Just as Arizona finally seemed to find the right quarterback for its offense, it has to start from scratch once again.
UA coach Jedd Fisch said Jordan McCloud, who was hurt early in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s 31-16 home loss to UCLA, suffered an injury to his right leg or knee that may keep him out indefinitely.
“Until we get the MRI and the X-ray we won’t know exactly, but I don’t think it’s a real short-term injury,” Fisch said. “I think we’ll have to see the extent of it here. I would expect to be able to give you more of an answer on that on Monday.”
Assuming McCloud cannot play next week, Fisch said Gunner Cruz will start Arizona’s Oct. 16 game at Colorado.
— Arizona Athletics (@AZATHLETICS) October 10, 2021
McCloud, making his second start with the Wildcats since transferring from South Florida, was 21 of 30 for 182 yards against UCLA, adding 21 rushing yards. Most of his incomplete passes were ones where he threw it away, a marked difference from his first start when he was intercepted five times at Oregon.
“I thought he was playing outstanding,” Fisch said. “I thought he played as good as he could have played. He threw the ball away when there was nobody open. He scrambled when there was places to scramble. The two zone read plays we called he converted on both of those. He made great decisions with the football. He was very accurate. It was really a shame that happened.”
Down 24-16, Arizona had just gotten a pass interference call to get to its own 40-yard line when Fisch said called for a deep pass that was supposed to go to Boobie Curry but the play was blown up and McCloud ended up fumbling on the play.
“They played man coverage, we wound up taking a sack, and with that a fumble,” Fisch said.
Cruz, who came on for McCloud and was 4 of 7 for 48 yards, would be making his third start this season and first since the 38-14 loss to San Diego State in Arizona’s home opener on Sept. 11. Cruz was pulled in the second half of that game for Will Plummer, who started the next week against NAU before McCloud replaced him late.
“As I will tell (the team) tomorrow morning or tomorrow afternoon when I see them, Gunner won the quarterback job coming out of camp,” Fisch said. “And Gunner started against BYU, completed 75 percent of his passes and threw for a lot of yards and moved the ball really well, and I would expect him to continue to do that. I would hope that he learned from these last couple of weeks of watching, in the same way that Jordan did. And with that I’m hopeful we can do a good job of getting him ready to play these next seven games, and go into Boulder and play really well.”
Cruz was 34 for 45 for 336 yards with a touchdown and an interception in the season-opening loss to BYU in Las Vegas, but against SDSU he was just 10 of 19 for 70 yards with a TD and a pick. He played on snap against Oregon, handing off while McCloud had to sit out a play after his helmet came off.
“We’re confident with whoever is at quarterback,” said Curry, whose two TD catches this year were on passes thrown by Plummer and McCloud. “At the end of the day we have to make plays and win ballgames with whoever’s at quarterback.”
Arizona’s only TD pass against UCLA was thrown by wide receiver Jamarye Joiner, who was recruited to the UA as a QB and played that position as a true freshman in 2018 before moving into the WR room. Fisch said he is not considering moving Joiner back to quarterback.