to less points and get our offense in a better situation sometimes – I mean not…put our offense’s back to the wall and make them have to score – we’d probably be better off.””

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