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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Football Notes: ‘Cats will lick wounds during bye week

Hobbled and weary, the Arizona football team has taken a much-needed break during the past few days to start its bye week. After the Wildcats earned a sloppy 27-13 win against UCLA at Arizona Stadium, it was clear they needed to get healthy before a difficult back-end schedule.

“”I think it’s a good week to get healthy,”” said UA head coach Mike Stoops. “”I think it comes at a good time to get us ready for this stretch run.””

After a home game against Washington State, the No. 23 Wildcats will play at California, host No. 10 Oregon, play at ASU and close the regular season against No. 4 USC in Los Angeles — all in consecutive weeks. To come out of that slate with a winning record, the Wildcats will need to be at full strength — something the team hasn’t been for the entire season.

Stoops said running backs Nic Grigsby and Greg Nwoko are both dealing “”week-to-week”” with shoulder sprains sustained during the win against the Bruins. Grigsby re-aggravated an injury he sustained against Oregon State on Sept. 26.

“”Guys get injured. It’s a physical game, it’s a fast game and it’s a grind,”” said offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes. “”There aren’t many teams that are going to go through a year, especially at the running back position, and not get guys banged up.””

On top of that, starting quarterback Nick Foles is still battling flu-like symptoms and defensive end Brooks Reed continues to nurse an ankle injury. However, Stoops said he thinks all players will be available for the Washington State game.

“”We need to get Brooks back. He’s such a big part of our defense, and that’s really been a huge part missing for us, is consistent pressure off the edge,”” Stoops said. “”If we can get him back to 100 percent healthy, that’s going to improve our defense, I think.

“”Hopefully we can get healthy this week, mentally and physically, gain our weight back and gain our strength, and get rested to play this last five.””

Team proud of ranking but not satisfied

After nearly nine years, the Arizona football program got some national recognition. It finds itself ranked in the Associated Press (No. 23) and USA Today/Coaches Poll Top 25 Polls (No. 24). The Wildcats also own a No. 22 ranking in the BCS Poll, but all those accolades aren’t what they’re after.

“”We have five games left and we want to be there in the end, not in the middle,”” Stoops said. “”I think we want more of ourselves and our program and if we continually win, we will climb. I think our players will take pride in it and want to stay there. To continually stay there in the top 20 is something that is a goal of ours, and we’ve worked awfully hard to get to this point.””

A win against Washington State would put Arizona at six wins on the year — a mark that would make the team bowl-eligible. After last year’s bowl-eligible clinching win against the Cougars, the team dropped some close games to the Oregon schools and could have gone to a better bowl game. This year, the Wildcats won’t be satisfied with just a postseason appearance.

“”We are on week-to-week seasons and I think our players really understand that a lot better now than they have in the past,”” Stoops said. “”We haven’t accomplished anything or any of our goals up to this point. We have a long way to go. We just want to keep playing.””

Kink in kicking game

For the second consecutive game and third time this season, kicker Alex Zendejas missed an extra point attempt. The past two games, the Wildcats’ kicker missed the point on the team’s second touchdown of the game, but made all of the following kicks. Stoops said the missed kicks are a cause for some worry, but he expects Zendejas to get back on track.

“”You have to be reliable and have a kicker who you feel like you can go to to win games, and that’s something that comes through consistency in practice, day in and day out,”” Stoops said. “”I think Alex has the talent. He just needs to find the consistency. He’s got a strong leg, and when his technique is right, he can kick the ball as well as anybody.””

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