It might be time for senior wide receiver Anthony Johnson to find a permanent spot on the bench once and for all. Three more drops by Johnson today most likely cost the Cats 14 points on offense and led to 7 points for the Oregon State defense.
OSU linebacker Joey LaRoque had an interception return for a touchdown but that is not all there is to the play. According to the radio announcers for Arizona, the pass was intended for Johnson, who again let the ball go through his hands and into the waiting arms of the Beaver defender. Add 7 for the Beavers that they shouldn't have had if Johnson does his job.
Later on in the game Johnson dropped a pass in the corner of the end zone that would have pulled the Cats a touchdown closer after they dug themselves a huge hole to get out of. Take away 7 points from the Cats. Bondzio did make a field goal so all was not lost on the drive but the Cats obviously would have been in much better shape if Johnson again does his job.
Later in the second half the possibility for another 7 points was left on the field thanks to Johnson not doing his job. Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama threw a lateral to Johnson that Johnson couldn't handle and the Cats ended up losing 6 yards on the fumbled lateral pass. If Johnson catches the ball, again according to the radio announcers, he was supposed to throw the ball down field to a wide open Mike Thomas, who would have easily scored a touchdown. Add another possible 7 points left on the field because a 5th year senior dos not do his job.
Johnson was not the only goat in the Oregon State game, there were plenty of other boneheaded mistakes that occurred that helped take chances away from the Wildcats to get the game closer.
Again, the Arizona defense tackled poorly and failed to properly defend in the first half and again the Cats found themselves in a gigantic deficit, just like the game at Cal a couple weeks ago. The Arizona defensive coaches better figure things out quickly if they have any hopes of recovering this season and making a bowl game.
Added to the drops and the defensive struggles were two botched play calls in the second half. On two different occasions the Wildcats had the ball in OSU territory and faced fourth down and long. On both occasions the staff took to long to signal in the play. On both occasions that Cats blew timeouts, only to see the field goal unit come in. I don't know if the staff thought too long about whether or not to go for it or if it was just slow play calling. Either way Tuitama was forced to call a time out both times. Coaches always have the field goal unit ready on third down, so if that was the way you wanted to go there was no reason the unit shouldn't have been ready to go.
I must say that I agree with kicking the field goal on both occasions. The first time the Cats just needed points on the board for morale and momentum purposes. The second decision was just as easy in my opinion because the Cats were down by 18 points in the fourth quarter and they would have needed a field goal at some point anyways in order to try and tie the game. But while the ultimate decisions I agree with, it is the slow decision making process that is cause for concern. On both occasions the decision should have been made quickly to kick the field goal and get the points. If the decisions were made quicker to get the ultimate outcome the Cats would have had two time outs to work with later in the game, which could have ultimately changed offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes' play calling.
In the end the time outs were not needed because there were other things the Cats could not do well. They could not pick up blitzes all afternoon long and Tuitama was never in any kind of a rhythm. Oregon State shut down the Cats running game by playing simple football. They put more men in the box than the Cats could block. The Beaver defense never changes, which is another cause for concern. Oregon State blitzes and blitzes and then blitzes some more and they don't try and hide it, the offense knew it was coming and they still could do absolutely nothing to combat it. OSU's defense does not have the talent on the same level as Arizona and yet they are a far better all around defense because they force the issue.
You can't take anything away from the Beavers. They had a game plan and went out and executed it and they came away with a much needed and deserved win. But Arizona fans are sick and tired of seeing a small handful of mistakes costing games seemingly every week.
Something is missing in the Arizona program that much is clear. The only consistent thing about the Arizona program right now is its inconsistency and that is scary. Arizona is a veteran laden team, especially on defense, and the inconsistency is mind boggling and confusing. Positive personnel changes have already been made True freshman running back Nicholas Grigsby was named the starter over senior Chris Jennings. High energy Ricky Elmore got the start this weekend and is seeing more and more time. It could be time for a couple of other changes. In the same vein, Anthony Johnson needs to find a permanent home on the bench in favor of younger receivers like Terrell Reese. Reese will no doubt make mistakes but he is supposed to make mistakes, he is a red shirt freshman while Johnson is a 5th year senior that is still making the same mistakes he was during his freshman year.
That's not to say there were not good things in the game. The defense held Oregon State to just over 40 yards in the second half. Some of that was due to OSU getting conservative, but a lot was due to the defense. Elmore continues to play well, as did Michael Klyce filling in for injured Dominic Patrick. The young receivers are getting better. Terrell Reese seems poised to join Terrell Turner and Delashaun Dean as legitimate targets for Tuitama.
Adding to the misery for Arizona, the Stanford Cardinal upset USC and now the Wildcats get to be the rebound opponent for a very pissed off Trojan team that was just embarrassed on their home field in front of a national television audience. If the Wildcats have any hope of even staying close next week they better get serious and fix at least some of the things that are really wrong. This is the week when things will either go from bad to worse for Arizona or when things can start to go really right. Arizona has the talent to compete consistently with the likes of USC and it is time to start playing football up to their ability. Relax and keep it simple, make the catch or tackle and have some fun.