Arizona Wildcats roll over Northern Arizona in opener
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Brandon Dawkins accounted for three touchdowns and Arizona ran for 506 yards to open the season with a 62-24 victory over Northern Arizona on Saturday night.
Arizona struggled to slow the FCS Lumberjacks and sputtered on offense in the first quarter before coming alive.
Shun Brown sparked the Wildcats with a 66-yard punt return for a touchdown and Dawkins got their offense going with his arm and his legs. The junior ran for 92 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries, and threw for 89 yards and a score to help the Wildcats win their 17th straight home opener.
Arizona had six different players score rushing touchdowns and fell just short of the school record of 511 yards rushing set in the 2016 season finale against Arizona State.
Case Cookus threw for 306 yards on 21-of-38 passing for Northern Arizona, but also had three turnovers. Cory Young ran for 115 yards and two scores.
The Lumberjacks had a rough trip to Tucson two years ago, losing 77-13 as Arizona set school records for points, total yards (792) and rushing yards (499).
Northern Arizona was much better defensively at the start and had no trouble moving the ball against Arizona’s young defense. The Lumberjacks broke off several long plays, including Young’s 58-yard touchdown run, and outgained the Wildcats in the first half.
The problem was turnovers.
Cookus lost a fumble when he was blindsided in the first quarter, setting up Wilson’s 46-yard touchdown run.
Cookus later tried to squeeze a pass into coverage near the end zone that was picked off by Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles at the 1-yard line. Flannigan-Fowles had another pick late in the half, setting up a 10-yard scoring run by Dawkins that put Arizona up 34-14 at halftime.
Dawkins raced off for a 66-yard touchdown to open the second half and Arizona’s defense, which gave up 203 yards in the first quarter, slowed the Lumberjacks before allowing a couple of late scores with the game out of reach.
Northern Arizona proved it can move the ball on offense, but can’t afford the turnovers, particularly against an FBS team.
Arizona did what it was supposed to against an FCS school, but there are still questions on defense.
Northern Arizona faces Western Illinois next Saturday.
Arizona hosts Houston next Saturday in what should be a high-scoring game.