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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona football vs. Mississippi State: Wildcats lose a nail-biter on the road

University+of+Arizona+head+coach%2C+Jedd+Fisch%2C+watches+his+players+as+they+run+a+play+at+Arizona+Stadium+on+April+9.+Fisch+is+entering+his+second+year+as+head+coach+of+the+Wildcats.
Marison Bilagody

University of Arizona head football coach Jedd Fisch watches his players as they run a play at Arizona Stadium on April 9, 2022. Fisch is entering his second year as head coach of the Wildcats.

The Wildcats were dealt a hard-fought 31-24 loss in overtime in the first true test of the season after a 38-3 beatdown over NAU. The Arizona football team took on Mississippi State University on Saturday, Sept. 9 at 4:30 p.m. at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, Mississippi. 

The Wildcats’ rematch against Mississippi State was a much closer affair than last year, and the full spectrum of the Jayden de Laura experience was put on display.

Offense:

Turnovers plagued an otherwise productive Arizona offense. Jayden de Laura threw interceptions on three consecutive drives to start the first quarter, and the next drive saw a ball jarred out of Jacob Cowing’s hands for a fumble. The final turnover came with less than five minutes remaining in regulation in the form of a fourth de Laura interception.

De Laura showed Wildcat fans exactly why he should be the starter for this team – and also why he still has plenty of room to improve. 

De Laura went 32-for-46 passing for 342 yards and 2 touchdowns while adding 44 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown. His rushing touchdown wasn’t even one that was called – it was improvised. With 2 seconds left in the first half, he faked a spike without the knowledge of the offensive line or the coaches and managed to squeeze his way into the endzone.

However, his four interceptions and crucial missed pass in overtime are glaring blemishes on an otherwise pristine night. With a chance to reach a second overtime, he missed just to the right of Cowing’s outstretched hands on 2nd and 10. On the ensuing 4th and 10, de Laura came up just inches short on a scramble and the game slipped out of the Wildcats’ fingers.

The skill players were the highlight of the night. Sophomore wide receiver Tetairoa McMillan had a monster night, posting eight catches on 12 targets for 161 yards and a touchdown. He had two key 50+ yard plays – one for 50 yards and another for 55 – and climbed the ladder for his touchdown. Michael Wiley also showcased his dual-threat ability out of the backfield with 11 attempts for 33 yards and eight catches on nine targets for 60 yards for a total of 93 yards from scrimmage.

Defense:

The defense had to pick up the slack for a lackluster performance from the offense early on in the game. Despite facing one of the better quarterbacks the SEC has ever seen, they kept Will Rogers in check.

Rogers had a pedestrian – yet efficient – outing, going 13-for-17 for 162 yards and 3 touchdowns. Their leading receiver on the night was senior wideout Lideatrick Griffin, who only posted 83 yards on 5 catches. Arizona’s pass defense had a very relaxed night, as Mississippi State decided to run senior running back Jo’Quavious “Woody” Marks into the ground.

The linebackers and defensive line had their hands full with Marks. He carved them up for 123 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries and tacked on another 32 yards on four catches. 

However, the stat sheet doesn’t tell the full story. Marks earned every single yard he gained on a swarming Arizona run defense.

Linebacker Jacob Manu was all over the field against tough competition. The young buck saw more playing time than the more experienced incoming transfer linebackers Justin Flowe and Daniel Heimuli – and for good reason. The sophomore posted 12 tackles – four of them solo – with 2.5 tackles for a loss and a massive sack that forced Mississippi State into a punt. 

Other impact defenders were Flowe with 12 total tackles, defensive lineman Ta’ita’i Uiagalelei with two tackles, a TFL and a sack, defensive back Martell Irby with six tackles, a TFL and a forced fumble and safeties Isaiah Taylor and Dalton Johnson, who each posted three solo tackles.

Looking ahead:

The Wildcats may have a somber flight back to the desert, but this loss is still a promising one. Just last season, Arizona let a one-score game against Mississippi State slip away in the fourth quarter and they ended up losing by three scores. Arizona played high-level SEC competition down to the wire, and the biggest takeaway is that de Laura still has growing and improving to do.

Look out for a much cleaner game next Saturday, Sept. 16, at Arizona Stadium against the University of Texas at El Paso. De Laura will be looking to exorcize his newfound turnover demons and get the Wildcats back in the win column.


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