The Arizona Wildcats went into Pasadena Saturday to face the thorn in their side, the UCLA Bruins. The offense showed great synergy in the first quarter, then the injury bug hit. Dawkins went down with a rib injury and tried to fight through it, and Nick Wilson re-aggrevated his ankle injury after six carries. The offense didn’t pick up until Khalil Tate came in, but it was too little, too late.
The defense played out of its mind in the first half. The second half was a different story. The defensive line kept the pressure up but the secondary just blew too many coverages, and missed too many tackles.
Now let’s get to the Wildcats who stood out.
Offense: Khalil Tate, QB
A lot of fans were calling for Tate to come into the game after Zach Werlinger failed to get the offense moving in relief of Dawkins. After one drive in the third quarter with Werlinger went nowhere, Rich Rodriguez made the decision and put Tate in the game. And he didn’t disappoint.
In his first college series, Tate led the offense down the field and got Arizona’s first points late in the third quarter on a Josh Pollack field goal (their first score since the first quarter). He then came back out on the very next drive, skillfully avoided UCLA’s pass rush, and launched an impressive 31-yard touch pass to Shun Brown for a touchdown. On Arizona’s final drive of the game, he threw another nice touch pass to Cam Denson for a touchdown. A moral victory for sure.
Tate now adds an interesting wrinkle into Arizona’s QB situation. He made good decisions both passing and running, literally laid the hammer down on UCLA defenders, showed he’s tough to bring down, and had nice touch on his deep throws. Don’t be surprised when Rich Rod finds a way to put both Dawkins and Tate on the field.
Tate finished 5-for-9 for 72 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He was also the team’s leading rusher, getting 79 yards on 15 carries.
Defense: The Defensive Line
Absolutely no one gave Arizona’s defensive line the benefit of the doubt to start the season. Well, if Saturday’s game proved one thing it’s that the big boys up front are playing physical and getting into the backfield.
UCLA QB Josh Rosen was under all types of pressure and had to throw numerous balls away or ended up over-throwing as a result. They were also a lot more effective at stopping UCLA’s run game. Aiulua Fanene and Sani Fuimaono got into the backfield and blew up quite a few plays on Saturday, including a third-and-short that Fuimaono stuffed to force a punt in the first quarter.
Let’s not forget that walk-on, redshirt freshman Justin Belknap had two PBUs.
Special Teams: Josh Pollack, K/P
Pollack remains Arizona’s lone bright spot on special teams.
He boomed 10 punts for 392 yards. He had a long of 47 yards and downed three inside the 20-yard line, two of those being on the four.
He also made his lone field goal, which was a 20-yarder from the right hash.
Brandon Dawkins, QB: Before his rib injury, Dawkins actually played well. He had some really nice runs and made some really good deep passes. He finished 8-for-17 for 79 yards and a touchdown through the air, and also had five carries for 44 yards.
Zach Green, RB: So Green did come into the game late, but he busted some really good runs. He is a suitable option at RB. He finished with five carries for 30 yards.
Cody Ippolito, LB: Ippolito was used quite extensively off the edge Saturday and played quite well. He was able to force errant throws from Rosen and was able to wrap up ball carriers consistently. He finished with six tackles (one for loss).