The Arizona Wildcats move to 1-0 to begin the 2015 regular season with a 42-32 win over the the University of Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners on Thursday night. Here are five things we learned.
Something Wrong with Wright: The season opener for 2014 All-American linebacker Scooby Wright came to a quick end as he went down with an apparent knee injury in the first quarter of the game. He was seen icing his knee on the sidelines and never returned. Coach Rich Rodriguez said after the game that he will have an MRI immediately on Thursday night and did not want to speculate but does not believe an ACL or MCL is in play. If that is the case however, what an unbelievably huge blow that would be to this Wildcats team.
Defensive struggles: Wright’s injury definitely impacted the Arizona defense as they really struggled to keep the Roadrunners offense off the field. The Wildcats defense ultimately gave up 525 yards in the game giving up 29 first downs and saw UTSA run 95 plays on defense. The high volume of plays led the Wildcats to reach to the second and even third players on their depth chart at certain positions. Rodriguez mentioned that he was surprised to see home players tapping their heads to come out of the game because they pride themselves on conditioning but when he saw 95 plays was the final tally after the game, it made sense. Rodriguez further mentioned that UTSA’s offense owned the tempo of the game which he was disappointed in because tempo is another thing that he believes his program prides themselves on.
Johnny on the spot: During fall camp, the Wildcats were taking a look at redshirt senior Johnny Jackson at defensive back. Ultimately, Rodriguez and his staff moved Jackson back to offense and it looks to have been a smart move to do so. Jackson led the Wildcats in receiving in the home opener with eight catches for 101 yards and a touchdown. Caleb Jones, Nate Phillips and David Richards each added three catches in the game. The Wildcats have said that with their depth at receiver, they will carousel their receivers when running certain packages throughout the season. Jackson had his opportunity to shine with both Samajie Grant and Trey Griffey sidelined and took advantage of the opportunity.
Representing Arizona: What a night it was for former Arizona high school football alums who suit up for the Wildcats. In the game, Chaparral alum Davonte Neal played his first game at defensive back and was all over the field finishing with 8.5 total tackles in the game which was second highest on the team and also blocked a field goal on special teams. Basha alum Nate Phillips caught three balls for 28 yards and a score in the game and just missed connecting with quarterback Anu Solomon on three occasions which would have gone for big gains and even scores. North Canyon alum Jamar Allah had a big night at safety with some big hits, a fumble recovery that he retuned for a touchdown and scooped up that Neal blocked kick and took the ball into UTSA territory. Mesquite alum Anthony Lopez started the game with an interception returned for a touchdown and Notre Dame Prep alum Parker Zellers had a sack in the contest. A great night for Coach Rodriguez to look back on and mention to local prospects when recruiting, of the impact that his local players can make in a game for his program.
Focus on health: At the end of the day, the Wildcats are still 1-0 and Rodriguez made sure to state that it’s better to learn from a win than suffer a loss. But a major issue that the team needs to make right in a hurry is their health. It is been said over and over this offseason that the Wildcats will go all season without a bye week. For week one, Rodriguez listed that lineman Freddie Tagaloa, receiver Samajie Grant, safety Tellas Jones, linebacker Cody Ippolito, tight end Trevor Wood, receiver Tyrell Johnson, receiver Trey Griffey and defensive lineman Anthony Fotu all didn’t suit up for the game. In addition, defensive back Cam Denson got hurt during the game in addition to Scooby Wright. Wood and Ippolito are out for the year but the others need to get out on the field quick because the lack of depth and experience was definitely apparent at times in this game.
The Wildcats will look to go 2-0 and head out on the road next weekend to face the Nevada Wolfpack.