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Arizona’s offense has ‘lots to clean up’ despite leading Pac-12 in passing

arizona-wildcats-gunner-cruz-jordan-mccloud-jedd-fisch-byu-ucla-colorado-pac12-football-2021 Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Arizona leads the Pac-12 in passing offense and is third in total offense despite dropping its 13th consecutive game to open the 2021 season.

Not bad considering UA coach Jedd Fisch said Monday he believes the Wildcat offense “probably left 150 yards on the table” in the form of sacks taken and open targets missed.

Gunner Cruz was sacked four times by BYU, resulting in a loss of 48 yards, which made what both Fisch and offensive coordinator Brennan Carroll called an “efficient” run game only get credited for 81 yards. Cruz was 34 of 45 for 336 yards, with Will Plummer going 2 for 3 for nine yards, but Fisch said there were at least three times a tight end was open for either a big gain or a touchdown and the QBs didn’t make the throw for whatever reason.

“Those are plays that we got to hit,” Fisch said.

Fisch only believes one of the four sacks was the offensive line’s fault, but Carroll was quick to take on the blame for all four.

“If the quarterback gets breathed on wrong, then we’re not doing our job,” Carroll said. “It was a couple sacks, a couple hits we can’t let him take.”

Carroll said each of Arizona’s five linemen—each of whom played all 88 snaps—made one or two “critical errors” that impacted the offense. That includes freshman Josh Baker, who made his first career start at left guard in place of the injured Jordan Morgan.

Morgan could be back for Saturday’s home opener against San Diego State, though Carroll said it would be a gametime decision based on how he makes it through a week of practice.

“There’s a lot of things we’ve got to clean up,” Carroll said. “We can’t have defenders flying in front of the quarterback space and just expect him to stand there and take it. We know that we can perform better than we did and our guys are chomping at the bit to get back out there.”

Seven different UA players caught at least one pass against BYU, but only three catches (and four targets) went to tight ends despite so much time spent during the offseason hyping up that position in the offense. Leading receiver Stanley Berryhill III, who had career highs in receptions (12) and yards (102) said the key to finding those guys is not to lock in on just one target.

“We practice a lot of plays and we always practice who the number one target is, so I just think we can’t get too caught up on looking for that one guy, just go through the progression and you’ll see more things as you go through the progression then just focus on one player,” he said. “I think that’s been a big focus since the (BYU) game because, on a lot of plays that we practice the main guy wasn’t always the guy who was open. We communicate that with the quarterbacks and the coaches and all that, so we’re working on it and I think it’s gonna be a little bit better this week.”

Cruz and Plummer did to a fair amount of checking down, resulting in running backs Michael Wiley and Drake Anderson combining for 12 catches. Arizona’s RBs only had 24 total receptions in last year’s 5-game season.