The Arizona Wildcats venture into a place they haven’t won in a decade while riding the worst losing streak in program history. That being said, woman. Lincoln, how was that piece?
Arizona will play the UCLA Bruins at the Rose Bowl on Saturday night, where the Wildcats last won in 2010. The game is set to 6 p. m. MST Kickoff and is shown on Fox.
Here’s what to keep in mind when UA (0-2) and UCLA (1-2) tangle in Pasadena:
The scrimmage line is always important, but in this game it is absolutely critical as in this matchup the team that allowed the most sacks in the Pac-12 is paired with the team that has the most in the league registered.
Arizona allowed nine sacks in two games, including five in Washington last week, while UCLA sacked ten opposing quarterbacks in their three games.
The offensive line should be a strength for Arizona this year considering the level of experience it has, but so far the alignment used has not lived up to expectations. Don’t look for major changes, however, coach Kevin Sumlin said on Monday.
« Last year everyone was with us moving people every week, » said Sumlin. « Now we have to fix the problem. It’s not the best five individual players, but the best five who play and communicate together. Joe Tiller was a line coach and he used to say you weren’t looking for five cents, you were looking for a nickel. ”
Just as important to the Arizona offense and quarterback Grant Gunnell’s ability to produce in passing is keeping the receivers open. Not much has happened so far, and Sumlin expects the opponents to remain in man-to-man defense until the wildcats can make room in the field.
Where possession begins often has a huge impact on where it ends, and it has been a hidden reason Arizona have plunged themselves into big holes in both games this season so far.
In the opener against USC, the starting position of the Wildcats was on average 14 meters worse than the Trojans, and in Washington they were minus 15. The same trend persisted for most of last year, with the 2019 UA showing a positive field position edge only once.
This disadvantage is due to a combination of poor punting, the occasional out-of-bounds kickoff, inefficient punt and kick returns (and large ones for opponents), and turnover.
In Washington, the Wildcats never started a ride past their own 29-yard line, and that came after the Huskies missed a 46-yard field goal attempt 37-0. UW, on the other hand, started twice in UA territories (thanks to a fiddly rebound and sales with downs), but on drives that started after kickoffs and punts there were four instances where it started on its own 35 or better.
Allows 39 points per game and 6. 64 yards per game isn’t much of a defensive improvement, but there have been some positive developments from this side of the ball. The central defense was superb, while the walk-in linebacker Rourke Freeburg was a godsend with his aggressive play in space.
But security? That was a big problem for the Wildcats and it’s unlikely to get much better given the players available.
Redshirt junior Rhedi Short and sophomore Jaxen Turner are first and second in duels in two matches. This is usually not a good sign as these players are often the last line of defense.
Turner has performed well, recovering from an injury that stalled him midway through last season. Short has played admirably as he had never appeared in a game in the first three years of its existence. But if Arizona had more options in this position, it would be unlikely that Short would see as much action as he did, let alone start.
And therein lies the problem. The UA only has four scholarship guarantees on its roster, and one of them – Junior Christian Young – has signed off for the remainder of 2020 due to a nagging ankle injury. The most experienced senior, Redshirt Senior Jarrius Wallace, was not available in Washington.
UCLA flipped it seven times in three games, resulting in 49 points for their opponents. Without those freebies, it would have won in Oregon last week.
Arizona has yet to enforce sales in 2020 after failing to do so in three consecutive games and five of the last seven games, while giving away seven times during that time. The two sales the Wildcats have made this season have resulted in quick results for their enemies.
The 30 forced sales of wildcats since the beginning of 2018 rank fifth in the country.
During their nine-game loss, Arizona was only 37 minutes and 27 seconds ahead and never held any better than four-point advantage. And only once during the skid did the Wildcats score the first goal and take a 3-0 lead at Stanford that lasted less than four minutes.
Not scoring first is one thing, but falling behind multiple points before getting on the board is a bigger problem for the UA.
Last week the Wildcats fell 37-0 after three quarters. This was the eighth time in 26 games under Sumlin that they were 10 points or more behind before scoring a goal. In the first half of Arizona, it was goalless three times in the first half.
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