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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “No beatdown, but that’s OK”

    UA tight end Rob Gronkowski rises for a catch while trying to evade the hands of UCLA
    UA tight end Rob Gronkowski rises for a catch while trying to evade the hands of UCLA

    As the Arizona football team trotted off the field with fans celebrating and people chanting players’ names, the atmosphere was something different – but not new.

    It was a feeling the team experiences only once a year. It was Homecoming.

    For the third consecutive year, the Zona Zoo student section rushed the field following an Arizona victory on Homecoming, and though this year’s 34-27 win over UCLA (5-4, 4-2 Pacific 10 Conference) Saturday afternoon at Arizona Stadium may not have been as big an upset as the previous two years, it still may hold the same precedence.

    “”Homecoming, man – it is just a good thing for us, I guess,”” said UA wide receiver Mike Thomas. “”For some reason we always come out on top during Homecoming. I guess the environment really helps us out.””

    But Arizona’s goal was to come out firing.

    The Wildcats (4-6, 3-4) used a no-huddle offense on their first possession to surprise the Bruins’ defense, and though Arizona came away with only a field goal, the tempo had been set.

    After allowing UCLA’s Matt Slater to return the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, Arizona went on to score 27 first-half points.

    Just two weeks after Arizona was on a verge of a possible quarterback controversy, the Wildcats were backed by a surging Willie Tuitama, who continued to make strides.

    After throwing for 510 yards and five touchdowns in last week’s 48-41 victory over Washington in Seattle, he continued his impressive production streak, completing 21-of-36 passes for 341 yards with three touchdown passes.

    He totaled 851 yards passing, eight touchdowns and only one interception in an eight-day span.

    “”The offense grows in confidence each game,”” said UA head coach Mike Stoops. “”Tuitama is an excellent athlete, and he has been able to get the offense into great places.””

    The Wildcats’ passing game has been effective due to Tuitama’s ability to spread the ball around to all of his different options.

    Four players had more than 50 receiving yards: tight end Rob Gronkowski (94 yards, touchdown), Thomas (92 yards), receiver Delashaun Dean (56 yards) and running back Chris Jennings (55 yards, touchdown).

    “”It felt good in the first half to come out firing,”” Tuitama said. “”This was big for us, real big.””

    The Wildcats extended the lead to 34-14 on a 27-yard touchdown strike from Tuitama to Gronkowski on their first drive of the second half. But in Arizona’s case, the second half is never void of at least some excitement.

    Revived by scrambling fourth-string quarterback Osaar Rasshan, the Bruins scored a touchdown and two field goals to come within seven.

    UCLA had a chance to tie the game with its last possession with just under three minutes remaining, deep in its own territory, but the Bruins were unable to move the chains.

    “”That is just the way the game plays out,”” Tuitama said. “”You never have all 60 minutes where everything goes your way, so you have to learn how to fight back and bounce back when you have to.””

    With UCLA sitting in a tie for second place in the conference entering the game, the

    Bruins still had hopes for a potential Rose Bowl Berth. The team was wearing bracelets that said “”Finish Pac-10 Championship.””

    After the loss, the Bruins will now leave Tucson with their chances of a Pac-10 title all but in shambles.

    “”This was another unfortunate game,”” said UCLA head coach Karl Dorrell. “”No one feels good with the circumstances we are in.””

    The Wildcats have two games remaining on their schedule – both against teams ranked in the top nine nationally. Arizona would have to win both to potentially reach its first bowl game since 1998.

    “”We just have to keep on winning,”” said running back Nicolas Grigsby. “”We are trying to be the team we know we can be now. Right now, we are hoping to get into a bowl-game situation.””

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