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Arizona football: Brandon Dawkins looks for better performance in second start

How much better will Dawkins be in his second try?

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

The first start of Arizona Wildcats quarterback Brandon Dawkins’ career didn’t exactly get off to the best of starts.

Arizona trailed Grambling State 21-3 at halftime, and Dawkins was only 6-of-15 through the air.

"It started a little slow," the quarterback said after evaluating his performance. "I mean on my part, definitely could have just sped up the offense tempo-wise. That was the thing that was slowing us down, just me getting the guys set and getting ‘em ready to go faster. That’s one of our strong suits is running the fast offense, and that’s kind of what we’re prided on, so that’s on me to get that sped up."

Even though he didn’t say so after the game on Saturday, Dawkins did fess up to having some jitters.

"It was moreso being the first start ever," he explained. "I tried not to let it get to me, and I think I did a pretty good job with that. Just the first couple plays, you kind of get into it, your stomach’s kind of shaky and you’re like ‘Okay, let me get into this, let me get into this’ then you take that first hit and you’re good."

"After that I kind of started settling in but sadly it didn’t take over until about the second half when we really started getting rolling."

"Average to below average," Arizona QB coach Rod Smith said when evaluating Dawkins’ game against Grambling. "Average in that he made some big plays for us at times when we needed. But we missed a lot of easy reads; gimmes for the quarterback that we just didn’t capitalize on that he either didn’t do or we just missed on."

Dawkins finished the game 15-of-29 for 223 yards.

When asked about what the difference is for Arizona in the second half compared to the first half, Smith did not exactly mince words.

"One was shitty, one was better," he told us.

"Take nothing away from Grambling, they did a good job. Take nothing away from BYU, they did a good job. We didn’t execute to our standard that we need to in either of the first halves, and it all starts with the quarterback and it starts up front."

"When those two units are in sync, we’re working very good, and we haven’t been for multiple reasons," continued Smith. "Our eyes have gotta be better as a quarterback. We gotta make better decisions in a one-on-one. Stay on our blocks a little longer, strain a little bit more. So it’s been a culmination of things, and in the second half we get a little bit more rhythm, completing some balls and you see us get our mojo back a little bit."

There were positives to take away though.

"Zero turnovers, things like that. Just all the little stuff that we can build on," Dawkins added. "It was all just little, minor errors, and we can fix that and we already have, so just move forward and get better every day with it."

Once again, Anu Solomon is listed on the injury report as questionable, but it feels like he’s not going to play given how Rich Rodriguez and Smith were talking earlier in the week.

To make Dawkins as effective as possible, Arizona has to mix in down-field passes to open up more running lanes for both him and Nick Wilson.

"I think it helps because we have guys like Trey (Griffey), guys like Samajie (Grant) that can take a top off," Smith continued. "I think it’s good, and (Dawkins) overthrew Trey early on one, but he was two-for-three in that sense, so I was pleased. That was pretty good in that part. We gotta continue to keep pressing that, and it definitely helps him. It helps all of ‘em to be honest with you as it loosens up a defense."

"It’s just a matter of us recognizing the situations and taking advantage of when they’re there. We were a little aggressive with Brandon those times. Some of it’s us putting him in position to go make the play."

With another week under his belt of being the only quarterback getting first-team reps, and probably not as many butterflies in his stomach, the Hawai’i game should be a better one for Dawkins. And with Solomon’s status uncertain moving forward, Arizona will need its backup QB to have even more confidence than he already has.