Brandon Dawkins downplayed the idea that something changed for him between Arizona’s loss to Houston in Week 2 and its dominant win at UTEP a week later.
His teammates, though, insisted something was different about the Wildcats’ quarterback. He had more confidence, swagger, focus.
But Utah is not UTEP.
Dawkins learned that pretty quickly.
The quarterback completed 24 of 42 passes for 248 yards and a touchdown, and rushed for a team-high 90 yards on 18 carries. But he committed four turnovers, one coming in the red zone in the final minutes and another — an interception — on the Wildcats’ final offensive play of the night.
“He was doing good, then he made mistakes,” UA coach Rich Rodriguez said. “He competes. He’s trying.”
Dawkins’ troubles began in the third quarter, when he threw his first interception in 100 pass attempts. Then he threw a pick-six to Utah freshman Javelin Guidry from Arizona’s 11-yard line.
Dawkins threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to receiver Tony Ellison with 2:44 remaining, and Arizona miraculously recovered an onside kick with 2:41 left. Given a chance to take the lead with a touchdown and armed with three timeouts, Dawkins fumbled the ball away on the drive’s first play.
The Wildcats got the ball back deep in their own territory with less than two minutes left, and Dawkins was picked again.
Dawkins’ 248 passing yards were his highest single-game total since he threw for 305 against Arizona State as a freshman in 2015, but that likely doesn’t matter. A good night against UTEP or Northern Arizona doesn’t mean much if you turn the ball over four times against Utah, or continue to struggle in Pac-12 play.
Win, and the quarterback usually is the hero. Lose, he’s vilified.
Entering the final drive, even with the turnovers, Dawkins said his confidence never wavered.
“My confidence level is always through the roof. No matter how I play,” Dawkins said. “The guys look to me for confidence.”
Pac-12 commissioner Scott talks stadium, upgrades
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott was in Tucson for the first time this season on Friday. After spending much of the day meeting with Arizona president Robert Robbins, athletic director Dave Heeke and various coaches in Arizona’s athletic department, Scott met with the media at halftime of Friday night’s game.
After the media session, he headed up to Tempe in advance of ASU’s Saturday night home game against Oregon.
The Star asked Scott about a couple UA-related related topics. Here’s what he had to say.
On Arizona’s struggle to fill the stadium with fans: “We try to work closely with our schools and one of the things we talk about when we’re visiting, what’s working well, what are the challenges, how can we help get bigger crowds? The marketing is done by the schools, not by the conference from a ticket sales perspective. We share best practice between our campuses. What’s working well? What’s not working well?”
On Arizona pursuing facility upgrades for the football program: “We help the schools benchmark on things like stadium size, ticket sales. But our schools are very active. It’s not unusual for them or an athletics director, other administrators, donors, to fly around the country and see what’s out there. Certainly, have a chance to travel to each of the other Pac-12 schools.
“There’s a lot of benchmarking that goes on. All of our schools, since our new TV deal has kicked in, has either had or are in the process of major investments in infrastructure.
“Something has happened here, I know there’s more they want to do. I discussed that with President Robbins today. I know he’s very keen to support further development and improve fan amenities so I think you will see more here.”