Halfway mark: A look back

Arizona has had mixed results in the first half of the season. Read on for numerous observations of the first six games, including who has done well, poorly, and much more.

The first six games of the 2012 season have been loaded with extreme highs and gut-wrenching lows for the Arizona Wildcats.

After an impressive 3-0 showing in non-conference play – including a 21-point victory over then-ranked Oklahoma State - UA has lost three consecutive games to open up Pac-12 play and have a lot of unanswered questions going in to the second half of the schedule.

The first three games may have ended in victories for the Wildcats, but the previous three have been more telling for where this team currently stands as a whole.

There is plenty of talent on offense and the unit has shown that it can move the ball with regularity, but the other side of the ball has proven to be too depleted to play at a high level for all four quarters throughout many games.

And while the offense has shown that it can put up plenty of yardage, turning those into points has been a much more difficult task at times. The opener against Toledo is a perfect example of this, as the Wildcats put up over 600 yards of total offense against the Rockets, but only came away with 24 points in a narrow overtime victory.

The Pac-12 opener against Oregon is another instance of Arizona not being able to put points up on the board despite receiving numerous opportunities to do so.

The Wildcats threw away five red zone opportunities en route to a 49-0 shutout loss to the Ducks. Through six games, UA ranks 109th in the nation in red zone conversions, scoring 69.1 percent of the time it gets inside the opponents 20-yard line.

The team's struggles inside the red zone is mysterious to an extent, simply because Scott can create with his feet and also because Arizona possesses several receiving targets with plenty of size.

Speaking of Scott's ability to run, it has been somewhat absent in recent weeks. The senior quarterback ran the ball 42 times in the first three contests of the season, but just 15 times in three Pac-12 games.

It's not as if Scott hasn't had the opportunities to take off and run, but his reluctance to take off and lack of designed runs for him, given the style offense Rich Rodriguez tends to run, is a bit curious.

Whether it's because Scott is banged up, it's a confidence issue or a little bit of both, Scott's limited rushing in recent weeks has hindered several drives.

The Wildcats are putting up a ton of yards, but they are running a record amount of plays and struggling to score at times and some of those shortcomings could be solved if Scott can become a threat with his legs once again.

The rushing attack itself has been virtually a one-man show in conference play. Ka'Deem Carey looks like an improved player each week and he is proving to be a tough running back for defenses to match up against.

The pace the offense runs at and the amount of plays the unit runs should allow Carey to put up huge numbers, but there are times where Carey curiously disappears from the game-plan in spurts.

To be fair, Carey may simply be tired and giving him more touches in a fast-paced offense could wear him down much quicker. That's why the Wildcats need another running back to step up and take some of the rushing load off of Carey.

Whether it's Daniel Jenkins, Kylan Butler or Jared Baker, one of the backups has to step up or Carey is going to get beaten up all season long.

At least UA fans can be comfortable knowing that the receiving unit is in good shape going forward. With players like Austin Hill, Tyler Slavin, Johnny Jackson and David Richards with multiple years of eligibility left, the Wildcats are set at the position.

That doesn't include potential weapons like Garic Wharton or freshmen prospects like Jarrell Bennett, Clive Georges and Trey Griffey.

The majority of the wideouts on the roster who have seen game time have proven to be legitimate Pac-12 wide receivers this season.

Seniors Dan Buckner and Terrence Miller have given Scott a pair of big, reliable targets on the outside and each has played well when on the field.

The real concern, though, is the defense and that's no secret at this point in time. Arizona has struggled against both the run and pass, showing that the youth and lack of depth have really taken its toll already through six games.

UA ranks 114th in the nation in total yards allowed per game and 97th in points allowed per contest.

Teams have been able to pick and choose which way to beat the Wildcats' defense. Four of the six opponents Arizona has faced have passed for over 250 yards (three of those squads threw for over 300; two over 400).

The run defense hasn't fared much differently as the unit has surrendered at least 160 yards on the ground to each FBS opponent it has gone up against.

On top of their struggles against the run, the Wildcats have struggled getting pressure on the quarterback. Those two concerns are direct results of the youth, inexperience and adjustments in the system brought on by defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel.

If Arizona can't correct at least one of those issues, the defense will continue to struggle in 2012.

There isn't much the defense has been able to do right. There was some promise early in the Oregon affair when the unit continued to put the UA offense in great position to score. However,when the points failed to come, the defense ultimately folded after being asked to do too much.

Since then, the defense has looked like it has been on its heels every play and opposing coaches have attacked successfully.

The offense hasn't been perfect by any means, but until the defensive unit can find away to disrupt the offensive flow of the opposition, the Wildcats are going to continue to struggle.

With six games remaining – four of which are at home – Arizona has time to make up for its shortcomings, but that is much easier said than done.

With a tough slate ahead, minimal depth and several holes on the defensive side of the ball, the Wildcats are going to be forced to scratch and claw their way into the bowl discussion.


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