How bad is it? That's a question we're trying to ask ourselves. While the national numbers show that the Arizona Wildcats' defense has been flat-out poor, there's something to be said on 1) the opponents Arizona has played and 2) the improvements that have been evident. At the same time, you can't overlook poor execution and lots of penalties.
Mike Stoops said this week that he's really pleased with how far the offense has progressed. And it's true that the offense has been putting up wild numbers all season long -- it just needed the run game to open up opportunities, especially in the red zone.
1. The blocking game has ramped up
Kyle Quinn said it best on Monday, speaking on behalf of the offense.
"You can only control what you can. It was probably our best game yet."
Quinn said the offensive line has been impressive. He made sure to mention that the communication on the line has improved dramatically. The guys were also having fun, he said.
It's also helped that tight end Drew Robinson, who caught his first pass, and H-back Taimi Tutogi, have been paving the way for Keola Antolin and Ka'Deem Carey, who as a duo had their best game yet, accounting for 129 rush yards on 17 carries in addition to 74 receiving yards. Tutogi himself also accounted for four catches for 40 yards.
Four touchdowns came from players in the backfield.
Stoops said Robinson and Tutogi add "multiplicity." Yes, he acknowledged he might've made up the word, but he means this:
"Manipulation is just a part of the game."
The H-back/tight end sets give Arizona options in the flats and in the run game, and that led to points
2. Kicking game ugly
Stoops said Monday that he's not going to think twice about going for two-point conversions. Of course, that might change should the place kickers miss an extra point or two, as did Alex Zendejas on Saturday.
Asked if kick-off man John Bonano might get a look at taking over in field goals and extra points, Stoops said Zendejas still has his job -- with one side note.
"Might have an open try-out here before long," Stoops half-joked.
3. More on tackling
Oh, tackling. Such a fundamental part of football and yet such a problem for the Wildcats.
"A lot of it is position and a lot of it is desire," Stoops said.
Much of the Wildcats' problems has been in not reacting fast enough Stoops said. Once that happens, Arizona players have been out of position to make a good tackle -- even if they know where to be -- and that leads to big plays such as USC receiver Robert Woods' 82-yard screen pass for a touchdown.
Freshman defensive tackle Saneilia Fuimaono explained why exactly the Wildcats were both slow to react and then out of position.
"They executed very well," Fuimaono said. "They got us going one way and came back the other way."
Not good news. Time and time again defensive leaders like Robert Golden have said the coaches have put the players in the right positions to win. Now, we'll see if the players will study up to make natural and quick reactions to an Oregon State team that loves to pull out a diverse and options-aplenty offensive set.