After playing a scoreless tie in the first quarter, and being shutout in the first half for the first time since the 2014 Pac-12 Championship Game, the Arizona Wildcats made a late rally to take a late 16-15 lead against the BYU Cougars on Saturday night.
However, BYU was able to drive down the field, setting up a 33-yard field goal attempt with eight seconds remaining. Jake Oldroyd knocked it through, giving BYU the victory in the Cactus Kickoff Classic by a score of 18-16.
Here are the main takeaways for Arizona from the first game of the season.
1. The defensive line has some solid starters
Heading into the year, this was probably the biggest question mark facing the Wildcats. The starters answered the bell in 2016’s round one, as the combination of Parker Zellers, Sani Fuimaono and Justin Belknap were holding BYU’s offense down.
The problem is behind those three. The combination of Aiulua Fanene, Luca Bruno and Jack Banda allowed Taysom Hill, Jamaal Williams, and the rest of the Cougars offense to gain some momentum starting with the game’s second drive. So yes, the defensive line is not deep, but at least there’s some promise there.
2. The offensive line needs some work
On the other hand, the offensive line was porous throughout the night. Anu Solomon, while not great, did not have any reason to trust the five big guys in front of him. If it wasn’t a communication issue, it was a guy getting blown up. Because of this, the run game never fully developed, and Solomon never had time to easily find the open guy.
Arizona had the lead in this game because of two big Nick Wilson runs in the fourth quarter. He scored from 15 yards out to make it 15-10, then took it 49 yards to the house with 1:26 left in the game to give the Wildcats the lead.
3. The QB competition was never really that close
However, the offensive struggles weren’t all on the offensive line. Solomon had trouble finding the open receiver and also struggled with his accuracy at times, which isn’t really something we’ve seen before.
But despite the offensive woes, Brandon Dawkins never even had his helmet on during the game. Rich Rodriguez was never going to change his quarterback in this game, so how close was that alleged battle anyway?
4. Throwing the ball away is better than taking a sack
Remember when the Fiesta Bowl ended on a sack when Solomon should have thrown the ball away? Well, that happened multiple times in the same stadium again. One time was particularly costly. At the end of the first half, Arizona was driving, but Solomon took a 16-yard loss when his offensive line allowed the rush to get to him unobstructed. This forced a 52-yard Josh Pollack field goal attempt, which was missed, and sent the Wildcats to the locker room facing a 9-0 deficit.
5. Arizona should never play a game in Glendale again
Two late-game losses in somewhat different fashions in this stadium, but still, Arizona struggled in UOP Stadium for the second time in 20 months. Let’s never play a game here again until it’s for a National Championship.