Roundtable: Cougars who shined in Arizona
Football got its first win of the season Saturday night in a 19-16 game at the Arizona Wildcats’ stadium. With game one under wraps, The Cougar sports staff detailed the players they think shined against the Wildcats.
Sports editor Frank Campos
Newly minted captain and defensive back Garrett Davis showed exactly why he was chosen to lead the team on Saturday night in the Cougars’ win against the Arizona Wildcats.
All night it seemed like he was making plays against the stuttering Wildcats offense, who managed only 371 total yards in Saturday’s game. This low number came just one week after Arizona posted 595 yards against Northern Arizona.
This was thanks in large part to the junior who made an immediate impact in his first game as captain. Davis recorded 11 total tackles and flashed signs of NFL ability during the game. He even came down with a key interception that helped stop momentum by the Wildcats late in the fourth quarter.
All-American Ed Oliver continued where he left off from his stellar freshman year against the Wildcats and came up with more than ten tackles, and a blocked kick in the game. His play was complimented well by Davis.
Davis has appeared in 26 games for the Cougars in his first two seasons with the team. He finished fifth on the team in tackles last season — 65 total — and was third among defensive backs in the AAC. Look for Davis to continue his stellar start against the Rice Owls next week.
Assistant sports editor Reagan Earnst
The player who stood out the most in Saturday’s contest was clearly sophomore Ed Oliver. The preseason All-American showed that 2017 could be even more of an impressive season for the Houston-native.
It’s hard to imagine that Oliver’s remarkable freshman season could be topped, but if Saturday is any indication, his sophomore year could be historic.
Per usual, Oliver’s motor was tireless, allowing him to make plays all over the field en route to tallying 11 tackles against the Wildcats. To add to his impressive showing, Oliver blocked a crucial Wildcat field goal try late in the game and forced a fumble on Arizona QB Brandon Dawkins that helped tilt the momentum in favor of the Cougars.
The sophomore never tires, despite making plays from sideline to sideline. Even on plays where he was initially blocked, Oliver found a way to catch up to escaped ball carriers.
The Wildcats were the first to see, but offenses will have their hands full all season attempting to block Oliver.
Without Oliver and the defense, the Cougars would likely face an 0-1 record.
Assistant sports editor Peter Scamardo
Senior running back Dillon Birden was key in the Cougars’ season-opening win Saturday night. As it became obvious the Cougars were simply playing not to lose, it was crucial for the running backs to make first downs so the clock could continue to run.
But in the game, Birden had some shining moments. He started the year off right with a big run down the left sideline, and his 33-yard-run was the longest of the night by anyone on the Cougars.
While also showcasing his speed, the 5′-10″ back showed he has power as well. After special teams nearly scored on a kickoff return, Birden barreled his way into the end zone from three yards out to end the first half. Birden’s run put the Cougars up by seven at halftime.
Birden has shown he can perform well when given the chance, none better than his three touchdown performance against Tulsa in 2016. Now that he is paired up with junior running back Duke Catalon, the Cougars have a tandem that should lead them to success come conference play.