Wildcats’ Dawkins redeems himself in a rout of UTEP
EL PASO – Brandon Dawkins silenced his critics for at least one night.
The Arizona quarterback, whose miscues had Wildcats fans in an uproar all week, turned in perhaps the best performance of his career Friday at UTEP.
Dawkins accounted for six touchdowns as the Wildcats drubbed the overmatched Miners 63-16 in front of an announced crowd of 22,133 at the Sun Bowl.
After struggling in a heartbreaking loss to Houston, Dawkins authored the complete game his detractors have been seeking since he took over as the starter last season.
“He showed me the competitor that I always thought he was,” UA coach Rich Rodriguez said. “That’s the one thing about Brandon. I’ve always said he’s a competitive guy. It’s important to him – probably more than he lets on at times.
“He saw that there’s so much spotlight on that position, which is natural. Guys that play that position know that. He probably heard it quite a bit. That’s OK if it fueled him. You could tell he was real serious.”
Dawkins completed 18 of 21 passes for 155 yards. He rushed for 133 yards on 14 carries. His 86 percent completion rate, three TD passes and six total touchdowns were all career bests.
“Was it six?” Dawkins asked sheepishly afterward. “It was fun.”
As for the notion that Dawkins redeemed himself under the Friday night lights, he didn’t see it that way.
“Football’s not a one-week game,” he said. “We’ve got multiple weeks to get better. I’m far from my peak, so I’m just trying to get there.”
Teammates said they saw a different Dawkins this week. Cornerback Jace Whittaker could see it in Dawkins’ expressions and his demeanor.
“He proved a lot to everybody,” Whittaker said. “I know everybody had a lot of bad things to say about him, but the guy works hard. He’s going to continue to work hard.”
Of course, in the what-have-youdone-for-me-lately world of college football, Dawkins will be tasked with doing it again next week against Utah. The Utes have been one of the better teams in the Pac-12 since they joined the conference. UTEP (0-3) is among the worst teams in the nation.
Dawkins can’t do it alone. His teammates provided him with the sort of support Arizona (2-1) will need to contend for a bowl bid.
Like Dawkins, Shun Brown converted the plays that literally slipped through his fingertips in last week’s loss to Houston.
Dawkins’ second touchdown pass came on a 36-yard strike to Brown in the second quarter. The play mirrored the seam-route pass they couldn’t complete at the end of the Houston game.
Brown then turned in the highlight play of the night – a 63-yard punt return for a touchdown with 5:34 left in the first half. Brown started up the middle, then veered left. A killer spin move near the sideline sent two pursuing Miners stumbling to the turf.