All is seemingly right in the Arizona football world … again. For how long, well, that’s to be determined next week when Utah rolls into town for the Pac-12 opener for the Wildcats.
Until then, the Wildcats will enjoy their charter flight home perhaps better than the four-plus hours on the bus to El Paso to beat up – 63-16 – on the host Miners.
What was there not to like about Friday night’s massacre of UTEP? Brandon Dawkins, the popular-turned-unpopular quarterback, is popular again. His supposed backup, Khalil Tate, didn’t even play, giving way to third-string Rhett Rodriguez and fourth-string Donovan Tate.
It got so bad for the Miners that defensive player Jack Banda caught a pass as a tight end. In fact, UA’s tight ends caught three passes. What’s the world coming to? Arizona is going to its tight ends.
Shun Brown was video-game like, zigging and zagging and spinning and twirling everywhere. Colin Schooler was freight train like on an interception.
For at least a weekend, Arizona crushed it on national TV. Who cares if it was the Miners, losers of 34 straight games to a FBS school. Arizona will take ‘em wherever it can get them.
Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said his team “was focused all week” after last week’s 19-16 disappointment to Houston.
“They took care of business and now (we have to) win one at home,” Rodriguez said on his post-game radio show.
Utah is no UTEP and Arizona knows that. Still, let UA & Co., enjoy the night in the Sun Bowl. No one had a better night than Dawkins, other than the taco-maker given how much attention ESPN gave them.
Dawkins played like a man possessed after he had been challenged all week about getting better.
“He played really well; he played really hard,” said Rodriguez. “He’s such a competitive guy that I wish he’d put his head down and lower his shoulders a bit. He tries to score on every snap. I’m really proud on how he prepared this week, and how he played. He went 18 for 21 for 155 yards and three touchdowns. He ran for another 133 yards and three touchdowns.
Heck, the only thing he didn’t do was sell tacos on the sidelines.
“When he’s playing well and our quarterback makes the right decisions we’re a whole lot better offensively, of course,” Rodriguez said.
Of course, but not every opponent will be UTEP, a 23-point underdog going into Friday night. Still, to Arizona’s credit – behind Dawkins – it established the one-sided game in the second game by scoring 35 points in the second quarter. It could have ended there but Dawkins wasn’t done and neither were the Cats.
“We know what kind of player he can be,” Rodriguez said to a question about challenging Dawkins more this week. “I know that everybody wants to get on the quarterback and (yes) he didn’t have his best game in the last game … there are a few more steps he can go, another leap he can take. The competition we have at quarterback will help him do that.”
The competition coming will make him have to as well. But for now, Arizona is 2-1 and happy about its drive-and-fly trip to Texas. All is well.