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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Stoops one win from .500

Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat

The No. 15 Arizona Wildcats hosted the Washington Huskies in a Pacific 1o Conference matchup Saturday, Oct. 23, 2010 at Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Ariz. The Wildcats rolled to a 44-14 behind backup quarterback Matt Scott.
Mike Christy
Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat The No. 15 Arizona Wildcats hosted the Washington Huskies in a Pacific 1o Conference matchup Saturday, Oct. 23, 2010 at Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Ariz. The Wildcats rolled to a 44-14 behind backup quarterback Matt Scott.

Arizona’s matchup with UCLA at the Rose Bowl Satuday at 12:30 p.m. has a lot more meaning than the average late-October conference game.

Seventh-year Wildcats head coach Mike Stoops is one win away from reaching the .500 mark (40-40) at Arizona.

While that win percentage doesn’t sound all that glamorous, considering where this program used to be, it speaks volumes about Stoops as a coach.

“”I just look at this as two different sections of the program,”” said co-defensive coordinator Tim Kish. “”Having been here all those years with Mike, you had those first three years where you just were trying to find your way and teach the culture of the program and had to teach winning attitude and what that involves.””

Stoops and his staff taught those winning ways to a program that was all but in the dumps. His first four seasons were a rebuilding process, as Arizona went 17-29 from 2004-2007.

Senior center Colin Baxter said players used to have bad attitudes on and off the field, but as Stoops came into his own, things changed. And it certainly showed in the standings, as the Wildcats have been to back-to-back bowl games and are bowl-eligible already this season.

“”Our culture is so much different now than it was, and that’s what you have to have, to have success is a style,”” Stoops said. “”I like the discipline and toughness in our kids and in our program right now. It takes years to develop that.””

Stoops and Arizona finally has that discipline and consistency, and reaching the .500 mark this weekend against UCLA (3-4, 1-3 Pac-10) would be a testament to that.

Kish said he would be “”thrilled for Coach to have that ability to go for 500,”” but Stoops wouldn’t admit to the same emotional attachment.

“”I’m just glad I’m still here,”” Stoops said with a smile.

Decoding the quarterback situation

The biggest question heading into Saturday’s game is who will start at quarterback for Arizona. Matt Scott was accurate and more than effective against Washington last weekend, but Stoops said Wednesday that Nick Foles is “”ready to go, and we’re pleased with the progress he made this week, and we expect him to be 100 percent on Saturday.””

In hopes of keeping UCLA off balance, Stoops and Arizona won’t announce its starter until gametime, but by reading between the lines, it looks like Foles should be the guy.

Arizona could mix things up with some two-quarterback sets, but if Foles is 100 percent as Stoops says he is, it’s doubtful that the Wildcats would shy away from starting the 6-foot-5, 245-pound quarterback.

But still Arizona won’t share the secret.

“”We know what’s going on,”” Baxter said.

It may not matter who starts against the Bruins, who have been a roller coaster ride all season long. They marched into Austin and knocked off Texas but have been romped by Cal and Oregon in the past two weeks, losing by a combined score of 95-20.

But UCLA is still lined with talent, including junior linebacker Akeem Ayers, who’s expected to be a first-round pick in the 2011 NFL draft.

“”He’s a phenomenal player,”” said Arizona offensive lineman Adam Grant.

“”UCLA, they recruit some of the top athletes in the nation still, so we can’t take this team lightly,”” added junior linebacker Paul Vassallo.

Arizona does have a great matchup against the Bruins. UCLA’s pistol offense calls for about a two-to-one run-pass ratio, and the Wildcats have the seventh-best run defense in the nation. They allow only 90.86 rushing yards per game and have yielded only three scores on the ground all season.

“”They like to run the ball and we like to stop the ball, so it’s a test of both of our strengths,”” Vassallo said.

The Bruins are a wildcard of sorts, as they have the talent and schemes to pull off an upset. But Arizona is well aware and knows what is on the line — one win closer to its goal of the first Rose Bowl in program history.

“”They’ve got good enough players to beat us, we know that,”” Stoops said. “”We have a lot to play for, so hopefully we have a strong desire to play well.””

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