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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona win dwarfed by Scooby Wright Injury

Tyler Baker

Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon (12) takes to the air to avoid a sack by UTSA defensive tackle Kevin Strong Jr. (54) in Arizona Stadium on Thursday, Sept. 3. The Wildcats triumphed in the first game of the season, defeating the Roadrunners with a score of 42-32.

Rain poured down over campus late Thursday afternoon, delivering an ominous start to an Arizona football season with budding expectations.

By night’s end, worry had washed away most of the early-year hysteria surrounding the UA’s 2015 outlook.

Yes, the Wildcats opened the new season with a 42-32 victory over UTSA, but in the process they may have lost their best player for an extended period of time.

All-American linebacker Scooby Wright III left the game early in the first half with an apparent left knee injury and did not return. After halftime, Wright limped out of the locker room on a clutch.

Wright was seen on the sideline without any sort of protection, such as a cast or boot.

Following the game, Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez said that Wright would get an MRI late Thursday night.

“I don’t think it’s bad—MCL, ACL or whatever—but I hate to speculate,” Rodriguez said. “Last week he had shin splints, so he rested for a couple days. I thought that’s maybe what reoccurred. But it was something else.”

Arizona’s untimely absences did not stop at Wright—not even close.

Freddie Tagaloa, the expected starter at left guard, missed the entire game with an undisclosed injury. Cornerbacks Cam Denson and Sammy Morrison, two guys expected to carry the second, both left early with injuries of their own.

On top of that, Samajie Grant, Tellas Jones and Anthony Fotu—all projected starters—were suspended due to a reported violation of team rules.

The Wildcats were already missing wide receivers Trey Griffey and Tyrell Johnson with minor foot injuries, as well as linebacker Cody Ippolito who will sit out the season with a torn ACL.

“That’s too many guys. I’m getting depressed,” Rodriguez said with a slight chuckle.

With Wright and others on the sideline, Arizona looked sluggish on both sides of the ball for much of the first half before tightening it up a bit after halftime.

Arizona’s season actually got off to an ideal start when, on the second play of scrimmage, safety Anthony Lopez picked off a UTSA pass for a 23-yard touchdown return.

Later in the first quarter, Arizona increased the lead to 14-0 when Anu Solomon hit David Richards for a six-yard touchdown pass.

From that point on, Arizona’s hard-edge engine didn’t run so smoothly.

Solomon struggled to hit open receivers, the usually sure-handed Nick Wilson fumbled in the second quarter and the UA defense had trouble slowing down the Roadrunners.

UTSA, starting a new quarterback and running back, took advantage of Wright’s absence by accumulating 525 total yards on offense. The Roadrunners successfully implemented a high-tempo attack that held possession of the ball for most the game.

The fact that it was UTSA, not Arizona, who managed the speed of the game irked Rodriguez.

“You have to give them credit, because they were getting first downs,” Rodriguez said. “They controlled the tempo better than we did, which is really disappointing because that’s the one thing that we want to take pride in.”

The Roadrunners outscored Arizona 20-7 in the second quarter.

UTSA’s first score came on a chip field goal and the next on a short red-zone pass to make it 14-10 Arizona.

The Wildcats answered when Solomon hit Johnny Jackson in stride for a 21-yard touchdown pass, but UTSA scored the last 10 points of the half.

When the two teams ran into the locker room with the scoreboard displaying a one-point game at halftime, there was no certainty the Wildcats would come out ahead.

However, Arizona’s talent eventually eclipsed the Roadrunners’ inexperience.

The Wildcats grabbed hold of the third quarter on an end zone pass from Solomon to Nate Phillips, followed shortly by a 22-yard fumble touchdown recovery by Jamar Allah.

But it was DaVonte’ Neal, making his first start at cornerback after switching positions over the offseason, who ended up producing the game-sealing play.

Early in the fourth quarter with the score 35-26 Arizona, UTSA attempted a 44-yard field to cut the lead to six.

The ball would travel no more than a few yards, as Neal swatted the attempt.

“That was a good move,” Rodriguez said. “[Neal] is another guy that brings a lot of energy.”

On the ensuing drive, Solomon relayed a four-yard touchdown pass to Cayleb Jones to expand the lead to 16 points.

Arizona’s sophomore quarterback ended the night with 229 yards in the air and four touchdowns.

“We thought we could have done better in all three aspects of the game,” Solomon said. “UTSA is a great team, and it’s onto the next one.”

Follow Ezra Amacher on Twitter.

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