Wildcats eyeing a better start against Hawaii
TUCSON, Ariz. — Arizona has a first-half problem.
Two games so far this season and twice the Wildcats have stumbled through the first half before finding something in the second. Arizona lost the first slow-starter against BYU, then pulled it together in time to rally past Grambling State last weekend.
Arizona gets one more chance to get it right Saturday against Hawaii, its final game before the Pac-12 season starts.
"Once you get in a rhythm offensively, by getting some first downs and some momentum, it’s easy to take off from there," Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. "We haven’t done that in two (first) halves in a row. We just have to execute better when we come out of the gates."
Arizona needed nearly three quarters to get going against BYU in Glendale, scoring two fourth-quarter touchdowns before giving up a late scoring drive in an 18-16 loss.
The Wildcats followed with another stumble-out-of-the-gate performance against Grambling State, putting themselves in danger of being on the wrong end of one of college football’s biggest upsets against the spread. Arizona found its rhythm in the second half, though, knocking off the Tigers 31-21 after entering as a 45-point favorite.
The Rainbow Warriors head to Old Pueblo as 24-point underdogs after being routed by California and Michigan before beating Tennessee-Martin last weekend.
Hawaii could be the perfect opportunity for the Wildcats to get off to a fast start, allowing an average of 28.6 first-half points through three games.
"We have to try to do something to get us in a rhythm offensively, where we can get some first downs and gain some confidence," Rodriguez said.
A few more things to look for when the Rainbow Warriors meet the Wildcats in the desert:
ROAD WARRIORS: The Rainbow Warriors usually log plenty of travel because of their location in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, but this season has been a grind even for them. Hawaii opened the season in Australia against Cal, went to Ann Arbor eight days later, then back to Honolulu a week after that. That’s more than 20,000 miles through the first three games, more than some teams travel an entire season.
ARIZONA UNDER CENTER: Sophomore Brandon Dawkins may get his second straight start this week. Junior Anu Solomon earned the starting job out of training camp, but injured his knee during practice the week after the opener. Solomon is listed as questionable on Arizona’s injury report and Rodriguez could decide to start Dawkins even if he’s ready to go to prevent further injury. Dawkins threw for 223 yards and a touchdown on 15-of-29 passing and ran for 97 yards and a pair of TDs on 16 carries against Grambling State.
HAWAII’S TURNOVERS: Hawaii’s offense has had some success against good opponents, averaging 25 points per game. What has hurt the Rainbow Warriors is turnovers. Hawaii has eight turnovers in three games, including five interceptions by quarterback Ikaika Woolsey. Arizona forced six turnovers last week against Grambling State, so ball protection will be a big key for the Rainbow Warriors.
RUNNING DEPTH: Arizona listed Nick Wilson and Orlando Bradford as co-starters at the beginning of the season, Wilson got the bulk of the carries the first two games. Bradford was dismissed from the team on Wednesday after being charged with four counts of aggravated assault and three counts of kidnapping, meaning freshman J.J. Taylor will move up the depth chart. He has one carry and two punt returns so far this season.