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

SAN DIEGO—“Isn’t that a crazy opening day?”

That’s how quarterbacks do it jayden de laura He greeted the media Saturday afternoon after leading Arizona to an impressive 38-20 win at San Diego State.

The transfer from Washington State improved to 6-0 in his career, throwing no less than three touchdowns in a game and throwing the four most matched by a UA passer since his debut. Anu Solomon Had four in the 2014 season opener against UNLV.

“It’s like every other game,” said De Lola when asked about his performance of throwing for 299 yards on 22 of 35 passes. “It was nice to win with them. It’s all the work we put in in the offseason.”

What Arizona did to SDSU came as no surprise to de Laura, but it’s hard to say for someone who’s been in the program for the past few years.

The Wildcats won the season opener for the first time since 2017, snapping an 11-game losing streak and scoring the most points in a road game since the 2019 season opener, 45-38 loss in Hawaii. .By doing so, they significantly improved From the 1-11 team a year ago.

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

Plenty of playmakers

Aside from a poor interception late in the second quarter that could have steered the game in the wrong direction, De Lola was near perfect. His 166.6 passer rating was his fourth best of his career and better than any QB performance in UA since. Khalil Tate The rating against Colorado in October 2019 was 177.6.

“What more could you ask for?” UA Coach Jed Fish Said. “It’s a pretty good day statistically. I thought he played a great football game.”

It couldn’t have been better that De Lola was surrounded by perhaps the best collection of skill players in Arizona State in the last decade.

UTEP transfer Jacob Cowing He had eight catches for 152 yards and three TDs, tying a one-game school record. The last UA wideout with 3 receptions was Caleb Jones In the infamous 2014 Hill Mary Game against Cal, Cowing’s yardage output was the most since Jones gained 182 yards against Nevada in the 2015 New Mexico Bowl.

“It was a play call that got me in the right position at the right time,” said Cowing, who was targeted 10 times.

durian singer Recorded a career-high six catches while still a freshman Tetairoa McMillan We only had 3 receptions, but 2 were big. He caught his 6-yard TD strike and endured a middle shot in the process.

“I know him. He can play,” De Laura said of McMillan. “I need to set it up around his area.”

Efficient if not explosive run game

Arizona ran for 162 yards on 39 carries and took a 6-yard sack against De Lola. Last season he averaged 3.6 per carry, including sacks, so there was some improvement.

4 runs were considered “big plays”, with 10 or more runs, 3 of which were from Florida State transfers. DJ Williamsled the team with 88 yards on 14 carries. Michael Wiley Another was a 14-yard gain, but as a freshman he could only run for 31 yards on six carries Jonah Coleman 40 yards on 13 carries.

But its 162 tally was almost double the average a year ago when SDSU ranked third nationally in run defense. The Aztecs returned seven starters from that unit, but were unable to keep Arizona behind their sticks and lost by just four tackles.

“We want to be a very good running team,” Fish said. “We know it helps us in every aspect of the game. It felt like we could call and do whatever we wanted to call.”

Nowhere was this more evident than in the Game Ceiling Drive preceding Arizona’s final score. It was the eighth run play in 11 snaps when Williams ran in from 10 yards from the option pitch on third down.

red zone wealth

All the practice time Arizona put into the Red Zone during the spring and summer paid off big, at least in this game.

The Wildcats scored on all five of SDSU’s 20-in-20 trips and had four TDs after settling for a field goal on their first drive. Since November 2019, he has had 5 no red zone scores in a single game, and 4 TDs since September 2019.

Last year, Arizona managed only 12 TDs in 39 red zone trips. This is his worst TD rate in over a decade by the FBS team.

“Overall training camp, I think we did a pretty good job, and it shows that,” said Cowing, who had two redzone TDs.

Arizona also had a much better red zone defense, holding SDSU to 13 points in four trips and only one possession. Last year, the Wildcats kept his opponent scoreless once in his 38 tries.

There is a turnover sword!

First call play, defensive coordinator Johnny Nansen It wasn’t bad. His unit allowed 62 yards of passing, the fewest since 2010, and just 4 yards per play overall.

SDSU isn’t the most offensive juggernaut imaginable, but they do have a sixth-year quarterback and some solid skill players, going 2-11 on 3rd down and completing only 46% of their passes. Not having one would greatly affect Arizona’s defense. somehow.

linebacker jerry roberts According to Delora, Sr. was “all over the place” as he had 12 tackles in his first game since breaking his leg at Washington State. He played all of his 58 defenses his snaps and the Aztec ground center of his 4-2-5 scheme for Nansen who frequently shifted to his 5-1-5 to keep his game down. fixed.

Another starting linebacker, a redshirt freshman corbe cage, made a fumble recovery in the fourth quarter and made four tackles. He was also able to participate in Arizona’s turnover his Sword, as well as safety. Jakesen Turner following his 2nd quarter interception.

“We’ve become like a flat football, stabbing a football at every turnover and raising it to the fans,” Roberts said.

This isn’t a turnover ease, but we’ll take it, especially after UA played its first multi-takeaway game since UCLA last October.

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