After struggling in a win over UTSA in the season opener, the Arizona Wildcats had a much stronger performance in their second game of the season with a 44-20 win over the Nevada Wolf Pack in Reno. In a 24-point win, you're going to have good performances from many players, but these players stood out from the rest.
Offense: Nick Wilson
Nick Wilson didn't have a great game against UTSA. He had 22 carries for 97 yards, an average 4.4 yards per carry. Against a team like UTSA, you'd think he'd have more success than that. For that reason, it made many -- including myself -- worried about the ground game. Well, this week proved that those worries were unwarranted. Wilson ran for 194 yards on 21 carries and also found the end zone three times. That's right, he had one fewer carry than last week, but nearly 100 yards more. He also had two catches for 30 yards, including one that was incredible leaping grab over two defenders.
Like any running back, the offensive line's play had a direct impact on Wilson's success. They created plenty of running lanes, and Wilson didn't miss them. Wilson is such a gifted back with a great combination of speed and strength, and so he was able to turn all of the running room that the O-line created into big chunks of yards. He had seven runs for 10+ yards and averaged 9.4 yards per carry.
Wilson did fumble once, but it appeared he was down before the ball slipped out of his hands. The play was reviewed, and somehow it was not overturned. Even though it probably wasn't actually a fumble, Wilson does need to do a better job of securing the football. He fumbled against UTSA too, and eventually coughing up the ball so often will come back to bite the team.
As a side note, you could put Anu Solomon here as a worthy honorable mention. He completed 24 of his 33 pass attempts for 264 yards and two touchdowns. He didn't really make any "spectacular" throws so to speak, but he looked really comfortable out there. He made smart, quick decisions in the pocket and threw accurate passes to open receivers. The coaching staff wants to get the deep passing game going a little bit, but in this game, short and medium throws were all that were needed, and he delivered.
Defense: William Parks
With the linebacker position in a dire condition right now, the Wildcats especially needed their safeties to help stop the run. Will Parks did just that. He was tied for the team lead with five tackles, two of which were tackles for loss. He might've had the biggest defensive play in the game too. The Wolf Pack had a 4th and 1 on the Arizona 41 early in the third quarter with the 'Cats up 21-13. Nevada RB Don Jackson was handed the ball, but Parks exploded into the backfield and laid a bone-crushing hit on the ball carrier. The ball was jarred loose, and the Wolf Pack were able to recover it, but still, it was a turnover on downs. The Wildcats scored a few plays later, the momentum shifted, and Arizona controlled the game from then on. Parks' play was the catalyst.
Special teams: DaVonte' Neal
DaVonte' kind of wins this by default. Casey Skowron missed an extra point and a field goal, so he's not a candidate here (though he did hit a 46-yarder as well). We can rule out Drew Riggleman too, since he only had two punts. The Wildcats only had one kick/punt return, and it was by Neal, who made some defenders miss for a 26-yard punt return. That nice return is good enough to list him here.