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Arizona Football Gameday: Northern Arizona

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin sat next to defensive back Scottie Young Jr. during the team’s flight back from Hawaii, discussing what went wrong in the Wildcats’ opener.

“He wasn’t very happy about his performance,” Sumlin said. “I think he was embarrassed. We talked about what was going to happen this week from a leadership standpoint, from a personal standpoint, and how to get things fixed.”

Young wasn’t the only one searching for answers.

Kicking off Sumlin’s second season at the helm, Arizona came up short in Hawaii, suffering a disheartening 45-38 loss to a school from a non-Power Five conference.

The Wildcats struggled with the Rainbow Warriors’ quick passing game, got little pressure on the quarterback and came up a yard short of a potential tying touchdown when quarterback Khalil Tate was tackled on the final play.

Arizona had a scheduling quirk, getting a bye after playing what was called Week Zero. That gave the Wildcats a week to prepare for Saturday night’s game against Northern Arizona, with the schedule about to get a whole lot harder after that.

“The message is, whatever you are, whoever you are, if we don’t know what we’re going to get out of you consistently, then you’re gonna hurt this football team,” Sumlin said. “And then you can stand on the sideline next to me.”

A few more things to look for when Arizona hosts Northern Arizona on Saturday night:

The heat has been turned up on Arizona head coach Kevin Sumlin (center) and defensive coordinator Marcel Yates (left) after the Wildcats allowed nearly 600 yards to Hawaii in a season-opening loss. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)


Northern Arizona has a new coach for the first time in 22 years.

Jerome Souers retired after 21 seasons last year and the reins were handed over to Chris Ball, the defensive coordinator at Memphis the previous three seasons and a former Arizona State assistant. He also was on the same staff with Sumlin under Mike Price at Washington State.

The Lumberjacks got the Ball era off to a good start, beating Missouri State 37-23 last week at home.

NAU is 1-14 all-time against Arizona and lost 62-24 in the last meeting in 2017 so the ’Jacks will definitely see an uptick in competition from their opener.

“We just got to go down there and worry about ourselves,” Ball told reporters in Flagstaff. “We need to play our game. We got to take care of the ball. We got to get the ball back for our offense. Go down there and play with great effort and execute the game plan.”


Arizona had plenty of defensive breakdowns against Hawaii, allowing nearly 600 yards of total offense.

It started up front.

Arizona had a hard time getting any pressure against Hawaii’s quick-hitting pass game. The Wildcats had one sack and the only other time they got to the quarterback, it led to a penalty.

Arizona will need to be better against NAU’s Case Cookus.

He could have transferred and played right away after graduating but opted to return to the Lumberjacks as a fifth-year senior.

Cookus threw for 306 yards with a pair of interceptions against the Wildcats two years ago and threw for 290 yards and two touchdowns against Missouri State.


Northern Arizona’s biggest defensive task will be to keep the duo of Tate and J.J. Taylor in check.

Tate struggled with injuries last season but got his senior year off to a solid start, accounting for 482 yards and three touchdowns against Hawaii. Taylor was seventh nationally with 1,434 yards rushing last year and may see the ball more often against NAU after being held to 67 yards on 14 carries in the opener.


More AP college football: and

David Kelly

David Kelly is the weekend sports anchor at KVOA in Tucson. He is a 28-year veteran of the sports broadcast business.

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