Story Poster
Photo by Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Cal Football

Arizona Preview: Winless Wildcats Could Be Dangerous

November 5, 2021
1,509

Arizona hasn’t won a football game in more than two years, a losing streak that runs 20 games. 

That should give Cal pause heading into Saturday’s game in Tucson. The Wildcats are overdue.

In their most recent effort, Saturday’s 41-34 loss at USC, the Wildcats won the second half 20-6. For an 0-8 team, that constitutes being on a roll. 

The Wildcats are losing quarterbacks almost as fast as they are losing games. Before the season started Grant Grunnell transferred to Memphis then Gunner Cruz and Jordan Strickland went out with injuries. Even wide receiver Jamarye Joiner, who has been getting snaps at quarterback and threw a 73-yard TD pass out of a wildcat formation last week, is doubtful for this one.

That means redshirt freshman Will Plummer is now the man, and he directed the Cats’ best offensive day of the year against USC. The Cats not only scored a season-high number of points, their total yardage 466 was also the best this year to date. 

“Something just clicked,” Plummer said this week.

What clicked was Plummer, who was 20-for-34 passing for 264 yards. He also had a 16-yard scramble for a TD and another for 17 yards.

“I think confidence is what kind of clicked, would be my guess,” head coach Jedd Fisch said. “I would say that probably what it was, was his ability to just kind of (have it) slow down for him. And I think that’s kind of what clicked the most. Maybe it was, there’s no one behind me that’s gonna be taking my spot, so I have the freedom to go play the best I possibly can play and then I think he started seeing the field better.”

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Will Plummer

Running is a key part of Plummer’s game. “We tell him to scramble forward, north-south, not east-west,” Fisch said. “Early in the season there was a lot of going sideways and backwards with our scrambles, and we made a huge point of emphasis in our drill work during the week that when there’s ‘A-gap’ openings, that’s how you have to take advantage, between the center and the guard. When you get back there and you move in the pocket, when you see that center and the guard open up, that’s where the scrambles become positive yards. When it’s cluttered inside and you go sideways, that’s what holdings occur. Hats off to him for taking advantage of those.”

Cal is certainly wary of Plummer. 

“They showed a lot of dynamic play-making ability in the SC game,” defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon said. “They threw the ball over SC’s head a few times. They had some designed wildcat throws. They started playing faster. They started playing with a lot more confidence. That has been something that I am sure the staff has been looking to get.

“They really did put it together, played really well. More importantly, I think they played really hard and I think that is what you are hearing out of Tucson is that they are coming together as a team.”

When Plummer drops back to throw, he is usually looking for Stanley Berryhill III, who leads the team with 59 receptions, second-best total in the conference. A walk-on who earned a scholarship three years ago, Berryhill (5-11, 190) is probably the Cats’ most dangerous offensive player. He also returns punts.

Jalen John, who averages 4.6 yards per carry, has become a more prominent part of the offense. Michael Wiley and Drake Anderson are also contributors.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Jedd Fisch

Senior linebacker Anthony Randy and junior Christian Young, who plays the hybrid safety/linebacker position that the Wildcats call the Viper, are the leaders on defense.

Defensive coordinator Don Brown has brought an aggressive attitude to the Wildcat defense. He also presents offenses with myriad formations to consider.

When asked this week what alignments he had seen from the UofA defense, the glib Cal offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave replied, “I don’t know what we haven’t seen. That would be a shorter list.

“They’re good, they have really good players and they put them in a position to turn ‘em loose.  They’re good tacklers. Some of the guys have incredible speed. Number 5  ( Young) -he can fly. He hunts guys down from behind all the time. He’s got a lot of ability. They are going to make it difficult to identify where they are, who they are and where they’re going.”

Despite their long winless drought, the Wildcats seem to bring their best effort every week. They don’t go down easily.

“I think they play hard every week,” head coach Justin Wilcox said. “I’m not there, I don’t know the day-to-day, but they have done a great job competing. They compete each and every snap and have done throughout the season. We know we will get a great effort from Arizona. They haven’t put anything else on tape other than great effort, good schemes and they’ve got good players.”

Notes

  • Arizona’s last win was Oct. 5, 2019 at Colorado. The Wildcats were 4-1 at that time and a contender in the Pac-12 South.
  • Cal has lost five straight to Arizona. They have not faced each other since 2018 when the Wildcats won 24-17 in Tucson.
  • Brown’s defense stresses swarming to the ball. Eight different Arizona players have at least 30 tackles and 10 different players have at least 25 tackles this season. No other team in the Pac-12 has 10 or more players with at least 25 tackles and only Washington State and Oregon State have eight with 30 or more.
  • Arizona has held opponents to fewer than 400 yards in five of their eight games this season. 
  • The Wildcats running backs were unproductive against USC. Arizona had one rush of 30-plus yards, that was by linebacker Pandy on a fake punt. Its next two longest rushes were scrambles by Plummer of 18 and 16 yards. The longest rush by a tailback was 12 yards by Wiley.
  • Arizona is last in the conference in scoring at 16.8 points per game, and scoring defense, 31.8 ppg.
  • Kyle Ostendorp is second in the Pac-12 and sixth in the nation averaging 47.9 yards per punt.

Related:

Marqez Bimage Making HIs Presence Felt

Ultimate Insider E19: Cal HC Justin Wilcox on OSU Win, Arizona Preview (Transcript, Video)

Discussion from...

Arizona Preview: Winless Wildcats Could Be Dangerous

1,153 Views | 4 Replies | Last: 1 mo ago by BearoutEast67
Rushinbear
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Well, I guess we're playing "Let's pretend"...that nothing else is factoring into pre-game consideration. Or, maybe it's all a ruse to encourage the Cats to let down their guard. Or, maybe scare them to death. OL to their DL at the line, "One of us tested positive. You have to guess which one." Hut, Hut.
heartofthebear
How long do you want to ignore this user?
I wonder who plays QB if Plummer gets hurt.
BearoutEast67
How long do you want to ignore this user?
No Garbers warming up yet.
Refresh
Page 1 of 1
 
×
subscribe Verify your student status
See Subscription Benefits
Trial only available to users who have never subscribed or participated in a previous trial.