The Arizona Wildcats beat the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks 65-41 on Saturday to improve to 1-1 on the season.
UA scored a program-record 51 points in the first half and finished with 720 total yards of offense. But the defense struggled mightily in the second half, surrendering 28 points in the final 30 minutes. Arizona also committed 11 penalties for 127 yards.
Here is what UA coach Kevin Sumlin had to say afterwards.
Hear what Kevin Sumlin had to say after Arizona Football’s win vs. NAU. Spoiler: he wasn’t too happy.Posted by AZ Desert Swarm on Saturday, September 7, 2019
On the overall performance: “I’m happy about the win after two weeks, but there’s a lot of things that I’m not very happy about. I addressed that in the locker room and we’re gonna continue to address that. At halftime it’s 51-13, we talked all week about guys going into the game and continuing to finish. That did not happen. The good part is that I thought we started fast as a football team after two weeks of being off.
“We were able to get Grant (Gunnell) in the second quarter with some meaningful time and I thought he operated well, guys made plays for him, he took care of it and we didn’t turn the ball over. But too many penalties, too many selfish penalties, things that we’re just not going to tolerate. The message downstairs was that. Yeah, we won the game but you give up 41 points, a bunch in the second half. Yeah, it’s 51-13 at halftime and then we had some starters in, and to give up 41 in that fashion is not okay. And the penalties that we had today is not okay. We have a sign down there that says ‘it’s about us.’ It’s not about you. It’s not about us in some of these penalties. It’s strictly about you, and that’s been addressed and that’s going to get fixed otherwise those guys aren’t playing anymore.”
On the defensive issues: “There’s a myriad of things right now. You look at the final score, you give up 41 points. You got an experienced quarterback, guys ran by us in the second second half. ... We got a lot of different guys in there, but still. These guys knew what the challenge was coming into this game where some of these guys were going to play. We couldn’t get off the field again on third down. We were better on third down offensively, but we’ve got to get keep (getting better). I thought Jalen (Harris) played hard, got to the quarterback a couple of times, but our coverage, guys were running free. There was little to no pressure on the quarterback, and at the end guys jumped in and out of gaps and hadn’t played much and gave up 41 points. ... That’s just not acceptable.”
On Gunnell, who went 9 for 11 for 151 yards and three touchdowns: “For him to go in there in the second quarter when the game is still going, the crowd’s up, and going with the first offensive line, I thought he operated (well). He moved the team, moved the ball, three touchdowns. I didn’t like when he turned back and ran into the defense when he scrambled. He’s gotta learn to run to the pylon and not back into the teeth of defense. He was having fun. I thought our players responded when he was out there. Guys made plays for him, but he looked pretty calm for a freshman, threw some good balls and some guys made some plays for him too. We gave him some easy throws early. He took the checkdowns, he took some swing passes, he threw crossing routes underneath and guys made yards for him after that.”
On Tayvian Cunningham, who had three catches for 58 yards and two touchdowns: “He’s fast. He just ran right by everybody on the first touchdown. He continues to build confidence and that’s part of it. He’s a guy that he’s really kind of an off-and-on football and track guy. Legitimate track speed, legitimate track opportunities in the Pac-12, and he is getting better. He got here for fall camp and he has gotten better every week, understanding technique, route running and his confidence is growing. You can see it every week, and our confidence in him is growing and I think obviously our quarterbacks’ confidence are growing in him.
“I can remember we came to camp and Khalil (Tate) is saying, ‘this guy, I gotta let this ball go. I can’t hang on to it because he outrun run it.’ The first touchdown is a designed situation against their coverage where you kind of freeze one safety and he’s one-and-one and he just ran right by him. And the thing about him too is he’s made some tough catches, made them in Hawaii in traffic. I think he scored six or seven touchdown in junior college in the return game, so we got an opportunity tonight to put him back there, and look at him and see how that looked. He had a decent return. Tonight, we didn’t have J.J. (Taylor) return any kicks. So we’re looking at a bunch of other guys back there on kickoff return as we move into the season and I thought they did a nice job of operating back there.”
On having five running backs have an impact in the running back: “We told J.J. we wanted to get him going. Sometimes when you say it’s a position by committee ... you really don’t have anybody, but we do. We’ve got five guys that can play. Coach (DeMarco) Murray is just talking the whole time to the guys on the field, rotating guys and they know it and they work well together. They’re all different. J.J. is a little bit different with quickness. Bam (Smith)’s got real talent. Gary (Brightwell) showed something tonight that people didn’t know (he had)—some real speed and ran away from people. He’s a little bit bigger. (Nathan) Tilford gives us a bigger back on short yardage and goalline. And (Michael) Wiley, he did a nice job two weeks ago and then Bam showed up tonight, and showed that he wants to play.
“So that’s a good problem to have at that position, to keep those guys fresh, change speeds on the defense. I think they can all catch and they make people miss, and that’s going to help us as we go through the season, with four or five guys that aren’t just guys to go in there and give J.J. rest. There’s there’s four or five legitimate guys that are home-run hitters and can catch, can play and definitely I think you saw us tonight. We’re trying to get our best personnel on the field. You saw more two-back sets tonight, getting those guys on the field, whether it’s in an offset I-formation or motion-type situations. They’re just as dangerous as anybody on swing routes, bubble screens, things like that and draw attention and get people out of the box to hand it off to another back.”
On the ZonaZoo being nearly full: “My office looks right down right in front of where everybody gets in the ZonaZoo, so I want to thank the students, who were awesome. They were lining up outside going both ways up the street, and they’re loud, behind us and talking and cheering guys on. I thought particularly on third downs and things like that, we got a couple calls from offsides and some penalties against (NAU). I really thought that fans were into it in, and particularly ZonaZoo was into it. Hopefully next weekend we can turn it up another notch. I understand it’s a whiteout, so I’m starting my campaign already to make sure that everybody’s there and taking another step or two.”