TUCSON, Ariz. (AP)Arizona fired defensive coordinator Marcel Yates in hopes of jumpstarting a defense that has allowed 132 points the past three games.
The Wildcats’ first test under interim coordinator Chuck Cecil comes Saturday against Oregon State.
The schemes aren’t likely to change against the Beavers, but the mindset needs to, which is why head coach Kevin Sumlin fired Yates and linebackers coach John Rushing.
”My job is to give our team the best chance to win,” he said. ”As I evaluate where we are, our players have not quit. Our players are playing hard and I owe it to them to try and get the best situation that I can give our players this week. We want to win every game.”
Arizona showed signs of a leaky defense in its first two games, giving up a combined 86 points to Hawaii and FCS Northern Arizona.
The Wildcats appeared to have turned a defensive corner the next two games, then gave up 30 points in a win against Colorado.
The last three weeks sent them stumbling back on their heels.
Arizona (4-4, 2-3 Pac-12) allowed at least 41 points in losses to Washington, USC and Stanford, giving up an average of 456.6 yards per game. The Wildcats are 119th in the FBS in total defense, allowing 469.9 yards per game, and 118th in scoring defense at 35 points per game.
The defense will now be in the hands of Cecil, who has 15 years of NFL experience and had been serving as a defensive analyst at Arizona.
”What we want to do is give our players and our fans a chance to win this season and to get to postseason play,” Sumlin said. ”That’s why the decision was made and the decision was about.”
Oregon State (3-4, 2-2) has already matched its win total from the previous two seasons combined this year under second-year coach Jonathan Smith.
The Beavers beat California 21-17 in Berkeley in the last game after losing to No. 9 Utah by 45 points the previous week. Oregon State, which had a bye last week, is three wins from its first bowl berth since 2013 but has a tough road with games against Washington, Arizona State, No. 7 Oregon and Washington State still ahead.
”Everyone’s trying to win every game we play, and if you win enough, you get to go to a bowl game,” said Smith. ”I’m not trying to say that wouldn’t be awesome, but I just know the best way to get there is by focusing on the week at hand and going week by week, and that’s been our focus.”
Sumlin has experimented with two quarterbacks in recent weeks and will likely continue the trend on Saturday.
Khalil Tate started last week against Stanford, but freshman Grant Gunnell came in as a change of pace for a couple of series.
Tate is a threat to run on every play and Gunnell is more of a passing quarterback, which will force Oregon State to adjust on the fly when Arizona does swap its quarterbacks.
”They play two quarterbacks now, which have two different skill sets,” Smith said. ”The offense isn’t totally different when the other guy is in. They can score in bunches. You just look at their stats and the tape, and they present some problems.”
Arizona has rushed for 976 yards in its past two meetings with Oregon State. … The Beavers lead the nation for fewest turnovers with two. … The Wildcats have 18 plays of 40 or more yards this season, third nationally behind Memphis and Oklahoma. … A win would give the Beavers their first three-game road winning streak since 2013. … Arizona RB J.J. Taylor has 3,030 career rushing yards, needing seven to pass Nick Wilson for seventh on the school’s all-time list. … Oregon State had 14 tackles for loss and nine sacks in the win against Cal.
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