STILLWATER, OK - SEPTEMBER 8: Wide receiver Justin Blackmon #81 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys slips past safety Mark Watley #23 of the Arizona Wildcats during the second half on September 8, 2011 at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Oklahoma State defeated Arizona 37-14. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
Arizona's defense looks challenged. They've got issues. The interior of their defensive line gets pushed around a lot and loses their footing way too often. Even worse, the edge rushing just isn't there. The linebackers are okay and Paul Vassalo can lay out a hit, but they're pretty average, they don't wrap up on tackles (so many broken tackles on Saturday), and they got burned a lot when feinted off by misdirection. Brandon Weeden completed nearly all his passes early because he could step back, survey, survey, draw down a topographical map of the Great Plains, then fire and complete another pass.
It should be mentioned that Oklahoma State has one of the best offensive lines in the country, so Arizona not getting pressure with their front four or via blitz packages isn't too huge a surprise. When Arizona did blitz, Weeden usually went to a quick pass option to take advantage of one-on-one coverage. Arizona finally started getting pressure on the last drive before the first half, but by then the Cowboys were up three touchdowns.
Arizona susceptible to cut blocking. On the first big run play of the game, two linebackers got knocked off by cut blocks and allowed Joseph Randle to plunge through the inside and pick up 41 yards on the ground for the Cowboys. The linebackers were targeted by H-backs/tight ends on cut blocks early on and the linebackers kept on hitting the ground.
Makes you wonder if Stanford can't do the exact same thing.
Poor pass defense again. Arizona is one of the worst pass defenses in the country, giving up the highest completion rate in the country through the first two games (nearly an 80% completion rate). The Wildcats conceded a lot last week, but Oklahoma State was able to make completions and good decisions even when they didn't.
Weeden likes to spread the ball out with their receivers and generally utilize a quick passing attack, but the Wildcats didn't appear to be confident enough to play a lot of man-to-man. And when they did, players couldn't keep up with the speed of the Cowboys on defense. It makes you wonder exactly what the Stanford tight ends will do to the Wildcats linebackers, because there are HUGE mismatches on paper.
Of course, it's not like Arizona has great cornerbacks out there that can help out. Poor Shaquille Richardson gets picked on all day by Northern Arizona, and there he is out defending an impossible cover like Justin Blackmon.
On Blackmon's first catch, Richardson completely turns his feet and hips to face the sideline, allowing Blackmon an easy pitch and catch with Weeden on the inside. So Richardson backs totally off, and then Blackmon catches an intermediate stop route. Blackmon then gets a perfect fade route from Brandon Weeden that Richardson has absolutely no chance to defend. Then Richardson conceded the inside throw by backing up in coverage; Blackmon then caught the pass on a little slant in stride and juked out the safety responsible for getting him down and picked up another 20+ yards. Blackmon then used his huge frame to shield off Richardson on another short slant, and then shed the tackle even when the cornerback was in place. Then another fade, the exact same fade to score a put-away Cowboys touchdown.
Now, Oklahoma State is a top pass offense, so no surprise that the Wildcats couldn't stop the Cowboys. But getting turned around by Northern Arizona is great cause for concern.
Nick Foles needs improvement. Timing is important with the Airraid offense Arizona likes to run, but Foles always seems to either hesitate, throw the ball late, or miss his receiver by sailing it high. These small errors killed some early drives or made receivers have to stop to come back to the pass rather than catching it in stride, and allowed defenders enough time to recover to the throw. Foles's footwork needs to improve quite a bit outside of the three step drop if he wants to be an effective Pac-12 quarterback this season.
There are things Foles has improved on. He is showing good rollout ability and has proven he can make plays out of the pocket. He threw a nice deep ball on a double-move by Dan Buckner in the fourth quarter for Foles's only touchdown throws. But his throws are kind of slow (too much horizontal spin and not enough zip) when they go deep (and a bit low rather than arced high) and are very pickable balls if defenses can recover in time or if they don't get out there faster. . And in general, he tends to pad his stats by hitting the checkdown route, over and over and over. Effective, but pretty limited.
Arizona offensive line is pretty bad. Foles might not be perfect, but the Wildcats offensive line isn't doing him any favors. The Wildcats committed numerous penalties early that killed their drives (usually false starts); Arizona is next-to-last in FBS in penalties committed. The Wildcats are a young unit, so their road issues could be numerous. Thankfully (thankfully?) they face the Cardinal at home in a night game, so they should be in the optimal environment to perform at a maximum level (of course, they committed ten penalties at home against NAU in the season-opener...).
Arizona had terrible field position. Arizona did not start a single drive past their own 30. For a team that relies on short passing, it's asking too much of their team if they don't get some favorable field position at some point.
Arizona wasn't at full strength. Should be mentioned. They'll probably look a little better when those players come back (although they probably won't be back this week). How much better remains to be seen.