As far as first starts go, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Filling in for the injured Khalil Tate, Gunnell competed 29 of 44 passes for 352 yards and a touchdown, including a fourth quarter in which he went 8 for 8.
“There were plays that he missed, but I thought he got better as the game went on. The fact that we didn’t give the other team the ball, didn’t turn the ball over. As a true freshman that’s a big deal,” Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin said Monday at his weekly presser.
“He was a little high with some things, overcompensated, and rushed some things. That’s first-game (nerves). He’s got talent, he’s a winner, he’s gonna be just fine. Just a young guy and...how he operated and the mechanics and communication during the game, I thought he did a very good job. ... A lot of times you get guys in there and they’re missing signals or delay of game or the clock’s running down and they’re panicking. Game-operation-wise he did a nice job as a freshman.”
While the news of Tate’s absence was surprising to fans and media, Gunnell knew well in advance that he would be starting Saturday.
“I think what you saw is Grant and Bam (Smith) understand their preparation was a little bit extra,” Sumlin said, “just because we had time.”
Gunnell could make another start Saturday at Colorado. Sumlin had no update on Tate’s status.