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Arizona football roundtable: Evaluating Devante Kincade and Brandon Dawkins

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Does Kincade win that game? And what was encouraging about Dawkins?

NCAA Football: Grambling State at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Through 30 minutes of football, the Arizona Wildcats were getting outplayed by the Grambling State Tigers on Saturday.

Momentum seemed to have shifted when Grambling quarterback Devante Kincade suffered what appeared to be a severe cramp. Kincade, an Ole Miss transfer, was making Arizona’s defense look silly up until he was carried off to the locker room.

In came Trevon Cherry, and a few major miscues from the backup QB allowed the Wildcat defense to get some "takeaways", gain some momentum, and eventually shut down the Grambling offense.

But what if Kincade hadn’t been hurt? Are we looking at Arizona losing to an FCS team? We discuss that, as well as the other starting QB in that game, Brandon Dawkins, in this week’s roundtable:

Jason Bartel: Does Grambling win that game if Devante Kincade stays healthy?

Gabe Encinas: This is tough, and luckily we’ll never know. But I can’t imagine Arizona winning that one, considering the fact that they forced six turnovers and still only won by 10 points, shutting out Grambling State in the second half. Regardless, a win is a win, and Arizona will need to take as many as they can get. Ugly games happen, just like Mississippi State’s game with South Alabama in week one, but I think Arizona avoided a huge loss with Kincade having to leave. But injuries are a part of the game, and you’re going to have to play without your best players sometimes, just like the Wildcats did for much of 2015.

Drake Horner: It’s hard to say. He was moving the ball with ease before the injury, but he did throw three picks in the week before so it’s not like he doesn’t turn the ball over. I’d lean towards no because I feel like Grambling really tired out in the second half, but it could have gone either way.

Alec Sills-Trausch: Probably not for the reason Drake mentioned above. GSU looked exhausted by the end thanks to FCS rules limiting scholarships to 63. I don’t think U of A gets six turnovers, but I feel their athleticism and Brandon Dawkins’ ability to feel (somewhat) more comfortable on the field would have given Arizona the edge and the victory.

David Stevenson: Yes. It was obvious Kincade was the Tigers’ unquestioned leader. He absolutely ripped the Arizona defense with confidence as GSU hammered UA on both sides of the ball. It was a tale of two halves as Grambling State looked awful by turning the ball over six times and getting shut out in the second half to gift Arizona a win. It was apparent the Tigers missed Kincade badly.

Ronnie Stoffle: It’s hard to say the Tigers wouldn’t have won. Kincade was having too much success scrambling and moving the chains. The Wildcat defenders weren’t tackling well and their pass coverage would break down at inopportune times. Second half adjustments are always key. I think the coaching staff did a great job adjusting on both sides but Trevon Cherry is simply not as effective as Kincade.

Another reason they may have won is UA’s passing game was out of rhythm. It appeared that Dawkins was struggling with the pass rush. There were many times where he would run if his first option was not available. This was probably a result of the offensive line struggling in pass protection, but Dawkins cannot be so quick to take off. The Wildcats have many talented receivers that need to get the ball.

Brandon Combs: I don't think so. Granted, Kincade was the energy of the team mentally and spiritually. However, I think that Arizona would've worn them down in the second half. The constant pressure and blitzing by Arizona’s defense in the second half absolutely devastated the Tigers. I do believe whether it was Cherry or Kincade in the game, turnovers would've happened due to Arizona’s physicality.

Ryan Kelapire: I'd like to think that Arizona would have won nonetheless, but there was nothing in the first half to suggest that the Wildcats' defense was going to stop — or even slow down — Grambling State's offense when it was led by Kincade. Sure, maybe he would've regressed in the second half (as mentioned above, he has been turnover-prone), but even a little bit of regression would've been good enough for GSU to beat Arizona. The Wildcats got lucky.

Grambling running back Martez Carter:

JB: What was the biggest positive you took away from Brandon Dawkins’ performance?

GE: I don’t think I’ve ever played quarterback for a Power Five team, but I imagine it’s pretty hard to come out for the first start of your career after waiting for so long, get rid of the jitters, find yourself down three possessions at half, and then make the comeback, even if it is against an FCS school. While the defense fueled the win, it’s still impressive to me that Dawkins was able to improve as the game went on and continue running the ball.

DH: His ability to run. With that long TD run, you can see why he has a lot of potential in an offense like this. Anu Solomon is great at avoiding pressure in the pocket, but he doesn’t have the ability to run the way Dawkins does and it certainly adds another dimension to the offense.

AST: He seemed to settle down in the second half or maybe U of A was better prepared to deal with what GSU was throwing at them. Possibly a combination of both, which is good. However, I’ll go with the biggest positive being that he didn’t get hurt because Anu doesn’t look like he’ll be ready for Hawaii and Zach Werlinger probably isn’t ready to start yet (This scenario is assuming Khalil Tate redshirts).

DS: Playing from behind that led to a comeback win may be a telling trait of Dawkins. He almost pulled off the upset against Arizona State last year; this time he finished the victory. Dawkins seems to be well poised and unflappable. He did look awful in the first half so consistency for 60 minutes may still be a work in progress. He is, after all, a redshirt sophomore with some promising upside.

RS: I think the biggest positive was his ability to run. We saw a lot of this during his unexpected appearance in Tempe last season. At that time, there wasn’t much of a scouting report on him. His running ability probably surprised a few and was certainly documented. It was nice to see that he found success as a runner in spite of the existence of a stronger scouting report.

BC: His ability to collect himself and lead the offense. Arizona’s O wasn't very effective in the first half and Dawkins did miss some open receivers. The second half was different. Dawkins wasn't perfect, but he was able to settle down and make better throws and run decisions. You have to understand that this was his first start. He didn't have very many reps before this game, and definitely came out with the first half jitters. His ability to come out and be responsible for 21 Arizona points and bring his team back from a large deficit is impressive.

RK: I think I took away that at his peak, Dawkins offers more upside to Arizona's offense than Solomon does. His ability to create yards on the ground and to create plays when plays break down makes him very dangerous. Plus he has the ability to throw a better deep ball than Solomon, too. That said, how often is Dawkins going to be at his peak? He was off for most of the game and when he's not at his peak, Solomon is the better and safer option at quarterback. Essentially, I think I trust Solomon to move the offense at a more consistent basis than Dawkins, even if Dawkins offers more big-play potential.