Brandon Dawkins completed a career-high 24 passes. He rushed for 90 yards to become Arizona’s all-time rushing leader among quarterbacks. He also turned the ball over four times, including a pick-six and a fumble at the Utah 20-yard line with Arizona trailing by six points with 2:33 remaining. Whatever good will Dawkins built with UA fans after a virtuoso performance at UTEP last week, he lost this week.
Running room was hard to come by at times, especially in the first half, although one could argue that neither Nick Wilson nor J.J. Taylor got enough attempts. They combined for 88 yards on 23 rushes, but both made critical mistakes. Taylor fumbled at the 10-yard line in the second quarter; Wilson dropped a pass in the fourth. Had he caught it, he might have scored a touchdown.
For the most part, this group did its part. Tony Ellison had a career-high six catches for 78 yards and a touchdown. Tyrell Johnson established a career high in receiving yards (50) for the second week in a row, including a twisting 32-yard grab in the third quarter. Tight end Bryce Wolma continued to be productive (four catches, 29 yards). A handful of missed opportunities keeps the grade from being an A.
Although Arizona rushed for 200 yards, it took 42 carries to get there. Twenty-two of those yards came on a Shun Brown end-around. The running backs averaged less than 4 yards per attempt. Dawkins got sacked twice and took several other hard hits. Normally reliable left tackle Layth Friekh had a rough night.
The defensive front – and the defense as a whole – struggled on the first Utah possession of each half. Those were the Utes’ only two touchdown drives. Otherwise, the front played well, responding to almost every challenge. Freshman linebacker Colin Schooler ended up leading the team with eight tackles, including two for losses. Freshman LB Tony Fields II had six tackles and a sack that knocked Utah QB Tyler Huntley out of the game. Freshman DE Kylan Wilborn forced and recovered a fumble in the first quarter.
A decent overall effort by this group marred by a handful of breakdowns. The most egregious: Allowing Utah to convert on third-and-18 in the third quarter. Utes WR Demari Simpkins found a crevice between Lorenzo Burns and Scottie Young Jr. for a 37-yard gain to the UA 2-yard line; Utah scored two plays later. Safety Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles gave up a 40-yard completion to Darren Carrington II but finished with seven tackles and a third-down pass breakup. Carrington (4-76) didn’t catch a pass in the second half.
The punt-coverage team allowed a 48-yard return to Boobie Hobbs late in the first quarter, leading to a Utah field goal. Arizona attempted three field goals but made only one. A low snap led to a low kick and what appeared to a block on Josh Pollack’s 43-yarder at the end of the first half; Lucas Havrisik’s 47-yard try in the fourth quarter was blocked. Havrisik, Pollack and Shawn Poindexter later teamed up to execute and recover an onside kick.
Rich Rodriguez and his staff obviously don’t instruct their players to turn the ball over. But Dawkins’ inconsistency as a passer speaks to his development, or lack thereof. Arizona failed to establish the run early, perhaps in an attempt to get Dawkins into a rhythm. After starting out in soft, off coverage, Marcel Yates adjusted his defensive scheme to a more aggressive approach, and it generally worked. Rodriguez did a good job of saving his timeouts in the second half, giving his team one final possession.