Penalties and red zone inefficiency hurt the Arizona Wildcats’ momentum Saturday in a 49-24 loss to the Colorado Buffaloes.
That being said, the offense actually did a good job moving the ball up and down the field. But how did the position groups play?
Arizona’s quarterback play has been not-so-good this year. Saturday it was a little better, however, there are some things that do need to be worked on.
Brandon Dawkins had some really nice runs and a couple of good passes, including a 50-yard pass right on the money to Shun Brown. But he did miss a few wide open receivers down the field, whether it was under-throwing or over-throwing them. He also decided not to pull the trigger on a few open receivers in the middle of the field. Working on his progressions and teaching him not to hesitate are two things that need to be worked.
Anu Solomon came in and started doing a decent job throwing the ball. He made two quick completions and moved the offense down the field on two touchdown drives. He even tucked the ball and ran four times for 11 yards. Solomon has started looking more and more comfortable the past two games.
Khalil Tate did see some garbage time action but ran three times for -6 yards.
Running Backs: A
The running backs absolutely killed it on Saturday. Samajie Grant is a phenomenal fit at the position. He has gotten more and more comfortable the more time he has played there. He had a beautiful 45-yard run down the sideline. He also ran pretty tough in between the tackles. To add to that, he ran for 100+ yards for the first time in his career and had his first two collegiate rushing touchdowns.
Zach Green was just as effective. He threw some good blocks during pass protection but also had some really tough runs. He also recorded his first rushing touchdown of his career.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: B+
Yes, there were some dropped passes that should’ve been caught. But overall, both the receivers and tight ends did a good job. They were able to separate from coverage multiple times for big completions down the field, sometimes with Colorado defenders draped over them. There were times where receivers were open but were under-thrown, over-thrown, or not thrown to at all.
Tight ends have definitely played a quiet, but very important role this year. They have made key blocks and caught passes to get drives moving. Trevor Wood, for instance, had a catch for three yards. But his biggest impact by far Saturday — and this year — has been his blocking. He has been a force on the outside edge and is improving every week. He threw one of the key blocks that sprung Grant for his 45-yard run.
Offensive Line: C
So the offensive line did allow four sacks and six TFLs, but the play Saturday was better than what it has been the past few weeks. There were multiple instances where both Dawkins and Solomon had time in the pocket to make their reads down the field.
I do want to say that I’m impressed with redshirt freshman Cody Creason as well. He quickly jumped on a fumble by Grant, preserving Arizona’s drive and not giving Colorado great field position.
The offensive line would be graded better but they did have some penalties that stalled some Wildcat drives.
Defensive Line: B-
The defensive line got great push during the game and put a good amount of pressure on Sefo Liufau; it was a complete 180 from the Washington State game. One blemish for the defensive line was a personal foul on Parker Zellers in the fourth quarter on a third down stop. Colorado scored on the next play.
The linebackers were the crown jewel of the defense against Colorado. Paul Magloire and Michael Barton flew all over the field throughout the night. Barton had a key sack on a third down that caused a punt, and Magloire had an almost interception on Colorado’s opening drive in the second half. Even Brandon Rutt got into the action as well. He picked off a tipped ball that led to an Arizona touchdown late in the second half. Magloire and Barton were Arizona’s defensive leaders for the game.
This is where Arizona’s defensive woes came to fruition. The safeties and corners did do a great job flying up to stop the run. However, in coverage, they struggled. On a consistent basis, Liufau was able to find open receivers, which shouldn’t have happened. To add insult to injury, Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles had a couple of pass interference calls against him that helped the Buffs extend drives and score touchdowns.
It should be noted that Dane Cruikshank did get banged up, and Jace Whittaker is still a young corner that is going to need a little more development.
Special Teams: F
Arizona’s special teams woes continued on Saturday. This time it was mostly from the kicking game. Josh Pollack missed three field goals. At times the Pac-12 refs didn’t help with non-calls or calls that, honestly, shouldn’t have been made (Dawkins’ “intentional grounding”). The kick-off game wasn’t that great either. The coverage wasn’t bad but the actual kicks were. Pollack handled kick-off duties due to a freak injury to normal kick-off specialist Edgar Gastelum.