A scheme adjustment transformed Arizona's defense

October, 30, 2008
10/30/08
7:56
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

After Stanford rushed for 286 yards while beating Arizona 24-23, Cardinal center Alex Fletcher basically called out the Wildcats front seven.

"We knew after the first series that we could have our way with them up front," Fletcher said.

That hurts.

And it hurt when Arizona coach Mike Stoops admitted as much after watching the game tape. His defense got pushed around by a more physical team.

Yet there was a lesson in there for Stoops and his coaching staff.

There are more ways than one to win the trench battle.

"We probably went into the Stanford game with not enough material to help our guys," Stoops said. "We were a little stationary. I think we learned a valuable lesson in that game."

Being less predictable with more movement and a variety of stunts doesn't necessarily mean a defense is being any less physical. It just means it's trying to engage on its own terms.

That same defense held California to 110 yards rushing in a 42-27 win and then held USC to 151 yards on the ground in a 17-10 defeat.

Both the Bears and Trojans are physical up front, but a tweak to the Wildcats' scheme helped the defense hold its ground.

"We moved more in the last couple of games," Stoops said. "We changed our target points on the D-line to put some indecision on the offense. I think we had some subtle movements these last two weekends that helped us."

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