Arizona Football

Wildcat Limbo: Not all games will be against NAU

Every game should be against Northern Arizona. For Arizona, wouldn’t that be nice?

You’d be able to rack up unreal numbers and show what could be all season. Arizona showed all that Saturday night in a 65-41 win over the Lumberjacks, keeping the dominance in true-to-form fashion given Arizona has gone 15-1 against NAU all-time.

But, deep down – in a quick deep dive – Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin saw what most in Arizona Stadium saw: a team that is a work in progress with lots to improve on.

In fact, L-O-T-S.

In fact, it was a good sign Sumlin was more peeved than proud in his postgame evaluation.

UA’s J.J. Taylor finds the end zone vs. Northern Arizona. (photo courtesy Arizona Athletics, Mike Christy)

Sloppy play won’t cut it in the long haul, he said. And guess what’s coming up? Yes, the long haul given UA’s schedule ramps up considerably over the next three months.

“I’m happy about the win,” Sumlin said. “But there’s a lot of things that I’m not very happy about. I addressed that in the locker room, and we’re going to continue to address that.

“The sloppiness of play … We talked about players going into the game and continue to finish, that did not happen …”

But the inconsistency and “too many penalties” was what had Sumlin concerned.

“Too many selfish penalties – things that we’re not going to tolerate,” he said. “Yeah, we won the game (but) you give up 41 points, a bunch in the second half. We’ve got some starters out there. To give up 41 in that fashion is not okay. And the penalties that we had today is not okay

“The sign down there (says), ‘It’s about us.’ It’s not about you. And some of those penalties were about you.”

If it’s not fixed individually, Sumlin said they would not play anymore.

The “it’s about us’ is what’s concerning. Arizona had just scored a school-record 51 points (for a half) and looked good but questionable (given the penalties).

Already, going in I thought UA was in a “no-win situation” given the opponent. Arizona wins going away in big-time fashion and what does it prove? That it’s better in a big way against NAU? What does that prove?

If Arizona was to struggle against NAU and what does that prove? Well, plenty. So, here we are in Wildcat limbo.

Are they good enough to compete, or aren’t they?

“We know we are not the team we want to be,” said Jace Whittaker. “We are not there yet. We will keep working to that goal.”

At least offensively, it looked like Arizona could be behind senior Khalil Tate, who went 14 for 17 through the air for 138 yards and two TD passes.

His apparent backup, Grant Gunnell, was even better, going 9 for 11 for 151 yards and three TDs, which included a 75-yard strike.

“That’s not bad, I don’t care who you are,” Sumlin said. “Most people will take that.”

Throw in the running game appeared revived behind Gary Brightwell and J.J. Taylor and all was well … offensively.

“We did well,” Tate said. “The O-line did well, blocking their guys; they had a hat on a hat. The receivers did a great job; they’re definitely growing up, running the correct routes, getting open.

“We did better on first and second down. (Against Hawaii) we had a lot of third-and-10s, which is pretty difficult for an offense. I think we did a great job on first and second down really getting those yards and making sure we were ahead of the sticks.”

Arizona totaled 720 in offense, including 431 yards on the ground.

“It brings a lot of energy,” said Brightwell, who rushed for 141 yards including a 94-yard burst for a TD. “

The defensive, however, was suspect … again. NAU didn’t give up after falling back 51-13 at the half.  And it appeared UA’s defense eased up or just wasn’t capable of stopping NAU.

“We’ve got to get better,” said Whittaker. And that’s in everything, he added.

Anthony Pandy echoed Whittaker’s thoughts.

“We have to practice harder and do our jobs,” Pandy said, when asked about UA’s pass rush. “We’re going to get better.”

They will need to given not all games are listed as NAU.

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