Arizona Wildcats redshirt freshman QB Anu Solomon and true freshman RB Nick Wilson were big parts of a great 10-3 regular season, and can set up super sophomore years with a Fiesta Bowl win against Boise State on New Year’s Eve.
Both players finished in the Pac 12’s top five for yardage in their respective positions during the regular season. Wilson rushed for nearly 1,300 yards despite missing the contest against USC and being held under 30 yards three other times, two of which were Arizona’s other losses. Solomon was fifth in Pac 12 passing yards, however, his passer rating was second-lowest among conference QB’s who started every game.
The duo and Arizona’s overall record would have been even better without ankle injuries. Solomon’s happened late in the season and affected his mobility, although I don’t think it really would have mattered against a determined Oregon juggernaut in the Pac 12 title game. As mentioned, Wilson’s issues forced him to miss the game against the Trojans, which the then-undefeated Wildcats lost on a missed field goal. He struggled the next two games trying to regain his footing (pun intended), with just 18 yards against Washington State and 18 against UCLA. Arizona scored a season-low seven points against the Bruins, and those came on a penalty-assisted first drive of the game. The Wildcats didn’t lose again until the Pac-12 title game.
However, the Oregon thumping caused more than a few people to wonder about the duo’s ability to perform at high levels against top competition even with the injury issues. Solomon’s bothersome ankle was a good enough excuse for him to be lifted for redshirt senior for Jesse Scroggins after throwing for just 34 yards on 12 attempts. Wilson couldn’t do anything against the Ducks either, rushing 26 yards on 13 attempts for a whopping two yards a carry average.
Both will have to do a lot better than the Pac 12 title game combination of 60 yards and zero touchdowns to turn general football fans into believers for next season. The Fiesta Bowl becomes Arizona’s best chance as a team to show that the division title and New Year’s Six game invitation wasn’t just a one-year thing. Solomon and Wilson will probably make several 2015 preseason honors lists just by virtue of 2014’s regular-season performances. To be taken seriously as super sophomores, these phenomenal freshmen better start the New Year’s fireworks early.