USC Football: 10 Things You Should Know About the Arizona Wildcats
The Arizona Wildcats have looked more like the Arizona Pussycats in their last three games. After an opening season win against FCS foe Northern Arizona, they have lost three consecutive games and are 1-3 overall and 0-2 in the Pac-12.
Of course, a lot of teams would have lost to Oklahoma State, Stanford and Oregon. All three are ranked in the top 10. But the Wildcats have lost by substantial margins, having given up 37 points to Oklahoma State and Stanford and a whopping 56 points to Oregon last Saturday.
In fact, Arizona has lost eight consecutive games to FBS opponents, and they really need a win in the Coliseum to get back on the winning track and get in contention for a bowl game.
Of course, with the Trojans coming off a terrible performance in Tempe against Arizona State, I doubt if USC would have fared any better against three top 10 opponents. Last week, USC proved that they are vulnerable both on the field and on the sidelines.
While USC (3-1) will be favored at home, at least the Wildcats no longer have to deal with the upper echelons of the Pac-12. .
There is really no telling how this one will play out. So, continue reading to find out what you need to know about the Arizona Wildcats.
Mike Stoops Hits the Highs on the Volatility Index
Mike Stoops is the direct antithesis of Lane Kiffin. He is perhaps the most emotional coach in Division I. Brian Kelly of Notre Dame is a distant second.
Bob Stoops, the head coach of the No. 1 Oklahoma Sooners, looks like a Zen monk compared to his highly volatile brother, Mike. I bring up Stoops’ emotionality because it could be the most important key to this game.
I am sure many Wildcat fans will agree that Arizona feeds off of Mike Stoops’ demeanor, which can swing both ways. If Stoops is tight and all wound up, his Wildcats will play tight. If he is loose, they will play loose.
Last weekend is a perfect example. Stoops was so tight that he canceled all the official recruiting visits for the week, so his team could focus on Oregon. What happened? The Wildcats got blown out 56-31.
Should Arizona lose to USC and go 1-4 and 0-3 in the Pac-12, Stoops will really be hard pressed to get his team to a bowl game. He will need to find at least five and possibly six wins out of the seven remaining on the Wildcats’ schedule. If they don’t make a bowl game, Stoops could find himself on a very hot seat back in Tucson.
Now that could really make him up tight.
A Talented Quarterback That Needs More Run Support
Nick Foles had an exceptional game against the Oregon Ducks. Unfortunately, LaMichael James and the Ducks’ offense had an even better game.
The Ducks had 415 yards rushing compared to the Wildcats’ 82 yards. LaMichael James alone had 288 yards.
If Foles had more run support, the Wildcats would have made their games against three top 10 teams—Oklahoma State, Stanford and Oregon—a lot closer. He is really having an exceptional year considering that his offense has only averaged 62.3 rushing yards per game.
Foles, No. 8, a senior, completed 34-of-57 for 398 yards against Oregon for a 59.6 percentage. He averaged 6.98 yards per completion. His longest went for 44 yards. He threw for three scores and had no interceptions. He wound up with a 135.7 RAT.
This season, his stats are slightly ahead of last year’s pace. So far, he has completed 129-of-183 for 1,447 and a 70.5 percentage with 7.91 yards per completion. He has 10 TDs and remarkably no interceptions for a 154.9 RAT.
Last season, he threw for 3191 yards with a 67.1 percentage and 7.49 yards per completion. He had 20 TDs and 10 interceptions for a 140.9 RAT.
But the most telling stat both this year and last year are the sacks. Foles was sacked five times by the Ducks last weekend and has been sacked 12 times overall this season. In 2010, he was sacked 23 times.
Considering the quality of their opponents and the lack of a running attack, Foles’ stats indicate that he is a much more accurate and consistent quarterback than Matt Barkley, especially when you take into account a 70.5 completion percentage and no interceptions.
So, Foles brings his offense to the Coliseum to show what he can do against an opponent that is of substantially lesser caliber than the three they face in the top 10.
The Reason for so Many Sacks: The O-Line
Another telling fact about this upcoming game is the Arizona offensive line. They are probably the one line in the Pac-12 that actually has less experience than the USC offensive line.
The Wildcats have five new starters in front of Nick Foles. They are starting two juniors, a sophomore and two freshmen. Lane Kiffin cannot use inexperience as an excuse this week for a poor showing by the Trojans.
With five sacks last week against the Ducks and 12 sacks so far this season, the offensive line is way ahead of last year’s pace, when the Foles had to take 23 sacks.
The USC defensive front needs to take advantage of the inexperience along the Wildcats’ offensive front to make sure that the Arizona running game remains throttled and that Foles cannot get into a rhythm.
Nick Foles’ Main Weapon: Juron Criner
Senior wideout Juron Criner, No. 82 is an imposing 6-4, 215 pounds. Against the Ducks last week, he caught nine passes for 96 yards and 10.7 yards per catch even though he received a lot of double coverage. His longest went for 31.
On the season, Criner has 21 catches for 295 yards and 14.0 yards per catch. His longest went for 44 yards. He has two TDs.
In 2010, Criner caught 82 passes for 1,233 yards and 15.0 yards per catch. His longest went for 85 yards. He had 11 scores.
Although he really hasn’t run the ball this season, last year, he toted the rock eight times from his wideout position for 66 yards and 8.3 yards per carry. His longest run was 21 yards.
With the Wildcats’ ground game hurting as it is, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mike Stoops dial up Criner’s number on an end around or a reverse.
Nick Foles’ No. 2 Weapon: David Douglas
Arizona’s other senior wideout, David Douglas No. 85, measures 6'1", 205. While his partner Juron Criner will get most of the attention from Monte Kiffin’s defense, Douglas just could be the game changer.
Against the Ducks last week, Douglas had seven catches for 120 yards and an impressive 17.1 yards per catch. His longest went for 44 yards.
On the season, Douglas has caught 17 passes for 199 and 11.7 yards per catch. In 2010, he made 52 catches for 515 yards and 9.9 yards per catches. He had five scores.
Obviously, Douglas has been improving with last week’s effort against the Ducks; the best he has had. He hopes to continue that improvement against the Trojans this Saturday.
The Wildcats Need Their Running Game to Step Up
As I mentioned before, Nick Foles’ and Arizona’s main problem on offense is the lack of a consistent running game—62.3 yards per game.
The reason for this is the same as the reason for so many sacks: an inexperienced offensive line playing against three very strong opponents.
The Wildcats are hoping the offensive front has picked up enough experience in their first four games to deal with a Trojan defense that got hammered last week on the ground, giving up 175 yards to the Sun Devils on 33 carries for a 5.3-yard average.
The running back that does most of the heavy-duty hauling for the Wildcats is Keola Antolin, No. 2. Last week, he carried 13 times for 55 yards and 4.2 yards per carry. His longest run was for 16 yards. He had one score.
Antolin also caught two passes for 13 yards.
On the season, he has 41 carries for 180 yards and 4.4 yards per carry with his longest being 31 yards. He has scored twice and caught 10 passes for 70 yards and one score.
In 2010, he had a 143 carries for 668 yards and 4.7 yards per carry. His longest run was 78 yards. He scored seven times. Antolin also caught 28 passes for 204 yards and two scores.
Ka'Deem Carey Takes over 2011 Kick Return Duties
Ka'Deem Carey, No. 25, a 5'10", 190-pound freshman, is the Wildcats’ kick returner. Against Oregon, he ran back nine kicks for 197 yards and 21.9 yards per return. His longest went for 39 yards.
The freshman speedster also spells Antolin at running back. He carried a dozen times against the Ducks for 48 yards and 4.0 yards per carry. His longest run went for 15 yards.
So far this year, Carey has rushed for 151 yards on 33 carries, a 4.6 yard average.
The Wildcats’ Best Defensive Weapon
Kyle Dugandzic, No.13, is the Wildcats’ punter. Although technically, he plays on the offense or special teams, he has been the best weapon – actually the only weapon – that the Arizona defense has had so far this season.
Dugandzic has punted five times In each of their three consecutive losses and has averaged 48, 50 and 44.4 yards per punt. His longest against Oklahoma State went for 54 yards. His longest of the year came against Stanford—a 62 yarder. His longest against the Ducks was 53 yards.
Why is the punter, Kyle Dugandzic, the Wildcats' best defensive weapon? Continue reading to find out...
The Wildcats’ Defense Cannot Stop the Run or the Pass
Other than being unable to stop the run or the pass, the Arizona defense is fine. Seriously, not only does Arizona have five new starters on the offensive line; they have had three new starters and now four on the defensive front.
Defensive tackle Justin Washington was a Freshman All-American last season. He had 11.5 tackles for loss, six of them sacks and had earned considerable all-conference honors in the preseason.
With nine career starts under his belt, he was supposed to anchor the defensive front. As of last week, his anchor was tied firmly to the bench, as he didn’t even start.
Frustrated with Washington’s performance—or lack thereof—this season, Mike Stoops gave the nod to freshman Sanielia Fuimaono.
Washington had stomach problems during the off season and lost some weight, though he is still listed at 280 pounds, the same as last year. Currently, Stoops has Fuimaono listed as a co-starter with Washington for this week’s game at the Coliseum.
Arizona ranks 114th nationally in rush defense, giving up 233.5 yards per game.
The Wildcats rank 112th in total defense, allowing 484 yards per game. They are106th in scoring defense, surrendering 35 points a game.
Arizona has had only one “team” sack in the past three games. That occurred when Oklahoma State’s quarterback, Brandon Weeden, fell down.
The Secondary Has Not Stopped Anyone in 2011
While Nick Foles has completed over 70 percent of his passes, the Arizona secondary has the dubious distinction of allowing opponents to complete over 71 percent of their passes.
In all fairness, I must restate that their last three games have been against three top 10 opponents. It remains to be seen how the USC secondary will fare against the likes of Stanford and Oregon.
But here are the key players to watch for in the Wildcats’ defensive backfield:
Robert Golden, No. 1, is a 5'11", 200-pound senior safety. He had five tackles against the Ducks last week, four solo. On the year, he has had 19 tackles with14 solo. In 2010, he had 60 tackles, with 47 of them solo. He also had an interception.
Trevin Wade, No. 24, is 5'11", 190 pound senior cornerback. Against Oregon, he had seven stops, five of them solo, along with three pass deflections. So far in 2011, he has made 21 tackles, 19 solo and an interception. Last season, he had 47 tackles with 39 solo and one interception
Marquis Flowers, No. 2, is an imposing 6'3", 220 sophomore safety. He did not play last week due to a knee injury but is expected to go against the Trojans. In three games this season, he has had 29 tackles with 25 solo.
Shaquille Richardson, No. 5, a 6'1", 180-pound sophomore is the other cornerback. He had three solo tackles against the Ducks last weekend. That gave him 21 tackles on the year, 17 of them solo. Last year as a freshman, he had 30 tackles with 27 solo and two interceptions.