The Arizona Wildcats came out with a different attitude Saturday night against the Hawaii Warriors, scoring on their first drive of the game (The Wildcats had just three first half points in their first two games). They didn’t look back, winning 47-28 over the Rainbow Warriors, moving to 2-1 on the season before conference play begins.
Here is a look at three players who stood out.
Offense: Brandon Dawkins
This was a tough call but Dawkins JUST edged out freshman running back J.J. Taylor. Dawkins led the offense on their very first drive of the game down the field and scored on a 24-yard touchdown run. After Arizona had two straight three-and-out possessions in the second quarter, Dawkins rallied the offense and kept up the tempo. He led the O to a score on a 56-yard touchdown pass to Shun Brown.
Dawkins looked better overall than last week. He was calm and collected all game and was able to lead this offense. He was able to see his receivers down the field better and had better touch on his deep throws. Dawkins also did a better job finding his receivers coming across the middle and in the flats.
"He was more comfortable. He was better with the experience, which is a good thing," Rich Rodriguez said about Dawkins after the game.
"He is a competitive runner," RichRod added. "He tries to score every time he runs."
Dawkins did indeed get it done with his feet also. He finished with 15 carries for 118 yards and three touchdowns. Add that to 16-for-21, 235 yards and a touchdown through the air, and you have an impressive performance.
"The more reps I get, the better I get," Dawkins said after the game. He definitely showed that mentality and growth on the field Saturday.
Defense: Tristan Cooper
The true freshman safety from El Paso, Texas had the first start of his young career Saturday, and he made the most of it.
Cooper was all over the field. He looked really good coming off the edge, whether it was blitzing or tipping two passes at the line of scrimmage. One of those tips led to a Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles interception in the first quarter. A 24-yard touchdown run by Tyrell Johnson capped the ensuing drive.
One thing the staff loves about Cooper is his tenacity which shows in his tackling. As a true freshman, his ability to wrap up and tackle is something that stands out. Even though tackling did look better than it did last week, Cooper’s ability to finish a tackle will help this defense down the road.
RichRod had this to say about Cooper after the game: "He’s a good player and he’s going to be a really, really good player."
Cooper finished the night with eight tackles and a PBU.
Special Teams: Josh Pollack
Pollack had himself another really solid night. There were a lot of questions about the kicking game this offseason, but it seems Pollack has put most of those to rest.
He boomed four punts for 185 yards, including a 54-yarder. He also placed two punts inside the 20-yard-line (one of them pinned Hawaii back to their own eight).
Placekicking-wise, Pollack was 2-for-2 with a long of 28 yards. That makes him 4-for-5 on field goals this season.
He has been pretty consistent so far this year and he’s only going to get better.