Wildcats receivers look for bounce-back game

UCLA defensive back Anthony Jefferson, right, breaks up a pass to Arizona wide receiver Cayleb Jones during the first half Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014, in Pasadena, Calif.

Gus Ruelas/AP

TUCSON, Ariz. — The second most perplexed person in the Rose Bowl on Saturday — behind Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez — may have been Tony Dews.

Who would argue? His group of wide receivers — considered by many to be the best in the west as a collective group — dropped anywhere from seven to 10 passes against UCLA in a game the Wildcats played close enough to win.

What’s the point of having a nice car if it’s running on bad gas? Or not operating at all? Arizona’s offense sputtered in part because its pass-and-catch portion was missing one part of the pass or the catch.

"Some (drops) can be questionable," Dews said, "but if they are in your area or touch your hand you should catch it."

 Clearly, Saturday’s were passes the receivers hadn’t dropped all year, Rodriguez said.

"You’re frustrated, disappointed a little bit," Dews said. "Give UCLA credit, they are a good group and physically strong. They had something to do with it. Yes, we had some uncontested drops that you’re certainly not happy about."

When reviewing the game the next day, the players had a unified reaction, receiver Nate Phillips said: "Who is that (team) out there?"

Samajie Grant, who caught two passes, said it was all about "focus" — or the lack of it.

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"There’s no reason for us to drop the ball," Grant said. "We have to work on it this week."

They have as they prepare for Colorado’s visit for Arizona’s Homecoming game and for the chance to keep pace in the Pac-12 South. The Wildcats are 6-2, 3-2 in the South.

"We can’t put ourselves in situations like we’ve been putting ourselves in," Grant said.

It starts with fundamentals and all that goes with it, everyone said. From mental mistakes to mechanics, all played a part.  Separation from the defender wasn’t there often enough.  All are correctable.

"Some of that came from them pressing and trying to make a play," Dews said. "They were trying to do too much instead of just letting game come to them and them just doing their part."

The result was Arizona’s worst offensive game — in terms of yards (255) — in the Rich Rod era. It didn’t help that senior Austin Hill, arguably the team’s most consistent pass-catcher, went down midway through the game with an undisclosed injury. It’s not clear if he’ll be in uniform Saturday against the Buffalos.

"(Coach Dews) trusts everyone and everyone knows the playbook when something like that happens," Phillips said. "It makes things run smoother."

Now, they must hold on to passes.

"We’ve got to be better and we’ve got to be physically better at the point of attack," Dews said.

That’s what Saturday’s loss may have shown the most: teams might do what UCLA did, pressure from start to finish (beginning of the route to the end) and not make it comfortable.

"If someone thinks they can beat you up and pressure you they will keep doing it," he said. "We have to do what we did before — make them pay and they will back off."

He went back to fundamentals and execution. It sounds so simple.

Dews said because it was a tight game his guys pressed "because they want to make it happen, it’s a competitive thing. They tried to make it happen too fast."

It’s not a panic to get things done, Dews said, but there is a sense of urgency.

"We can’t do anything but get better," said Phillips, who caught just one pass. "It’s nothing to be frantic (about). It’s something where we need to come together and get things done. It’s stuff we can fix, nothing catastrophic to where we re-tool the offense."

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