Four significant stats from Arizona's home conference opener against UCLA
Arizona football defeated UCLA last night by a final score of 20-17 to improve to 3-1 on the season. Here are four crucial stats from the team's first conference win of the season against the Bruins.
When news of both Khalil Tate and J.J. Taylor being out for last night's game, Arizona fans were a little uneasy and were not sure of what to expect for the home conference opener. However, all eyes were on true freshman Grant Gunnell after a three-touchdown performance against NAU. As this was his first career start, it was anticipated that the freshman would throw at least a couple of interceptions. However, Gunnell threw for 29-for-44 with a grand total of 0 interceptions on the night, as impressive as that sounds.
"As an offense, we had to make sure that we're all on the same page ... even though it was his first game, he showed great strides," said redshirt senior Cedric Peterson. "He was really up, he came and talked to everybody after every series."
We've seen this before in the season, as Arizona football has continued to struggle with penalties. Last night at home, the team racked up 10 penalties for a total of 74 yards. Without a doubt, defensive coordinator Marcel Yates has worked on the defensive and it has really shown in the past two games, as they held Texas Tech to 14 points and UCLA to 17 points. However, as the team continues to travel and face tougher opponents, penalties are something that could be the deciding factor as to whether Arizona makes a bowl game or not.
With UCLA's reputation of having a weak pass defense, Arizona knew that keeping the ball in the air would be the better strategy, especially with Gunnell in for Tate. After four quarters of action, Arizona only ran for a grand total of 99 yards compared to a total of 352 passing yards on the night.
"We ran it and we weren't getting much early," Head Coach Kevin Sumlin said. "What we're trying to do is stay away from negative yardage plays, and I thought Grant [Gunnell] did a nice job even in the zone read game of either pulling it himself and running for 4-5 yards or pulling it and flipping it on the perimeter."
In a nail-biter victory like the one against UCLA, Arizona football needed some clutch plays down the line to help secure its first conference victory of the season. In this regard, Arizona football went 2-for-2 on fourth downs, something that most definitely helped them keep the momentum going in high-pressure situations.
"It feels good to get a win, especially to start conference play," said junior linebacker Colin Schooler. "But we got a game next week on the road, and based on our past, we don't really play to our full potential on the road. So we're focusing on getting a road win, especially in conference play."
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