- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 8, 2014

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - Some quarterbacks go their entire careers without a Hail Mary-capped comeback or a road win over a top-10 team.

Arizona’s Anu Solomon has both - five games into his career.

A redshirt freshman, he emerged from a four-way battle in fall camp to start the season as Arizona’s quarterback and has played beyond his years in leading the surprising Wildcats to a 5-0 record and the No. 10 spot in The Associated Press poll.

“He’s got a certain poise about him that’s pretty neat for a redshirt freshman,” Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. “He’ll keep getting better. He’s still going to have mistakes but, gosh, this guy has a lot of those intangibles you want in a quarterback.”

Solomon and the Wildcats take on USC on Saturday night coming off a 31-24 win at No. 2 Oregon. That victory came one game after Solomon led a 36-point fourth quarter comeback against Cal, capped by a 47-yard Hail Mary to Austin Hill, for a 49-45 victory.

If he’s becoming a big man on campus, that’s news to him.

“I can’t tell because I have my hat down and I try to stay incognito and low key at times - at all times,” Solomon said. “So, I wouldn’t know at all.”

That’s a taste of the personality that coaches and teammates constantly describe as “chill.” That term was used pejoratively last season, when Rodriguez and staff searched for a way to light a fire in Solomon while he was redshirting.

“I had some reservations early on: Does this mean enough to him?” Arizona co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Rod Smith said. “We pushed him and prodded him, and that’s what all of last year was, trying to find out.”

Solomon was far from anointed when fall camp began, but he beat out three others by showing the best combination of knowledge, timing, accuracy and desire.

“Chill. That’s the word they use a lot. I’m just the chill guy in the back,” Solomon said. “But, you know, when the lights turn on, you have to flip the switch and be that hungry guy who just wants it all.”

Solomon threw for 217 yards in the second half in the win at Oregon, leading Arizona to the go-ahead touchdown late in the game. He set school records with 47 completions, 73 attempts and 520 yards, including 248 yards and four touchdowns in the Wildcats’ 36-point fourth quarter against Cal.

The stage hasn’t been too big for Solomon, and the past two games in particular are confidence-boosters that are rare and valuable for a young quarterback.

“After that first game, there was no doubt that he was chill - the same person off the field that he is on. That’s a great trait to have,” senior receiver Austin Hill said. “I have never really seen him not be calm.”

Solomon arrived at Arizona after being the centerpiece of the team’s 2013 recruiting class. As a four-year starter, he led high school powerhouse Las Vegas Bishop Gorman to a 57-3 record and four Nevada state titles.

Solomon is a modest running threat in the zone-read offense, but he has eight runs of 10-plus yards. His 348.2 yards passing per game rank seventh in the nation, and his passing efficiency rating of 153.1 is 27th nationally, third among freshmen.

“You see a lot of first-time starters who are making a lot of turnovers and egregious errors,” Rodriguez said. “He hasn’t made a lot of those.”

All of Solomon’s four interceptions have come in the first half, but, as Rodriguez has said, Solomon doesn’t “go in the tank” and is “unflappable.” He easily forgets, learns and moves on to a better second half.

That’s a big reason why the Wildcats are the only undefeated team in the Pac-12.

“It feels very good to be relevant, to be spoken of, to be recognized in the nation,” Solomon said. “We’re trying to make this program into something special. For that to happen, we have to keep doing what we’re doing. We can’t become complacent.”

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