<
>

Midseason report: Arizona

Arizona Wildcats

Record: 4-1, 1-1

The preseason conception of Arizona was good offense, questionable defense. The midseason perception is the Wildcats are pretty good on both sides of the ball, though perhaps not as good as they looked in the first five games.

The Wildcats opened with an impressive 41-2 win at Toledo. That questionable defense pitched a shutout. After easily handling The Citadel, Arizona faced Iowa, which it had lost to in Iowa City the year before. The Wildcats jumped out early, gave it all back and then they asserted themselves on both sides of the ball. First, QB Nick Foles led a go-ahead TD drive. Then the defense shut the door with three consecutive sacks for a 34-27 win.

The Wildcats offense mostly struggled against California, but the defense thrived in a 10-9 win. Another late TD drive from Foles and company pushed the Wildcats to 5-0 and a No. 9 ranking. But that came to an end when Oregon State exposed the defense in a 29-27 victory. The Wildcats, ranked second in the nation in total defense entering the game, gave up 393 yards passing to Beavers QB Ryan Katz.

So are the Wildcats the team that started 4-0, looked good on both sides of the ball and rose to No. 9 in the nation? Or are they the team that fell at home to the Beavers? That's the question over the second half.

Offensive MVP: Foles is completing 75 percent of his passes and averages 305.8 yards passing per game, with six TDs and four interceptions. But it's not only the numbers -- he's 21st in the nation in passing efficiency -- it's also the leadership and clutch production. He led late, game-winning TD drives to beat both Iowa and California.

Defensive MVP: It's likely that freshman defensive tackle Justin Washington's life is made much easier by ends Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore, but that doesn't change the fact that he is third on the Wildcats with 20 tackles and leads the team with seven tackles for a loss and four sacks. Tackle was a big concern on the defense entering the season. Washington has made it much less of a concern over the first half of the season.