The 100-degree heat that baked San Diego State’s Snapdragon Stadium Saturday couldn’t have been what Arizona had in mind when it booked its 2022 season opener.
Highs typically run in the 80s this time of year in San Diego, but a Labor Day weekend heat wave briefly turned America’s Finest City into an oven.
Unpleasant as it may have been for Wildcats fans expecting a reprieve from the Arizona sun, the unusually warm weather turned out to be a perfect test for the UA’s off-season condition.
During training camp, a group of players led by quarterback Jayden de Laura and receiver Jacob Cowing would head outside Lowell Stevens Football Facility right at noon to partake in an unpleasant but gratifying exercise: pushing and pulling sleds. They’d often do this in temperatures pushing 102-105 degrees, Cowing said after Arizona’s 38-20 win over SDSU.
“This is really nothing to us,” Cowing said. “I think we had a little bit of an advantage.”
Arizona’s offense looked under control in the first half whereas SDSU sputtered repeatedly.
On the Wildcats’ opening drive, they methodically drove down the field, running 16 plays over 66 yards before settling for a field goal. The five-and-a-half minute drive appeared to leave the Aztecs defense fighting for oxygen the rest of the half.
“I wasn’t happy (about the heat wave) but we all knew they didn’t train in it,” Cowing said. “We trained in it. We know what to do. 90-something is kind of cool to us. We were kind of just up-tempo.”
The UA’s next two drives went for 40 and 75 yards, respectively, both ending in touchdowns.
“We moved around as a defense, but Arizona was also playing in the same heat, so we can’t use that as an excuse to explain our performance in the first half,” SDSU coach Brady Hoke said.
After a pair of second quarter turnovers that gave life to the Aztecs, Arizona stayed composed, ending the first half and opening the second half with two more touchdown drives.
By early in the third quarter, the Wildcats had a 31-10 advantage on the scoreboard and the awareness that they were better conditioned to withstand any Aztecs charge.
“The heat is our friend, and we embrace it,” Arizona coach Jedd Fisch said postgame. “I certainly felt that all training camp our team worked really, really hard. And we practiced right in the middle of the afternoon.
“I think our strength staff all summer long did a fantastic job of taking our skill group and putting them in a 2:30 conditioning program, and taking our big guys and putting them out there in the middle of the day also.”
Arizona’s summer conditioning could again be a factor when the UA welcomes to town Mississippi State next Saturday. The forecast calls for a high of 94 degrees.