Patrick (aka uofafanatic) from the SBN Nation blog Arizona Desert Swarm was kind enough to put up with our probing about the upcoming Arizona game. We go into "Bottle Gate", Nick Foles and how good the Arizona defense really is. Please also check out our responses to their questions.
Nick Foles's numbers are down a bit in November, specifically around yards/attempt and completion percentage. How much of this has to do with him being hurt versus facing Stanford and USC?
That is the question that has been bugging me. I've actually become more of a Matt Scott guy, as the offense as a whole was moving down the field better with him under center. I won't get into that argument right now, so I'll say that I think it has been more of a challenge for Foles to get back into rhythm with his receivers, than was expected. He should be much improved against Oregon, but he'll need to utilize the entire WR corps. Specifically, I'd like to see Foles pay less attention to his roommate, WR David Douglas, and start taking more shots past the first down marker. Several times in the loss to USC, Foles completed a short pass to Douglas, yet failed to convert the 3rd down, with open receivers downfield. The Arizona WR corps is deep. Foles needs to trust them more. Not just his favorite targets.
The Arizona defense started off hot at the beginning of the year, giving up only 3.9 yards per play. That number has grown to 5.6 yards per play so far in November. Give us the state of Arizona's defense and what we might expect to face this Friday.
Well, that's a good question. That depends, largely, on the play calling. If Arizona plays more man coverage against the Ducks, they will be impressive. If they stick to the zone, which Stoops and his staff seem to love, then it's a big question mark.
The Defense, over the season, has been dominant one week, and less so the next. A major concern has been CB Trevin Wade. There are many, me included, that want to see Shaquille Richardson starting in his place. Wade's poor play over the last month is particularly frustrating, as many picked him to have a break-out season, and possibly go in the first two rounds of the draft. At his currant level of performance, he'll be lucky to be picked up as an undrafted free agent. The gem of the defense is, of course, the defensive line. Arguably in the top 5 defensive lines in the nation, they will be putting plenty of pressure on Oregon all night long. And don't just worry about Ricky Elmore and Brooks Reed, keep an eye on DT Justin Washington. He's a beast.
So, how good the defense performs against Oregon will come down to how well the LBs and DBs perform against the pass when the D-line forces the Ducks to throw. If Oregon has little trouble passing the ball, it will be a rough night for Arizona. If, on the other hand, Arizona only allows a few big passing plays, Oregon is in serious trouble.
A lot was made about Oregon cheerleader Katelynn Johnson being hit in the head by a water bottle thrown from the stands at Arizona last year. Has the Wildcat Athletic Department taken any visible steps to help reign in that type of behavior or was it seen more as an isolated incident?
Ok, before I answer that, I feel I need to address the incident itself. The Arizona crowd was, wrongly, reacting to the Oregon Ducks players that were flipping off the home crowd after an emotional 2OT game. It was clear that the bottle was aimed at the players, not the cheerleaders. That doesn't make it ok. It was a stupid thing to do. It showed a complete lack of class and self control. I, along with many other Arizona fans, was shocked at the act, and was happy to hear that the cheerleader was fully recovered. From what I understand, the police were involved and were searching the footage of the game for the culprit. I'm not sure if they were successful.
All that said, yes, the school has been actively promoting good sportsmanship. With videos of players, overhead messages every so often, and a new hotline to text reports of poor sportsmanship or the like.
Arizona fans are, largely, a pleasant crowd. It is common to see Arizona fans, me included, sharing a pre-game beer with the visiting fans in the tailgate areas. It would be a shame if the acts of a few foolish people tarnished the reputation of all Arizona fans.
Mike Stoops had to make some new hires on the coaching staff this off-season. How has the team changed as a result of these hires?
Largely for the better. The dual-coordinator system is working. And the biggest plus, is that if another coordinator gets stolen, we already have another on in place. As for how the team has changed, not much. The offensive system is basically the same, with the notable exception that they are more likely to throw the ball downfield. The Defense is still a Mike Stoops defense, but look for more of a difference next season, when the work of Co-DC/ DB coach Greg Brown will be more evident with the Arizona secondary.
By the way, the biggest hire was QB coach Frank Scelfo. You may not have heard his name a lot, but he is a QB guru. Just look at Matt Scott's passing from last season to this season. He looks like a totally different player. That's all Greg Brown. Last season? No QB coach.
Ted Miller from ESPN likes Arizona's chances of going into Autzen Stadium and pulling out a victory. How confident is Wildcat nation on being 8-3 on Friday?
No consensus. It seems we've split into two groups. The die-hard homers, who think the Wildcats will win big, regardless of stats or rankings, and the shell-shocked fans that can't see the Wildcats defeating the Ducks on the road. I, for one, am predicting a close game, with the edge going to the Arizona defense. So, I'll say that I'm confident that Arizona will be competitive, and that they can absolutely win this one.