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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


A look at the Wildcats’ woes

Taylor Hand

We’re six games into the 2011 season, and Arizona still doesn’t have a win against a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent. The Wildcats found themselves in a huge hole for the fifth straight week in a 37-27 loss to Oregon State on Saturday in Corvallis, Ore., and for the second time in as many weeks, their comeback effort fell just short.

But Saturday’s loss was different from the rest. After the NAU game, Arizona’s next four games were as brutal a stretch as anybody in America plays this season.

Against the Beavers, Arizona had a very realistic shot at its first win against an FBS team since late October 2010. Here’s a look at what has led to the Wildcats’ dismal 1-5 start:

Special teams

Except for kickoffs and most punts, Arizona’s special teams are one of the least reliable units in the country. They convert extra points 76 percent of the time while their opponents make 96 percent. They make 40 percent of field goals while their opponents are connecting on 87 percent.

When a team doesn’t have any sort of reliability from the kicker position, it puts a ton of pressure on the offense. Nick Foles and Co. know that unless they score a touchdown, there’s a very good chance they’re not putting points on the board.

Arizona also isn’t getting any big plays from its special teams — at least not any that go the Wildcats’ way. Jack Baucus’ muffed kickoff against Oregon State led to a Beaver field goal, one that could have ultimately decided the game.

Oregon State also blocked a punt and returned it for a score. Erase those two mistakes, and you erase 10 OSU points, and maybe we’re talking about Arizona’s first Pac-12 Conference win.

No discipline

It seems like every time Arizona gets something going, some kind of penalty or mental mistake comes up to bite them.

Safety Adam Hall picked up a 15-yard personal foul for bumping into an official, but fortunately for Arizona, that drive ended with a missed OSU field goal.

The Wildcat O-line is good for a few false starts a game, usually coming on first down. Even with an offense as good as Arizona’s, 1st-and-15 isn’t easy to overcome, especially on the road.

Dropped passes are also starting to become a problem. Receiver Dan Buckner dropped a sure touchdown on fourth down late in Saturday’s game that would have given the Wildcats a shot at winning. Missed opportunities burned the Wildcats against Oregon two weeks prior as well.

Arizona’s defense also loves to go for the big hit. But while it might work once or twice a game, it’s been leading to a huge number of missed tackles, which ultimately leads to big plays.

No D-line

Look at last year’s defense, one that was at least respectable, and look at this year’s. What changed? The defensive line. Other than Hall missing the first five games, the rest of the defense was the same set of characters.

To summarize how this year’s D-line has played, it can’t stuff the run and it can’t rush the quarterback. The line has accounted for only two sacks on the season and the D-line has only 8.5 tackles for loss.

Any average defense has at least some ability to do those two things.

Any average defense can at least do one. But Arizona’s defense? It can’t do either.

It doesn’t matter how good a defense’s linebackers are if the offense is getting blockers on them without being slowed down by the D-line.

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