Arizona had to hang on late against Nevada to remain undefeated in non-conference games under Rich Rodriguez. Read on for notes on the win, including the performance of Nick Wilson, Anu Solomon's big night, and more.
Arizona got out to an early lead, but had to hang on late. The Wildcats beat the Nevada Wolf pack 35-28 to remain undefeated. Read on for a few notes on how it happened:
Anu Solomon came out firing for the Wildcats. After noticing Nevada keying in on the run the first few plays, Arizona went to the air and Solomon found Samajie Grant for three straight passes, totaling 45 yards as the Wildcats drove for a touchdown.
Midway through the second quarter, Solomon made his first real mistake of his career. Being dragged down by a defender, the freshman lofted a ball up for grabs. It was intercepted and was the first pick thrown by Solomon in his career at Arizona.
Solomon finished the game with 278 yards through the air, while completing 22 of his 26 passes for three touchdowns. The freshman also had 60 yards rushing, setting his personal bests with an 84.6-percent completion percentage and a 204.82 passing efficiency.
Nick Wilson got his second consecutive start and made the most of it, scoring early on and having several key runs throughout the game. Wilson burst through a hole midway through the second quarter for a 28-yard touchdown run.
Wilson finished with 171 yards on 29 carries. It marks the third time in as many games that the true freshman has racked up a 100-plus yard performance on the ground. Wilson has rushed for over 100 yards in every game that he has played in at Arizona.
The performance marked the 20th straight game that the Wildcats have had a player rush for triple digits. It matches the longest streak for any FBS program since Nebraska's dating back to 1996.
Tyrell Johnson was a highly-touted weapon when he signed with Arizona two classes ago. After having to enroll at Milford Academy for the year, Johnson finally made it to campus and had his first real splash with the Wildcats against the Wolf Pack. The freshman only caught two passes, but one of them was a big one. Late in the first half, Solomon found Johnson for a 35-yard connection that ended with the freshman receiver celebrating in the end zone.
Following up on his impressive performance last week, Cayleb Jones had a huge night. Solomon's favorite target for the night, Jones caught a career-high nine passes for 116 yards, including a pair of scores from 22 and 24 yards out.
With Jones' and Wilson's performances, it marked the fourth straight game that the Wildcats had two players with triple digits in receiving and rushing.
Not to be outdone, Cody Fajardo led his Nevada team throughout the night, keeping them within striking distance. The senior completed 29 of his 39 pass attempts for 321 yards and three touchdowns. Normally known for his rushing ability, the Wildcats were able to keep him contained to 44 yards on 18 quarterback keepers.
Arizona's defense struggled mightily at times throughout the night, but came up big on the final drive of the game. One of the bright spots for the defense was linebacker Scooby Wright III, who finished with 14 tackles with one being in the backfield. He only slightly out-shined the play of fellow linebacker Jake Matthews, who had ten tackles and a sack for the Wildcats.
Time of possession was a major stat for the Wildcats for the first time this season. Arizona likes to run as many plays as possible in the game, but was unable to do so, thanks to several of Nevada's long methodical drives. The Wolf Pack's 36 minutes to Arizona's 24 minutes led to the Wildcats running just 64 plays after averaging 85 plays per game so far this season.
Although the Wildcats' defense put itself in good position to kill Nevada's drives throughout the night, execution on third down was lacking for the Wildcats. The Wolf Pack was able to convert on eight of their 16 third downs. That includes the conversion of a 3rd and 18 and a 3rd and 14. Those two drives ended with a touchdown and a field goal.
While the Wildcats' defense gave up plenty of yards through the air, it is worth noting that the defense set out to stop the run and did a fantastic job at it. Nevada rushed 40 times in the game, but only amassed 108 yards on the ground. In comparison, Arizona rushed 38 times and combined for 229 yards rushing.
Samajie Grant came out strong, but was knocked out of the game with an injury early in the second quarter. He was a major contributor on the initial drive, but when he left the game, he had already accumulated four catches for 50 yards.
Arizona continued to hurt itself with penalties on Saturday. After only having one at halftime, the Wildcats had six in the second half and ended with seven total for 47 yards. Most of the penalties were small, such as the Wildcats' three "ineligible receiver down field" penalties, but they also had a defensive holding that extended a drive for the Wolf Pack and led to a score.
A week after settling for four field goals, Arizona had had no problem finding the end zone against Nevada. The Wildcats were only officially in the red zone once, but didn't have any drives stall deep in enemy territory.
Saturday's game marked the first time on the season that the Wildcats lost the turnover battle. After having an interception in each of the first two games, Arizona failed to force a turnover against Nevada, but did have the Solomon interception.
Arizona has started 3-0 under Rich Rodriguez for three consecutive years. The last head coach to start 3-0 in his first three years with the program was Jim Young spanning 1973 through 1975.
Nevada opened the game with a 19-play, 70-yard drive that resulted in a field goal. It was the first time Arizona has allowed an opponent to score first all season. It was also the longest drive allowed by Arizona, in terms of plays, since the Wildcats allowed Oregon to go on a 19-play, 99-yard drive in 2010.
Nevada had three drives that lasted longer than six minutes. Arizona's longest drive of the night lasted 3:37.