CFN Take: Arizona Blasted By Oregon In Champ
2014 Arizona Wildcats ...
Head Coach: Rich Rodriguez
Dec. 5 Pac-12 Championship
Aug. 29 UNLV
Sep. 4 at UTSA W 26-23
Sep. 13 Nevada W 35-28
Sep. 20 California W 49-45
Sep. 27 OPEN DATE
Oct. 2 at Oregon W 31-24
Oct. 11 USC L 28-26
Oct. 18 OPEN DATE
Oct. 25 at Wash St W 59-37
Nov. 1 at UCLA L 17-7
Nov. 8 Colorado W 38-20
Nov. 15 Washington W 27-26
Nov. 22 at Utah W 42-10
Nov. 28 Arizona State W 42-35
Dec. 5 Oregon L 51-13
Oregon 51, Arizona 13
And You Care Because … After a sluggish start, Oregon destroyed Arizona on the way to the Pac-12 championship as Marcus Mariota ran for three touchdowns and threw for two more. The Ducks had to settle for two of Aidan Schneider’s three field goals in the first quarter as the offense kept making mistakes. It didn’t matter as Oregon got out to a 30-0 lead before Arizona finally got on the board on a 69-yard Cayleb Jones touchdown catch thanks to a busted coverage. Mariota answered right back with a four-play drive finishing with an 11-yard scoring pass to Darren Carrington. The Wildcats’ second score came on a 25-yard Jerrard Randall run with no time remaining.
What Else? Oregon QB Marcus Mariota completed 25-of-38 passes for 313 yards and two scores, and ran ten times for 33 yards and three touchdowns
- Arizona quarterbacks combined to complete 9-of-26 passes for 113 yards and a score with an interception. 69 of the yards came on one play.
- Total yards: Oregon 627 – Arizona 224
- Time of possession: Oregon 37:12 – Arizona 22:48
Game Rating: D
Nov. 28 at Arizona 42, Arizona State 35
And You Care Because … With UCLA losing to Stanford, Arizona took the Pac-12 South title with three touchdown runs from Nick Wilson and Anu Solomon touchdown passes to Samajie Grant from 69 and 20 yards out. The second scoring pass gave the Wildcats a 14 point lead midway through the fourth, and they needed the advantage with Mike Bercovici throwing his second touchdown pass of the fourth quarter on a nine-yard play to De’Marieya Nelson with just over five minutes to play. ASU had one last chance, but the drive stalled. Taylor Kelly threw two touchdown passes for ASU in the second quarter to tie it at 21, and then Wilson took over in the third with his two scores. Each defense came up with two takeaways, with each returning a fumble to start out the scoring at seven.
What Else? Arizona LB Scooby Wright made 13 tackles with five tackles for loss and a forced fumble
- Arizona RB Nick Wilson ran 24 times for 178 yards and three scores
- Arizona State QB Taylor Kelly completed 13-of-22 passes for two touchdowns, and Mike Bercovici completed 14-of-22 passes for 123 yards and two scores with a pick
- Time of possession: Arizona State 35:54 – Arizona 24:06
Game Rating: B
Nov. 22 Arizona 42, at Utah 10
And You Care Because … Arizona didn’t have any problems as Anu Solomon ran for an 11-yard touchdown in the first and Nick Wilson added a 17-yard scoring dash in the second. Utah turned it over four times, with Dan Pettinato returning a fumble 31 yards for a score and a 21-0 Wildcat lead. Utah tried to come back, with Travis Wilson finding Westlee Tonga for a score and Andy Phillips hitting a 28-yard field goal, but the Wildcats scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth on Wilson scoring runs from 75 and 19 yards away along with a 39-yard Tra’Mayne Bondurant pick six.
What Else? Arizona RB Nick Wilson ran 20 times for 218 yards and three scores
- Utah RB Devontae Booker ran 23 times for 142 yards
- Arizona QB Anu Solomon completed 8-of-17 passes for 158 yards and ran five times for 22 yards and a touchdown
- Turnovers: Utah 4 – Arizona 1
Game Rating: C-
Nov. 15 at Arizona 27, Washington 26
And You Care Because … Casey Skowron nailed a 47-yard field goal as time expired to give Arizona the comeback win. The Wildcats were down five in the fourth quarter after Dwayne Washington ran for his second touchdown of the game for the Huskies, his first going for 66 yards, but Arizona’s defense held on and Skowron nailed two field goals with a 35-yarder to go along with his game-winner. Washington dominated offensively, but penalties and turnovers were a disaster, and the biggest problem turned out to be the inability to figure out the time late, choosing to run the ball instead of taking a knee, fumbled, and gave Arizona life.
What Else? Penalties: Washington 13 for 111 yards – Arizona 2 for 14 yards. Each team turned it over three times
- Washington RB Dwayne Washington ran 19 times for 148 yards and two touchdowns
- Arizona RB Nick Wilson ran 30 times for 104 yards and two touchdowns
- Total yards: Washington 504 – Arizona 375
Game Rating: B+
Nov. 8 at Arizona 38, Colorado 20
And You Care Because … Anu Solomon threw four touchdown passes with two to Samajie Grant in the fourth quarter from 27 and 20 yards out, and Tra’Mayne Bondurant returned a fumble 22 yards for a score as Arizona got through a fight with the Buffs. Colorado scored on the first play of the game on a 75-yard Shay Fields touchdown catch, and Sefo Liufau caught a seven-yard touchdown pass on a trick play, but a 33-yard Will Oliver field goal to pull within four in the third was as close as it would get in the second half. Up 24-20, the Wildcats scored 14 unanswered points on Grant’s two touchdown catches.
What Else? Arizona RB Nick Wilson ran 21 times for 153 yards
- Colorado QB Sefo Liufau completed 24-of-33 passes for 252 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions, and he caught a seven yard touchdown pass
- Arizona QB Anu Solomon completed 21-of-38 passes for 211 yards and four touchdowns, and ran 13 times for 105 yards
- Penalties: Colorado 10 for 103 yards – Arizona 8 for 75 yards
Game Rating: B-
Nov. 1 at UCLA 17, Arizona 7
And You Care Because … In a strange game, Arizona scored on its first drive, with Cayleb Jones running catching a 14-yard pass, but that was it. UCLA slugged its way to 17 points with a 24-yard Ka’imi Fairbarin field goal in the second and a five-yard Paul Perkins run in the third for all the points needed. Less than a minute later, Jordan Payton took a Brett Hundley pass 70 yards for a touchdown. Arizona had a few chances, but drives were stopped by key stops, a big interception, and a blocked field goal.
What Else? UCLA QB Brett Hundley completed 19-of-26 passes for 189 yards and a score, and ran 24 times for 131 yards
- Arizona QB Anu Solomon completed 18-of-48 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown with an interception, and ran ten times for eight yards
- Total yards: UCLA 460 – Arizona 255
- Penalties: UCLA 11 for 118 yards – Arizona 4 for 40 yards
Game Rating: B-
Oct. 25 Arizona 59, at Washington State 37
And You Care Because … Arizona exploded with 31 straight points to start the game with DaVonte Neal returning a punt 81 yards for a touchdown and scoring on a two-yard touchdown catch, the first of three Anu Solomon scoring passes in the first half. Washington State came back with two Connor Halliday touchdown passes and a Quentin Breshears field goal to make it 31-16, but it was all Wildcats in the third quarter on two more Solomon touchdown passes and a two-yard Nick Wilson scoring run.
What Else? Arizona QB Anu Solomon completed 26-of-38 passes for 294 yards and five touchdowns, and he ran nine times for 31 yards
- Washington State QB Connor Halliday completed 56-of-79 passes for 489 yards and four touchdowns with two picks
- Washington State WR Vince Mayle caught 14 passes for 145 yards and a touchdowns, and Isiah Myers caught six passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns
- Penalties: Washington State 11 for 85 yards – Arizona 8 for 89 yards
Game Rating: C
Oct. 11 USC 28, at Arizona 26
And You Care Because … Arizona kicker Casey Skowron missed two field goals including a 36-yard field goal in the final seconds – after hitting the first attempt that was called back after USC called a timeout to freeze him. It ruined a wild comeback attempt, with Jared Baker running for a six-yard score, catching a 41-yard touchdown pass and running for a one-yard score, but the two point conversion try to tie the score failed. The Wildcats recovered the onside kick and got in position for the win, but Skowron went wide right. Javorius Allen came up with a huge day for the Trojans, ripping off three touchdown runs with a 34 and 48-yarder before coming up with a one-yard score to put the team up for good. Skowron hit two first quarter field goals, but the misses started coming, including at the end of the first half.
What Else? USC RB Javorius Allen ran 26 times for 205 yards and three touchdowns
- Arizona QB Anu Solomon completed 43-of-72 passes for 395 yards and a touchdown
- Penalties: USC 13 for 103 yards – Arizona 4 for 35 yards
- Rushing yards: USC 239 – Arizona 77
Game Rating: A
Oct. 3 Arizona 31, at Oregon 24
And You Care Because … In a thriller, Arizona’s game-winning scoring drive got a second chance on a celebration penalty when Oregon’s Tony Washington was flagged for taking a bow after a defensive stop. The Wildcats took advantage with a one-yard Terris Jones-Grigsby touchdown run for a 31-24 lead, but Marcus Mariota had one final shot. The drive stopped with a forced fumble and recovery from Scooby Wright, and Arizona was able to grind out the clock. Oregon’s offense was held in check in the first half, but Mariota came up with a 26-yard touchdown catch off a trick play for a 7-3 halftime lead. And then Nick Solomon and the Arizona offense went to work scoring on two short runs and taking a pass 34 yards for a touchdown and a 24-14 lead, but Mariota would answer with a good drive that stalled on the goal line that led to a field goal, and a nine-yard pass to Keanon Lowe to tie it. Arizona scored on the ensuing drive for the win.
What Else? Marcus Mariota completed 20-of-32 passes for 276 yards and two scores, and ran nine times for one yard with a 26-yard touchdown catch.
- Arizona QB Anu Solomon completed 20-of-31 passes for 287 yards and a touchdown with a pick
- Penalties: Oregon 10 for 79 yards – Arizona 9 for 78 yards
- Arizona RB Terris Jones-Grigsby ran 27 times for 115 yards and a score and caught four passes for a team-leading 95 yards
Game Rating: A-
Sept. 20 at Arizona 49, California 45
And You Care Because … Arizona made a comeback for the ages, scoring 36 fourth quarter points including 19 unanswered finished off by a Hail Mary from Anu Solomon to Austin Hill from 47-yard out for the improbable win. Solomon threw five touchdown passes with three to Cayleb Jones and two to Hill including the game-winner. The Cal passing game rolled at will early with Jared Goff throwing three touchdown passes, and even after the Wildcats went on a run – helped by a nine-yard Hill catch – the Bears appeared to be fine with a six-yard touchdown run from Khalfani Muhammad for a 15-point lead with just over five minutes to play. The Wildcats scored quickly with all three final scoring drives under two minutes, helped by a recovered onside kick to keep the game alive leading to the second-to-last score, but missed on the two-point conversion allowing Cal to stay ahead 45-43. The Wildcat D came up with the stop, and Solomon made magic.
What Else? Arizona QB Anu Solomon completed 47-of-73 passes for 520 yards and five touchdowns and two picks, and he led the team with 46 rushing yards on 16 carries.
- California QB Jared Goff completed 18-of-30 passes for 380 yards and three scores with a pick
- Total Yards: Arizona 627 – California 573
- Arizona WR Cayleb Jones caught 13 passes for 186 yards and three scores, and Austin Hill caught eight passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns
Game Rating: A
Sept. 13 at Arizona 35, Nevada 28
And You Care Because … In a nip-and-tuck game, Anu Solomon threw three touchdown passes, with two in the second half to Cayleb Jones, and Nick Wilson ran for two touchdowns as Arizona got up 35-21 and held on. Nevada got three Cody Fajardo touchdown passes including a six-yarder to Jarred Gispson with six minutes to play to pull within seven, but failed on its final drive. Wilson ran for ran for scores from two and 28 yards out on the way to a 21-6 lead, but Fajardo went to work finding Gipson from seven yards out and Hasaan Henderson on a six-yarder to tie it at 21, but Solomon’s two touchdown passes for Jones put Arizona in control.
What Else? Arizona QB Anu Solomon completed 22-of-26 passes for 278 yards and three touchdowns with a pick, and he ran seven times for 60 yards
- Nevada QB Cody Fajardo completed 29-of-39 passes for 321 yards and three touchdowns
- Arizona RB Nick Wilson ran 29 times for 171 yards and two scores.
- The two teams combined to convert 13-of-25 third down chances.
Game Rating: B
Sept. 4 at Arizona 26, UTSA 23
And You Care Because … Arizona survived a battle with ten third quarter points on field goals from 44 and 28 yards out by Casey Skowron, and had to hold on in the final minutes. UTSA took a 16-14 lead in the first half on a safety, but Arizona scored 13 straight points for a ten-point lead. The Roadrunners came back with a three-yard David Glasco II touchdown run midway through the fourth, but the Wildcat held on.
What Else? The two teams kept stalling in key moments. They combined to convert 7-of-27 third down chances.
- UTSA was held to 121 yards rushing on 39 carries with two scores, while Arizona’s Nick Wilson ran 30 times for 174 yards and a touchdown.
- Arizona PK Casey Skowron hit four field goals from 38, 23, 44 and 28 yards out.
- Arizona QB Anu Solomon completed 17-of-32 passes for 231 yards and a score, hitting Cayleb Jones for a 85-yard score on the team’s first play from scrimmage.
Game Rating: B
Aug. 30 at Arizona 58, UNLV 13
And You Care Because … Anu Solomon threw for 425 yards and four scores and the
Arizona offense came up with 787 yards in the blowout. Solomon connected with Austin Hill for a 92-yard score on the first play of the third quarter to put it well out of reach after putting the Wildcats up 14-0 on two scoring passes in just over a minute.
What Else? New parts, even better results. UNLV might not be a brick wall, but the Rich Rodriguez offense showed it could air
it out a bit with Anu Solomon shaking off a rocky first 12 minutes to be fantastic the rest of the way.
- It wasn’t just Solomon and the passing attack – Terris Jones-Grigsby ran for 124 yards and a score, averaging 9.5 yards per carry, and Nick Wilson added 104 yards and a touchdown averaging 14.9 yards per pop.
- Blake Decker got the starting quarterback nod for UNLV, and while he threw for 252 yards and ran for a team-high 56 yards, he couldn’t keep up the pace.
- UNLV’s Devonte Boyd caught six passes for 102 yards and Devante Davis added eight grabs for 100 yards.
Game Rating: C+
The foundation has been poured for the Wildcats after back-to-back 8-5 seasons. Now, Arizona wants to build toward a Pac-12 South crown.
Rich Rodriguez has done an overall solid job in his first two years in Tucson, highlighted by a signature upset of Oregon last Nov. 23 and a bowl blowout of Boston College. The coach’s read-option—along with coordinator Jeff Casteel’s 3-3-5 stack—are now fully functional, and three recruiting classes have allowed the staff to get their kinds of kids on campus. What’s next for the only original Pac-10 program to have never played in the Rose Bowl Game?
RichRod has succeeded so far in changing the culture of a program that was steeped in mediocrity before he arrived. Still, eight-win seasons will only get a coach so far, especially when the in-state rival is winning 10 games and a division crown. And all of the coaches know it. Their biggest challenge this offseason has been retooling a backfield that’ll be without veteran QB B.J. Denker and RB Ka’Deem Carey, the nation’s second-leading rusher a year ago.
The Wildcats have averaged at least 30 points in each of the last three seasons. Continuing that trend, though, mandates that a quarterback and a running back emerge from the crowd of contenders. Both positions remained inconclusive at the end of spring.
For the third straight year, Arizona will be breaking in a new starting quarterback. The challengers include strong-armed USC transfer Jesse Scroggins, redshirt freshman Anu Solomon, LSU transfer Jerrard Randall and Texas transfer Connor Brewer. Whoever gets the nod will be throwing to one of the country’s best wide receiver corps, a deep unit getting a major boost from the healthy return of senior star Austin Hill.
Casteel has made strides with the defense, reducing its points per game allowed from 35 in 2012 to 24 in 2013. The coach, though, is far from done making gains with his kids. Casteel needs his D to be tougher, at the point of attack, against the run and in the red zone. Arizona could struggle versus north-south running teams in 2014 now that four starting members of the front six have graduated.
In stark contrast to his disastrous tenure in Ann Arbor, Rodriguez is ahead of schedule in Tucson. He’s capped eight-win seasons with bowl victories to create an air of optimism in the desert. If the Wildcats are to remain on the current track, they’ll have to get the backfield figured out before UNLV visits on Aug. 29.
What to watch for on offense: Certain wide receivers will get a chance to play running back. The ‘Cats have an embarrassment of riches on the outside. All-star Austin Hill is back from injury. So, too, are last year’s young stars, Nate Phillips, Trey Griffey and Samajie Grant. Oh, and Texas transfer Cayleb Jones and Notre Dame transfer DaVonte’ Neal are itching to finally get on the field. Neal is a candidate for carries, injecting some speed and wiggle into a backfield that could be forced to lean on a committee in 2014.
What to watch for on defense: The other corner. Jonathan McKnight has one cornerback spot under lock and key. And the three safeties are senior returning starters. But who replaces Shaquille Richardson? Sophomore Devin Holliday, who lettered in his debut out of Mission Hills (Calif.) High School, has the early edge. He has plenty of potential, but that won’t keep opposing quarterbacks from targeting the 5-10, 156-pounder until he makes them pay. Even if Holliday is up to the challenge, the Wildcats have depth concerns that were exacerbated by backup Derek Babiash’s abrupt departure from school on Apr. 15.
The team will be far better if… the defense takes another step forward. The ‘Cats improved in 2013, but resting on laurels will not be acceptable. In fact, Jeff Casteel’s D might have to pull even more of the weight this fall, since the offense is one big question mark. Looking at Arizona’s five defeats from a year ago reveals breakdowns on defense, especially against the run. Those holes need to be plugged, because Ka’Deem Carey is no longer around to hoist the team on his shoulders.
The Schedule: The Wildcats start out the year going Mountain West hosting UNLV and Nevada around a Conference USA game at UTSA – they’re not exactly challenging themselves. Starting out the Pac-12 season against Cal at home is nice, making it three home games in the first four, and then the fun begins going to Oregon for a Thursday night revenge game showdown for the Ducks. The USC game is at home, but going on the road to face UCLA could be the key to the Pac-12 South season. It’s a huge help to finish up with three home games in the final four, hosting Colorado and Washington while going to Utah for an easy end of November. The Arizona State rivalry showdown is at home.
Best offensive player: Senior WR Austin Hill. Had Hill not torn his ACL last spring, there’s very good chance he’d have spent this latest spring auditioning for NFL scouts. He’s going to play at the next level. But first, he’ll use his final year of college eligibility to prove he’s all the way back. In so doing, Hill will also be supporting the development of Arizona’s new starting quarterback, whoever that might be. The 6-3, 210-pound is an easy target out of the slot, with the extra gear to abuse safeties down the seam of the defense.
Best defensive player: Senior Spur Tra’Mayne Bondurant. Full speed. It’s the only speed Bondurant knows. The fourth-year starter is ideally suited to play the ‘spur’, a blend of safety and linebacker in the Wildcat D. He gets to the ball quickly, in run defense and pass defense, using his instincts and his athleticism to be near the fray at all times. Bondurant’s experience and playmaking ability are critical to the success of the defense, because he does so many things well, and because he helps so many teammates around him.
Key player to a successful season: Senior QB Jesse Scroggins. During Rodriguez’s first two seasons, he got clutch performances out of first-time starting senior quarterbacks, Matt Scott in 2012 and B.J. Denker in 2013. Scroggins needs to make it three in a row this fall. Based on spring first-team reps, he’s the closest thing to a frontrunner for the job, though absolutely nothing is guaranteed at this point. Scroggins needs to change the dynamic this summer by capturing the job and ending the speculation as soon as possible. The longer the Wildcats face uncertainty behind center, the worse it is for the offense and the program. Arizona needs a face for the attack … the sooner the better.
The season will be a success if ... a third-straight eight-win season includes a victory over Arizona State. There’s no shame in finishing three games over .500 for three straight years, especially since the Wildcats haven’t pulled off that feat since the mid-1980s. And it won’t qualify as a rut, because the team has large holes to fill at quarterback and running back in 2014. The only thing that will sully another 8-5 finish in Tucson is if Arizona falls to the hated Sun Devils for a third consecutive November.
Key game: Nov. 28 vs. Arizona State. In 2012, the Wildcats blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead at home. Last fall, the Sun Devils annihilated the ‘Cats, 58-21. Rich Rodriguez needs to win a Duel in the Desert in the worst possible way, especially with the game returning to Tucson this season. If Arizona is unable to hold serve at home, the program is going to lose some traction within the state, particularly as it pertains to landing some of the region’s better recruits.
2013 Fun Stats:
- Rushing touchdowns: Arizona 36 – Opponents 18
- Scoring: Arizona 33.5 – Opponents 24.2
- Third-down percentage: Arizona 47% - Opponents 39%
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