1.) What surprised you in Arizona's opening-week win over UNLV?
The biggest surprise coming out of the Arizona-UNLV game was how well the offense was able to click with Anu Solomon, a redshirt freshman at quarterback. We knew that the offense would do well, but it did far better than that as the Wildcats combined for 787 yards of total offense and out 58 points on the board. Ten different receivers caught balls and nine players carried the ball for 353 yards on the ground.
Additionally, the front seven on defense played better than expected. There were some questions about several of the defensive positions heading into camp and a few still loomed heading into Friday's game, but the defensive line did an excellent job bottling up the running game and holding UNLV to just 119 yards on the ground.
2.) What is the biggest difference between Arizona's 2013 and 2014 squads?
The biggest differences between the years is with the personnel on both sides of the ball. Obviously, Arizona has a new quarterback in Solomon, but it is also breaking in new running backs, Terris Jones-Grigsby, Adonis Smith, and Nick Wilson. The Wildcats are replacing Ka'Deem Carey (and his 1,800 rushing yards) in the backfield and it isn't an easy task by any means. In addition, Arizona's receiving corps is boosted by transfers Davonte' Neal and Cayleb Jones, while welcoming back Austin Hill from a knee injury last season.
All of these new pieces are having a direct impact on how the Wildcats offense is being run. A year ago, quarterback B.J. Denker was limited to short throws and read option plays, but in the 2014 opener, Anu Solomon came out throwing downfield and the offense as a whole had a much better balance than the previous year.
3.) What will standout about the offense for Arizona on Thursday night?
Solomon will be the guy to watch against UTSA. It will be his first road game as a starter and it will be interesting to see how he handles the pressure. He had some noticeable jitters before the UNLV game and even overthrew several of his first few downfield passes. Solomon did manage to compose himself as the game progressed and finished with a freshman single game record 425 yards through the air.
Look for Solomon to try and establish a rhythm with his receivers early in the game and try to get comfortable. Once he got his first touchdown against UNLV, the floodgates started to open, so his first score on Thursday will be an important moment.
4.) What are we to expect defensively for the Wildcats?
When Rich Rodriguez got to Arizona, the cupboard was bare, to say the least. After a few recruiting cycles, he has finally established some depth on the defensive side of the ball and that has allowed Defensive Coordinator Jeff Casteel to open up the playbook a bit and get creative with his play calling. If the game remains close, look for the defense to pressure the quarterback with disguised blitzes out of the unusual 3-3-5 defensive scheme.
The defense played well in the opener, holding UNLV to just 13 points, but only forced one turnover late in the fourth quarter. The play calling was very vanilla and it will be interesting to see if the Wildcats show a few different looks against a much better offense on Thursday.
5.) The 2013 match up was fairly one-sided, what type of game do you expect and what is your prediction?
Arizona beat UTSA 38-13 last year and it would be hard pressed to have a repeat performance this season. Both teams are breaking in new quarterbacks and have some other question marks, but the Roadrunners have experience on their side with 36 seniors on the roster. I think the game is close for the most part, with the UTSA defense holding Arizona to field goals instead of touchdowns and finding a way to keep within striking distance.
Ultimately, I think the Wildcats just have too much firepower for the Roadrunners. The game is a one score affair heading into the fourth quarter, but the speed of Rodriguez's offense wears down the defense and allows Arizona to get a few late touchdowns to pull away.
Arizona 40, UTSA 24
Arizona Insider: 5 Questions
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