The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

83° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Stoops finds few answers on defense

Will Ferguson
Will Ferguson / Arizona Daily Wildcat The Oregon Ducks beat the Arizona Wildcats 56-31 during a Saturday, Sept. 24 match at the UA football stadium in Tucson, Arizona.

Mike Stoops is out of answers.

Arizona’s head coach held a post-game press conference full of “I don’t know” on Saturday as his Wildcat defense was beaten down on the ground for the third consecutive week.

The Ducks ran for a season-high 415 yards on 47 carries behind LaMichael James’ school-record 288 rushing yards en route to a 56-31 victory in Tucson.

Over the course of the last three games, the Wildcats have given up 854 rushing yards for 284.7 opponent rushing yards per game and 1,677 total yards for 559.0 total yards per game. For the season, they rank 114th out of 120 schools in rushing defense, yielding 233.5 yards per game and 11 rushing touchdowns.

“Defensively, we’re just not playing anywhere close to good enough to win against a good football team,” Stoops said. “We can’t commit any more guys to the line of scrimmage and stop the run. I don’t know what else to say.”

Arizona put eight, sometimes nine players in the box on Saturday at Arizona Stadium, but Oregon still shredded the Wildcats to pieces just like Stanford and Oklahoma State did the two weeks prior.

“We’ve just got to do what we’re told and find a way to stop (the run) because Coach is putting us in the perfect position,” said senior cornerback Trevin Wade. “He said go out there and make a play. I tell Coach Mike it’s OK because you can’t go out there. He’s putting us in the perfect position.”

Three different Ducks finished with two rushing touchdowns each — James, quarterback Darron Thomas, and running back Kenjon Barner — as they looked faster, stronger and more experienced than the Arizona defense.

The Wildcats gave up 8.8 yards per carry on Saturday, a product of missed tackles, blown assignments and the youth and inexperience that has come from not having Jake Fischer and safety Adam Hall on the field.

“We’re young and inexperienced up front. We missed a bunch of tackles. We’re playing a young middle linebacker that really gets overwhelmed sometimes and that’s hard for a kid today,” Stoops said of freshman linebacker Rob Hankins. “We’re kind of searching our way defensively to give ourselves a chance to win.”

The run-defense downfall began against Oklahoma State when the Wildcats gave up 197 yards on the ground with sophomore Joseph Randle rushing for 121 yards and two scores.

Then there was Stanford.

Cardinal running back Stepfan Taylor ran for a career-high 153 yards on 22 carries last week — more yards than he gained in his first two games combined — as Stanford rushed for 242 yards as a whole on Arizona.

With Randle and Taylor running right through Arizona’s defense the way they did, it was no surprise that James, a Heisman frontrunner, had a career day.

James alone rushed for more yards than the Wildcats offense has rushed for all season long, as Arizona’s ran for only 249 yards. The UA front seven hasn’t been able to limit any of its opponents on the ground, and until it does, the Wildcats are in trouble.

“I’m just disappointed,” said senior linebacker Paul Vassallo. “It’s 500 yards, 500 yards, 600 yards or whatever it may be. We know we have to pick that up on defense. We can’t expect to win every game 60 to 55. That’s not realistic. We have to clean it up on defense.”

Oregon’s speed and high-paced offense proved too much for Arizona. The Ducks scored seven of its eight touchdowns in less than three minutes, and the Wildcats couldn’t keep up.

Arizona’s defense — namely the run defense — has proven to be one of the Pac-12’s worst. The Wildcats still say their goal is to win the Pac-12 South, but if they can’t stop anybody defensively, they might have to adjust their aspirations.

“You can’t drop balls, you can’t not stop the run, you can’t beat anyone like that,” Stoops said. “That’s not good football. That’s not sound, and that’s our job to make it better.

“You’ve got to play good to win any game. It doesn’t matter if it’s NAU, if it’s Washington. We can’t win any games unless we get better as a team. That’s the reality.”

More to Discover
Activate Search