In looking back at the University of Arizona Wildcats’ opening victory over the Toledo Rockets, there were many positives that the team can be proud of based on the way the game unfolded.
They showed offensive prowess in their quick and effective ball movement and demonstrated the ability to gain yardage through the air and on the ground. They played solid bend but not break defense and made key stops and sacks when it became necessary to do so.
They got stellar play from quarterback Matt Scott, who demonstrated his leadership by posting big numbers and making great plays in the waning moments of regulation and in overtime. He threw for 387 yards, ran for 74 yards, threw for 2 touchdowns and posted a quarterback rating of 145.9. Although UA fans aren’t counting on Scott as a Heisman contender, he certainly played well in the season debut.
Many fans could nitpick and find reasons to be concerned. For one, the Wildcats needed overtime to beat a well coached but inferior Toledo team and they never seemed to take control of the scoreboard. Also, they tallied three turnovers and over fifty yards in penalties and seemed to stall out offensively upon entering the red zone.
However, fans should not worry about these problems. Although Toledo is a lesser opponent, they are not a pushover. In fact, last year they finished with a record of 9-4, barely losing to Ohio State, posting wins over Syracuse, Ball St. and Temple and even winning the Military Bowl against Air Force.
Although the Wildcats’ sloppy play might seem alarming, fans should relax, because it was the first game of the season where turnovers, penalties and red zone struggles are all too typical. Keep in mind that in the NFL, teams have four games to get out the kinks. For Rich Rodriguez and the Arizona Wildcats, there are only four quarters to fix their mistakes before taking on offensive juggernaut Oklahoma State.
If there could be any cause for concern for Arizona’s chances this season, it would be in the kicking game. Although making all of his extra point attempts and even booting through a 26 yarder in the first half, John Bonano missed from under 30 yards twice in the second half. One of the misses came as time expired in regulation and was as point blank as a game winning kick attempt could be.
Obviously, the founders of the sport of football found the kicking game important enough to name the sport FOOTball, and if you look at historical career scoring leaders in the NFL, you might notice that they are all kickers. Also, many games are won or lost on field goals and typically, the best teams have solid, reliable kickers. Yes, these sometimes diminutive, often goofy players that we so humorously ridicule are dramatically important to a team’s success.
If the Wildcats want to have any sort of success this season, the coaching staff should focus their practices on getting the kicking game in shape for the rest of the season. John Bonano should be practicing during any waking hour he has where he is not in class, sleeping or at an official practice, so he doesn’t make the same mistakes he did against Toledo. Hopefully, Bonano can put this game in his rear view mirror and improve. If he can be the hero instead of the goat, then the Wildcats will have a good season.