Notebook: Four observations from Arizona’s win over Cal
Wildcat Tony Ellison (9) dives into the end zone and scores the first touchdown of the UA-Cal Berkeley game at Arizona Stadium on Saturday October 6, 2018 in Tucson, Az.
Here are four observations about Arizona football's performance in its 24-17 win against Cal Saturday night:
Arizona, a team that has been among the nation's best offensive units, relied on other areas to get its third victory of the season. Though the QB switch up from Khalil Tate to Jamarye Joiner for one series in the first half seemed to halt all offensive momentum that was built on the first few drives, 266 total yards of offense is definitely not something to completely ignore. It is encouraging to see Arizona win a game without its offensive attack, but the signs of concern are there for the Wildcats.
Tate shows flashes
In what was the highest total of his season so far, Tate showed flashes of increased mobility in the first half, keeping Cal’s defense honest by sprinkling in runs. That all changed with a sack and later a face-mask penalty that Tate suffered in the first half, which looked like it left Tate shaken up and less confident to take off and run. The season-high rushing total of 40 yards is encouraging, but don’t bank on it skyrocketing any time soon. Last year's electric Tate doesn't appear to be making an encore appearance.
In a season that has seen turnovers become a rare commodity, the Wildcats looked like a thing of the past on Saturday night as Arizona returned two interceptions for scores, with one being a Colin Schooler interception that he got stripped on, which was recovered by Azizi Hearn, putting Arizona up 17-14.
The second interception iced the game for the Wildcats, as Scottie Young Jr. picked off a Brandon McIlwain pass and escorted it all the way into the end zone, putting the Wildcats up for good, 24-14. The influx of turnovers is a great sign for defensive coordinator Marcel Yates’ unit, as they look to fight their way to the top of a competitive and wide open Pac-12 South.
Third Down Terrors
Even though the turnovers are a great sign for the young Wildcat defense, the Golden Bears converted more than 50 percent of their third-down tries going 8-15 on the night. Cal’s McIlwain gave Arizona’s defense fits all night with his ability to make plays outside of the pocket, extending drives, and keeping Arizona’s defense on the field.
If Arizona plans on finishing above .500 this year, its third-down defense needs to improve drastically to have a shot at stopping the high-powered offenses in Oregon and Washington State, who Arizona plays in just a few weeks.