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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: Wildcats make big time improvements, earn decisive victory over Nevada despite additional injuries

Courtesy+of+James+Importante

Courtesy of James Importante

Arizona gave a strong showing Saturday night by defeating Nevada 44-20 in Reno, Nevada.

The Wildcats faced a lot of questions coming into this game, particularly on the defensive side of the ball with All-American linebacker Scooby Wright III out. The defense, for the most part, though, was solid.

They began the game by holding the Wolf Pack offense to a couple of three-and-out series. The defense faltered a bit in the second quarter, especially against the run game. Injuries began to pile up — again — for the Wildcats when Haden Gregory, who was stepping in for Wright, left the game with an injury. Once Gregory left, Tre Tyler and Derrick Turituri saw some time at middle linebacker, but both also battled injuries of their own.

The amount of injuries this defense has faced is nothing but bizarre at this point. Where’s Bobby Boucher Jr. when you need him?

However, Tyler and Turituri did return to the game, and the defense rebounded in the second half. They held Nevada to just seven points after hafltime, and even those came in garbage time in the fourth quarter.

The most important takeaway from this game is the improvement Arizona showed from the UTSA game.

Arizona running back Nick Wilson was able to shred the Wolf Pack defense, running for 194 yards and three touchdowns. Wilson had 97 yards and no scores against UTSA last week.

The defense was the biggest and brightest improvement for the Wildcats. After allowing a whopping 525 yards to UTSA, Arizona only allowed Nevada to rack up 327 total yards. Arizona’s Jeff Worthy also recorded the team’s first sack of the season.

Keep in mind this is a defense that is missing its best player. If they continue to improve and Wright comes back fully healthy, they can really do some damage.

Arizona’s biggest need for improvement is their tempo control. In the second quarter especially, Nevada was able to take control and pushed Arizona’s defense around. The Wolf Pack offensive line opened holes for running back Don Jackson and Nevada was able to close the gap to 14-10 when quarterback Tyler Stewart connected with Jerico Richardson on a five-yard score.

Arizona had all of the momentum after their two quick scores, but Nevada was able to bring it right back.

The Wildcat defense was able to adapt and began shutting down Nevada, especially in the second half. The Wildcats then scored a couple of times in the third quarter, swinging the momentum back to their side and putting the Wolf Pack away early.

At the end of the UTSA game, quarterback Anu Solomon and the other offensive starters were needed for the entire game. Against Nevada, the Wildcats were able to give some reps to back up quarterback Jerrard Randall and running back Orlando Bradford. Randall made the most of his playing time, scoring on a 57-yard keeper up the middle. Bradford had five carries for 47 yards.

Let’s not forget that this game was also the Wildcats’ first road test of the season. These early road games are tough because of the inexperience of some of the new players. The vets showed signs of maturity, and everyone handled the adversity of injuries well. This is a good sign for a team that has faced plenty of adversity in this young college football season.

All in all, the Wildcats took care of business with poise. There were moments of lapses, no doubt, but it is still early in the season.

If there is anything to take away from this game, it’s the improvement the Wildcats were able to make in a week’s time. After the scares of last week, fans can breathe a little easier after seeing their team adapt and walk out of Reno with a convincing win.


Follow Kyle Hansen on Twitter.


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