24 Hours Later: Reactions to NAU
The Arizona Defense was…bad. The final numbers from the game were awful. Arizona gave up 442 yards and 41 points. That would be bad for any game, but especially bad against an FCS opponent.
On the plus side, the defense was not too bad in the first half. They gave up just 13 points and 171 yards. Even better, they gave up just 12 actual rushing yards (-18 with the bad snap on the punt). The lone touchdown drive was extended thanks to some bad penalties.
However, the second half was terrible. Although the Arizona defense was mixing in second and third team players, there is no reason they should give up 28 points and nearly 300 yards. It could have been worse. NAU’s Case Cookus threw a terrible pick in Arizona territory that ended one drive. It was the lone drive the Lumberjacks failed to score on. The NAU offense scored on four out of five possessions in the second half. Even worse, NAU found the endzone with their back-up quarterback.
While you can argue that these scores came against many reserves, what is concerning is that the defense failed to make any real adjustments and there is a problem when Arizona’s second and third stringers appeared less talented than a crop of FCS starters.
Arizona is…undisciplined. Arizona committed 11 penalties for 127 yards. There were two ejections, including one player committing not one, but two taunting/celebration penalties. For the season the Wildcats have committed 21 penalties, making them one of the most penalized teams in the nation. It would be one thing if this was a new occurrence, but the Wildcats struggled last season with penalties as well.
The running game was…great. Arizona ran for 450 yards and it could have been more if the Wildcats actually wanted Khalil Tate to run more. They were smart not to have him run too much since it could lead to injury. Gary Brightwell and J.J. Taylor both eclipsed 100 yards, and altogether there were five runners who gained 41 yards or more.
The offense was…potent. Arizona has scored 204 points in the last three games against NAU, so it is tough to be too optimistic, but the game plan was sound. Arizona ran 46 times and only passed 28 times with 23 completions. Nine different players caught passes, while 10 players had at least one carry. Arizona even got reps to three different quarterbacks, with Tate and Gunnell having great success.
The Wildcats will be hard pressed to score in the 60’s again, but it does look like the offense will be the strength of the team and as long as the Cats establish the run and Tate continues to make good decisions, the Wildcats will score some points.