Through two games, the Wildcats have developed a dangerous habit of declining to do anything of value on offense in the first half of their games. After going into the half against BYU down 9-0, Arizona followed that up by inexplicably being down 21-3 against lowly Grambling State. While Arizona picked it up in the second half of each game, scoring 16 and 28 points respectively, digging themselves such a hole in Pac-12 games would be nearly insurmountable.
With Anu Solomon out with a knee injury ( an injury the team is keeping information about hard to come by), Brandon Dawkins, a redshirt sophomore, got his first career start. Dawkins was sloppy at times, but rallied in the second half on his way to 223 yards through the air with another 97 on the ground. It is Dawkins ability to run that shows just how high his ceiling is. Solomon is the more seasoned passer, but Dawkins possesses greater potential and an ability to truly open up the field with his scrambling/running skills. In a Rich Rod offense, the mobility dawkins exhibits regularly is his greatest asset. If Solomon misses an extended period of time and Dawkins is able to grow more comfortable within the offense and have some big games vs Pac-12 competition, Solomon’s hold on the QB #1 position could and would suddenly appear to be very strained.
Besides the quarterback competition, one thing Arizona must improve drastically before Washington comes to town in two weeks is its pass defense. Arizona gave up over 400 yards passing to Grambling State. Against a conference opponent, that number might as well be 800. The team’s undersized defensive line, which commentators absolutely love to focus on, has performed admirably thus far in the season. It held the Tigers to 60 rushing yards on 36 carries. The defense as a whole was finally able to cause some turnovers, with three interceptions to go along with multiple forced fumbles. As the opponents get tougher, the defense will need to sustain more consistent pressure on the opposing QB in order to help out the secondary and avoid getting torched for 400 yards over and over.
Hawaii comes to Tucson this week in Arizona’s final non-conference game. A run-first team, if Arizona’s defense plays to its potential, the Warriors should be forced to throw the ball. In a game where the Wildcats will be favored by a comfortable margin, the team will be looking to iron out a few key areas. Get the offense going early, get pressure on the Warriors quarterback, and continue to force turnovers. With a visit from a top 10 team on the horizon, this is Arizona’s last chance get everything in order before a matchup with a true heavyweight.