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Arizona Wildcats Season Comes to a Crossroads

After falling to 2-2, Arizona has no time to waste if it hopes to compete in the Pac-12 South

NCAA Football: Washington at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona gave the Washington Huskies everything they could handle Saturday night in Tucson. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, there are no moral victories in taking a top 10 team to OT and still losing (35-28). On top of that, the Wildcats suffered a major loss in losing a newly found star in freshman running back JJ Taylor, who will miss at least 6-8 weeks with a broken ankle. The loss drops the Wildcats to 2-2 on the season, with no respite coming through their upcoming schedule with matchups vs UCLA, Utah, USC, and Stanford looming over their next four games.

Arizona’s two losses are by a combined eight total points. Even in losses against tough teams (BYU and UW, respectively), UA has proven that it is will be competitive this season. If Arizona has any hope of competing in the Pac-12 South, it is going to need to win some tough games on the road. That starts with a visit to UCLA Saturday night. Arizona will be without JJ Taylor as well as perhaps first string RB Nick Wilson, who is still nursing his own lower-body injury. With Orlando Bradford recently being dismissed from the team following his arrest, Arizona is left with Zach Green as its only healthy scholarship running back. Arizona will likely continue to look at other position players who can potentially play some time at running back. Wide receiver Tyrell Johnson is the most likely candidate and even had five carries Saturday (for 16 yards). Elsewhere, longshots such as high school running backs Samajie Grant (now a WR) and Anthony Mariscal (a DB) could tempt coach Rodriguez.

Brandon Dawkins may shoulder much of the rushing load for as long as the running back depth chart remains depleted (and he remains the starter). He has seen his total rushing yards rise from 97 to 118 to 176 in his first three career starts. Rich Rod may have no choice but to continue to unleash Dawkins and see just how far he can carry this offense. With Anu Solomon yet to be healthy enough to be in uniform since the opener against BYU, it remains to be seen what Rich Rod will do once he returns. Dawkins has done enough to warrant being the starter. All that is left to cement his status as the first-string QB is to get big wins. The next month offers four such opportunities, if he gets them. Until Nick Wilson can return, Dawkins will be running for his life, especially against a tough defensive front like that of the UCLA Bruins. Arizona’s only hope for running itself into the Pac-12 South discussion now depends on his ability to do so.