Surely, you’ve heard this cliché before: A football team that plays two quarterbacks actually doesn’t have one.
The implication, obviously, is that few teams would choose to play — or start — multiple quarterbacks if one of them performs adequately on a consistent basis. And in most cases, that’s true.
But in the case of Anu Solomon, Jerrard Randall and the Arizona Wildcats? Well, stay tuned.
Arizona will likely play both quarterbacks against the Washington Huskies during Saturday’s 8 p.m. game at Husky Stadium — as they already have at times this season — though UA coach Rich Rodriguez hasn’t stated outright which of them will start.
The feeling in Tucson seems to be that Randall, a fifth-year senior who transferred from LSU, could be the guy. He’s a legitimate running threat who averages 11 yards per carry and is second on the team with 639 yards rushing and five touchdowns.
Solomon started every game last year as a redshirt freshman and threw for 3,793 yards, and has started seven of Arizona’s first eight games this season (he missed UA’s 55-17 loss to Stanford due to a concussion). He completes 62.4 percent of his passes and has thrown 13 touchdowns and zero interceptions, and is regarded as the better passer of the two.
Randall doesn’t have those kind of passing numbers — in seven games, he’s completed 35 of his 66 attempts with four touchdowns and a pick — but he did go 11 of 16 for 137 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s 45-42 loss to Washington State, engineering a fourth-quarter comeback that came up just short.
“Jerrard has done enough to consider him a starting quarterback,” Rodriguez told reporters earlier this week.
Typically, a two-quarterback system would be more or less immaterial to the opponent’s preparation, because the offense’s scheme doesn’t change much from player to player. And while UW coaches say Arizona’s scheme stays mostly the same whether Solomon or Randall is in the game, the two do have distinct skill sets and are capable of different things.
“We’re well aware of it, but they do a great job of executing,” UW coach Chris Petersen said. “The other teams that have played Arizona were well aware of it as well, and really haven’t been able to slow ’em down too much.”
The two have helped Arizona average 6.82 yards per play, which ranks 13th nationally, and 41.8 points per game, which ranks ninth.
“Their offense isn’t dramatically different. I think maybe the pace of play is a little faster with Randall, and they obviously have quarterback runs — more of them — designed for him,” UW defensive line coach Jeff Choate said. “Even though the scheme isn’t different … they’re a little more focused on quarterback runs, keeping the ball in his hands, whereas with Solomon, they’re spreading it out a little bit and letting him throw the ball a little bit more.
“I think we’ve just got to have a heightened sense of awareness on quarterback runs when Randall’s in the game.”
Washington has a quarterback issue of its own, though it doesn’t rate as a controversy. Jake Browning, UW’s true freshman starter, missed last week’s game at Stanford due to a shoulder injury, and his status for Saturday’s game remains unclear.
Petersen said a week ago that there was “a big hope” that Browning could play against Arizona, but on Thursday declined to provide any kind of definitive update.
If Browning doesn’t play, the Huskies would likely start redshirt freshman K.J. Carta-Samuels, who made his first career start against Stanford and was 9-for-21 passing for 118 yards.