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In a perfect world, the Arizona Wildcats would spend this week gearing up for Oregon or Arizona State. Shoot, even The Citadel would do.

Better any real opponent than BYE, especially after Saturday night. USC dispatched the sloppy Wildcats 24-21 at Arizona Stadium, leaving players and coaches eager to redeem themselves.

They'll have to wait a week. Because of scheduling, the 23rd-ranked Wildcats will take their second and final bye of the season before taking on Oregon and Arizona State. The UA will hold its first practice of the week this afternoon, which - players say - is a good thing.

"We want to get back on the field and practice. We want to get back in the weight room," safety Adam Hall said.

Arizona will use this week to rest, get healthy - and improve in the following four areas:

1. The red zone. We know, we're repeating ourselves. But considering the way the Wildcats have been playing inside their opponents' 20-yard line, maybe they need reminding.

Through 10 games, Arizona ranks 110th nationally in red zone efficiency. The Wildcats have scored on just 33 of 45 trips inside the 20; 26 times, they have scored touchdowns. Only seven teams - Arizona State, Louisiana-Monroe, Florida, Clemson, Washington State, Wyoming and Buffalo - are worse. The UA was just 2 for 4 in the red zone against USC, its wasted opportunities the result of Zendejas' miss and wide receiver David Douglas' fumble.

2. Kicking. USC blocked Alex Zendejas' 34-yard field goal in the first quarter (see box), a play that - in retrospect - could have been a difference-maker.

But it would be unfair to pin the UA's kicking struggles on Zendejas alone. Keenyn Crier is averaging just 41.3 yards per punt this season; just eight of his 37 kicks have been downed inside the 20-yard line.

Compared to John Bonano, both Zendejas and Crier are living great. Arizona's kickoff specialist has just 11 touchbacks in 56 attempts; his last one came in the UA's Oct. 23 win over Washington.

"Our kicking game hasn't been very good this past couple weeks, and we really need to work on that," coach Mike Stoops said.

3. Running. For all the progress Arizona made running the ball with Matt Scott under center, it's reverted to mediocrity since Nick Foles took back the starting job two weeks ago.

Arizona rushed for 166 yards and a touchdown against Stanford and just 51 yards against USC. The Wildcats are averaging 143.9 rushing yards per game, ranking 73rd nationally.

The Wildcats' games against Stanford and USC are anomalies, to a point. Both times, Arizona was down early and had to throw the ball. But both times, an established running game would have allowed the Wildcats to wrestle back control of the clock.

"We didn't run the ball well," Stoops said.

4. Tackling. In two weeks, Arizona has dropped from sixth to 15th nationally in rushing defense.

It's easy to see why: Stanford rumbled for 217 yards and four touchdowns in a 42-27 win over the UA, and USC posted 205 yards and two TDs on Saturday.

Although both teams had standout tailbacks, Arizona's inability to tackle made them look even better. The Trojans' Marc Tyler put up 160 yards and a touchdown against a UA defense that couldn't seem to wrap him up.

Hall said Arizona must work on one main issue.

"Getting that pride back of coming off the field and making plays and being more physical," he said.

Zendejas missED FG changed to a block

UA officials have ruled that Alex Zendejas' missed field goal attempt was deflected by USC after reviewing tape from Saturday's 24-21 loss.

On the tape, the Trojans' Michael Reardon appeared to tip Zendejas' 34-yard attempt at the line of scrimmage. Though the kick was still long enough to approach the uprights, the tip changed the course of the kick.

According to NCAA rules, a block is considered "touching of the ball by an opponent of the kicking team in an attempt to prevent the ball from advancing beyond the neutral zone."

The failed kick grounded Arizona's first - and only - chance to take a lead. USC scored two first-quarter touchdowns, making it 14-0, and never looked back. Arizona cut the Trojans' lead to three points with 1 minute 1 second remaining but was unable to convert the ensuing onside kick.

Ryan Finley

Up next

• What: Arizona at Oregon

• When: 5 p.m. Nov. 26


• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM