Wow. Game day at Arizona stadium is exhilarating. Even for an FCS opponent, the Wildcat faithful packed the stadium and made for a fun opening night. The contest with The Citadel was to be a tune up. And it was the perfect team for it. As a team with a triple-option offense, it would test the defense in the most important way. It would require that each man on the defense mind his position and resist the urge to assist a fellow player and leave a hole for the offense to run through. It would be a measuring stick of the rookies especially. Would they blow assignments? Would they be exposed as players that would jump early, or tackle poorly? With the game concluded, I feel it is safe to say that the defense passed the test. Arizona has yet to allow a touchdown. Granted, they have not played a Pac-10 worthy opponent, but compared to the rest of the FBS? Against FCS opponents, BCS teams allowed an average of 12 pts in week 1, 15 points in week 2, and an average of 13 points for both weeks. Arizona only allowed The Citadel to score 6 points. The defense may not have bragging rights yet, but they are certainly above average thus far.
There were many positives that came from the game, and here are a few.
Nick Foles was efficient and calm under pressure. He threw for 214 yards, and a TD. He did throw an interception, and it seemed to be the result of a poor decision. All signs point to him being a top QB going forward.
Nic Grigsby performed admirably. He rushed for 107 yards and 3 TDs, and had a gaudy 9.7 yard average. His cuts were particularly impressive. He seemed to be back to his dominant self, a comforting sign for Wildcat fans. He will most certainly be needed if Arizona is to defeat Iowa this coming Saturday.
The offense as a whole looked to be operating as expected, well above average for a Pac-10 team. The defense was the surprise. I admit to expecting the young defense to allow at least one touchdown to the triple-option offense of The Citadel. I have been harping for weeks that the defense is not as bad as advertised and the LBs, Derek Earls specifically, are better than anyone is willing to admit. But even I expected the young players on defense to get tricked a time or two for a big gain. The defense, however, was having none of that. Each player on the Arizona defense minded his position and, with a few exceptions, showed terrific discipline. And that is all anyone is asking of them this season. Limit the mistakes. No big plays. Be disciplined.
LB Derek Earls accounted for 3 solo tackles, a sack, and a fumble recovery. He was flying to the ball carrier with impressive speed, and delivered a particularly rough tackle to the opposing QB.
As a whole the starting defense accounted for 32 tackles and 2 sacks. Special mention for Trevin Wade, who was a hairsbreadth away from several interceptions.
As a whole, I feel the Arizona Wildcats accomplished what they needed to. They definitely seem to be an overall better team than last season. (I am aware of the injuries last season, but coulda - woulda - shoulda doesn’t affect the stats.) And anyone that watched the Arizona/ Iowa game last season can attest that the Wildcats were very much in that game. I confidently predict the Iowa @ Arizona game as a Wildcat victory, 21-14.
Highlight reel from the game. Check out Derek Earls' sack at the 11 second mark.
The Wildcat walk was a great time. Video here.
There will be a red out this Saturday at the Iowa game. Be sure to wear your Arizona crimson.