Video from Fox Sports, via YouTube.
Story at FoxSportsArizona.com — Wildcats say ‘we’re here to stay’ is from me.
Video from Fox Sports, via YouTube.
Story at FoxSportsArizona.com — Wildcats say ‘we’re here to stay’ is from me.
I have been going back and forth with the Arizona-Iowa game all week. So have the gamblers and oddsmakers.
The Hawkeyes started as 1-point favorite, then the line switched to the Wildcats as a tiny favorite. Basically, it’s a toss-up.
Iowa out-played Arizona last season in Iowa City, winning 27-17, but it wasn’t as if the Wildcats didn’t have their chances.
Maybe if they don’t let Adam Robinson run for 43 yards on third-and-23 … or maybe if they score a touchdown when they have first-and-goal from the 1 … or maybe if they convert a fake field goal …
(NOTE: We bring you an Iowa view from our Gannett sister paper in Des Moines. For more, visit Hawk Central, a collaboration of Gannett’s Des Moines Register and Iowa City Press-Citizen).
By Andrew Logue
IOWA CITY — Glimpses.
That’s all Christian Ballard and his Iowa defensive teammates saw of Arizona’s three-pronged offense.
The Wildcats were still in the tinkering stages last September when they lost 27-17 at Kinnick Stadium.
When the Hawkeyes travel west for Saturday’s rematch, they’ll encounter a unit that prides itself on precision.
Arizona Wildcats sophomore safety Adam Hall, recovering from a shoulder injury, seems probable to play against Iowa this weekend. Marquis Flowers will be ready, just in case.
As co-defensive coordinator Greg Brown said, “This is why we recruited Marquis Flowers.”
Flowers was the high school headliner in coach Mike Stoops’ class of 2010, and he has made good on that promise by playing right away as a reserve in the first two games.
“The first two games definitely taught me the game speed of college and how it is,” Flowers said. “It definitely taught me the physicality, what you need to do. It’s been a little rough, but I’m getting used to it and I like it.”
Stoops loves Flowers’ potential, but the coaches would be much more comfortable with Hall (6-foot4, 212 pounds) starting in the team’s nickel package Iowa. Stoops said that Hall’s playing status could be a game-time decision.
Lucky for us, Iowa is one of those schools that provides a full, court-reporter-like transcript of its football coach’s weekly news conference. You can read more than 4,500 words of Q&A here.
Or you can have someone parse the parts really relevant to an Arizona fan. You’re welcome.
One note: Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said it was doubtful that defensive coordinator Norm Parker would make the trip to Tucson. Parker, 68, is a diabetic and has been hospitalized recently.
On to the quotes from Tuesday (interesting stuff, I thought, about Nic Grigsby below):
The Arizona athletic department is calling for a “Red Out” at Arizona Stadium this weekend, encouraging all fans to wear even more red than normal for the big game against Iowa.
The 10,000-strong student section is already a sea of red on the lower level of the east side of the stadium. But the athletic department is going for an even better visual for the ESPN cameras, saying in a press release:
“While red is the dominant color worn by Wildcat fans at all home contests, this week is not the one to choose an alternate color to wear on game day.”
Here’s the thing: Even if every single UA fan at the game wears red for what is expected to be a sold-out game, there is going to be a lot of black and gold inside 57,400-seat Arizona Stadium.
B.J. Katz, president of Phoenix I-Club, told Hawk Central that he is expecting more than 12,000 Iowa fans at Saturday’s game.
“I’ve probably been getting calls for six months … ticket requests, tailgating requests and everything,” Katz said. “Everyone is super excited.”
The first thing you need to know about Phillip Garcia is that he’s a big dude. The Arizona Wildcats senior right tackle is 6 feet 7 inches tall. He’s 330 pounds. I’m guessing he has the largest hat size of anyone I’ve ever known.
A big dude.
He took a seat in front of a reporters Monday and starting talking about Iowa’s defensive line and how they compare to other defenders he’s seen. That’s when the big dude couldn’t stop saying “Big dude.”
Yes, Iowa’s defensive line — rated No. 1 in the nation in the preseason by Lindy’s College Football Annuals — has a lot of big (and, oh yeah, really, really good) dudes.
“They’re big, strong physical guys,” Garcia said.
Takes one to know one?
Nothing is official yet, but Arizona’s most significant non-conference game of the 2010 season — against Iowa — likely will be a 7:30 p.m. start at Arizona Stadium.
A news release Wednesday from Iowa about its schedule said the game will be televised by a yet-to-be-determined network, but an Arizona official said that would be ESPN.
Iowa won last year’s meeting, 27-17, in Iowa City, which was the Wildcats’ seventh consecutive loss to a Big Ten opponent. Iowa is the alma mater of UA head coach Mike Stoops.
Arizona opens its season at Toledo on Sept. 3, in a Friday night game that will be televised by ESPN. It also has been announced that the season-ender at home against Arizona State on Thursday, Dec. 2, will be on ESPN.
Much of the rest of the TV schedule for Arizona football has yet to be determined.
So, Arizona lost at Iowa. There’s no shame in that. The problem was that the Wildcats came home with a bagful of questions bigger than the one they took to Iowa City.
The offensive line, praised by coach Mike Stoops last week as “one of the most consistent groups we have right now,” created little push for the running game. The defense forgot how to tackle on occasion and failed at critical times to make key stops (you know, like on third-and-23).
Think of it this way: Arizona gave up 27 points and got shoved around by an Iowa offense that didn’t have, for various reasons, its best offensive lineman (Bryan Bulaga), starting tight end Tony Moeaki (ankle) and most productive wide receiver (Derrell Johnson-Koulianos).
UA special teams failed to convert a fake field goal, the coaching staff appears to have little faith in kicker Alex Zendejas, and punter Keenyn Crier, who has an All-American leg, looked more like a rookie walk-on.
The Cats have no one who can approximate what tight end Rob Gronkowski, out for the season, would have done for the passing game.
“The great thing about the loss is that it was kind of a team debacle in some ways,” Stoops said in his postgame radio interview. “It was offense, defense and special teams.”
So, at least there won’t be any finger-pointing among the players.
OK, so I buried the lead here, because I’m just now mentioning the quarterback situation.
The three non-conference games were supposed to lay the track for the rest of the season at quarterback. Heading into this week’s league opener at Oregon State, the Cats are off the rails.
Arizona supposedly spent several months not knowing if it wanted to pick Matt Scott or Nick Foles, but once the season started coaches went all in with Scott, taking a sink-or-swim approach in the first three games.
Now that he needs a life-preserver, the timing is all wrong to make a change.
Of course, the timing might be wrong to NOT make a change.
Scott hasn’t shown the passing chops to handle a good defense — like Iowa’s, like the kind he would see nearly every week in the Pac-10 . Maybe he will show it. Maybe Iowa was just a bad game. But his interception — when he tossed a rainbow up for grabs deep down the middle of the field … well, I’ll let the guy who picked it off, Iowa’s Tyler Sash, describe it:
“He hung it up there like a punt kind of,” Sash said.
Scott was 4 of 14 for 50 yards.
Nick Foles played the fourth quarter and was 6 of 11 for 55 yards and a touchdown.
The coaches like Scott because of his running ability. I get that. Then let him run.
Meanwhile, Arizona is stuck in offense purgatory.
The Wildcats are clearly not pass-crazy like Texas Tech, which was the plan when coordinator Sonny Dykes was hired after the 2006 season. Arizona wants more balance.
On the other hand, the Wildcats aren’t willing to hang their hat on the quarterback run game and start running a lot of read-option plays. Arizona wants … uh, balance?
If the coaches aren’t going to have Scott run, then play Foles, who sure appears more capable of flinging the ball all over the field.
The coaches have to figure out which part of the playbook they want to use … and then they can pick a quarterback.
Right now, the Cats are who most of us thought they were: A solid team with a really big question at quarterback. It’s just that, by the fourth game, Arizona needed to be somewhere other than at square one at quarterback.
It’s nearly the day of reckoning for Arizona quarterback Matt Scott.
Quarterback play has been the Wildcats’ big issue for several months, and the first two games of the season haven’t solved anything. Scott hasn’t been bad. He hasn’t been great. As is often the case, the backup quarterback — that would be Nick Foles, the guy with a better arm — remains a popular man on campus.
Now, comes Saturday’s game at Iowa.
If Scott, a sophomore, can handle the Hawkeyes defense, then there won’t be much of a quarterback controversy. If the physically imposing Hawkeyes choke off Arizona’s running game and make Scott throw the ball downfield — not his strength so far — might things get ugly?
UA coach Mike Stoops has offered a “no complaints” quote regarding Scott so far, and the coaches will go as far as they can with Scott until there is overwhelming evidence he can’t handle the job.
Foles might be the better passer, but Scott is, by a much wider margin, the superior runner. Stoops and offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes value how Scott’s feet change the defensive schemes.
“If you have a guy who can run around a little bit, it completely changes the way people can play you,” Dykes said.
“They will be less inclined to blitz you. They have one guy who has to assist with the possibility of the quarterback run, which is one less guy who is dropping out covering passes.”
Scott has completed 33 of 50 passes, a 66 percent accuracy rate that has been built behind a plethora of short passes.
It hasn’t helped that star tight end Rob Gronkowski has been out with a back injury. Leading wideout Delashaun Dean, who is trying to get back to full speed after a preseason leg injury, suffered a concussion last week against NAU. Mike Thomas, the Pac-10 career receptions leader, is now with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Arizona has been leading with the run game, averaging 305.5 yards. Some argue that Foles’ arm would loosen up the defense for the run game. Dykes says that is what Scott’s legs do — whether he uses them on designed runs or impromptu scrambles.
“One of the reasons we have run it so well is because of the mobility of our quarterback and the threat of him pulling it down,” Dykes said. “People have to respect him, which gives us extra numbers in the running game.”
Arizona hasn’t shown too much of the quarterback run game so far. It hasn’t shown much of anything. It hasn’t had to. The Wildcats jumped to early leads against Central Michigan and NAU, and were content to get out with a win.
Scott has rushed 16 times for 131 yards.
If Arizona has to play from behind against Iowa — or it is a close game, as expected — Scott’s misses on potential touchdown throws will become more glaring. This also will be Scott’s first start on the road, and it comes in a rowdy Big Ten stadium.
“What I like about him is he has a calmness about him,” Dykes said.
Foles might play a series or two against Iowa, Stoops said. At least that was the plan early in the week. Could be more or less depending on how Scott does in his biggest test, by far.
“We’ll know a lot more about our team Saturday,” Stoops said.