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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


UA football’s defense hopes to build off their performance in season opener

Rebecca Noble / The Daily Wildca
Arizona safety Jarvis McCall Jr. (29) sends BYU offense sailing out of bounds during Arizona’s 18-16 loss to BYU in the Cactus Kickoff Classic at the University of Phoenix Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 3.

Arizona allowing only 18 points last season would have won them five of the seven games they lost. But it was not enough last Saturday.

Though the Wildcats played relatively well in their new scheme, they know they will need to add more to get into to the win column throughout the season.

Now that their feet are wet, more production from the defense could be in store. They did not force any turnovers or sack BYU quarterback Taysom Hill last week, but that should change against Grambling State on Saturday. If Arizona can force more down-and-distance opportunities, it can pin its ears back on passing downs and play more aggressively.

“The thing that makes the best defensive players the best is that they are really aggressive,” said head coach Rich Rodriguez. He wants his team to attack the ball more aggressively but also become more sure in its tackles.

“One thing I can be more of is a sure tackler because, as a safety, you have to play in the box,” safety Jarvis McCall said.

Rodriguez appears to have his defensive players locked in with an aggressive mindset.

“Dane Cruishank, Tellas Jones, Devonte Neal and Flannigan-Fowles know once the ball is in the air, it is ours,” McCall said. “We are trying to get the pick. If it is necessary for us to knock it down, then so be it. But our mentality is to go up there and try and get a pick.”

They will also need help from the offense to sustain drives and keep the defense fresh. If the offense cannot stay on the field, it typically does not matter how well of a performance the defense gives. They will bend and eventually break and allow the opposing offense to rip off big gains.

Despite being on the field for over 37 minutes, the Wildcats’ defense had their best performance against a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent since their 2014 17-7 loss to UCLA. Just like the BYU game, the offense did not play up to par and wasted a solid performance from the defense.

Quarterback Anu Solomon is listed as questionable for Grambling State with a knee injury, so the Wildcats might need their defense more than ever this Saturday.

Whether it is Brandon Dawkins or a hampered Solomon, they will need to put the offense in a position to win the game. If Dawkins makes the start, Arizona will need to make sure it gets better field position this time around.

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