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Behind Enemy Lines: Arizona Wildcats Head to Boulder

How do the Wildcats look in Jedd Fisch’s first year?

UCLA v Arizona Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Brian Pederson from Arizona Desert Swarm was nice enough to give us Buff fans some information ahead of the GAME OF THE CENTURY on Saturday afternoon. The 1-4 Colorado Buffaloes, averaging 8.5 points per game against FBS competition, face the 0-5 Arizona Wildcats. And the Buffs are favored by a touchdown. How did Arizona get to this point and can they pick up their first win? Brian answers that and more below:

1. Jordan McCloud injected some excitement into the offense and then immediately joined the IR list. What was he bringing to Arizona and how is he different than Saturday’s starter, Gunner Cruz?

More than anything, McCloud had a proven track record from his time starting at South Florida. His arrival in June, rather than for spring ball, was a key contributor in him not being the starter from the outset. McCloud was more mobile than Cruz, who is more of a traditional pocket passer, and he also was more willing to look for second and third options when the first wasn’t there. Cruz had a good game against BYU as the starter but was very tentative a week later and that cost him his job, so the hope is that after seeing what the other QBs did out there he can be more confident in himself.

2. As you mentioned, Arizona has not won a football game since 2019, against Colorado. What has gone so wrong for the Wildcats?

Two words: Kevin Sumlin. Firing Rich Rodriguez, despite five bowl games in six seasons, was a classic example of thinking you can do better than pretty good, and bringing in the recently fired Sumlin—despite his win total decreasing every year at Texas A&M—was a case of thinking that one team’s trash is another team’s treasure. Sumlin clearly didn’t have the drive to put in full effort, and the 2020 team quit on him. Those that stuck around for Jedd Fisch, in general, weren’t very good, so it’s going to be a long rebuild. Like, 3-plus years the way things are looking right now.

3. Jedd Fisch has quite the rebuilding job. How do Arizona fans grade his performance so far?

I think a lot of them are starting to wonder if they got sold a bill of goods based on all the great strides Fisch made in the offseason when it came to engagement with former players, the community, etc. But none of those things should have been expected to translate into immediate wins, not when the overall talent on the team is still far behind the rest of the league. The one thing they can truly grade him on is the quarterback situation, since that’s the position he’s worked with most in college and the pros.

4. Who are the players to watch for Arizona on offense? How about on defense?

Wide receiver Stanley Berryhill is on pace to set the single-season school record for receptions, and getting him the ball as often is possible is key. He’s the only true playmaker on offense right now, with everyone else just kind of there. On defense, edge Mo Diallo and interior linemen Trevon Mason and Kyon Barrs have all been solid, the transfer-heavy linebacker corps is holding its own and the cornerbacks have been stellar (though teams aren’t throwing much on Arizona since it can’t stop the run).

5. Who wins this game, and why is it Arizona?

Arizona only wins this game if it avoids finding new ways to lose it. The Wildcats have no trouble moving the ball until they get into the red zone, when they implode with penalties and other miscues and squander easy scoring chances. They also give up too many big run plays, so if they can keep Colorado from breaking off big gains the losing streak will finally end.