Arizona's best running back in history is gone. The third quarterback in three years of Rich Rodriguez's tenure won the job by a hair over three other contenders -- supposedly. All that meant was a 2014 debut with record-breaking statistics. The Arizona Wildcats put up a record 787 total yards behind redshirt freshman quarterback Anu Solomon's 475 all-purpose yards and a promising performance from running back Terris Jones-Grigsby.
The big questions were answered: Who will replace Ka'Deem Carey and B.J. Denker? The answer came on the third series. Jones-Grigsby rolled off 41 yards as Arizona started on the 4-yard line, and then Anu Solomon connected with Nate Phillips on a pretty 39-yard touchdown pass two plays later to put the Wildcats on the board.
Coining Anu Football: Get it? Johnny Football ... Anu Football. Great. Solomon finished with four touchdowns, no interceptions and 425 yards on 25-for-44 passing. Indeed, it was a freshman record. He also added 50 yards on the ground before his three supposed competitors for the starting gig got minimal reps. So yes, his debut went well.
Coining Ka'Terris Jones-Grigsby: Get it? Ka'Deem Carey ... Ka'Terris Jones-Grigsby. Great. This isn't going to be the same offense as last year. Even with a new quarterback, the Wildcats are going to toss the ball around a lot more. That said, they went with one running back through two and a half quarters. Starter Terris Jones-Grigsby looks like he's more than won the starting job -- he might be the true No. 1. Rodriguez said he might use as many as five running backs, but Jones-Grigsby had 13 carries with only Adonis Smith taking three before freshman Nick Wilson came in in the middle of the third quarter. Jones-Grigsby is no Carey, but the bowling ball style seems like it can also handle a big load. On Friday, TJG went for 13 carries and 124 yards. He'll get most of the carries if we're judging these things by one game.
I wrote all of the above ... before Nick Wilson rattled off an 85-yard run near the end of the third. So big-play count: 92-, 85-, 63- and 39-yard touchdowns (plus a 49-yard field goal by kicker Casey Skowron).
Defense juices up: The Rebels appeared to be targeting whatever was on the left side of the field, and it seemingly was to make Jarvis McCall Jr. make plays. It worked to a degree, but UNLV finally took a deep shot down the right side of the field, and Jonathan McKnight nearly picked off the pass. Finally, the defense was awake. William Parks, the spur safety starting in place of Tra'Mayne Bondurant, shined with the hit of the night and an interception (Bondurant did dress and play on Friday).
Slow start: Solomon got off to a jittery start, but not in an indecisive kind of way. He overthrew a majority of his passes in the first two possessions but did show impressive poise from the start. On a cut-back by Jones-Grigsby, Solomon led his running back downfield and was aware enough to leap on a loose ball that was knocked out of Jones-Grigsby's arms. The slow start wasn't limited to the young quarterback. A missed 38-yard-field goal by Skowron didn't quell the yearly concerns over the kicking game, either. He did regroup to nail a 49-yarder and 39-yarder.
Receivers for real: Talk about the return of Austin Hill, plus newcomers Cayleb Jones and DaVonte' Neal, but it was returning sophomores Samajie Grant and Nate Phillips that were deep threats that gave Arizona a little early separation and comfort for Solomon. On the third possession of the game, a three-play, 96-yard drive set up by a big run by Jones-Grigsby was capped by a 39-yard touchdown by Phillips. Hill led UA with 110 yards on just three receptions. Throw in Trey Griffey, Dave Richards and Neal, and this group looks like it'll make Solomon's growing pains a lot less painful. That's if he has any growing pains.