Breaking Down UW-Arizona With Arizona Star's Ryan Finley
With Arizona coming off a resounding win over UCLA last week in Tucson, the intrigue surrounding this weekend's matchup against Washington has picked up. The two programs staged an epic game in 2009 here in Seattle, with the Huskies needed a shoestring interception return for a touchdown by Mason Foster to ensure victory. Will it be that close again Saturday night at Husky Stadium, with the program instituting a fan-wide blackout. To learn more about the other side of the matchup with talked with the Ryan Finley of the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson, the Wildcats beat writer.
Q: How surprising is it that Arizona was capable of such a turnaround after the coaching change in the program? What happened during the bye that led Tim Kish to change the culture?
A: I don't think Arizona's win over UCLA was surprising, necessarily; the way the Wildcats were able to beat them was. For the first time all season, the UA was able to start fast and hold a lead. The Wildcats also seemed to play freer, which is a testament to Kish's positive approach. In the span of 10 days, Kish brought back much of the fun that was lost during the final month of Mike Stoops' tenure. The Wildcats scrimmaged more in practices, were looser in meetings and even dusted off an old look -- the double-eagle flex defense that the famed "Desert Swarm" team used in the mid-90s.
Q: While Arizona has struggled this year, the Wildcats still have one of the nation's best QBs. Now he's scripting plays a la Andrew Luck. Was this something that changed Tim Kish took over?
A: Nick Foles had a lot of responsibility within the offense when Stoops was the head coach, but being able to script and call plays is a new level for him. Kish gave the Wildcats' offensive coaches total control over game planning and play-calling for the rest of the season; they've passed some of that responsibility on to Foles.
Q: The running game returned to form against UCLA. In your opinion, is that a fluke or a sign of the Arizona offense to come? Why were the Wildcats able to generate yardage running the ball against the Bruins?
A: I think it was probably a combination of better execution and a struggling opponent. Nobody will ever confuse Arizona with Tailback U, but the Wildcats' run game continues to improve. Right now, they're experimenting with a shotgun, full-house attack that they call the "bone."
Q: What is the biggest storyline this week coming out of Tucson?
A: People are still talking about the streaker and the ensuing brawl that marred the Wildcats' last game and led to four UA players being suspended for all or part of Saturday's game. Cornerback Shaquille Richardson and nickel back Jourdon Grandon, both starters, have been suspended for the entire game, while backups Lyle Brown and Mark Watley will miss the first half. The UA is so thin in the secondary that coaches have moved a few wide receivers to corner, just in case.
Q: With a quartet of defensive backs out for the game, how do the Wildcats cope with the passing acumen/decision-making of Keith Price?
A: Arizona would be smart to try to control the clock, offensively, for the first half. I can see the UA playing nickel and possibly dime in the first half, forcing the Huskies to run the ball. Of course, given Arizona's struggles against the run this year and Chris Polk's success, it's a pick-your-poison situation.
Q: What does Washington need to do to win the game?
A: Take care of the football. Arizona forced two turnovers in the first half of last week's win over UCLA, and it turned the game in the Wildcats' favor for good. If Price is responsible with the ball and Polk stays true to form, the Huskies will be in fine shape.
Q: What does Arizona need to do to win the game?
A: Control the clock. The best way to stop Price, Polk and the Huskies might be to just keep them off the field. If Arizona can show some balance offensively, move the ball and dominate time of possession, it'll win. Stanford showed last week that conservative play -- and some stellar executioin -- might be the blueprint to beating the Huskies.
Q: Have any of the Arizona players talked about the 2009 game at Husky Stadium? Or is that a distant memory?
A: Oh, they remember. Time has mellowed their anger over what they thought was a bad call, but it's still a memory. Mostly, the Wildcats remember the flukey finish as one of the strangest games they've ever been associated with.
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