Arizona Wildcats coach Mike Stoops says the situation is “pretty desperate right now.” Oregon State coach Mike Riley must feel the same way.
The Wildcats are on a four-game losing streak and have lost nine in a row to FBS teams. The Beavers are 0-4 and have dropped six consecutive games, dating to last season.
Arizona’s weaknesses, as Stoops has said, have been “exposed” by his team’s strength of schedule, playing against Top 10 teams and explosive offensives. Yeah, well, Oregon State has weaknesses, too, and it can’t blame everything on strength of schedule, having lost to lower-division Sacramento State.
It should be a real battle of weakness vs. weakness on Saturday in Corvallis.
Let’s take a look:
Arizona hasn’t led in any of its past four games; in fact it has trailed by double-digits at the end of first quarter in each of those games. Brutal.
“We haven’t started well, and I wish I had an explanation for it,” Stoops said.
Might we suggest the circle drill?
Dick Tomey used to run that drill before games. The players gathered on the sideline in a circle, and the coaches would call out names of players, who would battle mano-a-mano while everyone else went crazy cheering. If that didn’t get your adrenaline pumping before kickoff, you didn’t have a pulse.
Which much describes Arizona at the start of games. The Wildcats have been outscored 55-3 in the first quarter of the past four games.
Meanwhile, Oregon State has yet to score a touchdown in the first quarter and has been outscored 63-17 in the second quarter.
Arizona is allowing 209.6 yards per game on the ground and has let a trio of running backs this season run wild all over the field — Oklahoma State’s Joseph Randle, Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor and (especially) Oregon’s LaMichael James.
Arizona held USC’s running game in check last week, if only because it let Matt Barkley set the school passing record with 468 yards.
Stoops said the defensive problems are a combination of multiple deficiencies, starting with tackling.
“Tackling, a lot of it is position and a lot of it is desire,” Stoops said. “It first starts with being in position, and being a good tackler is an attitude as well.”
Can Oregon State take advantage?
The Beavers ranked 102nd nationally with 106 rushing yards per game, and that paltry number is built on the strength on freshman Malcolm Agnew’s 223 yards in the opener vs. Sacramento State. He hasn’t played since then because of a hamstring injury, and Riley said Tuesday that he’s “kind of doubtful” Agnew will play this week.
The Beavers’ running backs had only nine carries last week against Arizona State. OSU has a total of 158 rushing yards in three games without Agnew.
Stoops isn’t making any changes at place-kicker, even after Alex Zendejas missed two more extra point attempts last week, one of which was blocked. That brings his career total to 11 PAT misses, nine of them blocked.
Arizona is 2 of 6 on field goal attempts, including a bad snap that sailed past holder Kyle Dugandzic and three misses from erstwhile starter Jaime Salazar.
At least kickoff man John Bonano has been a bright spot. He has 11 touchbacks in 23 kickoffs, which ranks Arizona among the national leaders in touchback percentage. Dugandzic, at 47.35 yards per attempt, is fifth nationally.
Oregon State’s special teams have been a frequent source of frustration, too.
Trevor Romaine has converted 6 of 8 field goal attempts, but only one attempt was longer than 35 yards. The freshman has missed from 27 and 34 yards, and he has booted two kickoffs out of bounds, allowing the opponent to start at its 40.
Johnny Hekker shanked a rugby-style punt for minus-4 yards against Wisconsin. In the same game, Keynan Parker caught a kickoff at the 5-yard-line and then stepped out of bounds.
Oregon State allowed a punt return for a touchdown last week and muffed a punt when leading Arizona State 13-7. The turnover led to an ASU score.
It’s just been that kind of season for both teams.
But one of them will leave Reser Stadium happy on Saturday afternoon.
“It’s going to be a dogfight,” predicted Arizona center Kyle Quinn. “Both teams are hungry for wins.”