Arizona football: Foes find many holes in young defense

2011-09-27T00:02:00Z 2013-09-17T15:56:45Z Arizona football: Foes find many holes in young defenseRyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
September 27, 2011 12:02 am  • 

The Arizona Wildcats weren't just beaten in blowout losses to Oklahoma State, Stanford and Oregon. They were run off the field.

"No plays, no sacks, no turnovers," coach Mike Stoops said. "We're not getting any big negative-yardage plays or big plays from anybody."

Through four games, Arizona is among the nation's worst defenses when it comes to stopping the run. The Wildcats are allowing 233.5 rushing yards per game, numbers that rank 114th out of the nation's 120 Division I-A program; only Western Kentucky, Middle Tennessee, Rice, Alabama-Birmingham, Northern Illinois and Kansas are worse.

Since limiting Northern Arizona to 80 yards in a Week 1 victory, Arizona surrendered 197 yards to Oklahoma State, 242 yards to Stanford and 415 yards to Oregon. The Ducks' star tailback, LaMichael James, set a program record with 288 rushing yards.

In total defense, Arizona doesn't rank much better - 112th - and Stoops blames the troubles on "missed assignments, missed tackles and some youth."

Defensive end Lamar DeRego, safety Mark Watley and nickel back Jourdon Grandon all made their first career starts against the Ducks, while defensive tackle Sanielia Fuimaono made his second start.

"We have some guys playing before they should be playing," Stoops said. "That's the problem with playing young players; they don't understand the whole system and, with guys moving around, don't understand their fits.

"We haven't been great up front, either," Stoops added.

Things could get better this week, as the Wildcats prepare for Saturday's game against USC.

Safety Marquis Flowers, who missed last weekend's game with a sprained knee, is expected to practice today and likely to play against the Trojans.

Safety Adam Hall could be used in nickel and long-yardage situations, Stoops said, though he's more likely to make his 2011 debut against Oregon State in two weeks. Linebacker Jake Fischer might not be far behind Hall.

Concussed Hill will try to play against Trojans

Stoops said he will "always side with the protection of players," his way of explaining his reaction to Austin Hill's concussion in Saturday's 56-31 loss to Oregon.

Ducks safety John Boyett drilled Hill as he went up for a catch in the second half, and the wide receiver's head snapped back onto the turf. Hill did not move for 30 seconds before wiggling his foot, shaking his leg and eventually sitting up.

Hill was taken off the field and to the locker room, and did not return. He is listed as questionable to play at USC this week.

Fellow wide receivers Juron Criner (hand) and Dan Buckner (undisclosed injury) should practice this week, and are likely to play.

"We went through some receivers in that game, but there's a good chance all of them would play Saturday," Stoops said. "We'll see how Austin responds to having that (ImPACT) concussion test, and determine it from there."

Stoops was still angry over what he thought was a hit on a defenseless player. The Wildcats' Trevin Wade was called for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas earlier in the game.

Stoops said officials have "been making a focal point" of limiting helmet-to-helmet hits, and Boyett's shot seemed to fall into that category.

"I haven't talked to people," Stoops said, "but I will."

Extra points

• Defensive tackle Justin Washington "is not playing as well as he needs to," Stoops said, the main reason he didn't start against Oregon. Washington battled a stomach ailment during the summer, Stoops said, and lost weight. As a result, he hasn't been able to compete at the line of scrimmage. Though Washington started at defensive end against Stanford, the move was a one-time thing.

• For all of the Wildcats' struggles, its special teams fared well against the Ducks, even recovering an onside kick before halftime.

"I made one good call," Stoops said.

• Quarterback Nick Foles has thrown for 1,447 yards this season, which puts him well on pace to break Willie Tuitama's single-year mark of 3,683. The numbers are somewhat of a rarity for a program that's not known for throwing the football: Foles' 129 pass completions through four games are more than the UA's annual leader in 38 of its last 53 seasons.

Up next

• What: Arizona at USC

• When: 12:30 p.m. Saturday

• TV: FSAZ

• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM

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