Arizona coach Jedd Fisch got the weather he wanted. The crowd he wanted. And, well, the victory he wanted on Saturday night.
Beats the alternative, right?
Arizona did well in moments and not so well in others, but perfection isn’t found in Game 1 of the season, or any game in a season. Arizona looked dull in the first half, taking a 14-3 lead into halftime, then came back in the second half to outscore Northern Arizona 24-0 to leave Arizona Stadium with a 38-3 win.
“We’re getting better,” Fisch said. “We’re certainly getting better as a team. Two years ago, we sat here against this team and didn’t have the same conversation. And it’s a testament to the way our assistant coaches that recruited, it’s a testament to the players that we have that are young coming in that can contribute and were able to get in this game.”
But it won’t get any easier – or one can assume save for maybe the game against UTEP in a couple of weeks – because Mississippi State looms in six days.
“We got a big challenge ahead,” Fisch said. “We’ve got to be a better football team. We’ve got to get less penalties … (Be) better all the way around. Coaches, players alike. We’ll do a good job getting into the tape, we’ll get our players back here (Sunday) and we will attack the film and get ready for a very good SEC (Southeastern Conference) opponent.”
First the cleanup. Arizona had far too many turnovers on Saturday night. It had 11.
Saturday night, it was good enough. Arizona’s defense proved to be capable, stopping NAU on a couple of redzone drives, one on the goal line. NAU had just 264 yards in total offense.
“Very excited with the way the defense played because they played, not just extremely hard, but they played for 60 minutes,” Fisch said. “Every time they had to go out there, they went with energy, passion and a ferociousness. The idea (of) being able to bring more players in, we’ve talked about that defensively with the defensive front. That rotation makes a huge difference. You can see a fresher player makes a difference. They’re harder to block.”
Fisch talked about passion and energy, a couple of times. He said Arizona had it. The offense, clearly had it in the second half. It was more efficient, and looked the part with wide receivers Tetairoa McMillan, Jacob Cowing and running backs Jonah Coleman, Michael Wiley & Co.
Arizona had its big plays: 53-yard TD run by Jayden de Laura, an 85-yard touchdown by Tacario Davis after a blocked field goal attempt, a 37-yard catch by Coleman and so much more.
“It was strange. Jayden was 18 for 24. We had 53 played for 478 yards. We were four of five – I think – in the red zone,” Fisch said. “Where I was disappointed is that we wound up giving the ball away twice when we shouldn’t have (a fumble and interception). Jayden was very efficient. That one interception late, that was strange, him and T-Mac just weren’t on the same page there. We’ve got to clear that up.”