The Arizona Wildcats moved to 2-0 for the 2014 season in a 26-23 win over the up and coming UTSA Roadrunners under head coach Larry Coker. Here are five takeaways from the game.
Anu Adjustments: It was start number two for Anu Solomon as the man under center for the Wildcats and it did not quite go as smoothly as game number one did against UNLV. He started the game off with a bang, connecting with wide receiver Caleb Jones for an 85 yard score on the first offensive play from scrimmage. But it would not be smooth sailing from there as Anu had his up’s and downs over the course of the game. He finished going 17-of-32 for 231 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. But he had trouble finishing drives with touchdowns and completing passes in the red zone throughout the game. From an outsiders point of view, he seemed like he needed to calm down a little, but still managed to lead the Wildcats to a road win.
Just in the Nick of Time: Ka’Deem Carey’s replacement was supposed to be one of the biggest questions surrounding the Arizona Wildcats after who was going to be their starting quarterback. After two games, it looks as if the run game hasn’t skipped a beat with freshman Nick Wilson. Filling in for injured Terris Jones-Grigsby, Wilson rushed for 174 yards on the ground, including one score. That’s after he gained 104 yards against UNLV in his collegiate debut. The Wildcats also got great production from Jared Baker who combined with Wilson and others to run for 233 total yards on the ground. The biggest positive was seeing the amount of big runs that came from running between the tackles which is a great sign for both the running backs, and offensive line. The Wildcats have now had a 100 yard rusher in 19 consecutive games.
“It was pretty incredible, especially on my first start,” Wilson said after the game. “I really didn’t know what to expect, but the glory goes to my linemen. I couldn’t have done anything without them.”
Tackle Machine Tevis: We knew the leader on the defense coming into the 2014 season was going to be safety Jared Tevis but I don’t think we new just how productive he was going to be at the same time. Since first joining the program as a walk-on out of Canyon del Oro high school, he has continued to raise the bar for himself and for the rest of his team. Against the Roadrunners, he had an incredible 16 tackles as well as the game sealing interception in the fourth quarter. The defense does have some questions and will have to make improvements in many facets before they get into the meat of their Pac-12 schedule, but if the rest of the defense follows suit with Tevis, they will undoubtedly be heading in the right direction.
Handling Adversity: People will look at the fact that the Wildcats just beat a team in UTSA by three, that just started it’s program in 2009, and think down on this team. UTSA was coming off of a blowout win of in-state rival Houston which shocked everyone in Texas. Rich Rodriguez and company knew exactly what they were getting themselves into on Thursday night with this team. A veteran-lead, aggressive bunch that was eager to get a major win for their home opener.
“Not at all. I fully, 100 percent expected a full out battle, an intense environment and an experienced, well-coached football team,” Rodriguez said after the game. “I told Larry after the game that they’ve got a really good football team and his coaching staff does a great job. Not a good job, a great job. They’re going to win a lot of games. This is what I expected, but I just wish we had played a little better at times.”
What the Wildcats did do was handle adversity. They found themselves down in the second quarter when nothing seemed to be going their way and they worked through the fact that UTSA had many opportunities to regain the lead throughout the second half. But the Wildcats proved to be battle tested on the road which will be a good test to have passed this early in the season.
Secret Weapon: While it was seen as a negative for Anu Solomon with the amount of drives that did not result in touchdowns, it was a huge positive seeing kicker Casey Skowron pick up his offense and convert four of four field goals in the game. The Wildcats needed every single one of them to win the game and Skowron responded. One of his field goals was from 44 yards out. He also did a great job on kick-off’s constantly pinning the Roadrunners back for a touchback or a long field. The growing pains of having a redshirt freshman quarterback leading your team is eased when you have a kicker who can convert like this. It will be huge for the Wildcats if Skowron can continue to be this consistent.
Arizona is back at home next Saturday for a 2012 New Mexico Bowl rematch with the Nevada Wolfpack to complete their non-conference schedule.