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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Line picking up last season’s slackLine picking up last season’s slack

    Center Blake Kerley (50) bridges the gap for UA wide receiver Terrell Turner in Arizonas 45-27 loss against California in Berkeley, Calif., on Saturday. Kerley and the rest of the offensive line are still acclimating to a pass-heavy offense but are on pace to have 10 fewer sacks than last season.
    Center Blake Kerley (50) bridges the gap for UA wide receiver Terrell Turner in Arizona’s 45-27 loss against California in Berkeley, Calif., on Saturday. Kerley and the rest of the offensive line are still acclimating to a pass-heavy offense but are on pace to have 10 fewer sacks than last season.

    Football is a simple game. More often than not, the team that takes control in the trenches is usually the team that puts itself in a better position to win.

    The offensive line may be the most underappreciated unit on the Arizona football squad, but its performance is the determining factor in whether the Wildcats are able to score a majority of their points.

    So far this season, the offensive line has proven it has the ability to anchor the trenches, providing quarterback Willie Tuitama ample time in a pass-heavy offense, even if Arizona is 1-3.

    “”We gave up a couple sacks in the (California) game, but I feel the group is coming along a lot, and they are getting better every week and starting to gel,”” said offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes. “”Pass protection has been very good overall. It is a young group, but they are doing a good job up front.””

    The line has allowed only seven sacks this season, which puts it on pace for 21 on the season – a significantly better total than the 31 allowed last year. The line allowed three sacks last weekend at Cal.

    Still, that the Wildcats have struggled with moving the ball on the ground hasn’t gone unnoticed, as Arizona is only averaging 71.5 yards rushing per game.

    “”We have two jobs and that is to protect the quarterback and open up holes for the running backs,”” said center Blake Kerley. “”I wouldn’t even say that we have been struggling (opening up holes for the run game). We have gotten down in games, and when you are behind in games you have to throw the ball more to make up points more quickly.””

    UA head coach Mike Stoops said that his team’s offensive philosophy is to primarily throw the ball, but also said the Wildcats won’t turn their backs on the run game.

    The squad has had a tendency to be down early in games – it has been outscored 42-20 in the first quarter – forcing the Wildcats to throw the ball frequently to try and fire back into
    the game.

    Arizona lines up in the shotgun formation on a regular basis, using the delayed draw play as one of their commonly used running calls. The line is forced to hold its blocks for a longer period of time, something guard Joe Longacre said can be difficult.

    “”They are always bringing blitzes, and you have to hold you blocks longer and let it all play out and it is pretty tough,”” he said. “”We just watch a lot of film, get teams’ tendencies, and get the job done.””

    And with a quarterback with a history of head injuries on his rǸsumǸ, Longacre said the line prides itself on keeping Tuitama’s jersey clean.

    “”Protecting Willie is something we all take great pride in,”” he said. “”So far we have done a pretty good job of doing that, and that is a great accomplishment.””

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