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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: Arizona football needs the old Anu Solomon

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Rebecca Marie Sasnett

UCLA redshirt junior linebacker Aaron Wallace (51) sacks Arizona redshirt freshman quarterback Anu Solomon (12) during the third quarter of Arizona’s 17-7 loss against UCLA at The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

PASADENA, Calif. — Late in Arizona football’s 17-7 loss at UCLA on Saturday, UA redshirt freshman quarterback Anu Solomon was forced to switch to No. 18.

The change seemed to be symbolic, as Solomon and the Arizona offense was just off.

Solomon, who had led Arizona to 5-0 and 6-1 starts, had the worst game of his college career as the No. 21 Wildcats (6-2, 3-2 Pac-12 Conference) lost at the Rose Bowl.

Solomon was 18-for-48 for 175 yards, a career low, through the air, with a touchdown and an interception. He was 7-for-20 in the fourth quarter, the period that he usually owns.

On Saturday, UA head coach Rich Rodriguez said he wasn’t sure yet about how Solomon played.

“It wasn’t his best game,” Rodriguez said. “I have to watch film to see where we’re at.”

The Wildcats punted 10 times, the most since they also had to punt 10 times against Washington in 2004. The most Arizona had to punt this year before Saturday was eight.

The UA averaged 3.2 yards per play, its lowest average since the Wildcats were held to 109 yards and 2.1 per play in the 33-0 loss to Nebraska in the 2009 Holiday Bowl.

Arizona averaged 40.6 points a game going into the matchup with the Bruins, but struggled to put up the seven it scored Saturday night.

The Wildcats only scored on their first drive, on a 14-yard pass to redshirt sophomore receiver Cayleb Jones. However, that drive only continued because of 30 yards worth of penalties by UCLA sophomore linebacker Myles Jack.

“Well, the offense was poor, it was poorly called, poorly executed and poorly played,” Rodriguez said. “You can start with the coaching staff.”

The offense spoiled a career night by sophomore linebacker Scooby Wright III, who had career-highs in tackles (19) and tackles for loss (4.5) and matched his career-best in sacks (3.0).

Arizona’s defense, which was giving up 28.3 points per game going into the UCLA contest, only surrendered 17. The No. 18 Bruins (7-2, 4-2) average 35.8 points per game.

“The defense gave us plenty of opportunities, and we didn’t take advantage of it,” Jones said.

Despite the troubles, Arizona had a chance late to work some typical Rodriguez and Solomon magic. Following a UCLA fumble, Arizona had the ball with 4:32 left. The Wildcats were down by 10, but that’s plenty of time for a team that had outscored opponents 80-59 in the fourth quarter before Saturday.

Instead of tying the game or winning it on the last two drives, the Wildcats finished the game with a blocked field goal and an interception.

Usually, the Wildcats capitalize on opponents’ mistakes. Going into this game, they had scored 41 points off of turnovers, while foes had only scored three.

The Bruins committed an embarrassing 11 penalties for 118 yards, but the Wildcats didn’t punish them for it.

Part of the Wildcats’ problem was being one-dimensional; they only ran for 80 yards.

Against UCLA, Solomon ran for eight yards on 10 carries. A lot of that is due to being sacked three times and losing 27 yards.

Solomon was under constant pressure on Saturday, but he actually looked his best running the ball, evading tacklers.

Solomon’s previous worst game as a Wildcat was when he was 17-for-32 at UTSA for 231 yards. However, he bounced back the next week against Nevada, going 22-for-26 for 278 yards.

At UTSA, he only ran for 11 yards, but against the Wolf Pack, he ran for 60 yards on seven carries. Coincidence? Maybe, but if Solomon ran more, that would open up more space to pass.

To regain the form that had them as No. 6 in the nation in total offense before going to UCLA, the Wildcats need to run the ball more.

Then Solomon would be recognizable no matter what number he wears.

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Follow James Kelley on Twitter.

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