Arizona football faces NAU after tough loss to Hawai'i

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Mike Christy and Colin Darland | The Daily Wildcat Arizona Wildcats wide receiver Brian Casteel (5) runs during the second half Arizona Wildcats vs. Hawaii Rainbow Warriors college football game 8/24/19 at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, HI. Photo by Mike Christy / Arizona Athletics

NAU (1-0) comes to Tucson this Saturday night on a high note after beating Missouri State 37-23 last Saturday. Coach Chris Ball enters his first season as head coach at NAU after three seasons as defensive coordinator at the University of Memphis.

Redshirt senior QB Case Cookus comes into this game with 8,258 passing yards over his 5 years at NAU, with 76 touchdowns and only 14 interceptions. NAU doesn’t use their run game that much, as they only had 119 yards rushing on 36 attempts, for an abysmal average of 2.4 yards a carry. This should fare well for the Wildcats (0-1), who gave up 195 yards rushing on 32 attempts. 

The Wildcats’ pass defense will be tested again this week, as they gave up 436 passing yards in their 38-45 loss to Hawai’i. The defensive front that showed up in the second half against Hawai’i will have to make a return, since the Wildcats had success with a four-man front instead of the three-man front they had in the first half. 

Expect to see some pressure on the defensive half from the Wildcats, especially stunts with Colin Schooler and Tony Fields II; their speed should be able to overcome the young offensive line of NAU. The Wildcats' offense should be firing on all cylinders in the pass game, as NAU gave up 289 yards passing on only 20 attempts. This should fare well for Arizona, since Khalil Tate threw for 361 yards on 22-39 passing. 

Where Arizona needs to improve the most this week is the rush game where Tate led the team with 108 yards rushing on 13 attempts. Running back J.J. Taylor only got 14 carries for 67 yards, so expect to see Taylor get a boatload of carries this week. NAU’s rush defense held Missouri State to 68 yards on 32 carries for an average of 1.3 yards an attempt, but NAU has not seen such explosive players as Taylor and Tate.

If the Wildcats are able to spread the Lumberjacks wide through the pass game and run the ball well, this game should be a good confidence-booster going into next week’s game against Texas Tech. 


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