For years, former Arizona football coach Dick Tomey talked about “the team, the team, the team.”
Everything about the team.
Deep into the night on Saturday night at Arizona Stadium, team was the theme. Arizona head coach Jedd Fisch talked about team effort, not once but twice.
Offense was sound. Defense, again, was stout.
“I thought today was the best team win that I can remember that we’ve had,” Fisch said. “And now we got to get to Pac-12 play. We got to up our game. We got to play better, and we got to see what we can do moving forward.”
Better. Faster. Well, everything. But that’s about next week.
Saturday night, Arizona was good enough to move to 2-1 after its 31-10 win over visiting UTEP.
It played clean. Played sound. Purposeful. And, well, methodical.
Arizona’s offense – outside of a slow first quarter – was surgeon-like behind quarterback Jayden de Laura, who was asked/told to be more consistent after last week’s up-and-down performance. So, he was.
He threw three touchdowns, hitting 23 of 39 passes for 285 yards. He added 33 rushing yards. And, um, no turnovers.
Arizona had a season-high 544 yards, 300 through the air and another 244 on the ground.
“Very, very efficient. I think (de Laura) was 79.3 (percent),” Fisch said. “I don’t think he’s ever hit that number before (at UA.). (He played) really played clean football, really clean football. That’s what we asked of him and challenged him this week.”
Challenge accepted and accomplished.
Good Jayden showed up on Saturday. Run, pass, decision making. What you ask from a good quarterback.
“I just got the ball into this guy’s (Cowing) hands, T-Mac’s (Tetaroia McMillan) hands, Montana’s (Lemonious-Craig) hands,” de Laura said. “Just let them make plays. I don’t need to do too much, and it’s kind of what we went over when we were watching film against Mississippi State. Just use all the tools.”
Cowing & Co, proved to be the sparkplugs once again. Cowing, facing his former team, had 10 catches for 84 yards. It was a game he said was “pretty cool” facing his former teammates. He’s now caught a nation’s-leading ball in 47-consecutive games.
“(We) wanted to make sure we got him the ball, get the ball in his hands,” Fisch said. “And (I was) glad to get him that touchdown catch.”
And what’s not to say about TMac’s one-handed, in-traffic catch in the first half. It – apparently – has become everyday common.
“I’m gonna put it out there: he is probably the most athletic person I’ve ever been around,” said de Laura. “e can pick up any sport and dominate.”
Catching passes was the sport on Saturday. He had eight for 89 yards.
“As we all know he makes those naturally,” Fisch said. “He had another good game. I think he’s disappointed clearly that he put the ball on the ground (fumbled), but he did make up for (it) with a touchdown. And, we know what kind of football player he is.”
Then, there was the defense. Another strong night after an impressive showing last week.
UTEP was limited to just 49 yards on the ground, making it the 24th time UA has held an opponent to under 50 yards since 1996.
And, UA’s defense held its opponent to less than 300 yards in the air and 50 on the ground for the first time in two seasons.
“Really, really proud of the way defense is playing,” Fisch said. “Three points against NAU, 10 points (on Saturday). To be able to play that type of defense, and the defense they played last week as well. I think our defense is really stepping up.”