The Arizona Wildcats beat NAU 62-24 in their season-opener.
There were a lot of good things and bad things that stood out from that game on Arizona’s part, and our staff discussed what those were.
Be sure to share your answers in the comment section!
Ryan Kelapire: What concerned you the most about Arizona’s performance vs. NAU?
Gabe Encinas: The passing game was extremely questionable, although I didn’t expect it to improve much given the losses at receiver this offseason. So for me, a very head scratching group is the cornerbacks. I’m very confused as to why Dane Cruikshank was moved from the top corner spot over to the spur safety over Tristan Cooper.
Jace Whittaker and Lorenzo Burns were giving up some pretty big chunks of yardage and were missing some tackles on the sideline that allowed receivers to rack up extra distance. And being in a passing league doesn’t bode well for the secondary.
Alec Sills-Trausch: The passing...or the lack there of. Now, I know Arizona was going with the hot hand (the running backs) but it’s sad that Arizona couldn’t even muster 100 yards of passing against a team like NAU. If UA is going to only have a running attack, it might as well dive right in and emulate Georgia Tech.
Ronnie Stoffle: The passing game was definitely a concern but I think Arizona won’t necessarily struggle with scoring points this season. The biggest point of concern for me was the passing defense. As the game progressed, it was clear that the secondary settled in while tallying two interceptions along the way.
However, I can’t help but think about NAU’s opening drive where Cookus completed a 45 yard bomb (on the first play) and then the 13 yarder on third down to move into the red-zone. This is going to be an ongoing issue throughout the season.
Christopher Boan: Where to start. Well, the quarterback play put forth by redshirt junior Brandon Dawkins was uninspired at best, and downright worrying at worst, with the tall gunslinger accounting for a mere 89 yards through the air.
Dawkins’ uninspiring passing performance was masked, of course, by his outstanding athleticism, which allowed him to romp all over an overmatched NAU defensive line, though his glaring passing deficiencies will catch up to him quickly if he doesn’t improve in the pocket. Also, I’ll touch briefly on what everyone else is saying, in that Arizona’s pass defense looked overmatched and overwhelmed at times against the Lumberjacks, an obvious red flag for a team that desperately needed its secondary to come up big if they were going to surprise anyone in the meat grinder that is the Pac-12.
RK: What was the most encouraging thing you saw vs. NAU?
GE: It’s hard to gauge because it’s NAU. The rushing attack over the last two games at home has been solid, but for me I really appreciated the pass rush and Kylan Wilborn was a pleasant surprise.
Overall, the freshmen are encouraging. The defense did some bad things here and there and that’s expected when they’re young, but Rich Rodriguez really did rotate a lot of guys in on defense and if they can improve over the course of the season, which I think they will, there is a lot of solid depth on defense.
AST: No turnovers. It’s easy to get sloppy and complacent in these types of games but to see a goose-egg in the turnover column is huge and hopefully, fingers crossed, bodes well for the future...or at least Houston. (I’m going with a ‘take this season one game at a time.’)
RS: I like Alec’s point about no turnovers but I’m going with the rushing game. It’s impressive anytime you see a box score with six players who record more than 50 rushing yards and seven touchdowns as an entire group. Although it can be tough to see a situation where you’re starting quarterback rushes for more yards than he throws.
CB: I’ll give Rich Rodriguez and Rod Smith credit for one thing, they sure do know how to create space for mobile QBs. I was impressed watching the red sea part for Dawkins and a litany of backs all night on Saturday, and was impressed by the run blocking up front from the line. Everyone knew that the Wildcats’ backfield would be its lone strong point going into the season, but the big fellas up front showed their muscle in the trenches against the Lumberjacks, so I’ll give them the nod.