Arizona defeated Hawaii 47-28 on Saturday night due in large part to J.J. Taylor's 168 yards and one touchdown. With Nick Wilson injured and his health status unknown, Taylor is going to be the lead back moving forward.
J..J. Taylor has a nice pickup on his first carry. Arizona has him switch sides and Jacob Alsadek and Christian Boettcher do a nice job of sealing their block and Taylor reads the defense well to pick up a nice chunk of yards on his first play from scrimmage. Taylor doesn't get much on his second carry, which looked to be a counter of sorts. Cody Creason completely missed his block and Josh Kern wasn't there to help, so there was nothing going on that play from the start. Taylor's third carry of the drive also happens to be one of his best. Josh Kern and Jacob Alsadek do a great job of mauling their guy and Taylor has daylight right away. He comes across a safety in the open field. What's remarkable here is that Taylor never slows down at all and the safety had absolutely no chance.
Taylor only gets one carry on this drive and it doesn't go for much. Arizona gets beat right off the line and the blitzing linebacker picks up Taylor easily.
Jacob Alsadek, Freddie Tagaloa, and Nathan Eldridge do a decent job here, but Hawaii is able to stay disciplined and make the tackle after a few yards. On the next play, the defensive end stays home and instead of taking his chances holding onto the ball, Brandon Dawkins hands off to Taylor. On the following play, Arizona sends Trevor Wood across the line of scrimmage to block the end and Boettcher basically leaves his man unblocked to hit the second level right away. That allows Taylor to run right up the middle and he proceeds to break an arm tackle. On his last play of the drive, Taylor never had a chance. Hawaii blitzed a linebacker and no lineman on Arizona even slowed him down, so the play was basically over when it was snapped.
Josh Kern does a nice job of sealing his defender and Taylor then uses his speed to go right by the safety and make him look foolish. On the next play, Taylor goes in motion before the snap and Hawaii basically ignores him in a terrible defensive sequence. By the time the defender picks him up, Taylor already has too much open field, but what Taylor does to those two Hawaii defenders is incredible. Nathan Eldridge does a nice job of pushing his man out of the way to allow Taylor to get a few yards on his next carry. The next carry is a victory for the offensive line. Freddie Tagaloa and Layth Friekh dominate the line of scrimmage. Taylor cuts inside and if he doesn't fall on his own feet, he very likely scores a touchdown. Hawaii shows blitz on the next play and Dawkins looks to the line for an audible. Dawkins should have held it on this play behind the blocking of Trevor Wood, but doesn't, and Taylor doesn't pick anything up.
Christian Boettcher comes up with a huge block right away. Taylor then beats his man to the outside and Trey Griffey does just enough with his man to give Taylor the room he needs to score.
Tagaloa and Boettcher do a nice job here and Taylor is right behind them to pick up a handful of yards. Friekh has a nice block on the next play, but the impressive aspect here is Taylor spinning off his defender and keeping his balance to pick up about six more yards. On the next play, Josh Kern can only hold his man so long and Taylor is tripped up, but still get a handful of yards. His last carry of the game isn't great, but there is still ability shown as he loses his balance, but keeps upright by putting his hand down, thus enabling him to get the first down.
Analysis: Wow. If we had to choose one word to describe Taylor's performance, that would probably be it. His effort was even more impressive on second viewing for numerous reasons. For starters, there can't be many backs in the entire country that have the balance he does. It's not easy to make cuts without slowing down at all and he used more successful spin moves than most players will use in an entire season.
We know that you have to take opponent into account and we did say before the game that Hawaii was one of the worst tackling teams in the country, but that shouldn't take away from how foolish Taylor made them look. He is a different type of back than Nick Wilson is and it's not as if Wilson lost his job on Saturday night, but there's a good chance Wilson is going to be out. Even if he's not, Taylor should at least split carries with Wilson and add a few difference dimensions to Arizona's offense. The Wildcats used a two back set a few times with Tyrell Johnson and it would be intriguing to see Wilson and Taylor back there.