Mike Stoops ran the show at Arizona for eight years. It took him five years before Arizona finished with a winning record (8-5 in 2008). 8-5 was the best record Stoops would post in his days in Tucson. This year was his final year and he went out at 4-8 which would mark his worst season since his first two. There is a reason that the college football podcasters The Solid Verbal coined the phrase “Nick Foles in a Losing Effort”. There were a lot of losing efforts for Arizona in 2011.
After beating Northern Arizona 41-10 in the opener, there wasn’t a lot of fun for Stoops and company. To be fair, the opening stretch of Arizona’s schedule was as brutal as anybody in the Nation (at Oklahoma State, Stanford, Oregon, at USC). The Wildcats never recovered from that stretch and neither did their coach as the Wildcats said goodbye to Stoops in early October and hired Rich Rodriguez to run the show in 2012. After going just 4-8, it will be very interesting to see how the Wildcats rebound in 2012. The Pac-12 South was weak this past year but USC will now be eligible for for post-season play and Arizona State and UCLA will also have new coaches. We caught up with our buddy Kyle Kensing of Saturday Blitz and Arizona Desert Swarm to get his take on 2011 and also his thoughts on Rich Rodriguez and 2012.
CFBZ: Anytime a coach gets fired before the season is up it’s bad news. At what point in the season did you know it was going to be a really rough year for the Wildcats?
Kyle Kensing: It became apparent 2011 would be a tough year in December 2010. That’s when UA played Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl, and despite gaining a ton of yards, failed to make the score competitive. OSU was game No. 2 on the 2011 slate, with Stanford and Oregon following, then a road game at USC. Before those games were even played, there was that psychological roadblock of “here are four teams that contributed to a five-game losing streak.”
That obviously weighed on the players’ minds going into the season, and even more so the coaching staff.
CFBZ: You were initially apprehensive about the hiring of Rich Rodriguez. Now that’s it’s had time to sink in, what are your feelings about RichRod and the staff that he is putting together?
Kyle Kensing: The staff Rodriguez has put together is solid. Everyone is familiar with each other, and has had success together. This is a unit that came one play from reaching the BCS title game four years ago, a point that bears repeating given Rich Rod has become known as a failure through the revisionist history of his time at Michigan.
Now that said, I was apprehensive about the hire because of the Michigan tenure — not because I thought it the disaster it’s remembered for, but because he entrusted Greg Robinson to run his defense. UA’s problem is defensive, and a capable DC was a necessary caveat of the new staff. I did wonder if Rodriguez would be left with a Robinson-like hire, and Casteel’s not. Now, UA’s biggest problem was the secondary, which does make the 3-3-5 a concern. But Casteel is far more trustworthy employing it than Robinson.
CFBZ: What is the lasting memory you will have of this season?
Kyle Kensing: Anytime Arizona wins the Territorial Cup is a cause for celebration among Wildcat fans, but more memorable than the rally vs. Arizona State was the Thursday night UCLA game. The Wildcats played so much differently with Mike Stoops gone. It’s a shame because he did do a lot for the program, but the obvious pressure he felt had trickled down, and that UCLA game was the first time said pressure had been alleviated.
But from that game in particular, the streaker running on the field dressed as a referee and the ensuing melee really characterized the entire season for what it was: an incomprehensible mess.
CFBZ: Looking forward to next year, QB Matt Scott will be a Senior after red-shirting. How do you think he fits in with the new offensive system that will be installed?
Kyle Kensing: Matt Scott was an interesting signing for Stoops because he was a deviation from every QB Arizona has had since Ortege Jenkins. He was highly touted as a dual-style QB coming out of Corona, Calif., so he’s got the chops for Rodriguez’s system. That’s the most intriguing prospect of Rich Rod’s first year. Scott is a very good passer to boot, so he should shine. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest he’ll be the second best QB statistically in the Pac next season, behind Barkley.
CFBZ: Which players are you most looking forward to watching next year (besides Scott)?
Kyle Kensing: Running back Ka’Deem Carey became an increasingly significant contributor in the offense last season, and will add a much-needed dynamic to Rodriguez’s offense. Pat White had Steve Slaton — Carey could be that kind of halfback for UA. Big Tuomi Tutogi’s role in the option will also be interesting to see. He’s 6-1 and around 260, so he’ll provide Scott/Carey protection on the option, but he’s also reliable catching in the flat.
The offensive line might be the most intrigiuing facet, though. All five starters were first-timers this year. This season it will be more experienced, which should translate to good things.
Previous 2011 Exit Surveys
Pac-12- Oregon State Beavers