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Breaking down Arizona’s big plays vs. NAU

How did another big night happen?

Northern Arizona v Arizona Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

As has been the case in recent years, the Arizona Wildcats’ offense had a field day against the NAU Lumberjacks, putting up the school’s second consecutive 500-yard rushing game.

There were plenty of things to take away and learn from a game like that, especially for a team as inexperienced as Arizona is. But let’s take a look back at some of the big plays that defined the game, especially the first half when the Wildcats were able to put this one away.

Shun Brown punt return TD

One huge positive takeaway from Arizona’s season opener was the vast improvement in special teams play. That got going right away with a rare punt return TD.

NAU punts the ball to the near side, and as soon as the first gunner runs right past Brown, all of the sudden Arizona was set up perfectly to take the ball to the far side for an easy touchdown.

The fact that the blockers and Brown all recognized the situation right away is what I liked most about this play. In the past, Arizona probably doesn’t take advantage of a mistake like that because of the lack of on-the-fly awareness. This return had that and more.

NAU ties it at seven

Before the snap, the four-man front for Arizona shifted over to the left (near side). As soon as the ball is handed off to Cory Young, all three Wildcat linebackers bite to their left as well, leaving an enormous hole on the near hashes for the 58-yard TD run, allowing NAU to tie the game up at seven.

As you can see from this angle, Arizona had absolutely no one in the middle of the field, which is kind of absurd on a second-and-four play that started on the near hash.

At least one linebacker needs to stay at home on that play. The inexperience at that position was best exemplified on this huge run by the Jacks.

Interception No. 1

What really stood out to me on the defensive side of the ball was how often Arizona was able to get pressure on Case Cookus early in this one. It seemed like every play he was under duress, which is a far cry from Arizona defensive lines of yesteryear.

The first of two Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles interceptions came when Cookus was forced to throw off his back foot thanks to a delayed rush by Kylan Wilborn.

Based on the special teams and the play of the edge rushers, Brian Knorr is good at coaching. Now if only the linebackers could make it up to the level being played in front of them.

Tyrell Johnson Reverse

The only thing I have to say is about damn time. When you have a weapon like this, why did it take so long to just unleash his speed on a misdirection play?

He didn’t even really get a block to spring him. He just straight up outran everyone on the field.

All the other big runs in this one were just the athleticism of Brandon Dawkins and the vision of Nick Wilson taking advantage of an FCS opponent. It’ll be interesting to see if the big play threat we’ve seen against the other schools in Arizona translates to other opponents this year.