When Washington has the ball
The Arizona defense is going to be a tough test for the Washington offense. The Wildcats are ranked 10th in the nation in total defense allowing 284.3 yards per game. They are seventh in scoring defense limiting opponents to only 13.3 points per game. The Wildcats have only allowed six passing touchdowns all season.
Arizona likes to go after the quarterback with speed off the edge. Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore are two of the better defensive ends in the conference. They have combined for 10.5 sacks so far this season. The biggest key to this game will be how the offensive line protects Jake Locker.
Blocking assignments against the UA DE's is the games most critical matchup. Expect to see plenty of snaps where Daniel Kanzcugowski lines up as an extra blocker in the TE slot. When Arizona rushes off the edge Reed and Elmore could end up getting behind Locker which could give him lanes to step up in and run up the middle for big gains.
Locker threw for a career-best five touchdowns in last Saturday's 35-34 double overtime win over then-No. 24 Oregon State, which had upset then-No. 9 Arizona 29-27 the week before. WR Jermaine Kearse was on the receiving end of four of those touchdowns.
Locker had statistically his best day against Arizona as a freshman, running for 157 yards and two touchdowns and passing for 336 yards and two scores. Last season, Locker ran for 92 yards and a touchdown while passing for 140 yards and three scores while leading the Huskies to a last second victory.
If the Huskies get off to another fast start like they did last week against Oregon State it is going to be very hard for the Wildcats to counter on offense. Washington needs to take control early and make the Cats chase them.
When Arizona has the ball
Arizona quarterbacks have been sacked 17 times this season including six times last week against Washington State. Matt Scott was dumped behind the line of scrimmage five times by the Cougars. Expect the Huskies to come often and hard to prevent Scott from developing any rhythm.
UW needs to pressure Scott into poor throws and ramp up the coverage on Arizona’s solid receiving corps. Look for UW to get creative with the blitz early. That strategy worked well for Washington last week against Ryan Katz who tore apart the Arizona defense the week before.
The Wildcats are going to counter by running the ball more with Scott at QB. Keola Antolin and Nic Grigsby toted the ball 35 times against WSU last week. Expect that trend to continue against Washington. Washington needs to be on the look out for a lot of zone read type running plays.
Scott is know as a dual threat type of QB but he can also throw the ball well if he gets enough time. 6'4 WR Juron Criner remains the favorite target when the ball is up in the air. Scott needs to prove he can throw the ball down field to keep the Husky defense honest.
Even with Foles out the Wildcats aren't going to abandon the dink and dunk. Arizona will still do a lot of lateral passing to help methodically move the ball down the field. We all remember the bubble screen from last year right? You are going to see it till the Huskies prove they can stop it on Saturday.
Arizona is going to play conservatively, try to eliminate mistakes, and allow their defense win this game.
Washington is statistically the worst coverage team in the Pac 10 and they are going to be challenged this week by the Arizona return game. One thing that would help would be kicking the ball 10-15 yards deeper on kickoffs. Perhaps the lighter desert air will help Erik Folk get his kicks deeper this week.
Arizona leads the league in kick off returns. Travis Cobb averages over 31 yards per return and is ranked in the top ten nationally. Bug Wright is a dangerous punt returner. Punter Keenyn Crier averages around 40 yards per boot but isn't that great with placement. Place kicker Alex Zendejas is 4-6 this year in FG attempts and has missed an extra point.
CB Trevin Wade, who started the Wildcats' first five games, is expected to return this week after missing most of the last two games with a thigh bruise. WR Richard Morrison is out for at least the next two weeks with a shoulder injury.
WR Juron Criner is expected to play but he has been suffering from turf toe.
OT Erik Kohler and WR Devin Aguilar have practiced this week. They should see action against the Wildcats. RB Johri Fogerson remains sidelined which increases the likelihood that he will red shirt this season.
DE Talia Chrichton is out with a knee injury for 2-3 weeks. Kelani Aldrich who has also has a bad knee needs to step up and give some quality reps.
QB Jake Locker hasn't practiced much for the second week in a row. The coaches want to give him time to rest and heal up from the numerous dings he has accumulated over the last three weeks.
Position Match Ups
Running Back: Washington
Offensive Line: Even
Defensive Line: Arizona
Special Teams: Arizona
Steve Sarkisian Quotes
"The biggest thing you have to prepare for now is the quarterback run stuff, the zone reads, his ability to run the football --- that's the biggest difference.''
"Obviously we’ve analyzed it and looked at it and trying to find out why, (On playing well one week and stinking it up the next) I don’t think it’s because our guys think they are the greatest thing ever (after a win), and now we can relax and we can go and beat whoever … I don’t think that’s the mindset at all. Sometimes maybe we put a little too much pressure on ourselves, like OK, we won—now we can go win two in a row. Let’s just go play, forget what just happened last week and what might occur if we win or don’t win—let’s go play the game, and play with great effort and great energy and passion and see what happens."
"If we win, great. If we don’t, it’s back to the drawing board. But let’s not worry about consequences; let’s lock in and go play. Hopefully we can break that trend this week. It’s obviously a tough assignment going to Tucson, but all we want to do is put our best foot forward."
Mike Stoops Quotes
"He's just got to go out and play like Matt (Scott) and not try to be Nick (Foles). He has to do what he does well and if he has to improvise, then improvise and use his athletic ability. But don't try to be a prototypical player and use his instincts. ... that's what Matt has to be able to do.''
"There is nothing he can't do. He has a great arm, great feet, and has gotten to where he can make the right decisions. And that is a credit to him. We feel very comfortable with Matt (Scott) and are excited to watch him play. ... Matt is a guy who I said all along we can win at the highest level with.''
"We're going to do what gives us the best chance of winning and moving the football. What that is, everyone will see on Saturday. All options are open … we have to make plays, and we have to be aggressive."
Washington is 4-4 vs Arizona since 2002.
Washington has a 17-8-1 edge in the series.
The Huskies beat the Wildcats last season in Husky stadium 36-33.
Senior Mason Foster leads the Pac-10 in tackles at 12 per game, ranking fifth in the nation.
Punter Kiel Rasp is up to No. 7 in the nation with an average of 45.9 per attempt.
Arizona cornerback Shaquille Richardson was named the Pac-10's defensive player of the week on Monday, two days after intercepting a pair of passes over WSU.
Wildcat opponents have converted 17 of their last 31 third downs.