Arizona running back Gary Brightwell rushed for a career-high 141 yards on only five carries against NAU.

The Arizona Wildcats defeated NAU 65-41 in the home opener Saturday night at Arizona Stadium. Here are some pertinent notes, quotes and statistics:


* Arizona’s 65 points were its most since beating NAU 77-13 on Sept. 19, 2015. The Wildcats’ 51 points in the first half set a school record, topping the previous record for a half of 49 in a 70-0 victory over Idaho on Aug. 31, 2008.

* The Cats’ 720 yards of total offense were their most since producing 792 yards in that 2015 win over NAU. Dating to 1997, Arizona has now produced 600-plus yards of offense 14 times while topping the 700-yard mark three times.

* Arizona’s 431 yards rushing yards were their most since going for 442 at Oregon State in 2018. The Wildcats averaged nearly a first down per rush attempt, posting a mark of 9.4 yards per rush. It’s the highest per-rush average achieved by Arizona since going for 9.7 yards a pop in a 49-28 victory over Oregon State on Nov. 11, 2017.

* Arizona allowed 40-plus points for the fourth straight game. Opponents’ point totals during that stretch: 69 (Washington State), 41 (Arizona State), 45 (Hawaii) and 41 (NAU). The latter was the lone UA victory.

* Arizona intercepted NAU twice, giving the Wildcats eight takeaways in two games. That marks the most turnovers created by the Cats in their first two games since logging eight against Utah (five) and Ohio State (three) to open the 2000 campaign.

* Cornerback Jace Whittaker’s second-quarter interception was his third in two games, tying his career high set in 13 games in 2017.

* Tailback J.J. Taylor picked up 102 yards rushing against NAU, giving the fourth-year back his ninth career 100-plus-yard game. Gary Brightwell’s 141 yards led the team and established a new career high. They became the first pair of Wildcats to register 100-plus yards in the same game since they did it last year against UCLA.

* Brightwell’s 94-yard touchdown run tied for the second-longest rush in school history with Nic Grigsby, who accomplished the feat against NAU on Sept. 12, 2009. It was 2 yards shy of tying the longest run in program history, a 96-yard sprint from Trung Canidate against San Diego State on Oct. 4, 1997.

* After going for 3-58-2 vs. NAU, junior receiver Tayvian Cunningham is tied for the team lead with seven catches and leads the squad with 123 yards and two TD receptions.

* Redshirt-freshman tailback Bam Smith notched career bests with 84 rushing yards and two touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving).

* Receivers Drew Dixon and Thomas Reid III each score their first career touchdowns.


QB Khalil Tate on the state of the team entering next week’s game vs. Texas Tech: “I feel good. We aren’t satisfied for sure. We didn't play collectively as well as we should have. It’ll be really important for us this week to stress being more disciplined in all aspects. Really just making sure that we're well-rounded for this next game.”

Brightwell on the team scoring a record 51 first-half points: “It’s supposed to happen. I didn’t really think (anything) of it.”

Whittaker on whether the team proved anything to itself: “No. We know what kind of team we are. We know what kind of team we want to be. And we know we're not there yet. We're going to keep working towards that goal.”

UA coach Kevin Sumlin on what needs to be fixed defensively: “There's a myriad of things right now. Guys ran by us in the second half. You’ve got a lot of different guys in there, but still. These guys knew what the challenge was coming into this game. We couldn't get off the field again on third down.

“We’ve got guys running free back there with little to no pressure on the quarterback. Then, at the end, guys jumping into and out of gaps. They’ve got an experienced quarterback, but still, that’s not acceptable.”

Sumlin on freshman QB Grant Gunnell’s debut, in which he completed 9 of 11 passes for 151 yards and three TDs: “That's not bad. I don’t care who you are. I think most people would take that. For him to go in there in the second quarter when the game’s still going, the crowd’s up … he moved the team, he moved the ball.

“He was having fun. I thought the players responded when he was out there. Guys made plays for him. He looked pretty calm for a freshman. All in all with the operation, signals and things like that, for the first time out, I thought he was very successful.”

Sumlin on the team committing “selfish” penalties: “Selfish is things after the play. Drawing attention to yourself.

“Celebrate with your teammates. In a team situation, it's never about you. It's about us. That’s what it says down there. You're drawing attention to yourself. That's not all right. We're not gonna tolerate that.

“That selfish-type attitude bleeds over into other areas. We're counting on you to do your job. Those types of penalties hurt all of us. Trust me, that's getting fixed as we speak.”


* Arizona had 27 first downs; NAU had 26 (six by penalty).

* Arizona had 431 rushing yards; NAU had 69.

* Arizona averaged 9.7 yards per play; NAU averaged 5.9.

* Arizona had 11 penalties for 127 yards; NAU had four for 15.

* Arizona possessed the ball for 33 minutes, 39 seconds; NAU had it for 26:21.

* Arizona converted 9 of 14 third downs; NAU converted 9 of 15.

* Arizona converted 3 of 3 fourth downs; NAU went 0 for 1.

* Arizona’s average starting field position was its 23-yard line; NAU’s was its 26.

* Tate and Gunnell combined to go 23 of 28 for 289 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions.

* Linebacker Anthony Pandy tied for team-high honors with four tackles and led the team with two tackles for losses.

Contact sports reporter Michael Lev at 573-4148 or On Twitter @michaeljlev 


Michael is an award-winning journalist who has been covering sports professionally since the early '90s. He started at the Star in 2015 after spending 15 years at The Orange County Register. Michael is a graduate of Northwestern University.