After Hail Mary, Arizona’s Solomon focuses on his mistakes
TUCSON, Ariz. — By the time Austin Hill had come down with that 47-yard prayer vs. California, Anu Solomon couldn’t move.
Yes, he "was in total shock," but that was not why he was immobile. Former quarterback B.J. Denker, now a student assistant, tackled him amid all the excitement. (You can see that in the highlight video above.)
"I couldn’t do anything," Solomon said Tuesday as UA returned to practice for the first time since coming from behind to beat California 49-45 on the final play in Arizona Stadium. "I was just like, ‘Did he catch it? What’s going on?’ It was kind of a lucky thing, but those things rarely happen, so we can’t be in those kind of situations."
Although he had never won by a Hail Mary — or Hill Mary, as the play has been dubbed — Solomon had visualized the play before it happened. Still, when the ball left his hand, he said he thought he had thrown it out of bounds. It would have been consistent with the night (after a number of overthrows), except for in the fourth quarter, when he helped Arizona storm back from a 31-13 deficit with 36 fourth-quarter points.
What a game Solomon had: a school-record 73 passing attempts, a school-record 47 completions, a school-record 520 yards and five touchdowns. And, um, two interceptions.
"He made mistakes he shouldn’t make," Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said.
And Solomon knows it.
"I went through the numbers, and the one number that just kind of disgusted me, that stood out there, were the two picks," Solomon said. "They were freshmen mistakes."
As Arizona quarterbacks coach Rod Smith said, Solomon, a redshirt freshman, needs "to elevate his game" in the future.
"But he understands that … he gets it," Smith said. "He makes corrections really fast."
As bad as Solomon played in the first three quarters, Smith said his young quarterback was equally as good in the fourth quarter.
More importantly, Smith said Solomon, "doesn’t get fazed by the moment." That’s the positive side of being a guy who has been described as "chill." That worked against Solomon at times last season when he was redshirting, as he didn’t look as competitive as coaches wanted to see.
The coaches never stopping trying to put pressure on him — and all the quarterbacks — in practice.
"I’m sure there are times we do and I’m sure he hates our guts (when that happens)," Smith said, laughing. "But it’s for a purpose. It’s never personal. It’s to get him prepared for when he gets into that stadium. It’s easier than practice."
Typically, Rodriguez has a 24-hour policy of getting over a loss and celebrating a win. With Arizona having a bye week, he made an exception.
He extended the celebration to at least 48 hours, but on Tuesday, it was all but a memory. On Monday, the team watched the game again and "got ready to move on." The focus now will be on playing at Oregon next Thursday night. Tuesday’s practice was a "refocus" on what is up ahead.
On the other end of the spectrum, California has to live with the thought of knowing Arizona came back from near-death to win the game, scoring 36 points in the final quarter to pull off the stunning 49-45 win. On Sunday, Cal returned to practice.
"The good thing about football is that you don’t have much time to wallow around in your self-pity," California coach Sonny Dykes said. "When our players showed up on Sunday they were a little somber, but by the time we cut them loose after practice we made our corrections and learned from it and moved on."
Arizona freshman running back Nick Wilson missed some of the second half after getting injured against California, but UA has a capable option in Terris Jones-Grigsby, who scored a fourth-quarter touchdown to keep alive Arizona’s rally vs. California. Jones-Grigsby, a senior, was the season-opener starter before suffering an ankle injury. He had missed two games before Cal, until getting the call when Wilson went down.
"I don’t know if he’s 100 percent but he’s close to it," Rodriguez said of Jones-Grigsby. "I’m sure he was anxious to get in there to make a play or two."
Rodriguez said he feels he has two starting tailbacks. "They will probably share equal time or close to it," he said.
Rodriguez said he figured he’d get a good night’s sleep on Saturday, but because it was a late game it was hard to sleep at all. He figured he didn’t get to sleep until 5 a.m.
"It was just the opposite," he said of sleep.
He did get a lot of attention, getting a number of messages from friends across the country.
"It was good to get that. I don’t mind (because) usually when you lose you don’t get any," he said with a smile.
Special teams player Trevor Ermisch is out for the season after suffering a broken right arm in Saturday’s game. Rodriguez said the surgery was successful, and UA might look into seeking a medical redshirt for Ermisch, who missed a part of last year after suffering an ACL injury.