It seemed promising to start, jumping out to a 14-3 lead over the No. 24 Utah Utes. But poor field position and poor execution doomed the Arizona Wildcats. Injuries and growing pains continue to hinder the team from seeing success this season.
It was encouraging in the first half for Arizona, but things just fell off in the second half. The offense continues to lack consistency, with not a whole lot of offensive line help and run game. Meanwhile the defense eventually breaks as they hold on for as long as they can, which is frustrating when the offense can’t help them out by scoring.
It was clear that Brandon Dawkins was in pain for most of the night, taking hit after hit. It really gets to a point where you have to admire his toughness, but at the same time it seems like trying to battle through injuries just puts the offense, and himself, in a bad position. As for Khalil Tate, he was put in a few bad situations, like being on his own two-yard line for his opening drive.
Overall, Dawkins and Tate went 16/29 for 348 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Together they combined for 82 yards on 24 carries and one touchdown. With the current state of the offensive line, the mobility helps, but the two are taking some unnecessary hits.
Running backs: F
There is absolutely zero run game for Arizona. The offensive line doesn’t do any favors for the backs either. You’re also asking a fourth-string running back who’s into his fourth year with the program to lead the running game, and a converted wide receiver in Tyrell Johnson to change the pace.
The two combined for 13 carries and 45 yards.
Wide receivers: A
The wide receivers were making some nice plays all night long. The throws weren’t in the best spots, but they were still able to come down with the catch. Trey Griffey finished with four catches on six targets for 109 yards. Samajie Grant was also heavily involved with four receptions for 86 yards. And of course Shun Brown opened up the game with a 75-yard touchdown. We also saw a nice grab from Cedric Peterson for 31 yards.
Overall you couldn’t have asked for much more from this group.
Offensive line: D
It’s the same old, same old here with the offensive line. This is a banged up line that wasn’t exactly great to begin with. I’ve heard from both former and current players that the offensive line has been one of the worst in the Pac-12.
Whether it’s not being able to open up the run game or having Dawkins/Tate scramble out to try and make a play, the offensive line just breaks the play down immediately, forcing the quarterbacks to use their feet and make something out of nothing.
Defensive line: D+
The defensive line wasn’t doing much. They did open it up for the linebackers and Tellas Jones to get some pressure, but even then it seemed unimpressive. Utah was able to pull away with the run game and get their throws off in time.
We’re starting to see more of Larry Tharpe Jr., the former Idaho State defensive lineman who was a late roster addition for Arizona. The 6-foot-5, 275 pounder finished with three tackles. And Justin Belknap continues to play his tail off. He needs a scholarship.
Kyle Whittingham was not pleased with Arizona’s defensive line, as he says they were barking out calls, which forced the eight false starts for Utah.
This seems to be a mixed bag. The first half was much better than the second half for the linebackers. In the first half, the team had a lot of pressure. Then in the second half, things just started to break down, leaving the middle of the field open.
DeAndre’ Miller made his presence felt early. Cody Ippolito left the game early which finally inserted Paul Magloire, who was blitzing and applying pressure for most of the night. Michael Barton continues to play well and the graduate transfer has really bolstered the linebackers.
The secondary was clearly much improved this game. Jace Whittaker came up with a load of pass break ups and Dane Cruikshank was also making nice plays all night long. There were still a few pass interference calls that extended some drives for Utah, but overall the corners played well. No DaVonte’ Neal this week and that might have been a big reason.
Tellas Jones had a nice night applying pressure from the safety position. Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles was solid but did have a few plays where he was just out of position to make a play. Jarvis McCall saw some time this week over Isaiah Hayes after the freshman left with some sort of injury.
Special Teams: .....
The return game is bad no matter who you put back there. And the kickoff coverage usually results in a return that gives up horrible field position.
Josh Pollack was short on a 52-yard attempt just before the half, but knocked home a 37-yarder late in the fourth. He also had four punts for 137 yards. Some good, some not so good. Utah didn’t return any of his punts, which is probably for the better.