The BYU Cougars defeated the Arizona Wildcats by a score of 24-16 in the Good Sam Vegas Kickoff Classic at Allegiant Stadium Saturday, Sept. 4. This was the first game of the Jedd Fisch era and things went better than the last time we saw the Wildcats on the field.
This was the first test of the duo starting quarterback experience and Gunner Cruz was the player who saw more playing time in their opening game against BYU.
“He did a lot of things that were pretty good, but there were some things that we could improve upon,” Fisch said. “We certainly can't take four sacks; we took sacks that knocked us out of field goal range.”
“But you want to talk about a kid that battled I mean, this guy’s got four years of football left in him, and he battled his tail off, and this is not easy,” Fisch said. “I feel really good about the way Gunner played tonight.”
Fisch was very positive about Cruz’s performance after the game understanding it was the first collegiate start of his career. Cruz finished 34-45 with 336 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception. The other player that was a part of the duo quarterback trial run was Will Plummer. Plummer saw limited time on the field, throwing the ball only three times for a total of nine yards.
“But you know, if you're going to go out there and have 141 quarterback rating in your first game you've ever started, it would be tough not to play Gunner (Cruz) right now” Fisch said.
Fisch now has a decision he has to make: give the co-starting quarterback experiment another week to play itself out or choose someone right now. The decision looks clear after Cruz’s performance and playing time against BYU.
In sports, when a coach or a major change is made in an organization, fans and supporters of a team always want to compare the new regime to the past version, but Fisch wants to move forward.
“It's really hard for me to compare, you know, I really don't want to, Fisch said. “We just want to compete, I love the way our guys battled and I love the energy and the fight."
“This team has really bought into the process of winning,” Cruz said. “We have a great coaching staff in place that is going to get us there and I'm excited to see where we'll go in the next couple of weeks.”
“I love our guys, I love our team,” Fisch said. “I learned that our guys will fight till the very end.”
The Wildcats' wide receivers came to play at Allegiant stadium on Saturday night. Stanley Berryhill III led the team with 12 receptions for a total of 102 yards. Running back, Michael Wiley, finished the game second in yards with 66. Tayvian Cunningham added four catches along with 59 yards, bringing his speed to the offense.
“It was a great experience; it was surreal to be out there … and I felt like a little kid again,” Wiley said.
Wiley led the team in rushing yards and attempts with 64 yards on 15 rushes. Drake Anderson was the second back who received work, but only put together 35 yards in the game.
“We want to get this taste out of our mouth, we really want to,” Cruz said. “This team is really good, we play with a lot of heart, we love each other, and we love football.”
The defense was excellent in this game, allowing only 368 yards and 24 points is a big improvement from a season ago. The defenses leader, Anthony Pandy, has kept a positive mindset while going through this change over the past year.
“Yeah, I think, as a team. We know we're capable of,” Pandy said. “Just self-inflicted mistakes, it's all we can improve on.”
Despite a loss in Las Vegas, the spirits seemed good in the Wildcats locker room, which is the opposite of what appeared to be the case at the end of the Sumlin era.
The Arizona Wildcats take on the San Diego State Aztecs in their home opener this Saturday, Sept. 11, at 7:00 p.m. MST in Arizona stadium.
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