Arizona Football: What we’ve learned, what needs fixed and the road ahead

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 30: Running back Stevie Rocker Jr. #23 of the Arizona Wildcats carries the ball against the USC Trojans during a college football game between the Arizona Wildcats and the USC Trojans at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on October 30, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 30: Running back Stevie Rocker Jr. #23 of the Arizona Wildcats carries the ball against the USC Trojans during a college football game between the Arizona Wildcats and the USC Trojans at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on October 30, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images) /

Through eight games of the 2021 Arizona Football season, the Cats are still winless and their overall streak of losses has risen to 20 games. We look at the schedule ahead!

You might ask yourself as I do if there are any common themes from game to game for Arizona Football? Also, how much is the coaching staff led by first-year head coach Jedd Fisch? Is he troubleshooting mistakes and issues from game to game and what tools are being used to sustain what is going well?

Some of the fixes early on in the season I understood to be lessons learned, fix it and move on situations, but I am seeing some of the same issues again and again.

Let’s first take a look at the first eight games of the season by score, and in order here are the results by each week.

  • BYU 24-16, 8 point difference.
  • SDSU 38-14, 24 point difference.
  • NAU 21-19, 2 point difference.
  • Oregon 41-19, 22 point difference.
  • UCLA 34-16, 18 point difference.
  • Colorado 34-0, 34 point difference.
  • Washington 21-16, 5 point difference.
  • USC 41-34, 7 point difference.

What you find are inconsistencies from week to week particularly with the offense, one underlying theme regardless of the score is that this team appears to have not been trained hard enough in the area of establishing discipline.

Plain and simple, the only way to eliminate, or lessen penalties is for players to be disciplined. I don’t care if the player is a two-star or a five-star, discipline to not jump offsides is an example of a common skill across football at any level.

The abundance of yards lost and momentum changes due to penalties, particularly ones that can be controlled (i.e. – false starts, illegal formations, etc.) fall on the coaching staff first and foremost.

Yes, the players are responsible also, but the head coach cannot just give this lip service in a press conference or mention it and hope it goes away. The coaches need to make it a priority and develop plans to be enforced, and it should be made a norm for players to value their discipline.

Until the horn sounds every game, it is ultimately each player’s responsibility to be disciplined, which helps build the overall success of the team. The fixing of penalties needs to be made a top priority and actioned daily.

Fisch does a great job at every press conference recapping the game almost drive by drive, proving he watched the game after the game was over and that he has a good memory, but besides mentioning the order of which events happened in the game, what actions are being taken to correct the issues?

So let’s go back to the numbers (and mind you, these analytics did not require me to enter data in a computer to figure out), it is just basic math.

The total score through eight games is 254-134. That means Arizona has lost all eight games by a total of 120 points, and there are common denominators in the scores particularly on the offensive side of the ball.

Note that the offense has produced exactly 19 points in three games and exactly 16 points in two games. What that means is the offense has been stuck and not improving, the same results are happening.

Now, I know the QBs have been busted up and have been rotated, but remember, the first 3-4 games of the season were done that way by design. The coaching staff even decided to enact a game plan of using two QBs in some games.

The numbers don’t lie. Last week against USC, the Cats offense finally started producing different output numbers, keep in mind, six of those points came by way of Senior Linebacker Anthony Pandy’s pick-six interception.

Is the USC game a step in the right direction for the offense by producing 28 points against USC? Let’s hope so. And let’s hope Arizona can ride the momentum of the positives and what was done well in that game. Hopefully, Arizona can sustain those positives moving forward.

Quarterback Will Plummer even had his best game so far going 20-34 for 264 yards passing with one rushing touchdown.

Fisch is now saying there are no more moral victories. It is a step-by-step process. However, let’s hope no more steps are going backward, only forward.

The schedule doesn’t get any easier the rest of the way either. As a matter of fact, aside from Oregon, BYU, and even San Diego State too, the next four games except for California (3-5, 2-3) include arguably the toughest part of the schedule this season.

If, and that is a big if, the Cats correct those deficiencies noted during the USC game, ratcheting down the penalties to a minimum, and even taking care of the football, and perhaps a win or two is possible.

The self-inflicted mistakes have destroyed the momentum Arizona had going its way the past couple of games.

Although Cal is the lesser threat out of the last four teams, it can not be understated enough, that Cal will come into Tucson riding a momentum high after upsetting Oregon State 39-25 last Saturday. The Cats play Cal at home this Saturday, November 6th @ 12:00 PM MST on Pac-12 Network.

Here are the last three games which I feel will be the toughest tests for Arizona Football this season.

  • November 13th, 12:00 PM MST on Pac-12 Network at home against a tough Utah team (5-3, 4-1). The Utes currently sit in first place in the Pac-12 South standings and possibly are the best team in the Pac-12. Kyle Whittingham, the longest-tenured head coach in the conference is a tough, hard-nosed coach that always has his team prepared and ready for Tucson, playing with no fear.
  • November 19th, 7:00 PM MST on Pac-12 Network (Friday) the Cats travel to Pullman, WA to face a tough Washington State team (5-4, 4-2). The Cougars currently are in 2nd place behind only Oregon in the Pac-12 North standings, led largely by gunslingin’ quarterback, Jayden de Laura, he leads the Pac-12 with 17 touchdowns thrown. Wazzu handled ASU last Saturday. Note This is a Friday night game. The Cats will have a short week of practice to prepare, and in the words of Chuck Cecil “Getting to Pullman is Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” and now add one-less day to practice and travel.
  • November 27th, Arizona State (5-3, 3-2). That team to the north currently sits in 2nd place in the Pac-12 South standings behind only Utah. Start Time and TV Schedule have not yet been released, although this game will be played in Tempe. ASU is coming off of two losses to Utah and Washington State, and every Arizona fan knows the importance and meaning of this game. A Blood, Sweat, and Tears kind of a game, there are many players on the active roster that were a part of last year’s 70-7 drubbing. The Cats should not need any further motivation to play for a full 60 minutes in this game.

A Senior Shout-Out to Anthony Pandy for his stellar game against USC. 

Pandy was involved with and nearly single-handily made the fake punt a successful conversion to a first down, and even picked up a nice chunk of yardage running the ball in the process. He also converted defense to offense with a pick-six interception and had a tackle for loss (TFL) to go along with nine tackles. That’s Senior Leadership!

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