Scott Moran from Arizona Desert Swarm was kind enough to answer some questions about his Arizona Wildcats ahead of the BYU Cougars’ matchup with them Saturday night. Read on to find out Arizona’s true feelings about facing a team coming off of a rough season, Khalil Tate, food and activity suggestions in Tucson and more.
VTF: Let’s start with the elephant in the room. BYU was terrible last year, going 4-9. Do you feel like you guys as fans, or the team, are viewing this as a cupcake game?
ADS: I think the general feel around this game is that it’ll be a pretty good matchup, but Arizona has the advantage. BYU has been good to great for basically 40 years, and even though last year was rough the Cougars still have some scary pieces. The expectation here is that Arizona will win, but I think most people are expecting it to stay close for at least a while.
VTF: You’re returning a lot of defensive starters this year, but your defense allowed a lot of points last year… Do you think the defense will be shaky still, or much improved?
ADS: Somewhere in the middle is more likely, since even if the defense improves we’ll still be shaky! Almost everyone who contributed on D last year is back, but we’re still built on sophomores on that side of the ball. Being in a fast-paced offense and playing teams like Washington State and Arizona State also doesn’t help our defense’s reputation. If the Wildcats allow 40 points per game this year it’ll be a massive disappointment, but at the same time I don’t expect a bunch of sophomores in the Pac-12 to play fantastic defense. The goal this year is just be competent on defense so the offense doesn’t have to carry the entire load.
VTF: Khalil Tate. An amazing athlete. But one could say that his production slowed towards the end of the season last year. What would you say the reasons for that were? What are you expecting from him in week one?
ADS: I think eventually his reputation caught up to him, so defenses focused a lot on stopping him at the end of 2017, similar to how Jalen Hurts was forced to keep the ball on RPOs for Alabama last November. He was also hurt in the ASU game last year, and you can make a strong case Arizona wins with him behind center the whole game. Ultimately, the general vibe around Tucson is that Tate can walk on water, and I can see him not living up to unfair expectations. That being said, Khalil Tate is still Khalil Tate, and I bet he shows out in week one and hopefully the rest of the season. As long as he stays loose and keeps improving his passing, it’s easy for me to see him doing well this season, even against a defense as strong as BYU’s.
VTF: If you had to pick the biggest weakness your offense has, what would it be?
ADS: Offensive line, without question. Arizona is loaded at the skill positions, with J.J. Taylor in the backfield and Tate’s top four targets last year returning. The only place on either side of the ball where there’s a lot of new blood is the O-Line, and there is a lot of new blood. The only two returning starters are either suspended for the first two games (Layth Freikh) or battling knee problems (Nathan Eldridge). RichRod recruited the offensive line pretty well, but starting five lineman for the first time is very scary, especially in an offense predicated on running and deep throws.
VTF: BYU’s fanbase travels extremely well. What are some food or activity suggestions you’d give to visiting fans?
ADS: Two quick tips for visiting Tucson: 1.) Tucson is a lot bigger than you probably think (about a million people in the Tucson metro area), and we’re not immune to traffic around campus and downtown, especially on game days. Be prepared for that. 2.) It’s summer in the desert, so PLEASE stay hydrated! We have lots of fountains and bottle refill stations around town, so definitely use them, and don’t forget sunglasses and sunscreen either.
Now, in terms of food or activities, I’d recommend Frog and Firkin on University Boulevard just west of campus. It’s a great place to hang out and get some pub food pregame. If you’re headed straight to the stadium after eating there, follow University Boulevard onto campus and walk down the Mall. It’s the hub of our campus, surrounded by palm trees and red brick buildings, and looks amazing at sunset. If you’re looking for something fun to do and you have a car, I’d recommend driving up Mt. Lemmon northeast of town and going for a hike. It’s a lot cooler up on the mountain and there’s a lot of great trails. Hopefully we can show you guys how great Tucson and U of A is!