Tim Kish's decision to give the Arizona Wildcats' offensive coaches complete autonomy for the rest of the season was prudent. That it happened to be popular, too, has only boosted the interim coach's fast-growing reputation among his assistants.
"It was based on their expertise - and my expertise," Kish said with a chuckle.
After all, Kish - a longtime defensive assistant and the UA's defensive coordinator until Mike Stoops was fired nine days ago - hasn't coached the other side of the ball since the Reagan administration. He was in charge of Ball State's quarterbacks for a single season, 1982, before switching back to defense.
Kish will leave the offensive game-planning to the experts as Arizona (1-5 overall, 0-4 Pac-12) prepares for Thursday night's nationally televised game against UCLA. That's not to say things will stay the same; Kish has encouraged his coaches to "think a little bit outside the box" after six predictable weeks.
Certainly, the Wildcats need some change. While they rank third nationally and first in the Pac-12 with 383 passing yards per game, their scoring offense is below average. The UA scores an average of 27.33 points per game, numbers that rank 69th out of 120 teams nationally.
Offensive coordinator Seth Littrell said his players "have a lot of things to clean up."
"Hopefully," he said, "we come out fast and do what we're capable of."
Arizona would be smart to:
1. Stick to the script. Expect the Wildcats to "script" more plays this week as they try to combat a first-quarter funk.
The Wildcats have been outscored 55-17 in the first quarter this season, and 139-51 in the first half.
Heck, Arizona hasn't even been competitive: Its opponents have led for 262 minutes and 26 seconds of the 300 minutes played over the last five games; in the remaining 37:34, the games were tied 0-0.
"Scripting," or planning what to do on the first drive, should allow quarterback Nick Foles to stay ahead of a Bruins defense that's allowing 413.3 yards per game. Arizona's coaches are hoping that fewer variables will lead to fewer mistakes.
"We've got to go out, compete early, start faster and not be concerned about things," Littrell said.
2. Stay on schedule. Arizona's offensive success can be traced to its ability to stay "on schedule," gaining enough yards on first and second downs to make third-down conversions more manageable.
When they don't, things get ugly.
Arizona is converting on just 38 percent (29 of 76) of its third downs this season. The Wildcats have been pinned on third-and-10 (or more) 25 times in six games; on those plays, they're averaging just over 3 yards.
Arizona is just as bad on fourth down, converting on just 9 of its 17 attempts.
3. Be creative. Foles' success throwing the ball has made the Wildcats effective, but predictable.
Consider: More than half (82) of the UA's 151 rushes have come on first or second downs. The UA has thrown the ball on 55 of its 76 third-down conversions this year; those runs have gone for just 20 total yards.
Kish said this week that his team will try to mix things up offensively. If nothing else, the threat of something different should keep the Bruins' defense honest.
"We're not going to gimmick anybody to success," he said. "But there are some things we want to implement."
4. Kick it when they can. "Kicker" has become a four-letter word for the Wildcats, who will debut their third starter in seven games when they take on UCLA. Senior John Bonano takes over for Alex Zendejas, who was pulled after missing two kicks in the Wildcats' Oct. 8 loss to Oregon State. Junior college transfer Jaime Salazar started the season as Arizona's kicker, but was benched after three games.
Bonano probably can't fare any worse than the first two: Salazar hit just one of his four field goal attempts, and was 7 for 8 on PATs. Zendejas was a bit better (1-for-2) on field goals, but hit just 6 of his 10 extra-points.
Kish said Bonano has been "absolutely excellent" in practice, but knows things can change on game day.
In fact, they usually do.
"I wish I could figure out kickers, first of all," Kish said with a chuckle. "I understand what Mike felt, believe me, now."
• What: UCLA at Arizona
• When: 6 p.m. Thursday
• TV; radio: ESPN, 1490-AM, 104.9-FM
Numbers tell the tale of inconsistent offense
The Arizona Wildcats' offense is putting up big passing numbers this season, but has struggled to rush, score and make timely plays. Here's a look at some of the UA's situational statistics:
Season attempts-yards 151-431
Arizona on …
First downs 82-271, 4 TDs
Second downs 41-177, 2 TDs
Third downs 21-20, 1 TD
Fourth downs 7-minus-37
Arizona in the …
First quarter 35-80, 1 TD
Second quarter 29-39
Third quarter 46-160, 5 TDs
Fourth quarter 41-152, 1 TD
Season cp-atts-yards 205-287-2,293
Arizona on …
First downs 89-119-965, 3 TDs
Second downs 79-103-985, 10 TDs
Third downs 31-55-283, 1 TD
Fourth downs 6-10-60, 1 TD
Arizona in the …
First quarter: 43-64-414, 1 TD
Second quarter: 53-74-635, 5 TDs
Third quarter: 52-72-623, 4 TDs
Fourth quarter: 57-77, 621, 5 TDs