Wild About the ‘Cats? (A Look Into Arizona)

Posted by: Avinash on Friday, September 21st, 2007

Antoine Cason and the Arizona Wildcats look to upset the California Golden Bears again.It’s finally Pac-10 time. Time to get down to the heavy artillery, where I now must amplify every game’s importance. We’ve been through Tennessee, CSU, and Louisana Tech, but these next nine games are the ones that get the Bears to the Rose Bowl…and perhaps more. Time to defend the Pac-10 crown…and this time, win the tiebreaker with USC. Or at least get someone to drive a cart around the field again, or Lavelle Hawkins to get carried off the field with a real hawk.

We talked about the state of Wildcat football with the good fellows over at GOAZCATS, to help breakdown this week’s game from Arizona’s perspective.

One poster had this awesome response: “Print” this on your Cal boards: Cal is good, Arizona probably is not good.

And be done with it.

Sorry to be inhospitable but f off.”

I guess I could have ended the interview there, but I figured that there might be others with even more impressive responses. Let’s keep on, shall we?

Last year your team knocked us out of the title race in a huge upset that still leaves me shaking my hand. While the myopic Bears fan (myself) points to all the bad karma (penalties, questionable calls, receivers tripping and stepping out of bounds), the Wildcats did a lot to win it too. What were the keys to winning that game and how can they utilize those keys this year?

The three keys to me were (1) keeping the game close throughout so UA was within striking distance in the 4th, (2) stifling Marshawn Lynch (with the help of that TD being called back) in the 2nd half, and (3) putting consistent pressure on Longshore so that he did not have his best game. It was a total team effort to win that game though, not one facet really stands out, because UA needed good performances all over the field to win.

Also we benefited from a few giant plays. The Lynch touchdown called back on a penalty; DeSean Jackson being out of bounds by .2 inches; Cason’s int. returned for a touchdown, etc. And Arizona generally played solid defense once again.

Big plays and defense will have to do it again. Our offense should be improved, but without a D and some big plays, we won’t win.

Your fans have Coach Stoops on a very short leash after losing to New Mexico at home. What would you guys consider enough of a successful season to keep him around?

There is a lot of disagreement over this point. A lot of people seem to think he’ll be here next season no matter what happens this year. Others think a disastrous season (4-8 or worse, I guess) will send him packing. I think he has to go at least 6-6, or the heat will really be on. There is a lot of dissatisfaction among the fan base right now, and for good reason.

Winning season in conference, which would put UA at 6-6, at the very least would call off most of the dogs, although I think he’s coming back no matter what, short of an absolute Mackovician/Gilbertsonian meltdown.

This is a somber moment in the Stoops era. Please excuse the lack of enthusiasm we have before this weekend’s game. We are expecting a rough weekend ahead. We have the talent to be competitive but after a 1-2 start things are a little tough. With that being said- I would hate to be the Bears right now looking at playing the Cats. We have nothing to lose again and the Bears have everything to lose.

Your offensive line continues to play well, but the playmakers (receiving corps) seem to be struggling with busted plays and the red zone offense has been mediocre (no rushing TDs yet). How can they look to exploit a still young Cal defense, and where should the focus be? Establish the ground game or air it out?

UA hasn’t figured out how to run block in the new scheme yet, so at best it’s a work in progress, and at worst it’s a waste of time against Cal. UA needs to throw the ball all over the field, and take advantage of what the spread is designed to do, all the while scoring points and keeping Cal’s O off the field. A tall order for UA four games into the new scheme.

Our O-line is only good for pass protection. Their run-blocking is mediocre, and our running backs are either mediocre or unproven. Our receivers are mostly young and talented, but have dropped a few balls they shouldn’t have. They’re still one of the bright spots of this team. I don’t care how young your D is, our offense can’t run on anybody. Cal should focus on stopping the air game, first. Take that away, and Arizona is done.

The defense has been very weak this year, particularly the secondary, which will be tested a lot by Cal’s playmakers. How do you think you guys can turn it around and what must you do to contain the explosive Golden Bear offense?

The defense has been decent against the run, but terrrrrrrrrible against the pass. We have no rush or push from our front four, and opposing QBs have all day long to find targets. The secondary has been extremely disappointing. Dumb plays, being out of position, etc. If we can’t find a way to get to Longshore (blitzing or otherwise) we won’t be able to stop the Cal offense, much less slow it down. Our LB corps is solid, but is underutilized for blitzing purposes.

How can the Wildcats pull off another shocking upset?

1) Force turnovers – Duh. Arizona needs to be plus 2 in the turnover department to keep it close.

2) Limit the big play. Keep Cal to short gains and don’t allow huge throws or runs. Be disciplined in positioning and tackling technique.

3) Score! Exploit Cal’s youth and injuries on defense and throw to set up the run. Pass the ball all over the field. Willie Tuitama cannot be afraid, but also has to play smart.

4) Win the special teams battle. Don’t punt to Desean Jackson. Period. We have good return men, as Antoine Cason and Devin Ross have done very well in returning kicks. Coverage has also been good. Our field goal kicker is young, but talented. Same with our punter, a redshirt freshman with a freakin’ huge leg.

I am not overly impressed by Cal’s defense; they are talented but young and thin. Having said that, I was quite surprised they were able to hold La. Tech’s offense to 12 points. UA’s offense will have keep improving and be productive like they were the last 2 weeks, while UA’s defense has to return to last season’s form and contain Cal, because Cal will get their’s, it just has to come with a price. I like Cal 38-24 in this game, but UA is capable of winning in a shootout and pulling off the upset.

Topics: Cal Football, Sports

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