Arizona is focusing on improving its rushing defense ahead of the Wildcats’ Pac-12 home opener against winless Colorado on Saturday in Tucson, Ariz.
The Wildcats (2-2, 0-1 Pac-12) gave up 354 rushing yards in a 49-31 loss at Cal last week and allowed 283 in a win over FCS North Dakota State a week earlier. Arizona ranks 125th out of 131 teams nationally against the run.
“Tackling would always be the starting point,” said Arizona coach Jedd Fisch, vowing an increased emphasis on fundamentals in drills this week. “It’s that first tackle that (they’re) breaking through. I think the other part of it is that we weren’t necessarily in our gaps.”
It’s debatable as to whether the Buffaloes (0-4, 0-1) can take advantage. They haven’t scored more than 17 points in a game and have lost all four matchups by at least 25 points. They are averaging just 102.8 rushing yards a game and will be starting a true freshman quarterback, Owen McCown, for the second time.
In a 45-17 loss to UCLA, the Buffaloes managed just 51 yards on 34 rushing attempts. McCown completed 26 of 42 for 258 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. He also fumbled twice, although one of the UCLA recoveries was negated by penalty.
“I felt like he had an OK performance, close to a solid performance,” Colorado coach Karl Dorrell said. “Did he make some mistakes? Yes, a couple big turnovers that led to some scoring opportunities for UCLA. But his overall body of work was pretty solid.”
Not much else has been solid so far for the Buffaloes, who are last in the country in rushing defense (323.2 yards allowed per game).
Arizona has a deep stable of capable backs, but the focus of the offense has been quarterback Jayden de Laura, who has been hot and cold in his first season after transferring from Washington State. He has thrown for 1,149 yards and eight touchdowns, but he has been intercepted six times and lost a fumble last week. His top target is Jacob Cowing (28 catches, 386 yards, six touchdowns).
The Wildcats have topped 30 points three times this season after doing so only once in 2021. But in their two games against teams from Power Five conferences, they have allowed an average of 44.
–Field Level Media