The Arizona Wildcats found an offensive rhythm and defensive aggressiveness to put up 28 unanswered points in the second half against the Grambling State Tigers. This allowed the Wildcats to win their home opener, which is something that didn’t look like would happen after a dismal first half, where they were trailing 21-3 heading into the locker room, and getting booed off the field by the UA home crowd.
Now let’s take a look at some stats that swung the game in the Wildcats’ favor.
77 offensive plays
This is a stark difference from the BYU game last week (56 plays). This is the number of plays that RichRod stated he wants his offense to hit every game earlier in the week. This shows that the offense did have some very sustained drives. Half (7) of Arizona’s drives (14) were of five plays or more. Of those, two had over 10 plays.
This speaks for itself. You can’t give your defense a rest and get your offense going if you turn the ball over. Arizona’s offense was really good about ball protection and not forcing plays.
6 takeaways resulting in 21 points
So, the defense wasn’t great in the first half. As a matter of fact, RichRod said the tackling was "gross." The second half was a different story. The defense came out with energy and an aggressive mindset, and it paid off. They were able to get pressure on Trevon Cherry. This caused mental errors on the young quarterback’s part, and the defense capitalized.
The Wildcats had three interceptions by Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, Jace Whittaker, and Jarvis McCall Jr. The ‘Cats also had three fumble recoveries (Jake Matthews and two by Cody Ippolito). RichRod wanted his defense to create turnovers and boy did they ever.
9 TFL including 5 sacks
The five sacks is the big number. After only getting one against BYU, Arizona’s defensive line and linebackers were able to actually get to the quarterback this week. They were able to get into the backfield with ease throughout the night and wreak havoc. The aggressive play style and different blitz packages did overwhelm Grambling’s offensive line at times and I do expect this type of play calling to continue throughout the year.
222 rushing yards on 47 attempts
This is a big one for me. Arizona had issues against BYU establishing the running game, gaining only 115 yards on 26 attempts. UA started to establish the run early in this game by handing off to Nick Wilson on their first offensive play. Wilson finished the night with 24 carries for 116 yards and a touchdown.
Now let’s get to Brandon Dawkins. He was able to bust off some really nice runs, including at 42-yard run on 2nd and 10 in the second quarter and a 21-yard touchdown run on 4th and 2 in the fourth. In addition, he was able to extend plays or gain positive yards when there was nothing there or protection broke down. He finished the night with 16 carries for 97 yards and two touchdowns. Dawkins did have some jitters to start the game, but ended up settling down and played quite well for his first ever start. He showed that he is an intriguing option at quarterback and is someone to keep an eye on the rest of this season.