Before the season, Pima College coach Pat Nugent pointed to the defense as his biggest concern.

The offense had weapons, an experienced offensive line and two solid quarterbacks. If anything, that side of the ball excited Nugent.

But Saturday, the defense was solid, the offense struggled, and the Aztecs lost to Mesa Community College 41-20 at Kino Stadium.

“You’re never happy with a loss,” Nugent said. “We’re trying to get better here at Pima, we’re looking for wins. Nobody cares about just competing and knocking people in the face.”

The defense forced three turnovers, including a fumble recovery from Jordan Hughes in the first quarter.

It led to a 60-yard drive headed by quarterback Jack Nykaza. Kevionte Alexander 2-yard touchdown run gave the Aztecs an early 6-0 lead.

That would be the only time Pima would lead, though, as Mesa scored two touchdowns before halftime — missing both extra points — and the Aztecs headed into the locker room trailing 12-6.

The Aztecs had a chance to bring it closer, as safety Mitch Fischer had an interception with 50 seconds remaining in the second quarter, but the Pima offense couldn’t get anything going. Fischer, the younger brother of UA linebacker Jake Fischer, had another interception in the third.

“Mitch is a player,” Nugent said. “Mitch is a great football player that made plays tonight. The scheme for him really worked out.”

Things started going downhill for the Aztecs (1-2) in the third quarter, particularly on offense.

It started when backup quarterback Tyler D’Amore threw an interception, and ended when Mesa scored four more touchdowns the rest of the way.

By the time Nykaza ran 21 yards for a score at the end of the third, it too late. Shahid Hoover added a 3-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

“It was tough,” said Nykaza, who played at the UA last year. “We couldn’t figure out their defense. We had some drive killers where we’d put the ball on the ground or throw a pick, and it hurts because then we had to give it back to them and the defense got set up to fail.”