True, he missed a wide open Tony Ellison in the corner of the endzone in the third quarter, which is the lasting image most Arizona fans have of the loss.
As someone who now works until midnight central time on Saturdays, I’ve been forced to miss the first half of both games so far, turn on Brian Jeffries on my phone sometime in the third quarter, and watch the fourth quarter on TV when I make it home. Then I watch back the recording of the game during the week
So this play happened while I was driving down the highway after work. Arizona radio brought up that Dawkins was unable to catch his breath on the sidelines prior to this particular throw, something that the TV people did not notice. Another rib injury for Dawkins led to another missed throw, like we saw time and time again after the UCLA game last year.
There were a couple more missed opportunities after this throw, which led to field goals instead of touchdowns, or a costly interception by Khalil Tate, or putting Dawkins back in for that last drive when he clearly looked uncomfortable. But rewatching the game, it seems to me that the missed opportunities at the end of the game wouldn’t have mattered if two basic defensive plays had happened early on.
The missed fumble recovery
With Houston driving down towards the goal line in the first quarter, Dane Cruikshank pops the ball free from Kyle Allen.
And unfortunately, Arizona didn’t come up with the ball despite severely outnumbering the Cougars in the area.
Sure, that fumble probably keeps Houston out of the endzone, as they only got a field goal two plays later, but still, that could have been a huge swing early in the game like that.
Okay, it’s pretty cool that Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles has three interceptions through two games.
But this team would be better off if he only had two.
Why? Well, his third came on a fourth down play by Houston early in the third quarter. Kyle Allen tosses up a duck that happens to land in Flannigan-Fowles’ hands. But him catching the ball actually cost Arizona 23 yards of field position.
The very next play? A Dawkins fumble that ended up in a safety. If that same thing happens 20 yards further out, there’s not two points on the board for Houston, and Arizona still has the ball with a little bit of momentum.
There are many things to criticize the Arizona defense for over the past several years, but my biggest pet peeve has always been the lack of situational awareness — by coaches and players — and this happens to be another one of those instances. Flannigan-Fowles isn’t going anywhere on this play when he catches it, and needs to know that batting down a fourth down pass like that is better than catching it.
I’m not saying Dawkins is blameless. Honestly, I’d put more of it on Rich Rodriguez than Dawkins as far as the substitution patterns and having injured QBs out there. But to boil it down to quarterback play is oversimplifying that game.
Also, this team should never throw the ball anyway. Just run and none of these problems happen. Including the quarterbacks, this team has eight legit threats running the ball, all with different skillsets. Use them all.