If the Arizona Wildcats were looking for a clean start to their Pac-12 South championship defense, well, they most certainly did not get what they were looking for.
But the Wildcats did manage a 42-32 win, thanks to some big plays on defense and special teams, and a four-touchdown performance from Anu Solomon.
All the drama started before the game, as three key contributors in Samajie Grant, Tellas Jones, and Anthony Fotu were all suspended due to team rule violations.
It looked like that was going to be put behind them quickly though, as Anthony Lopez returned an interception for a touchdown on the second play from scrimmage.
But then injuries became the story, most notably to Scooby Wright III and Freddie Tagaloa. Wright's occurred during the game, and he had to take himself out of the game on the third UTSA drive. But so many guys suffered an injury throughout the course of the game.
From there, UTSA was able to take advantage of a couple things to keep the game close the whole way:
SWAT Defense: I mentioned this in 'Three Keys', but it was a brutal showing by Arizona's 3rd-and-long specialty defense. UTSA converted on each of its three third or fourth down conversion attempts on its way to a missed field goal. That drive spanned 6:47 of game time on 17 plays. The Roadrunners and Blake Bogenschutz set a school-record for passing yards with 332.
Tale of the tight ends: Basically, UTSA knows how to use tight ends and Arizona doesn't. David Morgan II had 91 receiving yards on seven catches...in the first half! He also had the Roadrunners' first touchdown of the night. He finished with a school-record 109 yards, school-record nine catches and the touchdown. Josh Kern? Two catches, 12 yards
Reemergence of Johnny Jackson: Arizona's receiver-turned-corner-turned-receiver again had a big night with the absence of Grant and Tyrell Johnson. The redshirt senior had eight catches for 101 yards, which was more than double any other Arizona receiver in both stats. It was also his first-career 100-yard game.
Arizona goes as Nick Wilson goes: Wilson was essentially benched for a solid chunk of the second quarter after fumbling with just under 13 minutes left in the half. The Wildcats only had one drive that went more than 30 yards the rest of the half. He returned for the start of the second half, and immediately picked up over 40 yards on Arizona's first drive, which led to a Nate Phillips touchdown to put the Cats up eight. Then after a DaVonte' Neal blocked field goal, Wilson had a big run, leading to a Cayleb Jones touchdown.Wilson finished with 97 yards on 22 carries.
Neal likes the D: Speaking of DaVonte', he seemed to be productive at corner, despite a slip here and there on coverage. He finished with 11 tackles, which maybe you don't want from your corner, but it did lead the team along with William Parks. Jamar Allah also looked good. He finished third on the team with nine tackles.
A lot of people are going to be worried after this, but I think we need to wait and see what the extent of the damage was done as far as injuries go. And this is not the UTSA offense we or the coaching staff was expecting to see.