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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Arizona’s ‘O’ looks convincing

    Maybe the opponent wasn’t a Pacific 10 Conference powerhouse.

    Nevertheless, the Arizona football team showed tremendous improvement against NAU following a lackluster performance against Brigham Young.

    Quarterback Willie Tuitama (23-of-44, 283 yards, five touchdowns) set his career high in touchdown passes, falling only one shy of the Arizona single-game record.

    The most convincing statistic of the game, however, was that he threw each touchdown to a different receiver. Eleven different receivers caught passes – perhaps confirming the fact that offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes effectively installed a
    spread offense.

    “”When five different guys are scoring touchdowns and executing that’s a pretty good job spreading the ball around,”” Dykes said.

    Dykes did a lot of conservative playcalling in last week’s 20-7 loss at BYU. After Saturday’s win, he can hardly be accused of being conservative, as his offense put together video game-like statistics.

    The Wildcats had 490 yards of total offense, almost doubling the week one output.

    “”We’ve got to get to where we can just explode offensively and I think we did that in the third quarter,”” Dykes said, referring to Arizona’s 24-point onslaught.

    “”When you’re moving the football that enables you to take some shots – and we did a better job of moving the ball consistently,”” he added.

    Dykes opened up his playbook, utilizing a lot of different personnel on the field.

    Wide receiver Mike Thomas was used for a few double-reverse rushes, totaling 80 yards on four carries, on top of his five-catch, 56-yard receiving day, which included a touchdown.

    Senior running back Chris Jennings might have been moved down in the depth chart, after he had only one rush for four yards.

    As promised, true freshman running back Nicolas Grigsby made his collegiate debut, although he looked like a veteran tailback, tallying 58 yards on nine carries (6.2 yards per carry).

    Grigsby, Thomas and Xavier Smith led the running game for Arizona, which totaled 195 yards rushing including a 28-yard sack of backup quarterback Kris Heavner.

    “”Coach opened up the offense this week,”” Tuitama said. “”There is definitely more (room for improvement). This was only our second week with this offense. We can definitely go out there and do a lot more.””

    The special teams also had an extraordinary game, minus a botched kick return that the Lumberjacks recovered. They scored two plays later.

    The most exciting play of the game came courtesy of new punt returner Antoine Cason in the second quarter when he returned his second-career punt for a 70-yard touchdown.

    Cason might have improved his NFL draft stock that much more with the return.

    “”It was fun to get the first one. It was great. It was the best feeling besides last year,”” Cason said, referring to his interception and touchdown return against California on Homecoming. “”It was good to get something going.””

    Added head coach Mike Stoops: “”That was the biggest play of the day. He showed explosiveness and some nice moves. I hope now people won’t question his quickness.””

    Defensively, the Wildcats also improved from the BYU game. They were able to finish tackles and cause more problems for the NAU running game, unlike in week one.

    There are a couple of causes for concern, however. Through two games, the Wildcat defense has no interceptions. It also allowed 24 points, NAU’s highest total against Arizona.

    Even though the Wildcats scored the second-most points in the Stoops era, there is still room for improvement.

    “”Things are never perfect,”” said Anthony Johnson, who had 46 yards receiving and a touchdown. “”There’s always room for improvement. I’d give us about a 7.3 right now (out of 10), just about. We still got a little ways to go.””

    NAU was an NCAA Division I-AA opponent, a far cry from Arizona’s opponent in two weeks, California.

    The Wildcats actually could have scored three more touchdowns. To end the first half, the Lumberjacks stopped the Wildcats on fourth-and-one on the 3-yard line.

    Starting two weeks from now, Arizona will have to capitalize in the red zone if it wants to compete with its elite Pac-10 opponents.

    “”We’ve got to do better in the red zone,”” Dykes said. “”That needs to be an area of emphasis for us and something we’ve got to improve on. We felt like we left 21 points out there, at least.

    “”The guys need to understand that 45 is good and everything, but we left a lot more points out there.””

    Stoops added: “”I just want to see an offense that scores 45. I don’t care what they do. Give us 45, and we will have a pretty good chance of winning most games.””

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