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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Rich Rodriguez’s offensive experiments continue to fail for Arizona football

Alex McIntyre
Arizona wide receiver Trey Griffey (5) misses a catch while playing against Stanford at Arizona Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 29. The Wildcats lost to the Cardinal 34-10.

Who would’ve thought discussing Arizona football would also entail the tragedy of the offense this season and the multiple failed experiments head coach Rich Rodriguez has attempted?

Offense was the whole reason athletic director Greg Byrne brought Rodriguez to coach the Wildcats, right? Rodriguez is one of those guys who will always be known as the pioneer of the spread offense, dating back to his days at Glenville State, but his trickery with using players at multiple positions is running out.

With the Wildcats now 2-6 on the season and winless in the Pac-12 Conference, Arizona is on the brink of not making a bowl game for the first time in the Rodriguez era. He has to just wake up every morning and ask himself, “Why me?” and “What wild and wacky adjustments can I make, so if it works, I’m a genius?”

The only positive takeaway from Saturday’s loss and the season overall is the microwave mentality for losses, as well as a caring mentality.

“We all really care and I got a lot of guys in that locker room that give a crap about what we’re doing and it’s really, really important,” Rodriguez said.

At this point, the only thing the offense should be worrying about is actually putting together a touchdown drive that looks like a vintage, two-minute drill offense that can score points.

But hey, those six three-and-outs against the Cardinal really showed that Arizona cares.

We could sit here and talk about the injuries, but when both quarterbacks who have been competing for the starting job since April can’t get any traction, it forces the offense into a stalemate. Brandon Dawkins completed four passes on 10 attempts for 99-yards and a touchdown to Trey Griffey, but after that scoring possession, the offense returned to struggling for a first down.

Once Dawkins struggled on the first possession of the second half, Rodriguez hit the Anu Solomon panic button and for the only quarterback with legitimate experience, he laid an egg. Solomon’s five plays in the third quarter consisted of three incomplete passes, a sack and a fumble. So the Solomon saving the day experiment completely went out the window, and so did Arizona’s chances of winning a game.

“It’s awkward when you come back from an injury,” offensive lineman Jacob Alsadek said. “It’s a little different when you’re out for that long. Most games I missed was two and it was weird coming back already.”

With Solomon active for the first time since the week-one BYU loss, it was a part of Rodriguez’s master plan to at least flirt with the idea that his third-year quarterback was ready for a comeback.

“Yeah, we were going to play both. That was my plan,” Rodriguez said. “Certainly he hadn’t played in a while so there was a little bit of rust in there some of it when gets in there—had a little bit of protection issues. … He’s a good player. Probably not 100 percent, but we’ll keep working.”

Rolling out right and throwing it away, and then coughing up the ball to Stanford deep in Wildcat territory proved to be the first failed test of the night.

Another one of Rodriguez’s guinea pigs on Saturday was senior Samajie Grant, who converted from a wide receiver back to his high school days in Compton, California as a running back.

Grant was an interesting move, because he had experience as a tail back with recent exposure as a wide receiver in his time at Arizona. He could’ve added a Reggie Bush dimension to the offense.

“He did okay,” Rodriguez said. “He’s still learning the position and he showed some explosiveness—I’m sure there’s some coachable points that we have to do with him to get him better, but we’ll keep him in there with our running back situation the way it is.”

Grant had a tendency to avoid running between the hashes and bounced everything outside, whether it was designed that way or not. Football is a game about going north and getting yards even if it’s a two-yard gain. Grant was trying to do too much and because of that, it cost the Wildcats yards like his 24-yard loss in the second quarter that took Arizona out of field-goal range.

“If I were to give myself a grade, it would be a “D-” because I know I’m better than what I did out there,” Grant said. “I just got to learn from it and watch film.”

Arizona has now used a third-string tight end as a quarterback, burned the redshirt off of freshman Khalil Tate, converted a wide receiver to running back and scored the least amount of points Saturday since its Halloween loss to Washington last season.

For an offense that was once known to carry Arizona, now just looks like something that was put together for a last minute middle school science project. But at least the players “give a crap” about the experiment.

Follow Justin Spears on Twitter.

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