Football notes: Rodriguez not satisfied with defense
The Arizona defense has been widely praised for its performance the past two weeks. In particular, Jake Fischer and Jared Tevis have been noted for their roles in the last two wins.
Fischer was Pac-12 player of the week after week one and leads the Wildcats with 27 tackles, while Tevis has been selected as the coaches defensive player of the week as he leads the team in interceptions, with two, and is second in tackles.
Jonathan McKnight got a lot of publicity for his 48-yard interception return for a touchdown against Oklahoma State, and Marquis Flowers' transition to linebacker from safety appears to be a successful one as he leads the team in sacks.
Head coach Rich Rodriguez is still not impressed.
"There are still a lot of questions," Rodriguez said. "We've done alright. We've won, but we've given up a lot of yards, we've given up 38 points … We've been opportunistic a little defensively, but we've got to play better."
Look no further than the week two matchup against Oklahoma State to find where many of the defensive issues lie. The Cowboys had 636 total yards, including 436 passing yards from freshman quarterback Wes Lunt — a Big 12 conference freshman record — and four touchdowns. Receiver Tracy Moore lit up Arizona for eight receptions, 106 yards and four touchdowns as well.
"Not giving up as many big plays," Rodriguez said, citing what needs to be fixed. "We gotta get off blocks better. We didn't recognize some things that were happening."
Justin Washington back in the fold
Prior to week one, Rodriguez suspended junior defensive lineman Justin Washington for an unspecified violation of team rules and said that if he wanted to make it back to the team, he would have to work his way back.
It appears that's exactly what he's done.
"He's out there," Rodriguez said. "Justin's been practicing for two weeks now. He's practicing, he's on the scout team trying to work his way back up the depth chart. He had a good week last week, and he's having a pretty good week this week."
After a breakout freshman campaign that saw him garner six sacks, 46 tackles and 11.5 tackles for loss, Washington regressed last year, recording just 18 total tackles, two for loss and zero sacks.
Hankins had already been considering retirement
Rob Hankins was expected to be an outside starting linebacker, but a serious concussion forced him to call it quits on Monday after he already missed Arizona's first two games.
Rodriguez said the retirement possibility arose about a month ago.
"There's been a point for about a month where he's been contemplating it," Rodriguez said. "He hadn't practiced since the first week of August, so it's been a couple months since it's been an issue."
Rodriguez still expects Hankins to be a part of the program though, and anticipates Hankins trying to finish his degree at the UA.
Hankins recorded 10 tackles last season.
Stoops proud of UA, Scott
In a couple of interviews since the Rodriguez era started, former head coach Mike Stoops, who is now the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma, hasn't had the best of things to say about the school he left behind.
In March, he told CBS Sports that he felt like he was "fighting with a toothpick" as a head coach at the UA, particularly because of his impression that the athletic department was committed to a winning football program.
Now, after witnessing Arizona win two games, including one against the Sooner's rival Oklahoma State, Stoops had some nicer words to say.
"I was certainly happy for Arizona, happy for Coach [Rich] Rodriguez and all the players at Arizona there," Stoops told ESPN. "They must have played an awfully great game. That's a tough place to play there at night."
He went on to single out quarterback Matt Scott.
"We all knew Matt Scott was a great player," Stoops said. "It's not a shock. I saw what Matt Scott did for four years there. He got beat out by an NFL quarterback in Nick Foles and Matt is a tremendous talent.
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