The Arizona Wildcats reached .500 for the first time this season, as they defeated the Oregon State Beavers 35-14 in a solid performance in Corvallis to open Pac-12 play.
Now that the game is over and Arizona has another win in their belt, here’s some things we learned about the ‘Cats.
The offense is as explosive as ever
It’s taken a few weeks for Arizona’s offense to live up the amazing hype, but now it’s starting to wake up.
This offense was built on a fast-paced running attack in past years. With the coaching change, this offense has spent more of its time passing the ball. For the first time this season, the running game exploded and led the team to victory, even though Khalil Tate continued to rely on his arm. J.J. Taylor dominated the Beaver defense, racking up an incredible 284 yards on 27 carries, plus two touchdowns. In addition, second-string back Gary Brightwell gained 113 yards on 13 carries, one of which was a score.
In addition to the impressive running game, the receiver showcased their electric playmaking ability as well. Shun Brown scored an incredible touchdown featuring multiple jukes and cutbacks. Shawn Poindexter pulled in a 50-yard catch, plus a red-zone TD on a slant. Oregon State’s defense is bad, but the fact Arizona dominated them is a good sign.
Having Layth Friekh back at left tackle has been a big boost.
This is a very mistake-prone team
While the offense’s gameplan and explosiveness showed a lot of promise, the execution left a lot to be desired.
Seven penalties were called against the team, and most of them were against the offensive line. Two ineligible receiver penalties were called in three plays, one of which called back a touchdown. The drive ended with a missed field goal. Speaking of missed field goals, kicker Lucas Havrisik missed both of his field goal attempts, one wide and one short.
On top of all these miscues, the game was full of near misses with fumbles for both teams. Arizona did lose a fumble, but considering how much the ball hit the turf it could’ve been much worse. Scottie Young Jr. also blew a coverage that led to an easy touchdown pass.
The Wildcats are still very young, and it shows.
The defense is improving
The Beavers’ offense made even more mistakes than Arizona’s, but the Wildcat defense played a key role in that.
As mentioned above, Oregon State nearly fumbled the ball many times. Most of them were caused by the ground, but the Arizona D was clearly focused on getting the ball out as well. Concerning the rushing defense, previously the team’s biggest weakness, Arizona performed admirably, holding electric freshman Jermar Jefferson to just 82 yards on 19 attempts. Conor Blount, a somewhat mobile quarterback, escaped pressure a few times, but was still bottled up.
The most promising sign for the defense was how strong the front seven looked. Colin Schooler and Tony Fields were both as dominant as ever, but other players like Kylan Wilborn, Jalen Harris and PJ Johnson showed their capability to be disruptive in the backfield.
Oregon State only scored 14 points, with 7 of them coming in garbage time, and they entered as one of nation’s leaders in explosive plays, but did not have a single play go for more than 25 yards.
So it was a promising day for the Arizona defense, but it will have to show that improvement is for real next weekend when USC comes to town. The Trojans aren’t great this year, but they are still a significant step up from Southern Utah and Oregon State.