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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Cats ground up Cardinal in win

    UA running back Chris Jennings (28) dives for some extra yardage after being hit by Cardinal defensive backs Tim Sims (14) and Brandon Harrison (23) during the second half of Arizonas 20-7 win Saturday at Stanford. Jennings rushed for 89 yards on 17 carries in the contest, including a 16-yard touchdown to put the Wildcats on the board.
    UA running back Chris Jennings (28) dives for some extra yardage after being hit by Cardinal defensive backs Tim Sims (14) and Brandon Harrison (23) during the second half of Arizona’s 20-7 win Saturday at Stanford. Jennings rushed for 89 yards on 17 carries in the contest, including a 16-yard touchdown to put the Wildcats on the board.

    PALO ALTO, Calif. – Even as the Arizona quarterback carousel continued to turn, the offense finally clicked.

    With backup quarterback Adam Austin – playing for a concussed Willie Tuitama – sidelined midway through the game, third-stringer Kris Heavner managed a suddenly successful Arizona running game in guiding the Wildcats (3-4, 1-3 Pacific 10 Conference) to a 20-7 win over Stanford (0-7, 0-4) Saturday night at Stanford Stadium.

    “”We’ve been in a very frustrating position in the last three games and most of the season,”” UA head coach Mike Stoops said of his team’s recent struggles on the ground, which included three straight losses with negative yardage. “”So it’s good to see us finally create some space for those guys to run. …That’s something we haven’t done pretty much all season.””

    Both Chris Henry and Chris Jennings found the end zone by the time the first quarter ended, with each running back finishing just shy of 100 yards by the time it was all said and done (94 and 89, respectively). The team’s 220 yards on the ground were the most against a Division I-A opponent this season, and Henry’s 16 carries were the most he had gotten since he carried 13 times in the season-opening win over Brigham Young.

    “”When I get the ball in my hands, I’m going to do my best every time. That’s what I bring to the table,”” Henry said. “”When I’m given the opportunity, I produce to the best of my ability.””

    Third-string back Xavier Smith also contributed finishing with 56 yards on 12 carries.

    “”This means the offense can run the ball and that the offense knows they can run the ball,”” Smith said.

    Said Stoops: “”All our backs showed up. They all contributed.””

    Kicker Nick Folk added a field goal in each half, from 45 and 24 yards, respectively, to cap the Arizona scoring.

    Austin went 6-of-8 in the first half as Arizona jumped out to a 17-0 lead before he injured his left knee on his ninth pass while throwing an interception late in the half.

    Cardinal defensive back Wopamo Osaisai, the school’s record-holder in the 100-meter dash, returned the pick 72 yards for Stanford’s only points of the afternoon.

    Austin, who had to be helped off the field, wouldn’t return. His status was uncertain after the game, with a tear possible but not likely.

    “”I don’t think it will need surgery, from what I hear,”” Stoops said. “”That could change by the time they examine him back home.””

    Added co-offensive coordinator Mike Canales: “”He was having such a great game. If he stays in, we may have scored 40.””

    With Austin out, Arizona was content to pound the ball up the middle and eat clock.

    Heavner, who started for Arizona as a true freshman in 2003, finished the first half without attempting a pass as Arizona reeled off seven straight runs up the middle to Henry, who finished the half with 68 yards on 11 carries.

    The trend continued in the second half, with Heavner attempting – and completing – just four passes.

    “”You only need to score one more point than what the defense gives up,”” said Dana Dimel, Arizona’s other co-offensive coordinator. “”That was an important aspect of the game, too, so we really tried to stay to that concept.””

    The light workload suited Heavner, who started 14 games at Arizona early in his career before briefly transferring to Baylor.

    “”If we win, and I don’t throw any passes – a win’s a win. Nothing can beat a win,”” he said. “”If I throw for 500 yards and six touchdowns, and we lost? It doesn’t matter. A win’s a win.””

    Early in the first half, the Arizona offense did as it pleased, scoring on three of its first four possessions to take the 17-0 lead with just over 10 minutes to play in the second quarter because of the strong ground game.

    “”There was definitely a lot of running room,”” Henry said. “”The offensive line …gave us some room to run, and that’s what we did.””

    Added center Blake Kerley: “”We’re going to run the ball, hell or high water.””

    The Wildcats took advantage of the Cardinal defense early, marching 63 yards down the field on the first drive of the game in just over four minutes, capped by Jennings’ 16-yard cutback, which gave Arizona the lead of 7-0.

    The score was Arizona’s first on the ground all season against a Division I-A opponent, but it would only be the first of the night.

    Six minutes later, defensive end Jason Parker’s strip of Stanford backup quarterback T.C. Ostrander – forced into action after starter Trent Edwards went down in the game’s opening minutes – gave Arizona the football on the Cardinal 39-yard-line.

    Henry broke two tackles up the middle on an 18-yard dash three plays later to put Arizona up 14-0 on its longest scoring play of the year with 3:40 to play in the first quarter.

    The two runs set the tone for a rushing attack for which Stanford seemed to have no answer.

    “”The running game is a quarterback’s best friend,”” Heavner said. “”Any time you’ve got a running game, you can do anything.””

    Late hits

    Facing third-and-27 from their own 3-yard line late in the third quarter, Stanford surprised Arizona when Ostrander punted from his own end zone in shotgun formation. …Wideout Syndric Steptoe, who played quarterback in high school, took snaps before halftime to get ready for his emergency quarterback role should Heavner have gone down. Freshman Brandon Lyon, who is redshirting, was also an option.

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