We're introducing a new feature to WildcatAuthority.com in which we take a closer look at an aspect of Arizona's performance. This week, we're going to evaluate how Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon performed against BYU.
On the first play of the game, BYU only rushes three. Solomon rolls out, which is fine, but once he rolls out he seems to rush things despite not having any real pressure. It's hard to know if the ball was thrown away or if the pass was intended for Trey Griffey, but either way it's not a successful play. On second down, BYU sends a blitz and Arizona chooses to send the running back out, this leaving him unblocked by design. Solomon does a nice job of escaping the pressure, but chooses to throw it away. He had three wide receivers wide open in the middle of the field and a few of them expressed frustration as Solomon didn't even look their way. On third down, Solomon is unable to find an open receiver and chooses to give it to the safety valve in the middle of the field, which is probably the right decision. Arizona proceeds to punt.
The first passing play of this drive should have been pass interference. It was close, but Nate Phillips was hit right before the ball touched his hands. On second down, Solomon makes a really nice play by finding a gap and escaping pressure, hitting Trey Griffey in stride. It's one of his better passes of the game. On the next play, he finds Griffey again after escaping pressure. However, on the ensuing play, Freddie Tagaloa completely lets his man beat him off the snap and Solomon has no chance. Arizona punts.
On first down, Solomon has a nice play to Samajie Grant. He took his time and read the defense, completing the pass. On the next pass play, Solomon fails to read one of the BYU defenders and runs himself into trouble. Once he does, he fails to find a receiver. It looked as if Wilson would have had a nice gain with a correct read. On 3rd and 7, Solomon has Griffey as long as he steps up. He passes on the open receiver and takes a sack instead, killing the drive.
With the blitz crashing from the outside, Solomon doesn't read him at all and automatically puts himself in danger. He's able to avoid the sack and hit Griffey for a nice pickup. On second and five, Solomon makes a nice play and finds Nate Phillips open in the middle of the field. Solomon then proceeds to find Nate Phillips on first down on a play that did not develop at all from the start. The offensive line didn't give Solomon much time to work and it looked like he was going to that option from the beginning. Moving to 2nd and 14, Solomon does a nice job of making his progressions, but throws it a bit too hard. In reality, that ball probably should have been caught. It's now 3rd and 14 and BYU rushes three. Solomon can't find an open man and instead of running or even throwing it out of bounds, he chooses to throw it into triple coverage for an easy interception. He actually had Grant crossing, but waited way too long and by the time he made the throw, there was no longer any options.
On second and eight, Solomon rolls out and finds Phillips. It's a nice play and probably one of the smoother ones of the first half in terms of ease. Solomon goes deep on 1st and 10 and BYU is called for pass interference. Even without the penalty, it is going to be a tough catch, but Arizona gets 15. On the ensuing play, Solomon throws a quick strike to the outside. The ball isn't where it should have been, but it could have been caught. On 2nd and 19, Gerhard De Beer is unable to block his man and the pocket collapses almost immediately. Solomon does a nice job of recognizing this and steps up, hitting Phillips for a nice completion. BYU sends a blitz on 2nd and 10 and Solomon makes a quick read to Josh Kern on the outside for a small pickup. It's now 3rd and 4 and Francis Bernard isn't even trying to hide the fact that he is blitzing. Solomon doesn't make a quick read and runs backward as opposed to taking the sack nearly ten yards up from when he does. It costs Arizona field goal position and points in the first half and is one of the more critical mistakes he made all game.
This first down throw might be the best Solomon made all game. Griffey has to catch that ball and Solomon probably couldn't have placed it any better. On third down, Solomon quickly rolls out and finds an open Griffey for the first down. After two run plays, Arizona has 3rd and 7. Solomon has a receiver on his left side and correctly tells him to run past the marker. The issue there is that it takes too long and Solomon gets sacked. Although it's tough for a quarterback to hang onto the ball that long, the receivers are likely at fault as well.
Solomon finds Phillips for a quick completion on first down. He makes a mistake of running backwards for a loss. The play was a straight forward one and basically a run play, but it went wrong with Phillips running backwards after being hit. Once again, this time on 2nd and 11, Solomon doesn't recognize Bernard off the edge. He's able to step up and escape pressure, but falls short of the first down marker and Arizona eventually punts.
On first down, Solomon makes the right read and finds Shawn Poindexter for the first down and his first career catch. Solomon makes a decent read on the next play, but throws it off his back foot and fails to complete a pass to Poindexter. Arizona has 2nd and 10, but the receivers are unable to get open and Solomon gets tunnel vision once he starts running and the receivers finally do get some separation. He does a nice job of gaining some yards and getting out of bounds. A little later, the offensive line gives Solomon a ton of time and he finds Tyrell Johnson wide open in the middle of the field for a first down. Solomon makes a nice read on the next play as well and finds Johnson again. Arizona would eventualy score on a running play.
It is a designed roll out and Solomon is unable to find a receiver under pressure, but his decision to throw the ball out of bounds is fine. Arizona moves to 3rd and 7. Solomon has time, but overthrows Johnson horribly. A replay reveals Johnson was pushed a bit early in the route, so it's difficult to see who to blame. Still, the height of the ball makes us think Johnson wouldn't have caught it even if he doesn't fall.
Solomon could have gone with the easy play in the flat, but went through his progressions and found Nate Phillips instead on a nice play. On the next play, the pocket disappears almost right away and Solomon sees it, running for a few yards up the middle. Solomon proceeds to do a nice job of avoiding the rusher and hits a receiver on the sideline. Soon after, Nick Wilson runs for a touchdown. On the two-point conversion, Solomon rolls out, which is fine. However, instead of planting, he throws on the run and off his back foot. The ball never had a chance to reach the open receiver.
What we learned: When we watched the game live, we thought Anu Solomon played a below average game. Upon cutting video and going through the game a few times, our opinion stands. It wasn't that Anu was inaccurate because we would be surprised if any quarterback doesn't miss a few throws. The biggest issue Solomon had was with his vision. Only a handful of times did he makes his progressions and when he did, he was successful.
Instead, Solomon often focused on a receiver right after the snap and hit him for a short gain. Other times, Solomon simply missed open receivers while on the run. In addition, he mistimed the pressure on the defensive line throughout the game. Solomon often got rid of it too quick and without setting his feet, which is something he's just not good enough to do.
There were frustrated receivers throughout the game because Solomon missed them, especially in the middle of the field. You can say what you want about Solomon's limitations, and there are plenty, but it usually has more to do with his physical ability than his mental.
There's ways that the coaching staff can work around Solomon's physical limitations. Let's be honest, it's been doing it since he arrived on campus. However, if Solomon is not going to be able to succeed in the mental aspect, there's very little defense to playing him.
It's hard to bench him after his performance against BYU because the coaching staff believes he is ahead of Dawkins in what they care about the most, which is command of the offense and overall knowledge of what they want. Rodriguez said it in his presser Monday and he will likely keep saying it until it's not an issue.
Maybe the staff eventually says that Dawkins' physical talent outweighs his mental ability, but if that was the case he would be starting right now. It will be interesting to see how the coaching staff handles everything moving forward because you have to assume Solomon will play well the next two games.
Do they give both quarterbacks a chance and the better performer is the one that starts and plays most against Washington? Do they go forward with two quarterbacks through the UW game? Is it Solomon's job until the staff just can't defend going with him anymore?
Our guess is that it's the latter, but the staff definitely has options and Solomon is going to have to play much better than he did against BYU.