Know the Enemy 2022: Arizona Wildcats
Brian Pederson of Arizona Desert Swarm answers our questions about the new look Wildcats
Which player on offense should Cal fans know about?
Arizona has so many key new players on offense it’s hard to narrow it down to just one, but we’ll go with quarterback Jayden de Laura. A transfer from Washington State, he was the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year in 2021 (and threw 3 TD passes in a win at Cal). And so far this season, he’s been as good as advertised, with 748 passing yards and 6 TDs.
He’s also thrown four interceptions, three coming in the loss to Mississippi State when he was running for his life but seemed allergic to taking off downfield. That changed against North Dakota State, where his scrambles kept drives alive, and his ability to elude the rush and keep plays alive has been huge.
Which player on defense should Cal fans know about?
Another transfer, former USC 4-star prospect Hunter Echols. He’s been great coming off the edge and has shown great instincts against both the run and pass. His strip sack of the NDSU quarterback last week came after Arizona failed on a 4th down play from its own 33.
Who’s one under-the-radar or X-factor player who could swing this game for you?
Safety Jaxen Turner has been Arizona’s most-improved defender from a year ago, and a big part of his improvement has come from learning to be more pragmatic. In the past he was always looking to make the big hit, which led to some targeting ejections, but this season he’s playing the ball more and that’s led to an interception and a strip-and-scoop
What does Arizona need to do to win the game?
Stay on schedule on offense and not turn the ball over. The Wildcats had one penalty (on defense) and no giveaways against NDSU, the first time they’ve done that since 2008.
What does Cal need to do to win the game?
Exploit the same run gap issues that Arizona had last week and keep de Laura in the pocket.
How do you see the game going?
All signs point to another one-score game, like the previous 7 in the series. Arizona has already played on the road this season, winning at San Diego State in Week 1, so it shouldn’t be intimidated by the hostile atmosphere. Expect at least three lead changes, with the Wildcats winning 26-23.
Whom do you most want to punch in the face?
Adam Duritz. Not because he’s a Cal superfan, but because Counting Crows haven’t made a good song in like 15 years and that’s way too long.