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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Three positive and negative takeaways after the overtime loss to Washington

Nick Smallwood / The Daily Wildcat

Arizona running back J.J. Taylor (23) is escorted off the field after injuring his ankle in Saturday’s game against No. 9 Washington at Arizona Stadium. Taylor had rushed for 97 yards and a touchdown before the injury.

The Arizona Wildcats suffered their first Pac-12 Conference loss of the season against the No. 9 Washington Huskies on Saturday night at Arizona Stadium.

In another edition of Pac-12 after dark, the Wildcats took the Huskies to overtime and nearly clawed their way to a fourth top-10 upset at home in the Rich Rodriguez era.

It wasn’t just about Arizona losing, but rather how the Wildcats lost: in an overtime matchup against a team that could potentially be the Pac-12 champions.

There was a sense in the air of the blue-out crowd that Arizona was going to somehow pull off an upset to set the tone for the brutal Pac-12 schedule ahead.

When it was all said and done, the Wildcats fell to .500 and will hit the road for their first true road game of the season against the Bruins of UCLA.

Before Arizona travels for the next two weeks, there are three positive and three negative takeaways from Saturday’s game.

The good

Brandon Dawkins is legit…almost

The first pair of games that Arizona quarterback Brandon Dawkins started weren’t the best to grade his overall performance, but the Huskies presented a completely new challenge.

Dawkins finished the first half throwing for 70 yards on 11-of-14 passing and added 104 yards on the ground, highlighted by a 79-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. He didn’t have the prettiest second half, throwing 8-of-16 through the air, but his ability to create plays with his feet kept the offense on a steady tempo throughout the fourth quarter.

“There were some big plays he ran with his feet and he’s a competitive runner,” Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez said. “[Dawkins] missed a couple of things in the pass game that he’ll try to get corrected after watching the film tomorrow.”

Dawkins leaned over a trashcan on the sideline and vomited following his 79-yard touchdown sprint in the second quarter.

His legs tied the game at 21 with less than two minutes left in the game. Dawkins then threw a game-tying touchdown to tight end Josh Kern that send the game into overtime.

Dawkins said his conditioning has ramped up since his time as Arizona’s starting quarterback.

“I know I was really winded during that Grambling [State] game, but every single day after practice, I stayed an extra 10-15 minutes and on Sundays even with the strength coaches and just doing some extra conditioning,” Dawkins said.

Arizona can cover the spread against a top-10 opponent

The Huskies were a 10-point favorite Saturday, and the Wildcats covered the spread. Head coach Rich Rodriguez praised Arizona’s efforts, but when it’s all said and done, coming close is only relevant in horseshoes and hand grenades.

“I don’t believe in point spreads—I’m not in that business,” Rodriguez said. “I’m in the coaching business.”

Arizona competed all the way down to the last play of the game, which gives it hope as the Wildcats head to Pasadena to take on UCLA.

The defensive line is capable of rising to the occasion

Arizona’s defensive line was viewed as a liability through the first three games of the season.

The defensive line improved this week with four sacks, and defensive end Jack Banda was responsible for two of them.

“We had a few key stops and our secondary was playing well,” Banda said. “When we get those sacks, those are coverage sacks. So I feel like we came together at certain points. But we could’ve done better.”

The bad and the ugly

It’s injury bug season…again

The Arizona football team was plagued by injuries at the middle linebacker position a season ago when it was forced to play a walk-on.

The injury bug has officially been transmitted to the running backs.

With Nick Wilson out due to an ankle injury and Arizona’s depth chart thinning out, J.J. Taylor was the next man up.

The freshman totaled 19 carries for 97 yards and a touchdown before going down with a broken ankle, according to Rodriguez.

“[The situation is] extremely frustrating,” Rodriguez said. “This guy was going to be lights out—is lights out.”

Now the Wildcats are down to Zachary Green and converted wide receiver Tyrell Johnson, but Wilson’s status should be improving soon, since his movement during pre-game warm-ups looked promising.

The Wildcats’ senior leaders aren’t leading

The trio of wide receivers that are the veterans of this team are seniors Trey Griffey, Samajie Grant and Nate Phillips.

The group totaled four catches for 15 yards and never found a groove, even late in the game.

It was expected that Washington’s secondary was going to play a huge factor. Although all three receivers have made big catches in crucial games in the past, they were nearly nonexistent Saturday.

Arizona fans aren’t football fans

Whenever the Wildcats host a top-10 school, fans and students always fill Arizona Stadium to the brim. Against Washington, the ZonaZoo was struggling to fill the edges. Arizona Stadium can fit 57,400 people, while Saturday’s attendance was recorded at 48,747—just over 84 percent full.

The football game was also competing with hip-hop artist YG, who had a concert at the Rialto Theatre the same night. But the No. 9 team deserves a little more respect.

The pride should be for Arizona more than anything, because even though the Wildcats came out with a loss, they were resilient. As a football fan, that should be enough motivation to buy a ticket and spend an evening at Arizona Stadium.

Who knows what the crowd will be like in a few weeks when the Wildcats return home to play USC on Oct. 15.

Follow Justin Spears on Twitter.

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