After struggling in the first two games of the season, the Arizona Wildcats got things going early against the Hawaii Warriors. UA jumped out to a 34-7 halftime lead, and went on to win by the score of 47-28.
The offense was clicking, the defense was holding the Warriors down when it needed to, and it all turned into a nice momentum-changing victory to close out the non-conference slate.
Here are the main takeaways from the late night at Arizona Stadium:
1. It takes time for a quarterback to adjust to game speed
In the first half of the Grambling State game, Brandon Dawkins was not effective in the slightest. But he started to come into his own in the second half against the Tigers, and that trend continued into the Hawaii game.
Dawkins was 12-of-15 through the air in the first half, and also tacked on 12 rushes for 111 yards in the first two quarters. All of that resulted in four total touchdowns (three rushing). Yes, the Warriors’ defense was bad, but Dawkins was also putting really nice touch on his longer passes, and finding open guys in the flats throughout the game. With two starts now under his belt, Dawkins looked like a completely different player, and a much bigger threat.
2. J.J. Taylor’s hype is now reality
The big story of the week heading into this game had to do with a guy who’s not even on the team anymore. Orlando Bradford’s dismissal has moved true freshman J.J. Taylor into the second spot on the running back depth chart, and we finally saw a lot of the elusive Taylor on Saturday.
Nick Wilson appeared to suffer an ankle or foot injury early in the game, getting Taylor on the field right away. And in his first action, he showed off his open-field moves.
JJ Taylor is out here turning folks around pic.twitter.com/EH5jvy0DxI— Arizona Football (@ArizonaFBall) September 18, 2016
The above happened several times on the night, and maybe the combination of Dawkins and Taylor is the one this offense needs to get the ball moving.
3. Off-field distractions are overplayed
Related to the Bradford stuff, his roommate, Shun Brown, had a big game. Brown had a 56-yard TD catch, his first career score at Arizona. People were wondering if the arrest, dismissal, and everything else would be a distraction for this team. It wasn’t.
4. The secondary still needs some work
The biggest negative for Arizona in this game was the job done by the secondary. Hawaii receivers had no problem getting open whenever they wanted to. It is worth noting that Tellas Jones remained out, and Dane Cruikshank didn’t play a ton as Jace Whittaker and Isaiah Hayes got some reps at corner.
Overall, I think everything else about Arizona’s game was pleasing. The pass coverage was not.
5. The Pearl Harbor tributes were all well done
There was no reason to doubt that all of the Pearl Harbor and U.S.S. Arizona tributes weren’t going to play well, but they all definitely were executed perfectly. The uniforms were great. The recognition of an Arizona survivor and WWII vets were really cool, and the field-sized flag was a nice addition to the typical pregame festivities.
Even though the game was never in doubt, the game still had a unique and cool feel with all those extras going on.
Arizona takes the field again on Saturday against the Washington Huskies. That game will kick off at 7:30 PM PT on Pac-12 Network.