If you only saw the first quarter of the Arizona Wildcats’ game against the UTEP Miners on Friday night, you’re going to be caught offguard by the final score.
The two teams were scoreless in El Paso through 15 minutes of play, but Arizona stomped on the gas for the rest of the night, crushing UTEP 63-16 and finishing non-conference play on a high note with a 2-1 record.
Arizona now hosts Utah next Friday night in Arizona Stadium. The Utes, who have historically struggled in Tucson, play San Jose State on Saturday night.
But first, here are some things we can maybe takeaway from Arizona beating up on possibly the worst FBS team in the country:
1. Maybe an old dog can learn new tricks?
After finishing the first quarter in a scoreless tie, Arizona went for it on fourth and goal from the two to open the second stanza.
It was a two running back set, with Brandon Dawkins faking the hand off to Nick Wilson. This allowed J.J. Taylor to escape freely into the flat, and Dawkins was able to find the open receiver for a touchdown this time.
Then on the next Arizona drive, Dawkins found Shun Brown for a 36-yard TD in the seam. It’s like he’s actually trying to learn from his mistakes, you know, like college kids do.
And then on the ensuing UTEP possession, Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles recovered a fumble by falling on it rather than trying to scoop and run. Again, college kids learning.
Dawkins finished the night with six touchdowns (three passing, three rushing). He was 18-of-22 through the air for 155 yards, and picked up 143 yards on 13 carries. If Dawkins can be the Dawkins he was in games three and four of last season, he could be one of the more electrifying players in the game. If he’s the Dawkins post-UCLA last year and what we saw against Houston, it’ll be a struggle.
Again, maybe he’s learned from his mistakes, maybe not. We’ll find out against better competition next week.
2. Arizona just needed the right tight ends
Every year we hear about how the tight ends are actually going to get catches.
It had never happened...until now.
Here’s the thing. I’ve accepted Arizona’s quarterbacks do not pose a deep threat. So having tight ends that are good is a necessity. Arizona seems to have that now.
Bryce Wolma has had a strong start to his college career, racking up a team-high six catches on Friday night after hauling in five against Houston. Wolma also got his first career TD in El Paso.
Then there was Jamie Nunley, who also picked up his first career reception in the second quarter. The tight end thing is here. Finally.
Oh and Jack Banda caught a pass from Donavan Tate. Yeah. Really. That’s a thing that happened.
3. Freshmen feelin it
I already touched on Wolma, but the freshmen on defense have made a very positive impression in the first two games as well.
This third game had more of the same.
There was a Colin Schooler interception. There was a play at the end of the first half where there were three guys in pursuit of the UTEP quarterback, and they were all true freshmen (Schooler, Jalen Harris, and JB Brown). Brown was making his collegiate debut, which was interesting. He made his presence felt, getting credited with two quarterback hits despite not having a tackle.
We’re up to 14 true freshmen that have played this year, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing...right now. We’ll see how that plays out against conference foes.
4. Lack of lanes
For the most part, Arizona’s offensive line kept the pocket clean, but they were also struggling to create running holes. You would think against a team like UTEP, the Wildcats would have a lot of explosive running plays. But the team averaged only 5.3 yards per carry on 64 attempts. Not horrible, but the lack of holes was something that stood out in a negative way on Friday.
5. UTEP is really, really bad
Like, the Miners might be historically bad. Holy cow. Funny to think people think Arizona has bad quarterback options. Just be glad it’s not UTEP bad.
UTEP is so bad ESPN resorted to taco talk IN THE FIRST FEW MINUTES OF THE THIRD QUARTER.