The Green zone: Arizona Wildcats senior tailback turns goal-line carries into touchdowns
Zach Green is Arizona’s closer.
If the Wildcats need someone to finish a drive or a game, they invariably turn to Green. The senior tailback almost always seals the deal.
Green has become an incredibly efficient goal-line runner for the nation’s third-best rushing attack. Twice this season, Green has gotten one carry in a game — and each time that carry resulted in a touchdown from inside the 5-yard line.
“He’s a big, powerful guy,” said UA coach Rich Rodriguez, whose team visits Oregon on Saturday. “He runs with low pads. And he’s hard to wrap around. If you look at him, he’s so thick. He gets downhill in a hurry.”
Green is listed at 5 feet 10 and 229 pounds. He is easily Arizona’s bulkiest back.
But Green is quicker than he’s ever been thanks to offseason changes to his diet and workouts.
“He understood that he had to do a little extra,” UA running backs coach Calvin Magee said. “And it’s paying off for him.”
Green is third in the pecking order behind J.J. Taylor and Nick Wilson. But in a sign of how much the coaching staff trusts and respects him, Green is listed on the depth chart as a co-starter.
Despite having the fewest attempts of the three, Green has the most touchdowns with nine. He averages one touchdown every 6.6 carries, easily the best ratio on the team. And yes, that includes Khalil Tate, who’s at 10.1.
Of course, Green often is brought into the game for the express purpose of scoring touchdowns.
Green scored the last of Arizona’s seven TDs against Washington State. The smaller Taylor carried the ball to the 1. Green took it over the goal line.
Against Oregon State last week, Taylor, Tate and Wilson set up Green for 4- and 3-yard scores.
For the season, six of Green’s nine touchdowns have come on plays starting inside the opponent’s 10-yard line. Five have come in goal-to-go situations. Green is a perfect 3 for 3 in second- and third-and-goal opportunities.
“He’s huge,” center Nathan Eldridge said. “I’ve worked out with him. He’s really strong. He works really hard.”
Green has done most of his best work after halftime. In the first halves of games, Green has carried 20 times for 87 yards and three touchdowns. That’s a 4.4-yard average.
In second halves and overtime, Green has 39 carries for 209 yards and six TDs. That’s a 5.4-yard average.
Those totals include Green’s 25-yard TD run in OT against Cal. Arizona didn’t have Taylor or Wilson for most of that game. The Wildcats wouldn’t have won it without Green.
“I get my yards,” he said. “I know they’re big yards.”
Green almost always gets something. Of his 59 carries this season, only one has resulted in a loss. On a first-and-goal carry from the 2 against WSU, the Cougars’ Jahad Woods stopped Green for a 1-yard loss. It was a rare blown save for Arizona’s closer.
“I’ve told guys,” Magee said, “if you don’t get in inside the 5, you might as well come out because I’m putting Zach in.”