Monday, September 30, 2019

Grant Gunnell Carries Arizona Past UCLA, 20-17

Posted By on Mon, Sep 30, 2019 at 8:51 AM

click to enlarge Freshman quarterback Grant Gunnell threw for 351 yards and a touchdown in Arizona's 20-17 victory over UCLA on Saturday, Sept. 28 - MIKE CHRISTY | ARIZONA ATHLETICS
  • Mike Christy | Arizona Athletics
  • Freshman quarterback Grant Gunnell threw for 351 yards and a touchdown in Arizona's 20-17 victory over UCLA on Saturday, Sept. 28
The tide of Saturday's Arizona-UCLA football game shifted on the pinpoint precision of prodigal freshman quarterback, Grant Gunnell.

Gunnell, who finished Saturday's clash with UCLA, which the Wildcats won, 20-17, with 352 passing yards, one passing touchdown, and perhaps most importantly, zero turnovers.

Gunnell, who wasn't made available to the media on Saturday night, hit his biggest pass of the night on a wheel route by running back Darrius 'Bam' Smith, resulting in a 75-yard touchdown to give Arizona a 17-13 lead with 8:17 left in third quarter.

Sumlin said that Gunnell, who made a spot start for Khalil Tate, who missed Saturday's contest with a hamstring and ankle injury, handled the situation as well as possible.

"The first thing you look at with a true freshman quarterback is, the number one thing was poise. How he handled the situation," Sumlin said. "I thought, he was very mature about how he handled things, how he went about his business."

The Wildcats (3-1, 1-0) sealed their victory on Saturday in the waning seconds of the contest, when UCLA junior kicker, JJ Molson, missed a 38-yard field goal that would have tied the game.

The win is the Wildcats' first over the Bruins since the 2017 season.

"It's a team effort. It's always, I got to say it all the time, we were more about us than the opponent and I think we've learned a lot about each other," Sumlin said. "...We tried to get our best players on the field and give our team the best opportunity to win. And that's what coaching is all about."

The theme of the night amongst Sumlin's players revolved around the player that never spoke, with offensive and defensive stalwarts singing Gunnell's praises.

Redshirt senior wideout Cedric Peterson, who finished with three catches and 44 yards on Saturday, praised Gunnell's ability to stay in the moment on Saturday, sparking the team's surge on Saturday.

"He did great man. He had to step up. He knew what he had to do. That's how the offense, we had to make sure that we were all on the same page for him," Peterson said. "It was his first game he showed great strides. So we're proud of him."

Perhaps the greatest surprise of the night was the play of Arizona's defense, which held UCLA to 445 yards, while forcing a turnover in the win.

Junior linebacker Tony Fields II, who had 10 tackles in the team's win on Saturday, said the Wildcats' effort on Saturday night was one of the best that he's seen in his three years in the desert.

"I believe it was one of our off best all around as a full team game, I've seen since I'm in Arizona, I feel like everybody stepped up," Fields said.

Looking forward

The Wildcats will look to extend their three-game win streak on Saturday, when they travel to Boulder to face the University of Colorado.

The game, which will kick off at 1:30 p.m. Tucson time, is the Wildcats' first trip to the Centennial State since 2017, when Arizona beat Colorado, 45-42.

Perhaps the greatest memory from the team's 2017 trip to the Front Range was Tate's 327 rushing yard performance, a record for Football Bowl Subdivision quarterbacks.

Saturday's contest will be carried by the Pac-12 Network. 

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