BTD sat down with KZim down at The Arizona Desert Swarm to exchange some questions and answers about the Beavers and the Wildcats, as the two programs approach the "Desperation Bowl" Saturday. The teams were both among the conference's contenders just a season ago, when Oregon St. edged ninth ranked Arizona 29-27. Exactly a year later, Oregon St. has lost 8 of their last 9 games, and Arizona has lost 9 of 10, including all 9 against FBS opposition.
Arizona hasn't run the ball very well, despite a dangerous RB in Keola Antolin, nor protect Nick Foles all that well, but that was expected, given the 'Cats had to break in 5 new offensive linemen. Looking at the stats, it appears that things are improving on both accounts, though. How are the new linemen coming along, and are they progressing as fast as could be expected?
The 'Cats' pass defense has also been torched, but injuries have a lot to do with that. Is much improvement any time soon a realistic expectation?
I think the line has been progressing at a faster rate than expected. Foles has been tossing at least 398 yards every game except for Stanford, so they've been doing a good enough job in pass protection. Really, where they've needed work is opening holes for the running backs, and that killed Arizona in red zone situations much of the year.
But the coaches have began to use a lot of TE/H-back formations to help out the run game, and Antolin and freshman Ka'Deem Carey have been getting a lot of touches and more holes to run through. So the O-line is getting a lot of help in that area. On the negative side, there's still been a lot of silly false-start penalties and the like.
I'm not so confident it is; something is just not clicking with the defense this year. Players are saying the coaches are putting them in the right positions, and while Stoops may be losing control of the team, I can't see it being 100 percent (or 50, even) of the cause for why the defense has been bad.
There's been a lot of questions as to the lack of recruiting and talent in the front seven, and the Wildcats are in the bottom 10 of pass-rush defenses in the nations. Meanwhile, a secondary with a lot of talent has just been disappointing. There's problems all over the board that goes beyond injuries.
Staying with the secondary, I see Adam Hall will be back this week. Will he have an immediate impact? Or will he need a couple of games to get up to speed?
Your guess is as good as mine. I think a lot of it has to do with Hall being comfortable going out there and hitting people. But if anyone can get over second-guessing their injury, I think it'd be Hall. He's probably the only true playmaker on Arizona's defense, and he's probably one of the hardest-hitting guys in the Pac-12 when he's healthy. So knowing that, I think he might be able to get over thinking about the injury faster than most, but I guess we'll see.
The 'Cats have had a long losing streak against FBS teams, but against a run of teams that most teams would lose most if not all of their games against. (When USC is your "breather" opponent, you are definitely over-scheduled!) How is the team doing between the ears after running that gauntlet unsuccessfully? Will they be able to bounce back against teams that are a little more manageable?
I think they will. It doesn't matter who you play, when you lose nine FBS games in a row it can't be good for the psyche. But where they're at the point of possibly just mailing it in, they really have shown some improvements, especially on the offensive side of the ball. I can't imagine the defense getting much worse, and I honestly didn't see the Oregon or USC losses as that bad of losses.
Had Arizona had less mistakes and any semblance of defense, those would have been winnable games, IMO. So I think there's good things to build on, it's just a matter of whether this team will get over that mental hurdle.
There was nothing that could be done about that unusually tough schedule other than the non-conference game against Oklahoma St. (The other games were all in-conference or a bowl.) Should Arizona negotiate a delay of a year or two for the Oklahoma St. game, and come up with an opponent not in the top 10?
Ha, oh that'd be great, trust me. Getting those guys out of their minds was probably be for the better.
Arizona really has gotten the short end of the stick scheduling-wise. A year ago, they got off to a hot start by playing a team like Toledo at the beginning of the year and that bolstered a 7-1 start and top 10 ranking ... then the whole losing streak happened. Then again, I think the end of the schedule this season is pretty easy (I mean, who plays Louisiana-Lafayette to end the regular season?).
The reaction to Arizona head coach Mike Stoops' sideline antics around the conference ranges from amusement to outright outrage. But he doesn't work for those constituencies; he works for the 'Cats. How do Arizona fans feel about Stoops? Is the warm seat he's on hotter because of his behavior? Or are they ok with him assuming he can get back to winning some games?
I honestly don't view it as something that plays a large part in if people want him to stay or go. I think uneducated fans might cite his sideline antics as an example or excuse for being a bad coach, but there's a lot of on-field problems that they blame him for (i.e. the poorly planned recruiting in the front seven, or the kicking game, which has been atrocious).
We just had a poll about this, and it's about 70 percent "fire Stoops" and 30 percent "keep him." I'd say the seat is very, very hot, especially with a new AD, Greg Byrne, who just came from rebuilding a football program, Mississippi St., in SEC country.
Thanks Kevin, for the insight!
BTD would wish the Desert Swarm well on Saturday if it wasn't for our own darn losing streak!