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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Wildcats ignore formula for successful offense against Sun Devils

    Analysis

    Nov. 11: The Arizona football team fell behind 17-3 to then-No. 8 California at halftime. Junior running back Chris Henry got 50 yards and two touchdowns on 19 second-half carries, and the Wildcats prevailed 24-20 for their second straight Homecoming victory.

    Saturday: Arizona fell behind 28-14 against ASU midway through the third quarter.

    Henry got 14 yards on three second-half carries, and the Wildcats dropped their second straight Territorial Cup game.

    After quarterback Willie Tuitama left the game before halftime with his third suffered concussion of the season, Arizona refused to go to Henry, its recent offensive catalyst, despite putrid play from backup signal-caller Adam Austin.

    “”We tried,”” said Wildcat head coach Mike Stoops. “”But we had guys open. We just didn’t make the plays. Henry was open once, we had another guy. We just didn’t throw the ball.””

    The Sun Devils knocked Tuitama from the rivalry game for the second year in a row when linebacker Derron Ware and defensive end Kyle Caldwell came together and flattened him on a late hit halfway through the second quarter.

    Down 21-7, Arizona elected to come back by throwing with Austin, who hit wide receiver Mike Thomas for a 22-yard touchdown just before halftime but otherwise missed many wide-open teammates in the face of ASU blitzes.

    Austin finished 11-of-30 for 99 yards and two interceptions, as Stoops blamed his ineffectiveness on a lack of repetitions in practice and a sore right throwing shoulder.

    Austin acknowledged his shoulder has bothered him the last few weeks but refused to use it as an excuse for by far his worst passing performance of the season.

    “”I don’t think I did what they needed me to do,”” he said. “”I’m disappointed that I didn’t do better. I was off the mark today.””

    All the while, Henry went mostly ignored.

    He averaged 114 yards and two touchdowns in the Wildcats’ previous three games, all victories. He rushed four times for 27 yards to help set up Tuitama’s touchdown to wide receiver Syndric Steptoe with about 12 minutes left in the second quarter.

    Yet despite helping Tuitama find a passing rhythm in recent weeks by keeping defenders guessing, Henry didn’t get a significant second-half touch until he caught an 11-yard pass on the Wildcats’ final, meaningless drive with less than two minutes left in the game.

    ASU had all but eliminated Arizona’s hopes for a comeback by whittling 5:24 off the clock on its previous possession, as the Sun Devils dragged a Wildcat defense fatigued from too many three-and-outs.

    “”We got away from the things that we do well today,”” said linebacker Spencer Larsen. “”That’s the most frustrating part.””

    Austin, Thomas and Steptoe all acknowledged that using Henry more could have relieved defenders’ frequent pressure on Austin and produced more first downs.

    They added, however, that ASU had bottled up Henry in the first half (13 carries, 35 yards).

    Henry carried only six times for seven yards in the first half against the Golden Bears.

    “”We just didn’t have a good game plan,”” Stoops said. “”Execution just wasn’t what it needed to be.””

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