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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona Jekyll and Hyde defense surprises against No. 9 Washington

Alex McIntyre
Arizona linebacker Micheal Barton (11) slams Washington tailback Lavon Coleman (22) at Arizona Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 24. The Wildcats lost to the Huskies 35-28 in overtime.

The Arizona defense is still a work in progress. For everything it gives you in effort, it gives you the same in frustration. This was on full display Saturday night at Arizona Stadium against the No. 9 Washington Huskies in Arizona’s Pac-12 Conference opener.

The Arizona defense was lost and confused at times, and it led to some big plays for the Huskies. But other times, the Arizona defense was in sync and came up with huge plays to give the Wildcats a chance in a 35-28 game it ultimately fell on the wrong side of.

“Our guys played hard, but we made a few mistakes that cost us in some key times against a really good team,” Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez said.

The defense Arizona played throughout the game was a bend-but-don’t-break type of performance. It limited star Washington running back Myles Gaskin to 88 yards rushing, but then allowed backup Lavon Coleman to rush for 181 yards.

Washington rushed for 352 yards on the night, most of those gains coming on huge gashes through the defense. The inability to hold Washington to three-and-outs was an issue that allowed the Huskies to sustain drives. That issue alone paid dividends for Washington as the game wore on.

“I think we had one three-and-out, and then four five-and-outs, so [Washington] did a good job of controlling the tempo,” Rodriguez said.

There were some bright spots, however, and if Saturday night was any indicator, those flashes may end up being the reason the Wildcats make it to a fifth consecutive bowl game.

One of those bright spots was the secondary’s play, mainly in how it adjusted to Washington wide receiver John Ross. He had Washington’s first two touchdowns, one by rushing and the other through the air.

Ross was a nuisance to the Arizona defense but was neutralized, notching only one catch in the game’s final two quarters, including the overtime period.

Arizona cornerback Dane Cruikshank adjusted his play and pressed receivers, which led to a crucial interception deep in Arizona territory late in the third quarter.

Cody Ippolito and Jack Banda combined for 3.5 sacks on the night, a mark that Ippolito attributed to the team’s conditioning.

“We condition more than anyone in the Pac-12 and we can keep up with anyone,” Ippolito said.

The Wildcats’ sink-or-swim pace may be frustrating, but they have gotten better in the last few weeks. This team is being hit by the injury bug once again and it will take every part of the defense to help keep in games the remainder of the season.

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