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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Cardinal finds way

    As the Arizona football team watches its season spiral downward to the point of no return, it’s the Wildcats’ most recent opponent, Stanford, that suddenly appears like a team capable of making a bowl game.

    This just one season after the Cardinal compiled a 1-11 record that was one of the worst in Pacific 10 Conference history and near the bottom of the 119-team NCAA Division I-A field.

    The Cardinal, now 3-4 and 2-3 in conference play, was picked to finish last in nearly every Pac-10 preseason poll, including the media poll that predicted the Wildcats to finish seventh.

    Eight weeks into the season, it’s pretty evident that the tables have turned for both teams.

    “”This is huge for us,”” said Cardinal cornerback Nick Sanchez, who picked off Willie Tuitama in the second quarter. “”We’re trying to get this thing turned around and make a bowl game. … We fought our hearts out today.””

    Stanford fielded virtually the same team Arizona faced last season in Palo Alto, Calif., when Arizona won 20-7 with second-string quarterback Adam Austin calling the signals and third-stringer Kris Heavner taking over after Austin injured his knee.

    Arizona’s offense was in no way powerful last October, and it was the defense that held the Cardinal to only four first downs, 58 pass yards and negative-six yards rushing.

    One year later, it’s the team now led by former NFL quarterback Jim Harbaugh that has already surprised two heavily favored teams – USC and Arizona – on its way to a strong turnaround.

    “”Coach Harbaugh has worked us enough during the week to where we know how to keep our composure in a situation like this,”” said running back Jason Evans, who had 78 yards and a touchdown. “”It’s not the first time we’ve been down. This game we were down, we came back. We’re over halfway through the season, and this team knows where we’re at.””

    Stanford players said the Arizona offensive scheme was predictable Saturday. The Cardinal bottled up short passing screens after the Wildcats succeeded with them early on.

    “”It was one of the only things they were having success with throughout the game,”” Sanchez said. “”We just assumed they were going to throw a screen and they kept doing it.””

    Tavita Pritchard made just his second career start at quarterback for Stanford and came out a winner. This despite him throwing two interceptions, taking three sacks and fumbling twice.

    Harbaugh has been the savior for the Stanford football team. He’s made the most, and more, of the talent he was given. The Cardinal ranks near the bottom of several categories in the Pac-10, as well as nationally, but the team still has three wins and could conceivably make a bowl game with the hardest part of its schedule already out of the way.

    Contrast that reality to that of the Wildcats, who have been considered near the top of the Pac-10 in terms of talent but who could now conceivably finish 2-10 and last in the conference.

    “”We had a chance to get a win, and those opportunities don’t come too frequently around here,”” said UA head coach Mike Stoops. “”We just couldn’t get the plays to get us over the hump, and that is kind of where we are at.””

    Things were a little happier on the other side of the Arizona Stadium field.

    “”There’s no such thing as an ugly win,”” Harbaugh said. “”The mindset is they just go out and play. We were out-gained and had a lot of turnovers.””

    And yet, still, the Cardinal found a way to win.

    – Bryan Roy contributed to this story

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