Because the run game could not get going, that severely limited the play calling options of Mike Canales. Play action passing was effective early, but once it became apparent that the run game was not a factor, the Cats lost the ability to play action pass. BYU was able to tee off on Tuitama and the pressure got to the young quarterback.
Many fans were critical of the play calling by offensive coordinator Mike Canales, I did not see it as being bad. To me a lack of execution was far more troubling. I did not like every call, but you can say that every game. I thought the Cats got too conservative, too early in attempting to set up the game winning field goal. In my opinion you need to get much closer than 47 yards for a game winner. It was reminiscent of the Wisconsin game a few years ago, only this time Nick Folk split the uprights.
While it is easy to criticize the play calling at the end of that drive, the Cats were able to march from their own 25 to the BYU 31 while taking over 5:00 off the clock. The Cats did exactly what they had to on the final drive to win.
There are a few other plays here and there where I would have liked to see more aggressive play calling, but for the most part the problems were with what happened on the field, not in the booth.
In the end Arizona scored just 16 points against a defense that a year ago was not very good. So where do you point the fingers of blame?
A lot of it has to go to the Cougars themselves. While many thought the loss of seven defensive starters may have hurt the Cougars, it actually seems to have been addition by subtraction. While most teams will put up more points than the Cats, this is a better BYU defense than in years past.
The biggest problem was that the Cats had next to no film on BYU's new 3-4 scheme. Last year the Cougars ran a 3-3-5 defense, but after their struggles they scrapped that alignment. With no film of the Cougars in a 3-4, the team had no tendencies to study. They also did not know exactly what the Cougars would do in the scheme as there is more than one way to run a 3-4.
In place of BYU game film, the Cats resorted to studying NFL teams who run the 3-4, most notably Pittsburgh and Baltimore. While this familiarized the players and coaches with the defense, there is a huge difference in an NFL team and a college team.
Willie Tuitama struggled quite a bit in the game and the defensive scheme had a lot to do with that. Tuitama has not faced a 3-4 before. Very few high school teams employ it and the college teams he played against did not trot out the set as their primary defense. For all intents and purposes, his first snaps against the Cougars were his first time seeing a 3-4 for real.
Early in the game Tuitama looked pretty good, but the Cats were mostly throwing short, high percentage passes. As the game went on the Cats tried to open it up a little more and he just did not look sharp trying to throw down field. Some of that was due to the pressure he was facing and some seemed to be the fact he was locking in on a receiver. On too many occasions he threw into coverage or failed to see a linebacker cheating in the passing zones.
Late in the game the Wildcats went back to the more underneath passing, and had quite a bit of success with it. They did not have any huge plays, but it kept the defense on its toes and allowed Arizona to score at the end of the game.
The Wildcats were also limited in what they could run. With the line playing poorly, the Cats could not fully open up the playbook. Another blow was the loss of Mike Thomas. The Wildcats' best receiver hurt his ankle, and despite his protests, was not allowed back into the game. He missed some of the first half and the entire second half. His loss also limited what the Wildcat offense was able to do as many of their plays are predicated on his being on the field.
Next week the Wildcats will have to be better. LSU may run a more traditional scheme, one where there is plenty of film, but they also have superior talent to the Cougars. While BYU has a handful of talented players, but LSU is loaded with great athletes with great size.
Arizona will be able to better know the tendencies and strategies of the Tigers, but that could be the lone advantage. The Wildcat offensive line will have to make vast and rapid improvements if the Cats are to do anything against LSU.
One hopes the Wildcats' struggles up front were based on a lack of chemistry. Three starters made their collegiate debut on the line and the last week of practice was the first time since fall camp opened that the entire line was healthy enough to practice together. The offense will need that unit to come together quickly, or else the offense will continue to scuffle.