Arizona vs. San Diego State: Get To Know the Wildcats
Who is Arizona?
A Q&A for Arizona
San Diego State takesn Arizona this Saturday night and with it being a non-conference team and early in the season, we reached out to Ryan Kelapire of AZ Desert Swarm to get to know this Wildcats team a bit better before kickoff.
1. What are the expectations from first-year head coach Jedd Fisch who was a fairly surprising hire?
Fisch’s hiring was met with a lot of skepticism because he was a relatively unknown NFL assistant with zero head coaching experience, but he has pressed all the right buttons since then. He has gotten the alumni involved, landed several quality recruits and transfers (many from Arizona), and has put a huge emphasis on connecting with the community and restoring the tradition of the program. That includes bringing back the Desert Swarm uniforms that are universally loved by the UA fanbase. Immediate expectations are low—Arizona’s over/under win total was set at 2.5 before the season—but there’s an energy and optimism around the program that has been missing for years.
2. Arizona played closer than expected vs. BYU in the eight-point loss, what was learned after the opener?
The Wildcats still don’t have the talent to beat good teams and aren’t particularly strong in any facet of the game, but playing hard and believing in your coaching staff can turn a bad team into a competitive one. This was a squad that had given up on Kevin Sumlin and regularly got blown out the last two years. It was refreshing to see them turn a 21-3 deficit into a respectable game—one that they could have won if they had just executed a little better.
3. Is it safe to say Gunner Cruz is the guy at quarterback after there was talk about using him and Will Plummer?
Yes. Fisch said Thursday that he still plans to play both quarterbacks against SDSU, but I fully expect Cruz to get the vast majority of the snaps. Maybe even all of them. He played all but nine against BYU. And while Cruz wasn’t terrific, he improved as the game went on, only had one turnover and put the Wildcats in position to win. This season, that’s all they can ask for.
4. What is your concern level about the Arizona offensive line? BYU sacked Cruz four times and San Diego State had five sacks and 10 tackles for loss last week.
It’s a big concern. The offensive line struggled last season too and they are playing the same guys. Arizona threw a bunch of short passes against BYU, partly because it did not trust that its pass protection could hold up. The run blocking wasn’t great, either. Arizona’s running backs averaged just over four yards per carry. They might get starting left tackle Jordan Morgan back from injury, which would be a boost, but there is definitely an opportunity for the Aztecs to cause havoc in the backfield. This should be a close game, so some sacks and/or a forced fumble or two could make the difference.
5. Can the Arizona rush defense turn it around after its struggles against BYU’s Tyler Allgeier who had 5.5 yards per carry?
This is another area Arizona has struggled in for years. It’s certainly a point of emphasis heading into this game, but we’ll see if that translates. The Wildcats play an aggressive brand of defense under Don Brown, and SDSU struggles in the passing game, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see them overload the box to stop the run.
6. How do you see this game playing out?
The Wildcats were playing with house money against BYU in Las Vegas. But now that they are at home, facing a Group of 5 team, and playing in front of what is expected to be a raucous crowd, there is actually some pressure to win this week. I expect this to be an ugly game with poor QB play. In the end, I see Arizona’s defense creating some key turnovers and the offense doing just enough to squeak out a win. 27-20 Cats.