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Three keys to an Arizona victory over NAU


Arizona State v Arizona Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

If you’re a long-time reader of this site, you’ll recognize what’s coming next.

If you’re not, you’re in for the journey of a lifetime during the 2017 Arizona Wildcats season.

Three keys is back! And after a year of not doing them, I am back doing it!

Each year, three keys has a weird theme because, well, there is really only one key in football and most other team sports: score more points than your opponent.

After moving to Dallas from Tucson this summer, I’m going to be nostalgic about the Dirty T all year this year, having some kind of Old Pueblo theme each week.

With NAU making the trip south for week one from my original hometown, it makes a great tune-up for me and the team. So let’s get this thing started:

1. Colossal Case

Here’s the deal with NAU. They have the potential to be one of the best FCS teams in the country because of one guy: Case Cookus. Entering his third year with the Jacks, Cookus currently has the highest career passing efficiency of any quarterback in the country at the D-1 level. In his 2015 NAU debut, Cookus was 8-for-13 through the air for 190 yards and a touchdown against Arizona. That performance also included passing plays of 62 and 69 yards.

So two years later, Arizona will need its passing defense to show up and play well if they are to keep Cookus from lighting up the scoreboard. The Wildcat secondary usually becomes the butt of jokes partially because of a poor pass rush. This will be a chance for both of those groups to show that in year two under Marcel Yates, there has been some vast improvement on both ends.

2. Yates Pass

But really, what will the passing defense look like this year with Yates coaching the position he’s known for? What will the pass rush look like with a former head coach in charge of the edge rush position? Are all these true freshmen on the depth chart actually good or playing out of necessity? There are tons of things that intrigue me on the defensive side of the ball to start the year, and facing someone like Case Cookus will help answer some of these questions right away.

3. Feed the Roadrunners

This could very well be a key every week. Arizona should run the ball at least 90% of the time this year. There should be no reason to not do this, especially in this game. NAU’s front only has one player that weighs more than 280 pounds and the Jacks implement a similar 4-2-5/3-3-5 hybrid like Arizona does, so it’s not like the Cats will see something out of the ordinary on Saturday night.

Run the triple option. Just do it.