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Arizona Wildcats at Houston football (copy)

If the quarterback is the lowest-hanging fruit for criticism, play-calling is the next lowest. But some of what we’ve seen the first two weeks is just too inexplicable to overlook.

The BYU game plan had pundits and fans scratching their heads. Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone called few, if any, designed quarterback runs. Tate repeatedly threw the ball downfield, with minimal success.

Against Houston, Arizona faced third-and-5 from its 33 in the second quarter. The play: an inside handoff to 5-6, 184-pound tailback J.J. Taylor, who found no running room against a Houston defensive front headlined by All-American Ed Oliver. Taylor was tackled for no gain.

On the goal-to-go sequence, Arizona ran four straight times between the tackles out of the shotgun. Three attempts were by running backs; one was by Tate.

Mazzone didn’t try to get Tate to the perimeter — he seemed to be feeling better on a 2-yard keeper for a TD around left end earlier in the quarter — or attempt a play-action pass. UA coach Kevin Sumlin said there was a purpose behind the play-calling.

“We ran the same play,” he said. “It was kind of a point just to make sure our team understands it. Right or wrong, that’s what we wanted to do.

“Hopefully it’s a learning experience, because things are going to happen down there. When you when need to get a yard, you need to get a yard. That didn’t happen.”

In Mazzone’s defense, Sumlin said the staff had to scrap much of its game plan, which included more Tate runs, after he got hurt. It’s unclear to what extent, if any, Tate will be limited this week and beyond.

This much is certain: No matter how many snaps he takes, they need to produce points at a greater rate.

This article originally ran on tucson.com.

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