Arizona will ride rare momentum into Saturday’s game against Cal in the Pac-12 opener for both teams in Berkeley, Calif.
The Wildcats (2-1) are coming off a 31-28 victory over FCS No. 1 North Dakota State and have doubled their win total from last season. Arizona’s only triumph in 2021 was a 10-3 decision against Cal, which had to leave several key players at home due to COVID-19.
Cal (2-1) is close to full strength this time around, although it is still smarting from a tough 24-17 loss at Notre Dame. Bears coach Justin Wilcox was still answering questions this week about a controversial offside call that led to the Fighting Irish’s first touchdown.
“I don’t even know how to respond to that one,” Wilcox said.
Cal will try to move forward with a solid defense led by inside linebackers Jackson Sirmon and Oluwafemi Oladejo, who have combined for 60 tackles. The Bears are allowing 17 points per game, but Arizona’s offense might be the best they have seen so far.
The leader of Arizona’s revamped roster is Washington State transfer quarterback Jayden de Laura, who added a new element to his game last week. Reluctant to run in the first two games, de Laura ran 10 times for 50 yards while also completing 20 of 28 passes for 229 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.
“We’re not really (a run-pass-option) team, but we’re able to use the quarterback in the running game, and I think (de Laura) does a good job of ball-handling,” Arizona coach Jedd Fisch said. “He’s a creative kid. So he does all sorts of things.”
Cal has been modest on offense, averaging 23.7 points behind quarterback Jack Plummer, whose brother, Will, is a backup QB for Arizona. Jack Plummer has completed 67 of 111 passes for 730 yards with five TDs and two interceptions.
The Wildcats have scored more than 30 points twice this season after doing so once last year.
Arizona has won six in a row against the Bears, who enter the game with a five-game overall home winning streak.