The Arizona Wildcats’ running game continued to churn out video game-like numbers Saturday, with a 506-yard, seven-touchdown output in a 62-24 win over NAU.
Taking the 2016 Territorial Cup game into account, the Wildcats have rushed for 1,017 yards in their last two games.
“That’s really good!” head coach Rich Rodriguez said, with a smile.
Yeah, but.............what about Arizona’s passing game?
“Was there one?” Rodriguez quipped after the win over NAU.
Arizona is basically a run-only team these days. The Wildcats only had 89 passing yards vs. the Lumberjacks.
“We didn’t have to throw it in the second half. In the first half, when we had to, I thought we were OK,” Rodriguez said. “We missed a few things and frankly we didn’t call as many because we didn’t think we had to.”
Arizona only threw 14 passes, and Rodriguez said that was to help its defense catch its breath and because, well, why not keep running the ball? Arizona had a lead and NAU couldn’t stop the run.
“I think our run game was really on point,” said UA quarterback Brandon Dawkins. “They were trying to sit back and take away a lot of the throwing game, so we still tried to take a couple shots, but if they’re sitting there trying to take that away … you’re not going to try to force the ball downfield.”
Dawkins was 7-13 for 89 yards and a touchdown through the air, and even that stat-line was inflated, since nearly half those yards were on a catch-and-run touchdown by Tony Ellison, a 43-yard play.
Dawkins didn’t make any difficult throws, and overthrew a couple receivers down field, including Shawn Poindexter, who had his man beat on a go route.
Dawkins’ pass flew just past the fingertips of the 6-foot-5 Poindexter.
“I wish I could get that one back,” Dawkins admitted.
Those are the throws Dawkins will have to make for Arizona to beat the better teams in the Pac-12 and perhaps even its next foe, the Houston Cougars.
“We’re a team that’s built on having a triple option attack,” Dawkins said. “We can throw the ball, we can run the ball with our running backs, or I can run the ball.
“If they’re going to sit back and take away the pass game, I don’t care if I hand it off to J.J. [Taylor] or Nick [Wilson] for 600 yards. If they’re putting up big numbers, they’re putting up points on the board, that’s good in my book.”
Dawkins still the clear No. 1
Rodriguez reiterated that Dawkins is Arizona’s starting quarterback.
“Brandon’s the starter and I think he’ll keep getting better,” he said.
Rodriguez inserted Khalil Tate in the third quarter, but said he was willing to keep Dawkins in if the game called for it.
“We were going to play Dawkins until we felt secure unless he was playing poorly and he really wasn’t,” Rodriguez said. “He missed a few things. He was a little excited, too. But he gives you a dimension in the run game.”
Dawkins was Arizona’s leading rusher, racking up 92 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
Five other Wildcats had 55 rushing yards or more.
“Our offense put up really good numbers in the run game ... and that’s really all this offense is about,” Dawkins said. “Putting up numbers.”
About those numbers. In Arizona’s last two games, it’s gained 1,183 yards on 117 plays, 10.1 yards per play. Oklahoma, which had the No. 1 offense in the country last season, averaged 7.4 yards per play.
Only 166 of Arizona’s 1,183 yards have been through the air.
“We’ll be able to throw the football,” Rodriguez said. “We’ll be OK."
Tate injured, Rhett Rod scores
Khalil Tate had six carries for 62 yards on Saturday, but he got a little overzealous on one of his rushes.
“Khalil got a little banged up from trying to run someone over,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said he doesn’t have an issue with his quarterbacks taking hits, but he does have a problem with them trying to run people over.
“That’s not a good idea when you’re a quarterback,” he said.
Rhett Rodriguez, Rich’s son, replaced Tate and notched a one-yard rushing touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
“When Rhett goes in there, I’m looking at what plays we’re calling with him as the quarterback as opposed to ‘hey, that’s my son,’” Rich Rodriguez said.
Rich Rodriguez said Rhett and Donavan Tate are “3A and 3B” for the third-string quarterback spot. Donavan Tate did not play Saturday, however.
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire