Friday, August 29, 2014: 10:30 p.m. EST
Wildcat fans can finally rest easy now that they know that Anu Solomon will be the man whom Rich Rodriguez will rely upon to be his yard-munching dual threat quarterback-at least initially.
This matchup with UNLV is a curious one due to the fact that, well, the Rebels are a solid football team. The same team played in the "Heart of Dallas" Bowl on January 1, finishing their season at 7-5 before dropping the bowl game to North Texas. By no means is this Week 1 matchup a pushover for the University of Arizona.
Some Wildcats fans may be familiar with the new UNLV signal caller. Formerly of Scottsdale Community College, Blake Decker will be the Rebels' starting quarterback come Friday night in Tucson. Totaling over 50 touchdowns last season, Decker came into Las Vegas and won himself the starting spot. His journey comes full circle as the gunslinger returns home for his first game as a starter with the Runnin' Rebels.
As important as it will be to slow down the UNLV assault, the game will be a race to 33 points. When scoring 33 points or more in 2013, the Wildcats were 8-0. When they scored less than 33, they were 0-5. Of course, just getting there does not guarantee victory, but there would be history on their side.
In order to reach that 33-point plateau, the collection of running backs, which includes Terris Jones-Grisby, Adonis Smith and Nick Wilson in some capacity, will have to execute the zone-read runs to perfection. UNLV boasts two strong defensive ends in Siuea Vaesau and Josh Shirley that will due their best to slow down the speed of the Wildcat backs.
Paving the way for the inexperienced slew of backs will be an offensive line that returns three starters who played every game in C Steven Gurrola, LG Cayman Bundage and LT Mickey Baucus. When joined by RG Jacob Alsadek and RT Fabbians Ebbele, the Wildcats possess one of the top starting frontlines in all of college football.
With ample time to throw, Solomon should have a field day connecting with WR's Cayleb Jones, Trey Griffey, Austin Hill and David Richards. Remember, this is the same Rebels squad that allowed 58 points last September against the Wildcats.
Selected as favorites by more than three touchdowns, it is clear both Vegas (the betting version) and Vegas (the football team) have not forgotten what happened just a year ago.
At halftime, it was 45-6. B.J. Denker and Ka'Deem Carey had two rushing touchdowns each, and there were two Pick-6's from the defense. The game, by all intents and purposes, was over after 30 minutes.
This go-round, there will be no Denker and no Carey. Friday night will be the first test for the Wildcats to prove they have evolved offensively from being centered around one offensive weapon. The head coach is there, the system is there; it is now just a matter of execution.
It is the UNLV Rebels vs. the Arizona Wildcats and it is Friday night college football. How sweet it is.