Sept. 1, 2012; Tucson, AZ, USA; Arizona Wildcats wide receiver Austin Hill (29) dives to catch a 30 yard touchdown during the first half against the Toledo Rockets at Arizona Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE
Recapping a wild night at Arizona Stadium. What went well and what needs to improve moving forward?
The Arizona Wildcats won their opening game of the 2012 season, although it was hardly as pretty as anyone would have hoped for. Numerous turnovers and poor red zone execution allowed Toledo to hang around late, and it took the Wildcats an overtime session to pull out the 24-17 victory.
Here was the good, bad and ugly from Arizona Stadium this weekend.
Matt Scott is ready to lead this team:
Arizona fans had heard all summer about how good the fifth-year senior quarterback had looked in practices. Scott did not fail to deliver, passing for 387 yards, rushing for 74 more and throwing for two touchdown scores. Yes, he did overthrow a couple of his receivers down the field, but it was his first start in nearly three years. If he can keep this level of play up, the Wildcats will have a chance every weekend.
No, this isn't about the quietest crowd of 48,000+ I've ever seen in my life. We'll discuss that a bit later. This is about a few Tucson products on the roster.
Sophomore tailback Ka'Deem Carey led the way with 147 rushing yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, while sophomore Jared Tevis and junior Jake Fischer were the co-leading tacklers. We have seen few Tucson products develop into key players for UA recently, and that needs to change. These three are taking the first big step towards making that happen.
Outside of a badly blown coverage by Shaquille Richardson in the second quarter, Arizona's secondary was very impressive against a talented Toledo offense. The Rockets employed two quarterbacks who are worthy of a starting spot on most teams; the two combined to go 21-for-47 on their attempts (44.6%) for just 197 yards. The 3-3-5 defense is designed as a bend-but-dont-break scheme, and we certainly saw that in the opener.
Someone sitting near me said last night, "Toledo's quarterback has enough time to make a sandwich in the pocket. Get some pressure already!" and it's hard to disagree with them.
We knew Arizona's d-line was going to lack experience and talent this season. Last night was a scary look at what could be to come. Toledo continually gashed the defense up the middle for 5+ yards on nearly every rushing attempt. UA recorded two sacks, seldom getting more than a fingertip on either of the Rockets quarterbacks.
A team that scored 84 points in their season opener comes to Tucson next weekend; if Arizona is unable to get more pressure on the backfield, they might just give up 50+.
Arizona lost the ball three times on Saturday, fumbling twice and throwing an interception late in the third quarter. Another ball should have been picked off but was dropped. One of the fumbles came about 10 yards away from the end zone, the other right near mid-field. This team is not good enough to win regularly if they beat themselves by giving the ball away.
Kicking Game (LOL):
I made a $5 bet with a friend last night that Arizona would miss the kick if they played conservatively on their final drive by settling for a field goal attempt. I am now five dollars richer.
John Bonano, who was actually a pretty pleasant surprise for the 'Cats last year, missed two of his three field goal attempts. One clanked off the right post early in the fourth quarter and the other went wide-left as time expired. Arizona's kicking game has been horrible since seemingly forever, and it looks like we're in for more fun this season.
The Crowd (or a lack thereof):
The announced attendance for last night's game was 48,670, which isn't horrible all things considered. It was a holiday weekend with a lower-caliber, non-conference team in town, so the appeal to buy a ticket wasn't huge. And it was 12 people more than what ASU had on Thursday.
As for the fans who showed up though, I can't recall a crowd that was as quiet as they were. The ZonaZoo was about half-empty by the third quarter, many in the upper deck started to head for the gates mid-way through the second half and those who stayed did not make much noise until overtime. It was a poor showing from Wildcat fans this weekend, and the team will need more from the crowd in the coming weeks.
For more on the Wildcats, check out AZ Desert Swarm.
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