Arizona quarterback Brandon Dawkins broke off a 56-yard run against Washington late Saturday night, and national college football writer Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports was watching.
"Brandon Dawkins doing a pretty sweet Randall Cunningham impression in the 4th QTR," Feldman tweeted.
He was more right than he knew.
Cunningham, one of the earliest and greatest of NFL running quarterbacks, is before Dawkins' time, but the UA redshirt sophomore considers him something of a football hero and mentor.
"I have known him for some years now, and it's hard to take away just one thing (of advice) he's given me," Dawkins said after Tuesday's practice.
"But he's always been a guy who's been there for me, no matter what, calling and checking in and things like that. I definitely need to get into contact with him because I haven't talked to him in a couple of weeks. Ever since I was young, he's always helped me, watched film and critiqued me a little bit.
"He's been kind of an extra coach for me."
They met when Cunningham was a coach at a youth camp Dawkins attended. Dawkins and Cunningham's son -- Randall Cunningham II -- also become friends. The younger Cunningham is a former quarterback at Las Vegas Bishop Gorman High and is now an NCAA high jump champion at USC.
Dawkins says he admires current athletic quarterbacks such as the Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton, but he can also go to YouTube to find clips of Cunningham, who was basically one of a kind during most of his 16-year NFL career, especially his initial 10-year stretch with the Philadelphia Eagles.
"I always looked up to him and the things he did back in the day," Dawkins said.
Dawkins, at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, is roughly the same size as Cunningham during his playing days, with similar long strides, which likely prompted Feldman's comparison on Saturday night.
"I don't know about that yet," Dawkins said of looking like Cunningham, "but hopefully I can get there."
The redshirt sophomore is only a three-game starter as an injury replacement, but he's now become the main reason to pay attention to the rest of this Arizona football season, especially with freshman running back J.J. Taylor suffering a broken ankle last week.
The Wildcats are 2-2 heading into Saturday night's game at UCLA, and the schedule is such that things might get worse before they get better.
Who knows when erstwhile starter Anu Solomon will be available again, but it's increasingly difficult to see Dawkins relinquishing his starting role, unless he gets banged up or hits a prolonged slump.
"He has never lacked for confidence," Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said.
"But when you play and have some success -- and he can play a lot better, trust me on that -- that confidence is going to continue to grow. What he has to make sure is he continues to work on his game."
Here is what Dawkins has done so far:
He has completed 50 of 81 passes for 625 yards, with three touchdowns and one interception.
He has rushed for a team-high 391 yards, averaging 8.9 per carry, and seven touchdowns.
Then there's this: His 56-yard run against Washington was only his third-best play of the night.
He earlier ripped off a 79-yard run for a touchdown and, on the game-tying drive late in the fourth quarter, muscled his way out of a sack, kept the play alive toward the sideline and rifled a 54-yard deep pass to receiver Shun Brown.
Washington coach Chris Petersen was asked Monday at his weekly press conference in Seattle how hard it was to defend Dawkins.
"You saw it," he said.
"He's hard to defense because you get him defended and he can still make plays. You think you get angles on him and he can outrun angles. ... (Dawkins) is a problem. There's no doubt."
Dawkins is second nationally among quarterbacks in rushing. His 79-yard run was the longest in the nation this season for a quarterback.
Rodriguez said the staff doesn't want to "overburden" Dawkins by adding in too much of the offense, but he's making progress in his pre- and post-snaps reads. Dawkins struggled some in the passing game against Washington, but the Huskies might have something to do with that. They probably have the best secondary in the Pac-12.
"There are a few plays he would like to have back," Rodriguez said.
"He probably wasn't as sharp in some respects as the game before, but his ability to run and create something with the run game was a big lift. He was able to take what would normally be a 10- or 15-yard gain, and make it 40 or 50."
Not unlike a guy named Cunningham.
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