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Arizona vs. UCLA: Grading the Wildcats’ position groups

How did each group do in this one?

Arizona v UCLA Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats lost to the UCLA Bruins again, falling 45-24 in Pasadena on Saturday night.

Arizona suffered several injuries on top of what they came into the game with, so that made the entire contest feel a little strange.

With a backup-heavy offense out there, it’ll be a little tougher to grade this out, but here’s how each position group fared in this week’s report card:

Quarterbacks: B

Before he suffered a rib injury, Brandon Dawkins was actually really effective in his first career road game start. He had an early TD pass to give the Wildcats a 7-0 lead, and was keeping drives alive with his legs.

Zach Werlinger was the first to replace Dawkins, and showed why he is a walk-on. Werlinger went 0-for-5 through the air, and was also credited with -4 rushing yards.

That forced the coaching staff to burn Khalil Tate’s redshirt, and the true freshman from Serra sort of made it worth it. He showed great running ability, and was not afraid of contact as he continually ran over UCLA defenders, finishing with a team-high 79 yards on the ground.

He eventually showed off some touch on his passes as well, especially in each of his two TD completions. Tate ended up 5-of-9 through the air for 72 yards, and also drew some pass interference yardage.

All things considered, it wasn’t a bad showing from Arizona’s second and fourth-stringers at quarterback.

Running back: D

Nick Wilson started, but left after six carries thanks to reinjuring that ankle that kept him out against Washington. Tyrell Johnson was next in line, and promptly fumbled for the third time in two weeks.

In total, the trio of Wilson, Johnson and Zach Green carried the ball 27 times for 123 yards. Not awful, but not particularly impressive either. You kind of have to wonder if a Dawkins/Tate combo backfield would be the best option for Arizona moving forward.

Wide receivers: B

A lot is being asked of this group right now, and I think they handled themselves well in this one. There weren’t any egregious penalties or drops or anything like that, and they were making plays on the ball when it was within reach.

Then you have to add Tyrell Johnson and even Samajie Grant lining up at running back, and I feel like you have to grade the WRs well in this one.

Offensive line: C

Not outstanding, but again, not awful. UCLA was able to record two sacks, but had fewer tackles for loss (5) than Arizona (6). Honestly, I think Arizona’s offensive line looked better than UCLA’s, especially in the first half. So that battle was won.

Defensive line: A-

The Wildcats were able to generate plenty of pressure on Josh Rosen, and the defensive front kept Arizona in this game longer than it should have been in the game. The numbers may not be there in the final box score, but Justin Belknap, Sani Fuimaono and Aiulua Fanene all played great on Saturday.

Linebackers: B-

Again, not awful, but not great. There were some missed tackles out there, but overall, the Arizona linebackers held their own, and were part of the reason the Wildcats were able to put pressure on Rosen early in the game.

One thing that I do find curious is Paul Magloire’s absence of stats. Not sure if he was injured early or not, but it seems like his speed could have been utilized in this particular game.

Secondary: F

Corner remains the worst position on this team, and right now, it’s not close. DaVonte’ Neal was basically a non-factor in trying to slow down any of UCLA’s receivers. Dane Cruikshank appears to be injured, but did get two pass breakups interspersed among the poor play and costly pass interference penalty. And Jace Whittaker made a nice play, but also got torched time and time again.

If you expect Arizona to be a good football program, this glaring issue will have to be addressed, and have to be addressed quickly.

Special teams: D-

Hey, Josh Pollack is still good at punting and kicking.

The kick return game is still atrocious, but it got exposed even more than normal when Edgar Gastelum was failing to force touchbacks on kickoffs. UCLA had two returns of 50+ yards, giving the Bruins great field position in two crucial spots.

On the other side of it, Cam Denson was the primary kick returner, and Kwesi Mashack even got a crack at one. Someone needs to be held accountable for this, and special teams coach Charlie Ragle is that guy right now.