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Arizona vs. Washington State: Three things we learned in the Wildcats’ blowout loss to the Cougars

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Arizona might have to beat ASU to avoid a 2-10 season

NCAA Football: Arizona at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Wildcats dropped their sixth game in a row on Saturday afternoon in embarrassing fashion, losing 69-7 to Washington State in Pullman.

The Wildcats now sit with a 2-7 overall record and an 0-6 Pac-12 record.

Here’s what we learned from the game:

A three-man rush against Luke Falk isn’t effective

From the get-go, Arizona’s plan to slow down Luke Falk and WSU’s Air Raid was to rush three and drop as many players into coverage as possible.

It didn’t work.

Falk completed 32 of his 35 passing attempts for 311 yards and four touchdowns. He became the first quarterback this season to complete over 90 percent of his passes (with a minimum of 20 passes thrown).

Meanwhile, Tyler Hilinski, who replaced Falk after the game got out of hand, completed 15 of his 17 pass attempts for 163 yards and two touchdowns.

The Wildcats were going to have a difficult time stopping WSU no matter what their schemes were, but rushing three — and therefore getting zero pressure on Falk and Hilinski — certainly didn’t appear to be the right call.

Arizona didn’t record a single quarterback hit or hurry against the Cougars’ quarterbacks.

It doesn’t matter who Arizona’s QB is

Arizona’s offense is horrible, to say the least.

The Wildcats have scored 31 points combined in their last three games, and only twice this season have they cracked the 30-point mark, and that was against Hawaii and Grambling State.

Against Washington State, Arizona’s three quarterbacks — Brandon Dawkins, Anu Solomon, and Khalil Tate — struggled, combining to go 11 for 23 with 128 passing yards, 48 rushing yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions.

There’s been constant talk about which quarterback Rich Rodriguez should hand the reigns of the offense to, but frankly it doesn’t matter — none of the quarterbacks are in a position to succeed.

The offensive line has done a poor job of pass-protecting and, of course, Arizona’s running back situation is dire, as it’s being forced to use converted wide receiver Samajie Grant as the starting running back.

Just taking those two things into account, it already puts Arizona’s quarterbacks behind the 8-ball to running an effective offense, and they haven’t been able to overcome it.

Brandon Dawkins has struggled against Pac-12 opponents, completing just 51 percent of his passes on just 6.75 yards per attempt. He also has thrown more interceptions (5) than touchdowns (4) against Pac-12 foes. And of the eight rushing touchdowns he’s scored this year, only three have come in Pac-12 play.

Part of his struggles — perhaps a large part — are because of the injuries (rib injury, concussion) that he’s suffered from, but when he’s been on the field lately, he’s simply been ineffective.

In his last two games, he’s just 6 for 19 through the air for 112 yards, plus one touchdown, and two interceptions. His rushing numbers have tailed off too.

The problem is, Anu Solomon, returning from an injury himself, hasn’t been much better. Solomon is 9 for 16 for 122 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions since coming back from a knee injury, plus has -32 rushing yards, being unable to provide any sort of running threat.

And Tate, a 17-year-old true freshman, just isn’t ready to play at a high level (though at this point, letting him play through the growing pains might be the way to go).

Despite the quarterbacks’ individual woes, I don’t pin the offense’s ineptitude entirely on them. Again, it’s hard to expect any of the three to have any type of sustainable success with this offensive line and running back situation. They’re not getting any help.

Washington State had five sacks against Arizona, and limited the Wildcats to 3.6 yards per carry if you take away Grant’s 50-yard run.

Arizona’s offensive issues simply aren’t fixable, no matter which quarterback is sent out there.

It’s beat ASU or bust

Picking up its seventh loss, there’s no way for Arizona to make a bowl game in 2016.

It’s been a dismal season, but one thing can at least make it somewhat more palatable — a victory over ASU at Arizona Stadium on Nov. 25.

For more than one reason, too.

Sure, winning the Territorial Cup is always sweet, but it’s also possible the Wildcats will need to win that game to avoid going winless in Pac-12 play, seeing that their next two games are versus a ranked Colorado team and at Oregon State (Arizona is winless on the road).

In other words, ASU likely represents the most beatable opponent remaining on the schedule. Lose that game and we might be talking about a 2-10 season with an 0-9 Pac-12 record, which would be Arizona’s worst season since 2003.

Win that game and it’s “hey, it was still an awful season, but at least we get to house the Territorial Cup and have bragging rights over ASU fans for a year.”


You can follow this author on Twitter at @RKelapire