60 minutes of Arizona has gone from a just a saying that is used by the Arizona football team, to the identity of a team still with hopes of a Pac-12 Championship appearance.
The Wildcats for most of the season have looked every bit of their ranking of 15 in the College Football Playoff poll this week but have also had times where even they would admit that it’s crazy based on how they had played that they were able to sneak away with a win.
Case-in-point from what was seen last week in the Wildcats’ win over Washington where they were outplayed for much of the game but took advantage of mistakes, made plays when needed and literally played for 60 minutes to get the last second points to win it.
“After the game the other night I was talking to Jonathan Hayden and I was like, it’s crazy that coach says Arizona plays for 60 minutes because we have really gotten out of the craziest games ever,” mentioned Arizona wide receiver Samajie Grant. “We rely on that 60 minutes a whole lot. Everything we do is about that full 60 minutes.”
That mentality and the results in the end reflect a confidence of a program that has looked to have turned a corner for success this season.
“It builds our confidence a lot because even if we have horrible games and we are able to pull out the win it shows that if we play together as a team and don’t quit, we will give our opponents a tough time,” Grant added.
For Grant in particular, steadily improved play over the last couple of weeks has been critical in the Wildcats wins over Colorado and Washington despite slow starts by the team. In the first four games of conference play, he had a total of eight catches for 93 yards and no touchdowns. The last two weeks, he has a combined ten catches for 168 yards and two touchdowns.
Grant states that he has worked himself into a role that quarterback Anu Solomon looks for in certain situations.
“All of us receivers and quarterbacks have been working to build a consistency with one another,” Grant explained. “We have an understanding for the roles we each play in certain situations. If he is looking to make a play down field or down the sidelines, he is looking Cayleb (Jones). On short yard situations where we need somebody to make make somebody miss, I am that type of guy.”
“Anu knows where the ball needs to go to get the yards that we need to get,” he added.
The great depth at the wide receiver position for the Wildcats has been well documented. Cayleb Jones has emerged as the number one threat but Austin Hill, Trey Griffey, DaVonte Neal, Nate Phillips and David Richards along side Grant are not far behind. All play important roles. It has been this depth which has helped the sophomore take a big step forward in his game this season.
“It makes me better because obviously I don’t want to lose my spot,” Grant stated. “Every day I am working to get better. I don’t go to practice just hoping to get it over with. I’m not going to lie, I don’t like practice, of course not. But when I get there, I play excited, I try to make it as fun as I possibly can and with the other receivers around me pushing me, they make me a better player every day.”
Up next, a make or break game for the Wildcats against Pac-12 South for Utah in Salt Lake City. The Wildcats are in a position that any loss would knock them out of the race for the Pac-12 South crown. Winning out plus a UCLA win over USC and then a UCLA loss to Stanford the following week is the exact formula needed to make that happen. So the primary focus is the first step to make that a reality which is a date with the Utes, who also are on of the top teams in the conference this season.
“What makes Utah standout on defense is that they hustle,” Grant explained. “I’ve noticed that all 11 guys run to the ball. I’ve seen plays where their secondary has had a missed tackle but they have a linebacker right there who is trailing because he never gave up on the play and he ends up making the stop.”
Grant and the Wildcats kick things off against Utah from what expects to be a cold Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday at 1:30pm.