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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Football hopes for UCLA repeat

    UA linebacker Spencer Larsen tackles Johnie Kirton in Arizonas 21-10 loss to Washington last week at Arizona Stadium. Larsen and the Wildcats hope to play with more consistency than they did last week in tomorrows 4 p.m. game at UCLA, which will be televised nationally on FSN.
    UA linebacker Spencer Larsen tackles Johnie Kirton in Arizona’s 21-10 loss to Washington last week at Arizona Stadium. Larsen and the Wildcats hope to play with more consistency than they did last week in tomorrow’s 4 p.m. game at UCLA, which will be televised nationally on FSN.

    Oh, how things have changed.

    When Arizona and UCLA last clashed, it was all things Wildcat offense.

    Quarterback Willie Tuitama, then a freshman, threw for 204 yards and two touchdowns while handing off two 100-yard rushers to then-seniors Mike Bell (156) and Gilbert Harris (114) as Arizona rolled to a 52-14 win on Homecoming over the then-No. 7 Bruins.

    “”Looking at stuff last year,”” Tuitama said, “”we had plays all over the field.””

    But so far this season, it’s been a different story, as the Wildcats (2-3, 0-2 Pacific 10 Conference) head into tomorrow’s 4 p.m., FSN-televised matchup with the Bruins (3-1, 1-1) with just eight more points through five games (60) than they had that early November night.

    Last season’s stunning upset looked to be the cornerstone on which UA head coach Mike Stoops would build his program, but when the team came out the next week and got dropped 38-14 by Washington for the Huskies’ only conference win of the season, all it really did was underscore the team’s inconsistency.

    “”It’s like we play (well) one or two games to prove to ourselves that we can do it,”” Stoops said. “”Being content with playing … certain games great and other games just to show up, I don’t understand that. It’s probably the hardest thing as a coach to lack that consistency.””

    Oftentimes, the problem isn’t just week-to-week – or even drive-to-drive – it’s play-to-play. In last week’s 21-10 loss to Washington, Arizona time and again shot itself in the foot after big plays with either a penalty, a sack, or a loss of yardage on the ground.

    “”We’ll do something good, and then we’ll go back 20 yards,”” wideout Syndric Steptoe said. “”It’s just something we’ve got to work on to eliminate.””

    Added Stoops: “”We just need to hit some plays and gain some confidence, and when we hit those plays, not lose yards the following plays. That really hurt us.””

    But by and large, the team’s biggest problem when it comes to consistency is week-to-week. Coming off arguably its best game against No. 3 USC two weeks ago, Arizona played arguably its worst against Washington last week.

    Now, Stoops hopes to keep it consistent – in the USC-game type of way.

    “”We’re doing a better job of trying to get some things executed,”” he said, “”but we just got to keep working at it and keep finding ways to move the football and try to find some balance – you know, (use) our run game to try to create some big plays through our passing game.””

    But it’s difficult for a running game coming off consecutive negative rushing performances (minus-16 and minus-7, respectively) to open up the pass. So following the first of those performances in the USC game, Tuitama and wideout Mike Thomas suggested that perhaps the passing game could open up the run.

    Earlier this week, Stoops entertained the thought that that might have to be the case.

    “”We’ve got to keep finding ways to spread people out and throw the ball, too,”” Stoops said. “”If we can’t run it – you know, you don’t want to keep beating your head against the wall if we’re struggling to do that.

    “”The bottom line is scoring points and winning games, and we just haven’t been good enough to score enough points.””

    Tuitama, who threw for a season-high 308 yards against Washington, said Wednesday that the week in practice had been the team’s best all season – just like the week leading up to last year’s game against the Bruins.

    “”The way you practice is the way you play,”” he said, “”so we just have to continue to practice hard.””

    But when UCLA head coach Karl Dorrell began his team’s preparation earlier this week, he just wanted to forget last year’s game all together.

    “”Last year was last year’s team,”” he said. “”We had a different mindset, a different team, a different quarterback – all those different things. This is this year’s team.””

    While Dorrell has been busy trying to get his players to put that game out of their minds, Stoops has been gently reminding his team of the monumental upset.

    “”Coach (Stoops) has been telling us that it’s not too much of a different type of team that we’re playing this year (from) last year,”” Thomas said. “”He just keeps saying that it’s the same team that we put up half a hundred points on.””

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