Fresh off its exhilarating win over out-manned UTEP, Arizona returns to Tucson next week for another Friday night game, against Utah in the Pac-12 opener for both teams.
The Wildcats (2-1) have the right kind of confidence — thanks to their dominance of the Miners — going into the key game against the Utes. The disheartening loss against Houston the week before is now only a scab that itches.
What gives Arizona most of its upbeat attitude returning from El Paso?
Brandon Dawkins running and passing with a good mix? Arizona’s deep running game with Nick Wilson, J.J. Taylor, Zach Green, Nathan Tilford and even Branden Leon looking as strong and capable as ever? Shun Brown’s big-play ability? The rejuvenated tight end position with freshman Bryce Wolma leading the Wildcats in receiving the last games (11 receptions overall for 79 yards)?
That’s all good, but what really has Arizona thinking upset over a potential top 25 team in Utah — its defense.
Tony Fields II, Colin Schooler, Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles — they are all making big plays on defense.
Some other defensive notes from Friday’s 63-16 win over UTEP:
— Arizona finished with a season-high eight pass breakups, including three by junior Jace Whittaker.
— True freshman linebacker Anthony Pandy had a sack in his collegiate debut.
— True freshman defensive end Kylan Wilborn had a tackle for loss for the third straight game this season.
The following are some of the top tweets that captured the action:
How many more times will Arizona sing “Bear Down” in the locker room after a win this season?
Nothing like singing Bear Down Arizona on the road! We'll see you soon Tucson! 🐻🔽 pic.twitter.com/pgmirrmoUr
Bring on the “Shun-isms” after Shun Brown’s second punt return for a touchdown this season last night …
He "Shunned" him … Arizona up 28-0 in 2Q pic.twitter.com/Qfte57HQUt
Does this merit Rich Rodriguez to have more years beyond this one if Arizona wins only, say, five games? Start of something promising here …
Five of Arizona's top seven tacklers vs. UTEP were true freshmen (including RB Nathan Tilford on special teams): pic.twitter.com/MiT9dZkniL
How about “Big Play” Brown?
Look at the table after this tweet. Dawkins came five yards away last year from matching B.J. Denker’s 949 yards rushing in 2013. Dawkins has 251 yards rushing on 34 carries this season.
Brandon Dawkins is over 100 rushing yards, and B.J. Denker is worried all over again about his school season rushing record by a QB.
TOP ARIZONA QB RUSHING SEASONS (PAC-10/12 YEARS)
Ronald Veal leads Arizona quarterbacks with 1,419 career rushing yards from 1987 to 1990 …
Dawkins setting himself apart from other quarterbacks with this stat.
Brandon Dawkins of Arizona is the first QB this season with 2 Pass TD and 2 Rush TD in either half. Second half vs UTEP next on ESPN.
When Arizona runs well within Rodriguez’s scheme, good things usually happen, especially if the defense holds up its side of the bargain.
The defense holding up its end of the bargain here …
Colin Schooler returned an interception 53 yards and also forced a fumble. …
Colin Schooler wishes he could have scored a touchdown on his interception but he said the play came from simply doing his job pic.twitter.com/4ctvvoir59
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.