After poor showing, what now for UA’s offense in 2010?by Javier Morales on Dec. 30, 2009, under Sports
In the next 247 days, until Arizona opens its 2010 season Sept. 4 at Toledo, what will happen to the Wildcats, namely their offense? Some time between now and then, the UA must move on from the scars Nebraska left on the Cats in a 33-0 drubbing.
- Will tight end Rob Gronkowski return instead of entering the NFL draft?
- Will Sonny Dykes undergo a change of address to Lubbock, Texas, where he would replace his former boss Mike Leach at Texas Tech?
- Will Matt Scott stick around after being uprooted by Nick Foles? Putting Scott in for only two plays early in the fourth quarter was questionable. Why put him in at all? He returned later, but why the revolving door?
- How about the health of senior-to-be Nic Grigsby, who was out most of this season with a shoulder injury?
Dykes avoided discussing the Texas Tech position afterward, but he is already being mentioned in Texas as a likely replacement.
The Dallas Morning News ran odds about potential hires and it gave Dykes the best odds (2-1) to become the new Red Raiders coach. Dykes’ father, Spike Dykes, is a legendary coach in Lubbock and Sonny — Holiday Bowl withstanding — is revered as one of the best offensive coordinators in the country.
The Morning News report: “Sonny Dykes has helped Arizona to consecutive bowl games and played a key role in the development of quarterback Nick Foles. He also served on Leach’s staff before leaving for Arizona, and would cost less than (Art) Briles.”
The four other coaches mentioned include Briles, head coach at Baylor (odds 4-1), Texas Tech defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill (3-1), Houston coach Kevin Sumlin (5-1) and former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville (10-1).
Dykes’ spread offense against Nebraska’s vaunted defense (No. 2 in the nation in points allowed entering the game at 11.2 points per game) mustered only 109 yards in total offense. The total set a Holiday Bowl record for futility (BYU had the previous low of 185 yards in the 1980 game against Southern Methodist).
“We didn’t come out to play and I’ve never seen us do that,” said Foles, who continued a disturbing trend of below-average performances, completing 6 of 20 passes for only 28 yards and a costly interception. “It’s tough especially when you get slaughtered like that. You never really imagine playing like that … hats off to Nebraska, that’s the best defense I’ve seen all year.”
UA coach Mike Stoops was more to the point with his comments. He did not dance around the subject of Arizona’s embarrassing performance, which was the worst in a bowl game in the modern era.
“It was over before it started, and that’s my fault,” said Stoops, who later added, “Nick did not have a good game … I don’t think we made a play all night.”
Foles started the season completing better than 70 percent of his passes, but in the last three against ASU, USC and Nebraska (all stout defenses), he completed only 52 of 103 passes (50.4 percent) and generally looked lost.
“You could tell he was frustrated,” said Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who had only three tackles but his presence was still dominating. “We have great corners, lock-down corners. (Foles) was not comfortable. He tried to throw it away. He didn’t want to get sacked, so he threw it away.”
Foles and Grigsby will be back. At least UA coach Mike Stoops knows of that. Gronkowski’s presence was missed in losses to Oregon and Cal. He would not have made a difference against Nebraska. But the All-American tight end will be essential for Foles, Grigsby, Keola Antolin, Juron Criner and David Roberts, etc.
Grigsby played the entire game, albeit gaining only 9 yards on four carries, which is promising because he had to leave after only four carries against Oregon. After the Iowa game, the third one of the season, he did not carry the ball more than 10 times in a game. He hurt his shoulder against Oregon State in Week Four.
“My goal for next year is to make this team better than this,” Grigsby said. “I think all of us will take this feeling with us during the offseason and try to do something about it. We know we can play better than this; we just didn’t show it. Yeah, it will stick with us, but it’s up to us to make things right.”
With Antolin (69 yards on 11 carries against Nebraska), Grigsby, Criner and Foles back, that’s a good base for Dykes or the next offensive coordinator, if there is one. Arizona’s home Pac-10 slate is also promising with Cal, Oregon State, USC and ASU going to Tucson. Iowa also makes a return visit.
The way Arizona channels this disappointment is important to make those home games meaningful.