Arizona gave an uninspiring performance Saturday night against Houston, but was still able to hold on for a close, 19-16 loss in a game that caused for mixed feelings.
Here are some of the takeaways we can gather from a loss that was pretty confusing on a lot of fronts.
The Bad: Quarterback Inconsistency
Brandon Dawkins did not carry last week’s momentum into Saturday’s game. He finished 17-29 with 178 yards, no touchdowns, and he committed some costly fumbles.
After last week’s rush-heavy win, it made sense to try for a better pass game. But it showed that Dawkins is more comfortable with his run game.
Khalil Tate looked like the answer when he entered in the middle of the 4th quarter. He drove the offense and went 5-8 with 41 yards, giving the Wildcats a shining chance until he threw an ill-timed interception with 3:15 left in the game.
Rich Rodriguez immediately put Dawkins back in, who threw three incomplete passes and gave Houston back the ball to end the game.
The Good: Improved Defense
While it doesn’t always make for an entertaining game, the defensive play on both teams Saturday night was something to appreciate.
Arizona’s defense was much better than it was last week. The Wildcats held Houston to 158 rushing yards and 61 tackles and delivered some clutch defensive plays.
Arizona’s plethora of freshmen are proving themselves trustworthy as starters on the defensive side. Safety Scottie Young, Jr. had seven total tackles with one for a loss. Linebacker Tony Fields II had the most tackles with 10.
On Houston’s side, defensive tackle Ed Oliver performed well enough to draw chatter about being one of the best defensive players in college football. Oliver was the player to look out for Saturday night and unsurprisingly, he delivered with 11 tackles, three assists, and a forced fumble. Arizona’s offense did not execute well enough to break through those walls.