What we learned from Arizona Wildcats’ season-opening win at San Diego State

SAN DIEGO – “The opening day was awesome, eh?”

That’s how quarterbacks are Jayden DeLaura He greeted the media Saturday afternoon after leading Arizona to an impressive 38-20 victory over San Diego State, matching the Wildcats’ win total a year earlier.

Transfer from Washington State improved to 6-0 in his career, threw 3 or more allies in a game, since UA passer threw 4 to match most in their debut Anu Solomon There were four in the 2014 opener against UNLV.

“It’s like any other game,” De Laura said when asked about his performance, passing for 299 yards on 22 of 35 passes. “It’s great to win with these guys, all the hard work we’ve put in this offseason.”

While what Arizona did with SDSU might not seem surprising to de Laura, it’s hard to tell for those who have been involved in the program in previous years.

The Wildcats won their season opener for the first time since 2017, snapping an 11-game road losing streak and scoring their most points on the road since a 45-38 loss to Hawaii in 2019.In doing so, they show that they are much improved From a 1-11 lineup a year ago.

Here’s what else we learned about Arizona from this impressive opener:

lots of organizers

De Laura was nearly flawless, save for an ill-advised interception late in the second quarter that could have turned the game in the wrong direction.His 166.6 passing rating is the fourth highest of his career and better than every QB performance since UA Khalil Tate Colorado was rated 177.6 in October 2019.

“What more can you ask for?” UA coach Jed Fisch Say. “Statistically, it was a very good day. I think he played a good football game.”

It doesn’t hurt, if not longer, that DeLaura is surrounded by arguably the best skill players in Arizona in a decade.

UTEP transfer Jacob Coyne Had 8 catches for 152 yards and 3 touchdowns, tying the school record for a single game.The last time a UAwideout with three scoring receptions was Caleb Jones In 2014’s infamous Hill Marie game against Karl, Coyne’s yardage output was the most since Jones had 182 in the 2015 New Mexico Bowl against Nevada’s Jones.

“It’s that kind of play that puts me in the right place at the right time,” said Coyne, who has been targeted 10 times.

Dorian Singer had six catches, a career high, while freshman Tataroa McMillan There are only three receptions, but two are large. He caught a 6-yard TD strike, withstood a shot from the middle in the process, and also returned a low ball (while disturbed) and dragged it over the grass for a 37-yard gain .

“I know him, he can play,” DeLaura said of McMillan. “I just need to put it around his area.”

An efficient, if not explosive running game

Arizona ran for 162 yards on 39 carries and completed a 6-yard sack against DeLaura, and the Wildcats averaged 4.4 yards per rush. They averaged 3.6 carries last season, including sacks, so there is some improvement.

Four games were deemed “big plays,” those were 10 or more games, three of which were Florida State transfers DJ Williamshe led the team with 88 yards on 14 carries. Michael Wiley Had another, 14-yard gain, but only ran for 31 yards in six carries as freshman Jonah Coleman Carry 13 has 40 yards.

But the 162 scored nearly double SDSU’s average a year ago, when it ranked third nationally among running backs. The Aztecs returned seven starters from the unit but couldn’t keep Arizona behind, managing just four tackles to fail.

“We want to be a really good running team,” Fisch said. “We knew that was going to help us in every aspect of the game. We felt like we could call the runs we wanted to call, and execute them.”

Nowhere was this more apparent than in the game before Arizona’s final score. When Williams ran from 10 yards in Game 3, it was the eighth run of 11 fast breaks outside an option field.

Red Zone Wealth

All the practice time Arizona put into the red zone in the spring and summer paid off hugely, at least for this game.

The Wildcats have scored in all five games within the SDSU 20, scoring four TDs after making a field goal on the first drive. They haven’t scored in the red zone five times in a game since November 2019 and haven’t had four touchdowns since September 2019.

Arizona managed just 12 TDs in 39 red zone trips last year, the worst TD of any FBS team in more than a decade.

“Throughout camp I think we’ve done a good job of that, and it shows,” said Coyne, who has two red-zone TDs.

Arizona also did a better job defending the red zone, holding SDSU to 13 points on four empty possessions. Last year, the Wildcats held their opponents by a single point on 38 attempts.

There is a turning sword!

Commanding game for the first time, defensive coordinator Johnny Nansen Didn’t do too badly. His team has only allowed 62 yards passing, the fewest since 2010, and only 4 yards per game overall.

SDSU isn’t an offense juggernaut by any means, but with a sixth-year quarterback and some highly skilled players, went 2-for-11 in Game 3 and completed just 46 percent of his passes, which is in line with the Arizona’s defense is as much as anything.

linebacker Jerry Roberts “It was all over the place,” according to DeLaura, as the senior had 12 tackles in his first game after breaking his leg at Washington State. He played all 58 defensive snaps, establishing himself in Nansen’s 4-2-5, which often turned to 5-1-5 to stifle the Aztecs’ ground game.

Another starting linebacker, a redshirt freshman kolbe cage, missed recovery in the fourth quarter and had four tackles.He’ll also have to play Arizona’s blunder sword, as will safety Jason Turner After his second quarter interception.

Roberts said: “We’re like a flat football where you stab the football every time you miss it and lift it up in front of the fans.”

It’s not a Turnover Eegee, but we’ll take it, especially after UA hosted its first multi-delivery contest since UCLA last October.

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