Sunday, June 12, 2011

Arizona Wildcats 2010 Review

Arizona Wildcats
2010 Record: 7-6 (4-5), Tied 5th Pac-10
2010 Bowl Game: Alamo Bowl, Lost to Oklahoma State 36-10

     The Wildcats have now been back to bowls for two years in a row, and they have both ended more than badly. Last fall's debacle in San Antonio was no different than the trip to San Diego was the season before. The only difference was that Arizona had put up ten points in the Alamo Bowl.
     In 2010, the Wildcats put their faith into the hands of Nick Foles, a transfer from Michigan State, and their QB savior. Foles was one of the better QBs to have graced Tucson in recent history, but he suffered through some injury issues, and missed two games, and went into the off-season banged up pretty badly. When Foles did play, he could be magical at times, having passed for 3191 yards while doubling up on his ratio with 20 TDs to 10 picks. In all, Foles averaged 291 yards passing per game, and gave the Cats a legitimate threat to develop an NFL capable signal caller. If Foles gets beat up again, Matt Scott proved to be adept at running the offense, but added a run element that Foles does not have. Scott passed for 776 yards and had a 4/2 ratio, and added 135 yards rushing on 35 carries.
     The Wildcats rushing game was not stellar, but was not horrible either. Keola Antolin was servicable, having rushed for 668 yards and 7 scores, but he only carried the ball an average of 11 times per game. Nic Grigsby, who was supposed to be the star in the backfield, ran into fumble problems that plagued him, and he became second fiddle while rushing for 533 yards and 8 scores. He only carried the ball an average of 9.83 times per game. Antolin should not worry too much about his status next fall, as Grigsby has moved on.
     Juron Criner is the star of the conference when it came to receivers. Criner was explosive all season, and highly benefitted from having Foles passing abilities in the pocket. Criner posted a fantastic line of 83-1244-11, and is coming back for his senior season for the Wildcats. Much like Arizona State, the Wildcats scatterred the ball all around the field, with 8 receivers with as many as 20 receptions last fall. David Douglas will see many balls come his way next fall, as he proved to be a very succesful secondary target, having posted a line of 52-515-5. David Roberts, Terrence Miller, William Wright, Travis Cobb, Antolin, and Grigsby all caught 20 or more passes, while only Cobb (26-290-1) and Grigsby (25-189-1) departed after the season.
     The Cats on defense had their moments. Arizona did give up an average of 206 yards passing, but gave up a reasonable 136.7 yards rusing per game. It wasn't the best number that you will ever see, and yeah, it borders on bad, but for Arizona, this was progress in ways.
      The major problem that the Wildcats had was finding tacklers who were making plays. They were lacking there, and only two Cats averaged more than 5 tackles per game. Junior LB Paul Vassallo was the leader, and he finished with 102 tackles for the season, which was outstanding. His partner in tackling crime was senior DB Joseph Perkins, who finished the season with 70 tackles, but averaged 5.38 per game. The rest of the numbers were pedestrian when it came to piling up tackles.
     The front 4 was outstanding when it came to backfield penetration in 2010. Three of the D linemen recorded double figure TFLs, as Ricky Elmore finished with 13, Justin Washington piled up 11.5, and Brooks Reed collected 10. Lolomana Mikaele came close and finished with 8.5, while Vassallo collected 8. Ricky Elmore was a monster on the pass rush, as he collected 11 sacks on the season. The Wildcats collected 33 sacks on the year as a team, while giving up 32. 
     The Wildcats gave up a few yards last season, but not for lack of effort. Arizona got very solid efforts from Robert Golden (12 passes defended), Joseph Perkins (10), Anthony Wilcox (9), and freshman Shaquille Richardson (7). Golden and Richardson return for 2011 to anchor the group, but more playmakers need to be found, and Trevin Wade and Adam Hall seem to be next in line to step up. The Wildcats did not excel in picking off passes, as they only intercepted 9 all season while giving up 12. No single Wildcat defender had more than 2 picks, and Perkins, Hall, and Richardson accomplished that.
     Alex Zendejas brought his family dynasty back to the desert, and his results were mixed last fall. Zendejas hit on 14 of 19 FGs last fall, which is barely passable in my book. He had some very good games, and then fell off the radar at others. He also missed 5 PATs last fall. Keenyn Crier was good, but was not stellar by any means as a punter, as he averaged 40.33 yards per punt last fall. Travis Cobb was lethal at times in the kick return game, as he averaged 26.09 yards per return on the season, giving the Cats great field position to work with for most of the season. The punt return game was basically non-existent.
Final Notes
     Stoops has gotten Arizona back to bowl games, but now he has to turn the corner again and win one. Arizona has been beaten by a combined score of 69-10 in their last two bowl appearances, meaning that even with the improvements that they have shown, Arizona is nowhere near a national competitive level as of yet. Stoops won't feel too much heat in 2011 unless the team stumbles early, and then the fire could start to rage under him. Time to take it to the next level.

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