The San Diego State Aztecs were trounced by Arizona Football in their 2022 season debut in a brand-new stadium in hostile terrain. They were predicted to win by six points.
The 2022 season started for Arizona Football this past Saturday, and what a game it was to start if you are the Wildcats!
Following their win, there were at least three things we learned that could help you get excited about the 2022 Arizona Football season if you aren’t already.
Team Chemistry is Making a Difference
Team chemistry is essential to any team performing and winning. Last season it seemed there was team chemistry, but as the season wore on, and the losses piled up, it was hard to keep the chemistry going.
A lot has changed from the makeup of the Wildcats from the 2021 season. Arizona lost 48 players from the 2021 squad: two players declared for the NFL Draft, 16 graduated, and 28 entered the transfer portal.
The TV announcers made sure they mentioned that de Laura was talking to his team during the game while out on the sidelines. From pumping them up to helping keep the tempo and the success they were enjoying was ongoing.
After the game, he broadcasted live from the winning locker room as the team sang Bear Down Arizona.
Without a leader like de Laura, the team wouldn’t have seen the success and cohesiveness they had. Hopefully, this is something they will continue to enjoy.
Along with de Laura, was Echols. The former Trojan was electric as well, pumping up the team while leading them out of the locker room and onto the field. He has been involved in social media posts and is always happy and full of fun, sharing his time with fans. The team just seems to be getting along great and enjoying each other and it shows on the field.
Offensive Line is helping the team gain yards
Arizona QB Jayden de Laura won the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the week for the following accomplishments (According to the Pac-12 press release):
- Finished the game with 299 yards and four touchdowns on 29-of-35 passing to help Arizona to a 38-20 win over San Diego State on the road.
- De Laura’s four touchdown passes are the most by an Arizona QB in their Wildcat debut since Anu Solomon threw four against UNLV in 2014.
- Improved to 6-0 in his collegiate career when throwing 3-plus touchdowns.
Helped the Wildcats score 24 points in the first half, marking their most in a game-opening half since scoring 24 in the first half against Stanford in 2019 (L, 31-41), and more points than they scored in 10 games in 2021. Helped Arizona to an 18-point victory, marking their largest margin of victory since beating Northern Arizona 65-41 (24 points) in 2019.
- Connected with Jacob Cowing three times for touchdowns and freshman Tetairoa McMillan for one TD marking his four touchdown passes.
- First time winning this award and the first time an Arizona player has won it since JJ Taylor did in Week 4 of the 2018 season. Jayden has won the Pac-12 Freshman of the Week twice and was the 2021 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year.
Couldn’t have gone better for the new Wildcat leader except for throwing one interception. He is a solid pocket passer pocket type QB. He cannot be successful unless he gets protection from his offensive line. Sacked only once all game, de Laura was prolific, completing 22 of 35 passes.
Last season, Arizona was able to run the ball 20 times gaining 81 yards and losing 30, netting 51 total rushing yards. In comparison, last weekend, Arizona rushed for 162 yards on 39 attempts. That’s 461 total earned yards against SDSU on offensive compared to 209 in 2021.
Arizona not only has a solid quarterback, but the Wildcats’ offensive line was able to protect the QB and make gaps for their running backs. Arizona was five for five in their red zone attempts.
Defense has improved
What a difference! The Arizona defense held SDSU to 20 points vs 38 last season. Can they do better? Yes! But the number of great plays made by the defense was promising to say the least.
Linebacker Jerry Roberts topped the tackle list with 12 total tackles, six solo. Roberts is killing it out of the gate! Defensive Back Jalen Harris who decided to return to Arizona last season earned Pac-12 Defensive Lineman of the week for the following reasons:
- Made a career-high eight tackles (4 solo, 4 assisted) and 1.0 sacks during Arizona’s 38-20 win at San Diego State in Snapdragon Stadium on Saturday.
- Recorded 1.0 tackle for a loss (sack) of six yards as the defense limited SDSU to 170 yards rushing and just 62 yards passing.
- The 62 yards passing marked the fewest passing yards allowed since holding Washington to the same mark in 2021.
- SDSU went 7-for-16 through the air with one interception.
SDSU used two QBs: Former Arizona commit Braxton Burmeister and red-shirt freshman Will Haskell. Neither QB was very successful in the air, making seven of 16 passes for 62 yards combined.
Nansen’s defense showed up and didn’t let up, they also never had more men on the field than allowed, which is a huge plus!