Rich Rodriguez can’t catch a break this season. And the Wildcats’ record is showing the disastrous results.
When the University of Arizona 2015 football schedule first came out, there was something missing. A bye week. The Cats haven’t had a week off to catch their breath, and won’t until after the regular season is over.
On top of that, the schedule included a bunch of night games. Rodriguez, in his fourth season as head coach, has been complaining about that all season since it makes it difficult for his players to recover for the coming week, especially when they’re getting off the team bus back on campus in the wee hours of the morning.
And then injuries began to take their toll. His defense has been riddled since early in the season, the most notable casualty Scooby Wright III, the All-American linebacker that was the heart and soul of this year’s defensive squad. He was hurt in the second game of the season and just returned to the starting line-up a couple of weeks ago.
Now it appears to be a quarterback controversy – but the worst kind. It’s not a matter of having two hot QBs vying for playing time, as is generally the case. The problem here is figuring out which one can revive the Cats’ hopes of salvaging a once-promising season – and not having a clear-cut answer after nine games.
Last night’s blow-out loss to the Washington Huskies illustrates the dilemma. The usual starter, redshirt sophomore Anu Solomon, was having trouble moving the offense, as his team put up just three points in the first quarter, thanks to a 27-yard field goal by Casey Skowron.
That 3-0 lead would, in fact, be their only lead of the night – and their only score as the Huskies rolled to an embarrassing 49-3 victory to drop their Pac-12 opponents to 2-4 in conference play and 5-4 overall. That puts the Wildcats just one game out of the cellar in the South Division, slightly ahead of 1-4 Colorado.
This is the second time this season Arizona has suffered back-to-back losses – both times in conference play. They were beaten last week by Washington State, a game in which the two signal callers pretty much split time under center as the Cats fell behind early and were never able to get over the hump. The Cougars left Tucson with a critical 45-42 conference victory.
Last night, Rich Rod turned the ball over to Jerrard Randall in the closing minutes of the first quarter. He responded by throwing an interception on the third play. Rodriguez left him in for one more play to start the second quarter, but an incomplete pass attempt opened the way for Solomon’s return.
And so it went, as the rotating QBs combined for three interceptions. Between the two of them, they managed to get just enough passing yards to sneak over the 200-yard mark. Solomon went 12-for-20 for 145 yards and Randall completed seven of 11 for 43 yards.
Randall’s strength is in his running game and he used his legs to pick up another 54 yards, second high on the team behind Jared Baker‘s 69 yards.
Not the kind of quarterback play that Arizona needs to salvage its season. And the defense needs to pull its game together as well. Washington rolled for 468 yards last night, and Washington State piled up 631 yards a week earlier.
There are three games left on the regular schedule. USC is always dangerous, Utah is ranked No. 16 nationally, and then it wraps up with rival Arizona State in the annual Territorial Cup game – and that last one is on the road in Tempe.
The Cats probably aren’t thinking about a bowl bid at this point, and rightly so. But in order to even be considered for a lower-tier bowl, they would need to win one more just to become bowl-eligible. And that assumes there’s a bowl-selection committee out there that would consider extending an invite.
And that’s not a bet most people would be willing to make under the current circumstances.
(Photo: Arizona Athletics)