September 21 column: Indecision.....
Stallion (Regular+; 23559)
Posted on: 09-21-2009.
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Cats’ Failures in Iowa Raise Huge Questions about Offense
Well, that was a fun four games, wasn’t it?
The longest win streak of Mike Stoops’ career has come to an end and, just like the other streaks, it didn’t end gracefully. Stoops’ first set of consecutive wins (the first two starts of Willie Tuitama’s career) were followed by a home loss to 2-9 Washington. The three-game streaks in both ’06 and ’07 were cut short by bowl-busting losses to ASu. Last year’s two mini in-season streaks were halted by New Mexico and Stanford. We should be used to this.
Here are some other things that should be familiar. These facts should never be doubted again:
Struggles in the “easy” game can’t be brushed off. When your QB misses wide open receivers against the directional school he’s probably going to be erratic against a good defense. If your receivers can’t hold onto the ball when they’re all alone, chances are they’ll have issues in traffic. If your defense allows multiple third down conversions on a long drive against the FCS school, the first BCS league team is going to be able to milk half a quarter on one possession.
The “We haven’t opened up the playbook” line is bogus. There aren’t magical plays that suddenly make you a better passer, blocker, or receiver. There certainly aren’t any magical trick plays in the UA book. The funny (sad?) part is it seems like the only change from the NAU game was taking out the few pass plays Scott could complete – the quick wide receiver screens and the throws to A.J. Simmons over the middle.
Injury updates from coaches mean nothing. Last Monday the word was Rob Gronkowski was back at practice with a chance to play at Iowa. Now he’s having back surgery and he’s done for the year. Fare thee well, GRONK¡
Saturday’s woes weren’t limited to the offensive side of the ball. After that first drive you realized we’re still waiting for that dominant defense. It can be a good defense, but we’re not going to line up and stonewall someone.
This was the type of game fans from the Midwest have in mind when they talk about strength vs. speed. If the Big Ten could play Arizona in the Rose Bowl every year they’d be the greatest conference ever.
If you’re looking for bright spots, you have to be excited about the playmaking potential of our secondary. Trevin Wade is way beyond ball-hawk status right now. He’s a ball-pterodactyl.
If you’re looking for ghastly dark spots, I’m sure you noticed our quarterbacking. Ever since the coaches started talking up the dead heat in the QB competition the fear has been that we have two average quarterbacks. After three games the situation is actually worse in that we have one average QB and one guy who is still a mystery.
Matt Scott has proven himself to be – at this point in his career – the stereotypical running quarterback. Nick Foles only got two series against NAU, and that monster Hawkeye touchdown drive turned his second series this week into garbage time. But from the glimpse we’ve seen it looks like he may be the stereotypical pocket passer – risking turnovers due to holding the ball too long and/or trying to strong-arm passes into tight spaces.
The dual-threat thing just isn’t going to happen this year. The future NFL player who was supposed to catch 100 passes isn’t coming back. What we’ve got is what we’ve got. So what are we going to do with it?
There are three options:
Run, Forrest, Run
Oregon just beat a ranked team in a game in which it completed four passes. If we’re going to do this running thing we need to really do this running thing. But that would be essentially installing a brand new offense, which would be odd coming off the program’s best season in a decade.
Free Willie 2
We already know what life is like with a big-armed QB who is rather statuesque. He won eight games last year and owns every school passing record. That’s not so bad, right?
When In Doubt, Go Back To 1998
The final option is playing both quarterbacks with two completely different packages. It would give defenses twice as much to prepare for, but it would give us half the practice time to prepare.
If we were rebuilding we’d ride it out with Scott for sure. If he can grow as a passer he’s got the skill set to be a dangerous weapon. But we’re not rebuilding. We’re supposed to be built. We’re supposed to be scoring points and competing in games today.
The coaches are saying Scott is the better QB in practice. If so they’d better adjust the offense to what he does best right now, and they’d better stop teasing us with these touchdown passes from the backup.
We also need to decide if the field goal is going to remain an option. Since Alex Zendejas concussed his lineman in the NAU game the Cats have had five 4th-down plays in field goal range, and Stoops has gone for it four times including the fake. The lone field goal attempt in that span was from the three yard line. You wouldn’t try to win a basketball game by refusing to take free throws so you’ve got to let your kicker kick.
It sure would be nice to have a bye week to sort all this out but the Cats have no such luck. The UA now begins play in a Pac-10 that contains only one terrible team, and even they won this weekend.
We hoped a new Pac-10 team would enter the polls this week, and one did. But…Washington? We may now have to go 6-0 at home to have a shot at a bowl game.
In that sense we’ve got at least four more weeks before we panic. But there’s zero time left to figure out this team’s philosophy, direction and identity.
It’s decision time.
Edited by Stallion at 9/21/2009 7:34:33 AM
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