Arizona Football Today: UTEP

Wildcats plans to keep ‘slinging it’ vs. the Miners

Jedd Fisch confers with QB Jayden de Laura and WRs coach Kevin Cummings during Arizona’s season-opening win over NAU

TUCSON — Arizona quarterback Jayden de Laura has been intercepted five times in two games, but coach Jedd Fisch says the Wildcats will stay aggressive when they host UTEP on Saturday night in a nonconference game in Tucson, Ariz.

De Laura threw four picks last week in a 31-24 overtime loss at Mississippi State, and he threw one interception — plus lost a fumble — in the season-opening 38-3 victory over Northern Arizona. He also was intercepted 13 times last season, the most in the Pac-12.

“Nothing is going to change,” Fisch said. “We’re going to keep slinging it. We’re going to keep running our offense.”

Arizona (1-1) is taking some of the bad with a lot of good from de Laura, a junior in his second season of starting at Arizona after being the 2021 Pac-12 Offensive Freshman Player of the Year. He is completing 71.4 percent of his passes (50 of 70) this season for 627 yards and five touchdowns. He also has rushed for a team-high 91 yards and two scores.

A couple of his interceptions last week were on deflected passes.

“I didn’t see any of those throws that he made being careless or reckless,” Fisch said.

An improving Wildcats defense will be taking aim at UTEP (1-2), which is coming off a 38-7 loss at Northwestern. The Miners’ victory came against FCS school Incarnate Word, 28-14, on Sept. 2

UTEP was tied 7-7 at halftime at Northwestern last week before giving up 31 unanswered points.

“We didn’t respond to the adversity at all. Things kind of went downhill real fast,” said Miners head coach Dana Dimel, an Arizona assistant coach from 2006-08.

UTEP’s Gavin Hardison has completed 44 of 67 passes for 494 yards, with four touchdowns and four interceptions. The Miners have a ground-heavy attack (64 percent running plays), led by Deion Hankins, who has rushed 46 times for 255 yards.

The teams last met in 2017, when Arizona won 63-16 in El Paso, Texas. The former Border Conference and Western Athletic Conference foes have met 52 times, with Arizona leading 39-11-2.