When Arizona’s football team came to Boulder a year ago, the Wildcats were a mess at quarterback.
They had used three different starters in the first four weeks and lost one of them to a season-ending injury. A second QB suffered a season-ending injury in the 34-0 loss to Colorado.
A year later, it’s the Buffs (0-4, 0-1 Pac-12) who have started three different quarterbacks while trying to spark offense, and the Wildcats are in good hands with Jayden de Laura building the ship controls.
“Very confident quarterback, very experienced quarterback,” CU head coach Karl Dorrell said of de Laura. “I think he’s a big catalyst for their offense. He’s a really good player.”
CU visits the de Laura and the Wildcats Saturday in Tucson, Ariz. (7:30 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Network).
Last year, de Laura was Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year after throwing for Washington State for 2,798 yards and 23 touchdowns. He then moved to Arizona, where he helped change the Wildcats’ passing game (2-2, 0-1).
“He really brought that offensive life and confidence that you would want,” Dorrell said. “He’s an experienced player who knows how to read defences, he can extend plays, he has really good vision, he can move the fuses with his eyes. He does really, really good veteran moves and things that allow this offense to hit all cylinders. I’d say the quarterback really made a big difference for them.”
So far, de Laura has thrown for 1,149 yards and eight touchdowns, but he’s also had six interceptions.
De Laura’s favorite target was another transfer, Jacob Cowing. The former UTEP star has 28 catches for 386 yards and six touchdowns — he leads the Pac-12 in all three categories.
“(Cowing) is one of the best we’ve seen so far,” Dorrell said. “He’s probably most dangerous when the ball is in his hands and he’s in the middle of the game, so he has the ability to run after catching. We’re really concerned about what he can do.”
Led by de Laura and Cowing, Arizona is averaging 29.3 points, a big jump from a worst-ever 17.2 at the 2021 conference.
For CU, freshman Owen McCown will make his second start at quarterback.
According to Pro Football Focus, McCown was blitzed on 36.7 percent of his drop backs against UCLA — the most pressure put on a CU quarterback this season — and he’s been sacked five times.
Arizona has recorded just six sacks, but Dorrell expects the Wildcats to be chasing the inexperienced McCown.
“They’re going to make him prove that he can handle offense and make good decisions,” Dorrell said. “Does he have quick answers? Does he know where to go with football if it’s not about maximum protection? You will challenge him and he knows it. Until he proves his qualities in this league, that’s part of being a young quarterback, they’re going to challenge him.”
True freshman punter Ashton Logan will miss his second straight game with illness, giving walkable true freshman Trent Carrizosa another chance to prove himself.
Against UCLA on Saturday, Carrizosa averaged 46.2 yards on five punts and landed three inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. The Buffs allowed just seven yards on punt returns, giving Carrizosa a net average of 44.8 yards.
“He’s a talented boy that we’re really lucky to have,” said Dorrell. “Obviously he’s a walk-on and we picked him up in late summer. He’s so grateful to be here, but we’re really grateful to him because he’s really a talented kid. We feel like we’ve found a really good player.”
Logan has had mixed results this season, averaging 40.6 yards on 17 punts with four ending in the 20’s. Opponents had 86 return yards, giving Logan a net average of 34.4 yards.
Running back Jayle Stacks (shoulder) and receiver Chase Penry (bruised leg) both missed the UCLA game, but Dorrell said both should be ready to face Arizona. … Since McCown is left-handed, Dorrell said CU’s receivers need to adjust to a different spin on the ball than the Buffs’ other quarterbacks, who are right-handed. But he said it shouldn’t be a big deal because “they’ve been getting throws from him and right-handed quarterbacks, really all camp.” … Receiver Daniel Arias was named as one of 156 semifinalists for the William V. Campbell Trophy, the Honors top student-football-athletes who have “combined academic success, football achievement and exemplary leadership”. Jim Hansen of CU won the award in 1992.