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3 up, 3 down in Arizona’s win vs. Cal

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Arizona preserved a big-time win

NCAA Football: Arizona at California Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve made it through eight weeks of college football and the Arizona Wildcats are 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the Pac-12, including a perfect 3-0 record on the road.

Arizona brought their own guts to Berkley and came away with a hard-fought road win. After the first quarter, it seemed like it was just going to be the Khalil Tate show all over again.

But over time Cal started to slow Tate down, and chip away at Arizona’s lead. It was an exciting game, and kind of an ugly game as we got later in the night, but nonetheless it’s a win.

Here are this week’s three up and three down.


Three Up

This team grinded out a short-handed win on the road

Parker Zellers had to sit in the locker room for the first half due to his targeting suspension last week.

The defense was without Scottie Young Jr. due to injury, and soon after lost Troy Young to an understandable targeting call.

Nick Wilson left the game after Arizona’s first touchdown drive. It wasn’t too long after that when J.J. Taylor was ejected for targeting on a block, which is still mind blowing.

In the fourth quarter, Tony Fields left after a big collision that left him in concussion protocol. Kylan Wilborn limped off the field about halfway through the quarter and Dereck Boles got rolled up when Cal was knocking on the doorstep.

Still, this team played through two overtimes to grind out a hard fought win on the road.

Last year’s team did not look motivated. This year’s team looks hungry. They’re playing hard and playing for Rodriguez, who is likely granted another year at Arizona barring a five-game losing streak.

Arizona had the next man up ready to go

With both Scottie and Troy Young out, in came Jarrius Wallace at free safety. He ended the day with nine tackles and a big interception in the end zone.

I’ll give him even more credit on the interception for taking a knee as soon as he caught it. It could have been very easy for a redshirt freshman to get greedy and try to run that out of the end zone, which probably wouldn’t have gone past the 20-yard line. But he made the smart decision to get Arizona out of their end zone.

No Nick Wilson or J.J .Taylor, and people on the Twitter were clamoring for Nathan Tilford. While I agree, it’s odd that this physical specimen has yet to see the field in meaning positions, I had no problem with Zach Green running the way he was.

He had all the room with the Bears defense locked in on Khalil Tate. Green has bowling ball effect with some downfield speed once he gets going, and he came away with 130 yards and two touchdowns, including a huge 25-yard touchdown run on the first play of overtime.

Branden Leon, scholarship running back, also saw quite a bit of action. He was in on pass protection, and dug up two carries for eight yards.

We don’t know the status of Wilson, and Taylor will be back next week. Zach Green isn’t the most glamorous running back, but he gets stuff done. So if it means holding out Tilford, so be it. Save Tilford for Wazzu or USC when they don’t expect it, I guess.

Arizona football is fun to watch

Arizona football is must-watch TV now. It’s exciting to watch this team and see what they can do in the Pac-12.

Khalil Tate has revitalized this offense, and the defense is creating turnovers. This team has been competitive in all seven games thus far, and that’s all you can ask for after a 3-9 season turned 5-2.

The Pac-12 isn’t a very strong conference, and that’s an argument you could make each and every year. The Pac-12 South has had five different champions since its inception.

I personally think Washington State is going to shred Arizona next weekend, but I’m not ruling out the possibility of an upset win, and I will be watching, and waiting all day for that game to start.


Three down

Khalil Tate came back to Earth in the second half

Cal seemed to have slowed Khalil Tate down in the second half, only allowing Tate to beat them through the air with a 56-yard touchdown pass to Shun Brown.

Tate has 123 rushing yards in the first quarter, but finished with just 137 on the ground.

I don’t think Arizona will face a top-tier defense that will totally shut down Tate, because the threat of him running just leaves so many other things open on the field.

Really the only thing stopping Tate is injury. He took some bigger hits and started to wince throughout the night, so that’s going to be something to watch. We’re one good hit away from seeing Brandon Dawkins back on the field.

Third-down defense is absolutely horrible

For the second week in a row, Arizona’s defense has been giving up long drives, in terms of time and yardage. This defense can force a team into a third down situation, but for whatever reason teams continue to convert.

Cal converted on 13 of 19 third downs.

The middle of the field and the flats are wide open on most plays, and it’s like the old defense is back on the field again.

It’s going to cause trouble against Washington State next week. Luke Falk is going to be able to hang up 69 points again and it won’t be nice.

Special teams will cost Arizona a game this season

Kind of like how Arizona’s punt return team made you nervous a few years ago with Richard Morrison and DaVonte’ Neal, that’s how I feel about Arizona’s field goal unit without Nick Reinhardt snapping the ball.

Josh Pollack’s 43-yard miss could have cost Arizona the game, and while I have not yet seen a replay of that miss, it looked like Pollack hesitated a bit before the kick, and the snap took a little extra time to be handled.

Rich Rodriguez just needs to give Trevor Wood more reps to get his snaps consistent, because I get a feeling that one of Arizona’s final five games will come down to field goals and the long snapping could come back to haunt Arizona.