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Grading Arizona’s loss to Utah

That GPA is falling off a cliff this week

<span data-author="5158751">arizona-wildcats-defense-college-football-tackling-technique </span> Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

If you weren’t able to watch the Arizona Wildcats play on Friday night in Salt Lake City, well, lucky you.

Right from the start Arizona got blown out by the Utah Utes, falling 42-10 in the Pac-12 South battle.

The score doesn’t quite show just how bad Arizona looked, so let’s go over how bad everyone was (and maybe a positive...maybe?)

Quarterbacks: D+

Khalil Tate lasted two drives before re-aggravating his ankle injury, and Jamarye Joiner showed that he’s not ready.

Joiner even got roasted by the Twitter account formerly known as Dr. Saturday.

Although I’m willing to give Joiner a break on this particular play because look at what is happening to the center right in front of him. Oh lawd.

Then we saw Rhett Rodriguez take over for the last drive of the first half and he was....not terrible?

Rodriguez completed 20 of his 38 pass attempts and recorded his first collegiate passing touchdown. His 111.3 passer rating is right on par with where Tate has been for most of the games this year.

This was the fourth appearance by Rich Rodriguez’s son this year, so if he does indeed start against the UCLA Bruins next weekend, the redshirt option is off the table. But it seems to me that Rodriguez is the best option behind Tate as of right now. Of course we still haven’t really seen Kevin Doyle or K’Hari Lane yet, and maybe with Rodriguez at four games now we’ll see one of them instead?

Running backs: C-

There’s only so much these guys can do when the offensive line is getting absolutely dominated in the way it was in this game.

J.J. Taylor and Gary Brightwell combined for 80 yards on 20 carries. That was better than I was expecting even with that 19-yard run by Taylor thrown in there.

Anyways I’m not willing to put Arizona’s worst rushing performance since 2015 on the shoulders of these guys alone.

Wide receivers: D+

The receivers did the quarterbacks no favors in the early going. I’ll just leave it at that and move on.

Offensive line: F

See image above on Joiner’s missed read.

Utah was able to get five sacks in this game. Arizona had given up six sacks all year before Friday. The Utes had six TFLs. Wildcats opponents had only 15 of them before this game.

This is probably the best defensive line Arizona will see all year, and there was some shuffling on the offensive line throughout the game, so maybe there was no continuity there and guys possibly playing out of position. But that performance was atrocious. No way to get around that.

Defensive line: F+

Utah was able to put up 230 rushing yards and their quarterback was able to average more than 10 yards per attempt. There was just nothing going up front the entire night for the pass rush or rushing defense, and this defense is going to get picked apart the way that it was when both of those things happen.

Linebackers: F+

Utah very obviously had a plan to nullify the Colin Schooler impact, and they executed it well.

Arizona’s best defender was only able to register five tackles, though he did have an interception. But Utah’s running backs were constantly able to reach the secondary, as evidenced by the fact that Schooler’s five tackles were actually the most among the linebackers.

This defense goes as the front seven goes, and when the front seven is taken out of a game like that, there’s no way Arizona wins.

Secondary: F-

Jace Whittaker is the team MVP despite only playing one series this year.

His absence has forced Arizona to start Tim Hough, and man he can’t cover anything. Luckily Lorenzo Burns is still playing pretty well so at least one receiver is typically covered.

Last week I annointed Jarrius Wallace as the best defensive back on the team, but he played very poorly against Utah as well, getting beat in coverage a couple of times and having zones break down around him on other occasions. In fact all of the safeties seemed to be on different pages the majority of the night with Utah receivers able to find gaps at will.

After a game in which it looked like the defense had made great strides, this performance was very disappointing and was many, many steps in the wrong direction.

Special teams: D-

At least there was a 50-yard punt?

It was very odd for Kevin Sumlin to opt for a field goal at the end of the first half after Rodriguez led the offense into the redzone down 28-0.

But he did call for Josh Pollack to end the shutout with a 34-yard attempt. The shutout continued.

Both of Arizona’s kickers are having problems making field goals, which doesn’t cost the team in a game like this where they’re totally overmatched, but against UCLA next week? It could cost them the game.

The return game is still pretty average and would be better off calling for fair catches with the new rule every time instead of trying to actually return the ball. Just overall the special teams aspect of Arizona is extremely disappointing and has been all year.

Coaching: F-

As was astutely pointed out in our what we learned after this game, the offensive playcalling had no strategy behind it.

It’s pretty clear to everyone that Noel Mazzone has been a disaster this year, and there seems to be no awareness of the game situation. 3rd-and-long? Let’s run the ball up the middle with a running back a foot and a half shorter than every defender! 4th-and-1? Let’s throw a bomb down the sideline into double coverage!


Marcel Yates has not been any better, and this is his third year with these guys, so his excuses are even more limited than Mazzone’s. But hey, the players like him so he’s still around! Still not as bad as he was at running a car dealership though.

Sumlin seems to at least be aware that the coaches need to do better.

“Everybody has to take ownership and responsibility, and that starts with me,” he said. “In situations like this, little things can turn into big things. Everybody has to look at themselves first and how they can do better including me and the coaches.”

We’re more than halfway through the year now so the question is when will they actually look at themselves and make real adjustments?