WRs grounded – and that's OK

2009-10-30T00:00:00Z WRs grounded – and that's OKBy Ryan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
October 30, 2009 12:00 am  • 

The plan was to make the big man run.

The Arizona Wildcats' coaches entered Saturday's game against UCLA with one goal: to make Bruins defensive tackle Brian Price, one of the league's top players, cover every inch of the field.

They employed a play rarely seen before in UA football history: the wide receiver run.

Using fly-sweeps and reverses, Wildcats' receivers rushed nine times for 95 yards — nearly half of the UA's 209-yard rushing binge.

Arizona's receivers averaged 10.55 yards per carry; its running backs averaged 3.7 yards.

Price was rightfully neutralized: The Bruins' hulking defensive tackle finished with two tackles, and Arizona won 27-13.

Whether the UA (5-2 overall, 3-1 Pac-10) utilizes similar trickery in future games is uncertain. For one night, at least, the approach worked perfectly.

Here are three reasons the wide receiver running game works:

1. It spreads the field. Fly-sweeps and other misdirection plays force defenses to cover the outside running lanes. It also keeps them from "stacking the box" — putting as many players as possible between the tackles. That worked especially with Price, who is viewed as an early candidate for All-America honors.

"It gives us the opportunity to stretch the field as much as possible and open up running lanes for our running backs," wide receiver Terrell Turner said.

Stoops said the wide receiver run "gets them out of sorts, and they have to make rotations."

The mere threat of an outside run can also spring more usual, up-the-middle runs.

2. It keeps things unpredictable. Offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes said he called the running plays to mix things up, in part because the Wildcats were so predictable in short-yardage situations during the first six games of the year.

The success of Arizona's first few wide-receiver runs told Dykes he was on to something.

"You have an idea it's gonna work, so you do it a couple times — and it works, and you say, 'We're going to do this until they figure it out and stop it,'" he said.

Wideout Bug Wright, one of the Wildcats' fly-sweep masters, believes the mere possibility of outside runs forces defenses to overthink.

"It's just making sure the defense always is on their heels, wondering if we're going to run the ball up the middle, throw a sweep, a screen or whatever," he said. "We keep them honest."

3. It saves the Wildcats' backs. Arizona played the second half of Saturday's game without tailbacks Nicolas Grigsby and Greg Nwoko, both of whom will be sidelined indefinitely with separated shoulders.

The creative run plays allowed coaches to lessen Keola Antolin's load; though the sophomore back is capable of at least 20 carries a game, coaches were concerned about overworking him.

Fourth-stringer Nick Booth and true freshman Daniel Jenkins could both see playing time to keep Antolin fresh. Or maybe, just maybe, the Wildcats could continue to run with their receivers.

Stoops said his coaching staff will "continue to look at it" as the team prepares for next week's game against Washington State.

Turner said he's in favor of more trickery.

"It gives us a chance to make a play for our team and show what we can do with the ball in our hands," he said. "That's what you want to do as a receiver: Go out and make a play for your team."

WILDCATS Running

wide

Arizona's wide receivers accounted for 95 rushing yards in Saturday's 27-13 win over UCLA at Arizona Stadium. Here is the breakdown of their efforts:

Player Car. Yds YPA

Delashaun Dean 3 45 15

Juron Criner 3 39 13

Terrell Turner 2 14 7

Bug Wright 1 -3 -3

Total 9 95 10.55

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