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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Dawkins, defense leave Arizona football with unanswered questions after Grambling State

Darien Bakas
Arizona runningback Nick Wilson sprints past Grambling State defenders on Saturday, Sept. 10 in Arizona Stadium.

Arizona battled Grambling State on Saturday in a contest between the haves and have-nots. If you didn’t know who was who, you’d say Grambling State was the former, at least in the first half. There are still some concerns for the Wildcats moving forward—concerns that may be realized if the bad play doesn’t cease in a hurry.

Defensive woes

The Tigers gave the UA everything it could handle for a large portion of the first half. Grambling State quarterback DeVante Kincade was tremendous and presented Arizona fans with the serious question of whether the UA could pull off the victory. Luckily for the Arizona defense, Kincade hobbled off the field just before the half with what appeared to be a leg injury.

Kincade was amazing, so much so that he made a defense that looked pretty good against a solid BYU team look generic. More alarming was the total missed tackles due to technique, or better yet, the Arizona defenders’ inadequate athleticism.

As usual, the players and head coach Rich Rodriguez said there are just a lot of little things to be corrected—but at what point are there just too many holes and not enough buckets?

Plenty of questions for Dawkins to answer

Prior to Saturday’s game, many among the Arizona fan ranks were calling for Brandon Dawkins to become the starter. Come game time, they got their wish.

Anu Solomon hobbled out of the locker room for pre-game warmups on Saturday in street clothes and wearing a knee brace, while Dawkins looked ready to seize the day and the starting job.

He did neither.

Dawkins’ performance, instead, left more questions than answers. Overthrows, missed reads and a slow start put a blemish on his starter debut. You can see the elements that make him different than Solomon, especially on the ground, as Dawkins ran for 97 yards [1] on 16 carries and scored two rushing touchdowns. But the worst part was consistently missed receivers in prime scoring opportunities.

Dawkins will most likely get another start this week against Hawaii, so he has time to reset and play more effectively. If he doesn’t, well, Washington is waiting right around the corner.

Play calling, or lack thereof

The play calling was bad on both sides of the ball all night. There’s little to be debated about that.

Rodriguez alluded to the fact that the coaches need to do a better job getting the players in the right spots. This may be the problem with political correctness because it’s hard to decipher whether it’s the players’ or the coaches’ responsibility to right the ship. But since this is a staff with plenty of experience, this falls on them. Several fourth-and-shorts were stifled by the undersized Grambling State defense throughout the game.

To add to the woes, the system is starting to seem repetitive—fake hand off, roll out right—it leaves little to the imagination. The creativity that made Rodriguez such a college football wizard is unexpectedly gone, and it has been for a while now.

The lack of superstar athletes has a tendency to make even the most amazing of systems vanilla.

But the question still lies: Has Rodriguez peaked as a play caller, or is he saving his spells for the Pac-12 Conference? Only time will tell. But if we refer to last season, it looks like the potion has worn off.

Corrections: [1] 116 yards edited to 97 yards. Brandon Dawkins rushed for 97 yards on 16 carries and ran in two touchdowns.

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