Reviewing their last two games, I’m not sure why Arizona didn’t substitute #4 QB Rodriguez for the clearly injured #14 QB Tate a lot earlier. He manages the offense pretty admirably and is a better fit for OC Mazzone’s offense. A few examples of his best play:
On the first play, #19 WR Poindexter (who’s 6’5”, yikes) runs a simple stop route against Utah’s soft coverage - the defense figures it can bring him down for a minimal gain but it’s not that easy. Also note that if Rodriguez pump-faked it he might have drawn the OLB off and gotten him a bigger play to #6 WR Brown, but there’s no time for that as the 5-man rush is collapsing the line so he just gets the ball off quickly. On the second play (at :09), Poindexter wins the sideline go route and then the jumpball vs the shorter DB (something that should look familiar to Oregon fans by now) … also check out the nice cut block in pass protection by the RB. On the third play (at :26), some poor DB work -- the CB getting turned around on the break, the safety slow to come down -- is all that’s needed for an easy TD pass. The last play (at :40) shows Rodriguez isn’t a statue - this is a tough throw to make on the rollout even without a linebacker in your face, but he leads #7 WR Cooper nicely.
However, the primary limitations on the passing game are that his arm strength isn’t great and he often doesn’t get a lot of time in the pocket due to some injuries and deficiencies in the offensive line. Overall, I counted 17 successful passing plays to 23 failed ones (given the down and distance) when Rodriguez was playing prior to garbage time, only a 43% success rate … although it should be said in his defense that maybe a third of those failed plays were due to pocket collapses, and he got the ball thrown away without further damage on the majority of those. Here’s a sample of what those problems look like:
On the first play, a miscommunication in blocking assignments on this play-action results in letting multiple pass rushers through and Rodriguez throwing off his back foot into traffic, which predictably ends in disaster. The second play (at :17) is a fairly representative example of Rodriguez’s expediency pulling the plug on a doomed play - the entire line is stoved in within a second and a half of the snap so he just gets rid of it. The third play (at :24) shows the difficulties with his lack of arm strength - if this is on Cooper’s back hip the DB has no chance, but the ball dies at the end and the DB swats it down … also notice that Rodriguez has an easy first down if he dumps off to Poindexter on the crosser. On the last play (at :31), the DB really just gets lucky turning this PBU into a pick, ignore that part and instead focus on the trouble Rodriguez is in - they keep two receiving options back in pass-pro but even that’s not enough to keep pressure out of his face, and the three guys they send downfield are all completely locked up the entire way in single coverage.
Arizona is a lot better running the ball, even without a running QB - I tallied 26 successful carries by running backs vs 19 failures, for a 58% success rate. I don’t see any particular pattern on the plays that failed, they seem to be pretty evenly distributed across different playcalls. They do seem to be more successful on outside and off-tackle runs rather than up the gut, from what I can tell because those plays lean into their strengths -- high quality backs in #21 RB Taylor and #23 RB Brightwell -- and are less dependent on their patchwork offensive line forcibly opening holes and making second-level blocks. Some examples of the backs as their own blockers:
On the first play, a couple of nice blocks opens a hole but this play would be stopped short if not for Taylor powering through the tackle for extra yards after contact. On the second play (at :06), some pretty lousy blocking disrupts Taylor’s path, but he calmly runs around it and turns the corner - this run just needs #78 LT Donovan and Poindexter to make their blocks and Taylor’s speed does the rest. On the third play (at :23), everybody on the line executes a couple of nice pulls, the UCLA LBs fall right into it, and the DBs get way out of position so Taylor blows right by them. On the last play (at :41), we’re seeing the short-yardage zone blocking work pretty well, with the key weapon being #81 TE Wolma washing the end.
This defense has a lot of trouble stopping the run. I recorded 21 successful run defenses vs 32 failures, for just a 40% success rate. I’m just not seeing the physical talent needed for Power-5 play. Some examples:
On the first play, it’s hard to find something going right - #7 LB Schooler loses contain entirely, #19 DB S. Young gets caught flat-footed and totally pushed out of the play by the TE, and #3 S Wallace is slow to react to the QB keep (#6 S Flannigan-Fowles might have earned a holding flag but crashing into #15 CB Barnes means the officials can’t see it). On the second play (at :18), Arizona has shifted from their typical 3-3 to an even front and put in both of their big tackles, #52 DT P. Johnson and #99 DT Boles, but they’re both promptly clobbered by double-teams for a big hole, and the guards are both able to get off them to block at the second level. On the third play (at :25), Schooler picks the wrong gap, #1 LB Fields is slow to figure out the error, and Young is doing practically nothing in run support. On the last play (at :32), the offense has washed down the entire defensive front, leaving an enormous hole at the goalline.
Pass defense is also net negative -- 24 successes vs 27 failures -- though a bit better than the run defense. The number is a bit inflated by five throwaways by UCLA’s backup QB who’s completely immobile, but still the ability to get into the backfield is what’s making the difference:
These shouldn’t need annotation, it’s pretty clear that the defensive front has the ability to make the QB pay for blocking errors.
That kind of pressure is probably necessary for Arizona to have a decent pass defense performance, as the coverage by their secondary -- which is depleted by injuries and off-field issues -- has a tough time getting it done on their own:
On the first play, Fields reads that his responsibility, the RB, is staying in pass-pro so he charges the pocket, but then somehow misses the RB releasing for an easy dumpoff, and Schooler and #14 LB Wilborn botch what would have been a 3rd down stop. On the second play (at :21), #8 CB Hough (a transfer from UNLV previously committed to Oregon and I believe now dismissed from Arizona) can’t defend this corner pass even while interfering. The third play (at :36) is kind of boring but one I saw a lot of, just a quick stop route into the zone, which Arizona never bothered adjusting to. On the last play (at :42), I think Arizona is playing Tampa-2, but I’m not certain because no one is actually defending their zone.