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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


QB’s battle through injuries, struggle to keep Arizona football afloat

Rebecca Noble
Arizona quarterback Brandon Dawkins (13) and linebacker Paul Magloire Jr. (14) watch the second half of the Arizona’s 45-24 loss to UCLA tick by at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, Calif. on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016.

PASADENA, CALIF. — The Wildcat football team went into Saturday night’s game full of confidence, embracing the underdog role and looking to make a statement in a prime-time, nationally televised game.

Arizona was leaning on the play of quarterback Brandon Dawkins, who seemed to be gradually improving every week since his first career start against Grambling State.

Dawkins looked sharp early on Saturday, especially on the Wildcats’ second drive of the game in which he had a 30-yard rush, followed by nice throws to Trey Griffey and Samajie Grant. Grant’s catch came in the form of a 12-yard score to put the Wildcats on the board first.

Dawkins came to the sidelines about halfway through the first quarter in clear discomfort, trying his best to walk off an apparent injury, again. He went back out for the next series, but was clearly hindered.

Dawkins came to the sidelines, where he sought out treatment and had the medical staff take a look at what appeared to be his left rib area. After a few unsuccessful drives, Arizona put backup quarterback Zach Werlinger into the game. The redshirt sophomore was equally ineffective against the UCLA defense.

Dawkins came back into the game on the next drive and after a quick three-and-out, came to the sidelines hunched over in pain and immediately went to the bench. Dawkins tried again to remain in the game, but exited for good following yet another three-and-out.

Werlinger came in for the final drive of the second quarter, and the first drive of the third, but couldn’t find any sort of offensive rhythm. 

In came freshman signal caller Khalil Tate, who looked very impressive in his first collegiate drive. Tate brought the Wildcats 87 yards in 14 plays, with eight rushes for 38 yards and a nice looking pass attempt that drew a defensive pass interference call. Arizona ultimately had to settle for a field goal on the freshman’s first drive.

Tate looked impressive on his next drive, capping off the drive with a 31-yard dime of a touchdown pass into the hands of wide receiver Shun Brown. Tate also added a 13-yard TD pass to wide receiver Cam Denson in the waning seconds of the contest.

Although Tate had his moments and Dawkins looked good before his injury, the inconsistency in terms of passing for the group of quarterbacks is something that will definitely be a concern for head coach Rich Rodriguez going forward.

It was a night to forget for Werlinger, who, in the time that he was in, didn’t complete a pass on any of his five attempts. On the ground, which is key for quarterbacks in the Arizona offense, he rushed twice for negative-four yards. Dawkins was not much better passing wise, going 8-for-17 for 73 yards and a score before exiting. In terms of rushing, Dawkins had five carries for 44 yards.

Tate went 5-for-9 through the air with 72 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing 15 times for 79 yards. The freshman showcased his dual-threat capabilities, but he was mostly playing against a UCLA defense that was up by three scores and wasn’t showing anything too exotic in terms of blitzes and coverages.

Tate looks as though he could be the answer to the Rubik’s Cube-type backup quarterback puzzle, as he went out and performed as well as he could. He tried to claw the Wildcats back into a game they had no business being in, while Werlinger did nothing but help Tate make his case for the backup role. But Tate has to face a real test and not be placed into a blowout before any real judgments are made.

We’ll have to wait and see what the extent of Dawkins’ injury is, but if the game against UCLA was any indicator, it looks as though the guy who was the No. 4 quarterback to begin the year might have moved his way up to first-string on the depth chart.

Follow Noah Auclair on Twitter.

All video courtesy of Pac-12 Networks.

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