The Utes took the game by a score of 36-23, and frankly, there were a lot of things left to be desired on the Arizona side of things.
What were the five biggest takeaways from the game? Well...
1. Arizona’s special teams remain awful
This may turn into a recurring theme here for the rest of the season, but Arizona’s special teams — or lack thereof — allowed Utah to take over this game. It is time to make a change and get rid of Charlie Ragle, and I will stay on that platform until it happens.
To make things worse, Utah’s punter was basically their most important player of the game. The whole situation is embarrassing and no team should have to deal with such a discrepancy in special teams week in and week out.
2. Brandon Dawkins is tougher than the rest of us
I was pleasantly surprised to see Dawkins start and immediately put the Wildcats up 7-0 on the first play from scrimmage. You could see that he was laboring throughout the time that he was in the game, but was still making plays with his feet and his arm. He connected on a few deep balls, and was still able to make some serious plays on the ground up until he took a really hard shot to the ribs in the second quarter. After that, his play dropped off a bit and Khalil Tate eventually took over for good in the third quarter.
3. The corners actually played decent
Both Jace Whittaker and Dane Cruikshank were making plays throughout the game. Whittaker ended up being credited with FIVE pass breakups, and Cruikshank came up with some crucial plays. Yeah, they got some pass interference calls against them (some warranted, some not), but they answered the bell for the most part.
One thing that is pretty concerning about the defense in general though is this whole fading at the end of the game thing that’s quickly becoming a trend. Once again, there was not a huge discrepancy in number of plays between the two teams, so that shouldn’t be used as an excuse.
If Arizona’s actually in a close game late, can it hold on to a lead? Right now, the numbers would say no. Also, that BYU game is proof. And Washington.
4. The offensive line just can not get it together
If Arizona had decent, consistent offensive line play, the offense would certainly be scoring a lot more points than it is right now. There’s no pass protection, and there’s very rarely any push up front for the run game. Dawkins, Zach Green, and Tyrell Johnson would all be pretty effective as a group if they didn’t have the opposing defense right up in their grills right away.
5. Khalil Tate shouldn’t come in for the first time with the ball on the two
It was odd to see the true freshman out there for the first time after Arizona had been pinned on the two by Utah’s punter. That promptly led to a safety, and then Dawkins came back in the game after that.
From there, Tate was making mistakes he did not make against UCLA, including a bad interception after he had shaken off the Utes’ pressure, and then an egregious miscommunication on a route with Trey Griffey that almost ended up being another interception.
He eventually settled in, connecting on a long pass to Samajie Grant to make the score closer with less than five minutes left. It makes you wonder what Tate would do if he were in for an entire game.