Citizen Staff Writer
Random thoughts while wondering if it could be a really loooong season . . .
And by long season, I mean, of course, the length of games. (What, did you think I was talking about the potential for UA’s 1-3 record to get worse?)
The average length of college football games last season was 3 hours, 7 minutes. Offenses averaged 64 plays.
But with the former (slower) clock rules back in effect this season, the average game time has crept up to 3:21.
UA is averaging 3:27 for its four games, and tonight’s tussle with Washington State – expected to feature lots of passing and scoring – could get so long that by the time it ends the students could already be on their fourth bar after bailing on the game at halftime.
Or as Washington State coach Bill Doba put it, “We may not get back until Monday.”
But, hey, time flies when you’re having so much fun.
Arizona has commitments from a couple of potential quarterbacks who also are nifty with their feet, and this spread offense can be a great vehicle for someone with wheels.
It makes us wonder just how good ex-UA quarterback Keith Smith could have been in this system.
He’s had that thought, too. Smith, who helped direct UA’s prolific offenses in the late 1990s, would have loved this scheme.
“Are you kidding me?” he said this week. “With the talent we had around us, you’re talking Heisman numbers.
“If you’re going to let me throw 50, 60 times, you should put up 500 yards of total offense per game. Easily. Easily.”
Willie Tuitama is putting up good passing numbers, but he’s not a threat to scramble and is under fairly strict orders not to run.
The Texas Tech offense, which this scheme is based on, has done just fine without a running threat at quarterback, but it’s easy to see the extra pressure a dual-threat passer could be.
As for Smith, he is back coaching at his alma mater, Newbury Park (Calif.) High School, and is working toward his teaching certificate. He is the offensive coordinator for the junior varsity and the quarterbacks/receivers coach for the varsity.
“I keep coming back to coaching,” he said. “And the only way I can coach is to teach.”
If only, Part II
Did you happen to see that fake field goal from LSU last week, when the holder flipped the ball over his head to the kicker, who ran for a touchdown?
I instantly thought of UA’s failed attempt to do the same thing against Cal in a 56-55 four-overtime loss in 1996. The fake extra-point attempt was stopped short of a two-point conversion when kicker Matt Peyton was tackled by defensive end Andre Rhodes.
“I saw that, too,” Smith said of the LSU play. “I was watching that with someone and we called Ryan Hesson on the spot.”
Hesson was the holder on the play, and he took the blame for not checking UA out of the fake.
Smith said fate played a large role, too. If Rhodes had rushed to try to block the kick, Peyton would have gone right around him and scored.
“That defensive end was just too tired to rush,” Smith said.
If only, Part III
A Seattle Times story Friday referred to UA’s coach as “Bob” Stoops. No Bob here. Just Mike.
It’s no revelation, but for Mike’s sake, the game against Washington State is huge for his continued stay at Arizona. Meanwhile, the Cougars are billing it as a must-win – for their season and possibly for Doba’s tenure.
Such high stakes for a game that won’t draw more than a few paragraphs back East.
Red zone red alert
UA has improved from 4.1 yards per play last season to 5.3 this year with a new spread offense. The disappointment has been the red-zone figures. The Cats too often have been unable to hit the jackpot near the goal line.
This is not a flaw in the spread offense. It’s a failing of performance.
“It’s just execution,” said offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes.
When he was at Texas Tech last season running this offense, the Red Raiders converted 86 percent of their red-zone chances (50-58). They scored a touchdown 62 percent of the time. UA is at 63 percent overall (12 of 19) and 42 percent on touchdowns.
“People will have the misconception that if you spread it out and throw it, you can’t be good in the red zone,” Dykes said. “We always were one of the best teams in the red zone every year.”
On the flip side, Arizona’s now-maligned defense actually has improved its yield per play from 5.4 yards last season to 5.1.
Problem is, the Wildcats can’t get a stop when they absolutely need it, allowing 3.5 more first downs per game than last season.
Add it all up, and UA has exactly the same point differential as last season – minus 3.0 per game. It must be tiring to be treading water for so long.
Anthony Gimino’s e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org