Arizona coach Rodriguez: ‘We’ve got to get better’
Not much went right for the Arizona Wildcats Saturday in Palo Alto.
Rich Rodriguez’s team fell to the Stanford Cardinal by a score of 55-17 in a game that wasn’t even as close as the score would indicate. The Wildcats were down 13 before they finally got on the board with a field goal in the second quarter and went into halftime down 27-3.
Known for their offense, Arizona mustered just 16 first downs and 314 yards of total offense. Stanford, on the other hand, compiled 30 first downs and 570 yards of offense.
It was a night to forget for Rodriguez, who joined Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Monday morning.
“There was a lot more bad than good,” he said. “We do have a lot to work on. Some of it — you can’t worry about things you can’t control, when it’s injuries and all that.
“What I told the team is who’s out there, we’ve got to get better. We’ve got to coach them better, we’ve got to execute better.”
Rodriguez said his team is very “conscientious” and that nobody is sticking their heads in the sand and moping about what happened Saturday. Though it was their second consecutive blowout loss — Arizona fell to UCLA 56-30 the week before — the ‘Cats, now at 3-2 with a 0-2 Pac-12 record, must press on with their next game, which is Saturday in Tucson against Oregon State (2-2, 0-2).
The coach admitted his team needs to do better in a lot of areas, specifically defense, noting that injuries haven’t helped but that there have been struggles in coverage, pressure and getting off blocks. The last one, he said, has been the biggest problem in the two losses.
“There are times that we’re in pretty good position to make plays or we’re close to making plays, but we’re just not finishing and getting off it and getting it done,” he said. “So as coaches we’ve got to try to do everything we can to put them in a position.”
That doesn’t necessarily mean changing the scheme, which is a somewhat irregular 3-3-5 defense, but Rodriguez said they’re evaluating all aspects of the program. Needing to do so tends to happen after a game against a team like Stanford, who is traditionally one of the best teams in the Pac-12, now ranked 16th in the nation and a bad matchup for Arizona’s smaller roster.
That’s what makes this a tricky game to go back and try and learn from, the coach said, because while there are certainly things that should be taken from the performance it is possible they will not see a similar opponent and/or scheme the rest of the season.
“Now we, after 24 hours, have moved on to a really fast Oregon State team that gives us a whole different type of challenge,” Rodriguez said.
A few weeks ago the matchup with the Beavers may have been seen as a likely win for the Wildcats, but the last two games along with the declining health of the roster have changed some perspectives. Linebacker Scooby Wright, who returned to play against UCLA before getting hurt again, will not be playing Saturday, though there is a chance QB Anu Solomon, who suffered a concussion against the Bruins and missed the game at Stanford, will.
Solomon’s backup, senior Jerrard Randall, completed 15-of-28 passes for 178 yards and one touchdown against the Cardinal while gaining another 67 yards on nine carries. A great runner who struggles with accuracy, Randall is completing 44.7 percent of his passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.
“I hope closer,” Rodriguez said when asked how close his starter is to playing. “I saw him [Sunday] at our walk through and he’s obviously feeling a lot better. Those things, concussion things, are obviously out of the coaches’ hands and out of the trainers’ hands. It’s really up to the athlete and how quickly he recovers.”
Rodriguez added the redshirt sophomore has gotten better every day and with the players off Monday, the evaluation will continue with hopes he’ll be able to play Saturday.
Getting the QB back would be a boost for a struggling team, but in terms of the Wildcats’ psyche, Rodriguez said things are OK.
“I think they’re more resilient,” he said. “We’re obviously disappointed and I think we beat ourselves up. As coaches, it was a long day [Sunday]. We didn’t get back until four in the morning, had a lot of meetings and a lot of film watching and a lot of evaluating. And [Monday’s] another long day.
“The one thing about our schedule, you’re going to play every week so you’ve got to bounce back in a hurry. I think our guys will do that. We’re back home and we’ve got another chance to feel good, and that’s what we’ve got to work on.”