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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona ready for UCLA showdown following blowout win

Late in the third quarter of Arizona’s 77-13 demolition of NAU on Saturday night, attention turned westward; in particular, to Westwood, Los Angeles.

There, UCLA was in a much closer game with BYU. UCLA, of course, is coming to Tucson on Saturday in a top-25 matchup that will mark the beginning of Pac-12 Conference play for both schools.

The Bruins ended up defeating BYU, setting up a mammoth matchup this week that will be televised primetime on ABC.

If Saturday night’s game against the Lumberjacks was any indication, the Wildcats look ready for the spotlight.

Arizona cruised to a 3-0 non-conference record. After a small scare against UTSA in the first game of the season, the Wildcats handled Nevada and the NAU with ease.

Arizona’s offense has looked impressive. Anu Solomon has yet to throw an interception and has 10 touchdown passes. His completion percentage has not dropped below 60 percent in any of the three games, and he’s made plays with his feet.

Solomon’s ability to scramble has allowed him to extend plays and find receivers. The Wildcats are also averaging 54.3 points a game.

Solomon looks poised and ready to play against a tough UCLA defense.

Nick Wilson has also had a strong start to the season. Wilson ran for 194 yards and three touchdowns against Nevada. He continued that strong play with a 143-yard, two-touchdown game against NAU.

There were questions surrounding the offensive line and what it would bring to the table. So far, the line has looked more than okay. It has gotten better with each game, especially against NAU. It opened gaping holes for Wilson to run through and it has protected Solomon fairly well. The offensive line will need to remain consistent against the likes of Myles Jack from UCLA.

The defense will have the most questions to answer in the primetime showdown. Scooby Wright III’s status will still be up in the air, and without him, the defense has definitely had its struggles.

The Wildcats did not record their first sack until their second game, but did record four sacks against NAU. The quarterback pressure has been there, but they have had trouble finishing the job.

Arizona’s defense has also intercepted the ball five times while recovering one fumble through three games.

The Wildcats have started each game slowly on defense. Arizona has an average of 15.3 points allowed in the first half, compared to 6.3 second half points. Once the defense has settled in, it’s become a stronger unit. However, against UCLA, it will need to start better than it has these first three games if it wishes to keep the Wildcats in the game.

The score was 14-13 at one point in the NAU game. The Wildcats cannot let a team like UCLA gain momentum like that, because the Bruins will turn their momentum into more points.

The biggest takeaway from the first three games has been the steady improvements the Wildcats have made through each game. They have increased their scoring totals and their yardage totals each week and the defense is allowing fewer points with each game.

So what Wildcats team will we see Saturday when the Bruins come to town?

Arizona’s strongest unit is undoubtedly the offense. UCLA’s strength is its defense.

“I know they like to play a lot of man-coverage and really get in your face, ” said redshirt senior receiver David Richards. “We just have to come out and be physical this week and execute on both ends.”

If the Wildcats’ offense can control the pace and force UCLA to rely on its offense, they could be in good shape. The Wildcats should feel confident about the way the offense looks going into conference play.

The defense will need to step up as UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen will have his first taste of a Pac-12 opponent and he will make his mistakes. The Wildcats just need to take advantage of them.

After handling Virginia well in his first career game, Rosen has slowly regressed, including his most recent outing against BYU, where he threw three interceptions.

But the Bruins are a savvy team that knows how to win. They will be ready come game day, and the Wildcats will need to do the same.

Arizona looks like a team warmed up and ready for the Pac-12 South. There will always be improvements that need to be made, but at the moment, the clash between the Wildcats and Bruins looks like it will be one primetime spectacle Saturday night.

Follow Kyle Hansen on Twitter.

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