Arizona's slow start not on Nick Foles

September, 28, 2011
9/28/11
10:00
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Whatever you want to say about the Arizona Wildcats' 1-3 start -- and plenty has been said -- one thing you can't say is it's Nick Foles' fault.

The Arizona quarterback ranks sixth in the nation with 361.8 yards passing per game. He's thrown 10 touchdown passes with zero interceptions. He's completed 70.5 percent of his passes.

[+] EnlargeNick Foles
Steve Dykes/Getty ImagesDespite putting up big numbers on the season, Nick Foles' Wildcats squad just isn't winning.
Heck, the righty even completed a 12-yard pass left-handed against Oregon.

"He's playing at a very high level right now," coach Mike Stoops said.

The problem for Arizona -- and Stoops and Foles -- is the Wildcats have Foles and the passing game and little else.

The defense ranks among the worst in the nation in nearly every statistical category. The running game ranks 119th in the nation. There are 120 FBS teams.

And, with no running game to make a defense honest, defenders line up like Usain Bolt, eagerly anticipating opportunities to get sacks against an offensive line with five new starters. The Wildcats have yielded 12 sacks -- including five in the blowout loss to Oregon -- most in the Pac-12.

After seeing Foles lead an impressive, but ultimately failed, second-half comeback against Oregon, and getting repeatedly pounded, Ducks coach Chip Kelly called Foles "a warrior."

Still, the Wildcats head to USC on Saturday facing the possibility -- probability? -- of a 1-4 start and a ninth consecutive loss to an FBS team. Again, it's worth noting that the three losses this year were to top-10 teams. The five losses last season were to two top-five teams, a No. 13 Oklahoma State squad, as well as losses to USC and Arizona State by a combined four points.

Stoops is trying to change the focus from winning to getting better, which will come in handy when the schedule eases up after Saturday.

"These games will make us better later on down the road," he said.

Of course, Foles and the passing offense haven't been perfect. Foles has missed some passes that could have become big plays and he's seen his touted crew of receivers drop a few, too. Both sorts of miscues were on display against Oregon. Stoops noted both, but that's certainly not his primary concern.

"You have to help him," he said. "I'm disappointed we're not helping him enough."

Where is that help going to come from? The best bet is the passing game being enough to overwhelm less talented teams. So while the slow start isn't Foles' fault, a lot is on him to lead a second-half renewal.

"He's got to be the glue that holds our offense together," Stoops said. "With a quarterback like that, I believe you have a chance to win any game you play."

Ted Miller | email

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