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Inside the Headset: Dissecting ‘Stoops Speak’

Arizona head coach Mike Stoops is one of the most cryptic head coaches in all of college football. I am often left scratching my head walking out of a press conference, as I assume most others are. In search of enlightenment, we will take a closer look at Stoops’ verbage from Monday’s post-Stanford/pre-Oregon press conference.

Stoops: “Started to see signs of the run game – I thought they (Keola Antolin and Ka’Deem Carey) both did really well. I was pleased with both backs.”

Huh? In their first three games, Arizona is averaging just over 55 yards per game on the ground, good for 116th nationally. Looking at the numbers, 138 FBS players average more yards per game individually than the Wildcats do as a team. Senior running back Antolin is averaging 41.7 yards per game while Carey, the freshman, is carrying for 34.3 yards per game. While the passing game may be Arizona’s strength, they will have to establish a more consistent running game if they hope to achieve any level of success this season

Stoops: “We’re not consistent enough on defense, but I thought the secondary did much better.”

The first part of this quote is dead on. The Wildcats allowed Stanford to present a balanced attack, gaining 567 total yards, 325 through the air and 242 on the ground. The second half of this statement is another head scratcher. While Trevin Wade continues to show signs of brilliance (a la 2009), the Arizona secondary allowed Andrew Luck and his receivers to move the ball effectively. Luck completed passes to seven different Cardinal receivers, throwing for 325 yards and two touchdowns. Stoops did point out that senior receiver Chris Owusu was held to just 45 yards on two catches, which would be great, if the Wildcats didn’t allow Cardinal tight end Levine Toilolo to rack up 102 yards and a touchdown. Toilolo had one career reception coming into last Saturday’s contest, in 2010. As the Wildcats continue to face top opponents, it is becoming painfully obvious how much Adam Hall and Jonathan McKnight are missed.

Stoops: “We aren’t losing to a bunch of Joe Schmos from wherever. We don’t play teams like that.”

As before, the first part of the quote is accurate. While the Wildcats are 1-2, they have lost to top-10 teams in consecutive weeks. Stillwater is one of the toughest environments in the country and Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon are probably the best quarterback/wide receiver combination in the land. While the Wildcats had the benefit of playing at home against Stanford, the Cardinal trotted out the best quarterback in the country in Luck on every offensive series. However, if you examine this quote deeper, Stoops shows a little memory loss. Two of Arizona’s three non-conference opponents are Northern Arizona and Louisiana-Lafayette. The Wildcats defeated NAU 41-10 to open the season. The Lumberjacks, who play out of the Big Sky conference, are 1-11 all-time against Arizona, posting their only victory over the Wildcats in 1932. The Wildcats will end their season hosting the Sun Belt’s own Louisiana-Lafayette, who haven’t had a winning season since 2005. These two schools may not be Joe Schmos, but they are his cousins, Jim and John Schmo.

Stoops: “Not being able to stop the run is a philosophical problem.”

Isn’t Mike Stoops supposed to be a defensive-minded head coach? Was he not the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma? Stoops did a fine job of stopping the run when the Sooners won the national championship in 2000, posting a perfect 13-0 record. Not being able to stop the run is a personnel problem is what I believe Stoops meant to say. If stopping the run is a philosophical problem at Arizona, it might be time to find a head coach with a better defensive philosophy.

Monday’s lesson? We can only guess as to what Mike Stoops is thinking, which means we can only guess as to what the future holds for the Arizona Wildcats.

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