The Friday Fizz: I'm over this whole defense thing
I know I’m late to the game and you’re already exhausted reading about Arizona’s defense, or lack thereof, but get over yourself and muscle forward for at least one more article. After more than a year down in the bunker, a bit groggy-eyed, rusty, and downright cranky, the straw that broke the camel’s back and forced me out of early retirement was watching Arizona play FCS foe Northern Arizona last weekend.
Arizona’s defense simply angers me. So much so that watching Arizona football, in general, provides little to no joy. Granted, my alter ego is a sports journalist trained to eliminate bias from press conferences and interviews, behavior on the field and in the Press Box, and so on. Still, journalism aside, the beauty of sports is the joy of simply being around sports, whether one’s a journalist, a fan, or just someone lucky enough to have their car break down near a park where a flag football game is being played. That joy has dissipated over the years and last Saturday, completely evaporated.
For someone who matured in the Dick Tomey Era, my appreciation for defense was raised at a high level. I certainly understand that the nationally-dominating defenses under Tomey and the Double Eagle Flex would not last forever, but I never thought in a thousand years defense would basically cease to exist at a school like Arizona 20 years later.
I thought about this all week and realized that in Arizona’s four coaching hires since Tomey was fired, the Wildcats have brought in two coaches who 100% cared less about defense in John Mackovic and Rich Rodriguez. In between was Mike Stoops, who actually valued defense, taught it well with his younger brother, but paid little to zero attention to recruiting in his final three seasons. The fourth coach is Kevin Sumlin. The jury is still out regarding his approach to defense. Like many reasonable fans, I’m willing to give Sumlin and his entire staff an honest chance at success, which may take time. Still, color me worried that defense under Sumlin still seems to be taking a back seat to offensive priorities.
Honestly, the last thing I want to see tonight is a 51-50 game between Arizona and Texas Tech. I know high scoring affairs are exciting for the masses, but for me another 51-50 score is going to see me checking into a medical facility as a 5150 patient.
I write this understanding that times have changed. The game of football has evolved, particularly the offenses. Practice time has been restricted. Tackling drills have been significantly reduced. Like in baseball where the league juices baseballs to produce more home runs, the rules in college football undoubtedly favor the offense; constantly stopping the game clock, receivers only need to catch the ball with 1-foot inbounds, etc. However, I continue to argue that there are plenty of good defensive teams playing the game today.
I know this, for a fact, because year in and year out, there are about 100 other FBS teams with better defensive statistics than Arizona. In the Pac-12 alone, the Wildcats generally rank tenth or worse in conference.
This nonsense is unacceptable, folks.
I’m not so crazy that I long for the days of 10-7 final scores. I do, however, desperately pray for some return to defensive normalcy. Is it too much to ask for final scores in the 38-31 range? How about the occasional 31-28 final? To me, this is beautiful football; a perfect mix of scoring and defense to keep the stadium rocking.
As we enter tonight’s big non-conference matchup with Texas Tech in Arizona Stadium, the Wildcats defense is allowing 518 total yards, 404.5 passing yards, and 43 points per game. It sickens me to even type out that sentence. It’s the type of words that come out of your mouth when you’re breaking up with someone, or in this case something.
I’m done watching your defense Arizona. Figure it out now, like right now, or I’m done with watching your football team, entirely.
‘The Fizz’ is the alter ego of Arizona Sports Illustrated writer Gary Randazzo. He’s been known to access Gary’s computer network from time to time, generally on Fridays. Gary takes zero responsibility for any opinions expressed in this article.