Interim coach must revive Wildcats' offense

Updated: October 6, 2003, 8:51 PM ET

TUCSON, Ariz. -- The Arizona Wildcats changed coaches with little effect before Mike Hankwitz's first game.

It would have helped if he'd been able to change the offense, too.

"I believe our offense is going to get better," Hankwitz said Monday. "They are cognizant to the fact they have to generate more first downs and keep us off the field. I do believe they will."

After a 30-7 loss at No. 12 Washington State, the Wildcats (1-5, 0-2) are off to their worst start in 37 years and rank last among Division I schools in total offense. They average only 248 yards per game -- about a half's worth of production from an elite team.

That may not change much this weekend either, with UCLA headed for Arizona Stadium -- the Bruins' defense is giving up only 294 yards a game.

Arizona has been held under 200 yards four times during its five-game losing streak. If that wasn't enough, the Wildcats are 113th in rushing offense, 102nd in passing and 113th in passes intercepted.

Hankwitz, who took over for the fired John Mackovic on Sept. 28, speaks from the heart about the need to keep the defense off the field. He continues to hold the defensive coordinator position for which Mackovic hired him.

Hankwitz oversaw the transition from Arizona's time-honored double-eagle flex defense, which featured a five-man front, to the more adaptable 3-4. The new defense fared well in a 42-7 rout of Texas-El Paso to open the season, but since then its numbers have risen because of the offense's ineptitude.

The Wildcats have already tried three starting quarterbacks, and have rotated four tailbacks in an attempt to find the right personnel, but also has had to bring along three new starters for the offensive line after the previous No. 1s went out with knee injuries.

Nic Costa, who started the season as the top quarterback, was in for only one play and threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Matt Padron for Arizona's only score against Washington State.

"Our offense ran down hill better," said Hankwitz, whose team has scored six touchdowns in the past five games. "(Mike) Bell had some excellent runs in there. We are not getting the running productivity that we like. "

The 1-5 start is Arizona's first since 1966.

This story is from's automated news wire. Wire index