MR. FOOTBALL

Greg Hansen: Wildcats' failure to pressure Stanford QB may continue

2012-10-06T00:00:00Z 2012-10-06T11:49:33Z Greg Hansen: Wildcats' failure to pressure Stanford QB may continueGreg Hansen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
October 06, 2012 12:00 am  • 

STANFORD, Calif.

Dear Mr. Football: What's the last thing you'd expect Fox broadcaster Craig Bolerjack to say today?

A: "… And there's another sack. … Arizona's defense is swarming all over quarterback Josh Nunes."

Over the last three seasons, in 99 pass attempts against Arizona, Stanford QBs have been sacked once. (Ricky Elmore dumped Andrew Luck in the fourth quarter of a 2010 game in Tucson.) The Cardinal is currently working on a 74 pass-play sackless streak against the Wildcats.

And it's not luck, either. From 2009 to 2011, Stanford allowed just 24 sacks in more than 1,200 pass attempts, the fewest sacks among FBS teams. Bad news for Arizona: The Wildcats' defense has five sacks in five games this year, tied for 103rd in the NCAA rankings.

Not only does Stanford once again have the Pac-12's most dominating and physical offensive line, it only has one senior starter, center Sam Schwartzstein. Arizona might be Point Guard U in basketball; Stanford is Pulling Guard U in football.

Dear Mr. Football: What does Rich Rodriguez say about the strength of his offensive line?

A: "We're not nearly what we need to be. I think the guys have worked pretty hard, but there is a whole other level of strength we need to have up front. We have a couple guys that are really serious about the weight room, but there are a couple more that need to get more serious about the weight room."

Here's the translation: Arizona isn't built to beat Stanford. Arizona is built to win a shootout, but the Cardinal will insist on fisticuffs.

Dear Mr. Football: Who is Stanford's head coach?

A: Sometimes it's difficult to tell, not just because Jim Harbaugh is gone, but because Stanford insists on prefacing every official mention of David Shaw with this silly title: The Bradford M. Freeman director of football/head coach.

At Stanford, if you throw enough money into the athletic vault, it becomes "Bernard Muir, the Jaquish and Kenninger Director of Athletics" or "Tara VanDerveer, the Setsuko Ishiyama Director of Women's Basketball."

Shaw's title became laden with the "Bradford M. Freeman" qualifier when Freeman, who is said to have earned more than $100 billion in leveraged buyouts and acquisitions of 42 global companies, started donating large sums to his alma mater's football program.

Who is Bradford M. Freeman? He is a political fundraiser of note, an insider who got so chummy with George W. Bush that when Bush moved into the White House in 2001 he gave his cat, Ernie, to Freeman.

Dear Mr. Football: Why does it seem that every team Arizona plays is ranked No. 18?

A: In a quirk of AP poll happenstance, the Cats played No. 18 Oklahoma State, No. 18 Oregon State and today No. 18 Stanford on the week they were/are ranked 18th.

This statistical oddity had occurred once in UA football history: in 1980, Arizona played No. 2 USC, No. 2 Notre Dame and No. 2 UCLA (all were ranked No. 2 the week of the game) during a stretch of four straight home games. The Wildcats fell to the Trojans 27-10 and Irish 20-3 and beat the Bruins 23-17 .

This is only the eighth time Arizona - in facing Oregon, Oregon State and Stanford - has played teams ranked in the AP poll three weeks in succession. More bad news: The UA is 5-16 in that stretch and working on a 0-9 streak.

Dear Mr. Football: What is the feel-good story of the day?

A: Stanford's new special teams coach is Pete Alamar, who was essentially Cal coach Jeff Tedford's coaching sacrifice/excuse after the Bears slumped to 8-5 in 2009, triggering their fall from football grace and Tedford's lingering job insecurity.

Alamar is as connected with UA football as almost any coach over the last 20 years.

He started as an assistant coach at James Madison, working for ex-UA offensive coordinator Rip Scherer in 1991. He moved to Tucson to be a graduate coach in 1993, and was UA's special teams and tight ends coach from 1995 to 1999. A year later, he joined UA assistant coach Jeff Woodruff , who became head coach at Eastern Michigan.

After Alamar's stint at Cal (2003-09), he was rescued by ex-UA offensive coordinator Pat Hill, coaching two seasons at Fresno State before landing at Stanford. Alamar spilled many tears at UA: In 1995, he was tight end Damon Terrell's position coach when Terrell died tragically early in the season.

Dear Mr. Football: Does any team in college football pass to tight ends as much as Stanford?

A: You'll need the Elias Sports Bureau to check this out, but last year Stanford's tight ends caught 86 passes for 1,356 yards and 20 touchdowns. That has almost surely got to be unsurpassed in college football. Coby Fleener caught 34, Zach Ertz 27 and Levine Toilolo 25. (Toilolo and Ertz have combined to catch 23 passes this season.)

If you eliminate Rob Gronkowski's 47 catches in 2008, only five TEs in UA history caught 20 or more in a season: Mark Keel, 27 in 1982; Steve Fleming, 24, 2003; Lamar Harris, 21, 1994; All-Pac-12 Ron Beyer, 21, 1978; Brandon Manumaleuna, 20, 1999.

Dear Mr. Football: Is Stanford's Nunes good at math?

A: When Nunes originally committed to play for Tennessee, he told Super Prep magazine "playing football in front of 110,000 fans is going to be awesome."

If there are actually 30,000 people in the seats at Stanford Stadium today it might be an upset. This is Baseball Territory with the A's and Giants in the playoffs, and Stanford, which is an acquired taste among Bay Area football fans, has temporarily tumbled off the grid.

Much of that could change today: This might be the worst possible physical matchup for Arizona. "We're way too small defensively," said RichRod.

What can the Wildcats do? Blitz more? Against Oregon State, RichRod said the UA's few blitz attempts "weren't getting home in time," leaving gaping holes in the secondary. Perhaps UA QB Matt Scott, who has been beaten up of late, can run more. No?

Unlike RichRod's speed-demon QBs such as Pat White at West Virginia and Denard Robinson at Michigan, Scott doesn't have separation speed.

"Not a lot of guys on the first two levels (line and linebackers) could tackle those guys; they were being tackled by defensive backs," said RichRod. "They were at a whole different level of speed."

This might be a day the Cats are taken to the woodshed and are thankful they don't play again until Oct. 20. Stanford 37, Arizona 17.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Pac-12 South football standings

  Conference Overall
Team W L T PCT W L T PCT
Arizona 7 2 0 0.778 10 3 0 0.769
USC 6 3 0 0.667 8 4 0 0.667
UCLA 6 3 0 0.667 9 3 0 0.750
Arizona State 6 3 0 0.667 9 3 0 0.750
Utah 5 4 0 0.556 9 4 0 0.692
Colorado 0 9 0 0.000 2 10 0 0.167

Pac-12 North football standings

  Conference Overall
Team W L T PCT W L T PCT
Oregon 8 1 0 0.889 12 1 0 0.923
Stanford 5 4 0 0.556 7 5 0 0.583
Washington 4 5 0 0.444 8 5 0 0.615
Cal 3 6 0 0.333 5 7 0 0.417
Washington State 2 7 0 0.222 3 9 0 0.250
Oregon State 2 7 0 0.222 5 7 0 0.417
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