What went right:
- Plus-4 turnover ratio with Hawaii QB Cole McDonald throwing four interceptions — two of them picked by CB Jace Whittaker — and losing its two fumbles. Arizona’s two turnovers were costly however. One was not QB Khalil Tate’s fault with WR Drew Dixon unable to make the catch. The Rainbows scored a TD on a 51-yard possession after. And then the tough one: An interception thrown by Tate at the Hawaii goal line with 7:32 remaining. Hawaii scored a TD on a 48-yard possession to take the 45-35 lead.
- Tate able to mix it up with 108 yards rushing on 13 carries and passing for 361 yards, completing 22 of 39 passes. He threw three touchdown passes. His 30-yard scamper that closed the game was like Tate of two years ago. He just did not have enough space to maneuver and elude all the tacklers.
- RB J.J. Taylor coming alive in the second half after having only 16 yards rushing midway through the third quarter. He finished with 67 yards on 14 carries, including a 24-yard touchdown.
- WR Jamarye Joiner of Cienega led the Wildcats with four receptions for 72 yards. Another Tucson product, Stanley Berryhill III, had 92 yards receiving on three catches. WR Tayvian Cunningham was also impressive with four catches for 65 yards.
- Arizona amassed 200 yards in the fourth quarter but that was not enough, too late. The Wildcats had only 339 through the first three quarters.
- PK Luke Havrisik made a 53-yard field goal — his only attempt of the game — with 3:53 left in the game after a wild sequence in which Arizona was flagged three times (delay of game and two false start penalties).
What went wrong?
Sumlin also mentioned that changes with personnel will be made because they always rotate players. “We rotated a lot of people today at a bunch of different positions. We’ll go back and eveluate as usual and figure out the 22 guys on the field that give us the best chnce to win.”
- The defense, although returning a good number of players from last season with more depth on the line, was porous allowing 595 yards in total offense for Hawaii. The Rainbow Warriors rushed for 159 yards and passed for 436. Hawaii tallied 31 first downs and was 5 of 9 on third-down conversions and 2 of 3 on fourth-down tries.
- Kevin Sumlin used the word “awful” to describe Arizona’s performance in spots and mentioned the Wildcats “didn’t have a consistent effort across the board” with its offense, defense and special teams during the postgame show on 1290-AM. “Giving up big plays defensively made it difficult to get over the hump. We did some awful things on offense, defense and special teams. “
- WR Cedric Byrd has his way with Arizona, catching 14 passes for 224 yards with four touchdowns. Byrd is the first FBS receiver to record four TD catches in an opening game in more than 20 years.
- Taylor limited to only 67 yards rushing shows that Arizona did not utilize its potentially strong running game enough. The Wildcats rushed the ball 32 times and passed 39. The decision to have Tate pass the ball that was intercepted with 7:32 left was a head-scratcher because the Wildcats were getting stronger on the ground at that point and needed a touchdown (they were at the Hawaii 13) to take their first lead in the game. Taylor rushed for 11 yards and Tate 22 on that drive in only three carries combined. Arizona averaged 9.6 yards a rush in the fourth quarter.
- Think of it this way: Hawaii is a pass-happy run-and-shoot offense and the Rainbow Warriors had only two less carries than Arizona.
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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.