It was an exhilarating game Friday night, as the Arizona Wildcats defeated the Colorado Buffaloes, 42-34. It was UA’s second consecutive conference win, placing them in the thick of the Pac-12 South title race and closer to bowl eligibility.
There were things to build off of and some things to fix for the ‘Cats. Let’s take a look at three positives and three negatives.
Seems kind of broad, but let’s face it, the offense showed up on Friday. The group had a sluggish first quarter, but man, they kicked it into overdrive in the second and didn’t look back.
The offensive line continued their solid performance this year. They opened up huge running lanes for J.J. Taylor and kept Khalil Tate safe for most of the night.
Speaking of Taylor, he had another really strong outing. He finished with a career-high 40 carries to go along with 192 yards. The Buffs got a heavy dose of Taylor all night and it really started to wear the defense down. Taylor was clutch on the last drive of the game to milk the clock. After bear-crawling out of the shadow of Arizona’s goal post, Taylor managed to bounce it to the outside on a critical third down to seal the game. Oh and he leads the nation in rushing coming into Saturday’s games.
Tate had a career night passing, throwing for 350 yards, five touchdowns, and a pick. All of that on 17 completions and 22 attempts. One aspect of Tate’s passing that stood out was the touch he had on some of the deep balls.
This leads into the receivers. The group had just an absolutely dominant performance. Yes, Tate threw some nice deep balls that fell right in the bread basket, but both Devaughn Cooper and Tony Ellison had the concentration and hands to haul in the passes with Colorado defenders in really solid coverage.
Shawn Poindexter again had two catches, both for touchdowns. One was a stop route that he improvised as Tate scrambled. That ended up being a 39-yard touchdown. Stanley Berryhill had a nice 40-yard touchdown catch with the Colorado defender draped all over him. Cedric Peterson caught a short pass, then outran everyone for a 57-yard touchdown.
Even Bryce Wolma came down with a nice 17-yard catch.
DOWN: Inconsistent play defensively
The play of Arizona’s defense was not the same as it was against Oregon. Now, I say this with the understanding that the defense didn’t play terrible and did enough to keep Arizona in the game. I’m just saying that the defense wasn’t as lights out and was inconsistent at times — whether it was a blown coverage, untimely penalties, or failed attempt to make a play.
UP: The defense’s ability to bounce back
Even with the mistakes mentioned above, the defense bounced back nicely. They managed to overcome being on the field a long time, injuries, and the miscues to pitch a shutout in the fourth quarter.
Not to mention there actually seemed to be a time when the group was on its heels.
DOWN: The penalties
The amount of penalties that Arizona had was a definite negative on Friday night. Having 12 penalties and still winning is an incredible feat. Some of the penalties hurt offensive success, stalling some drives. Others extended drives for the Buffs and allowed for them to score.
A couple of instances include an ineligible man downfield, a DPI on Tony Fields, and an illegal use of hands to the face by P.J. Johnson (incorrectly called on J.B. Brown by the refs).
Arizona will need to clean these mistakes up during the bye week before heading to Pullman to face Wazzu.
UP: The pass rush/negative plays
I want to specifically call this aspect of the Arizona defense out. They have been able consistently improve on their pass rush and aggressiveness throughout the year and it is starting to pay off. The last two games alone have shown that.
Much like against Oregon, Arizona was able to penetrate the line of scrimmage and disrupt the quarterback. And it just wasn’t the defensive line. The linebackers and even the defensive backs were able to cause negative or disruptive plays in the backfield.
It seemed like Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles was in the backfield all night. He had a key play in the first quarter where he stopped Colorado in the backfield on a fourth down inside the Arizona 10-yard line. Arizona finished with 10 tackles for a loss, including five sacks.
DOWN: Some questionable calls by the officiating crew
Yes, Arizona definitely committed warranted penalties. However, there were some incredibly questionable calls as well. Not to mention the no-calls. I’ll start first with Cody Creason’s holding call. By the time the Buff defender was turning to pursue the play, Taylor was seven to eight yards down the field. I get that there was a slight tug, but the play was well past him. Didn’t need to be called.
Another instance was the pass interference call on Lorenzo Burns in the third. It was third and 20 for Colorado and Steven Montez bombed it down the sideline. Both Burns and the Colorado receiver were battling with their hands a little. Burns turns his head around and the pass falls incomplete. Next thing you know, a flag comes flying in against Burns. Later that quarter, same type of pass, same type of play from Burns and the receiver, but no flag that time.
Another horrible call came against Azizi Hearn in the fourth quarter. Hearn was in great position and had his head turned around toward the ball, no shoving or holding. He gets called for DPI. This actually affected Hearn two plays later. Montez threw to Kabion Ento in the corner of the end zone. Hearn was in coverage and actually backed off, fearing he would be penalized for something again. Luckily, the pass was incomplete. Still, it was horrid officiating.
Finally, we’ll talk about the no-calls. There were about four or five times that I saw that Colorado’s right tackle held the Arizona defender coming off the edge. There was another play in the fourth quarter where Colorado threw a receiver screen who then busted it for a good gain. The reason for the nice run after the catch was due to offensive holding, which was called, or so we thought. Turns out the refs decided there wasn’t holding so they picked up the flag. I won’t even start on the Colorado player who looked to be offsides during UA’s two point conversion attempt.
Below is an example of the right tackle holding and the incompetence of the head ref calling “offsides” on Arizona.