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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Road test for ‘Cats in Palo Alto

    Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama (7) gets hit as he throws in a 21-20 Wildcat loss to the Cardinal last year at Arizona Stadium. Tuitama is 284 yards away from becoming Arizonas all-time leading passer as the Wildcats take on Stanford on Saturday.
    Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama (7) gets hit as he throws in a 21-20 Wildcat loss to the Cardinal last year at Arizona Stadium. Tuitama is 284 yards away from becoming Arizona’s all-time leading passer as the Wildcats take on Stanford on Saturday.

    Some say stats don’t matter.

    Ask the Arizona football team what it thinks and you’d probably get a different answer.

    While it may come as a surprise to some to see the Wildcats (4-1, 2-0 Pacific 10 Conference) playing as well as they have been, a simple look at their statistics will reveal exactly why Arizona has been able to accomplish what it has so far. Through five games, Arizona is No. 2 in the country in total defense, as the team has allowed just 226.2 total yards per game.

    The Wildcats are No. 8 in the nation in scoring offense, putting up 43.6 points per game.

    Arizona has only committed 18 penalties, which is third best in the nation.

    Add all those together – especially because the aforementioned statistics factor in all facets of the game – and the math equals wins.

    “”It is exciting to be in the position that we are at,”” said Arizona head coach Mike Stoops. “”If we can continue to do (everything we have done), then we have a chance every time we step out onto the field, and that is how the kids feel.””

    But when Arizona travels to Palo Alto, Calif., Saturday to take on Stanford (3-3, 2-1) – arguably the toughest opponent Arizona will face to date – the Wildcats will surely need to play to the standard that has made their statistics possible.

    Even with all of Arizona’s success, Stoops is far from satisfied. And he realizes the Wildcats have yet to accomplish anything, even if the vibe around campus and in Tucson may be more positive than it has been in the past.

    “”I don’t know the vibe around town. I don’t get that involved with that too much just because I am not out there very often,”” Stoops said. “”I am sure the people are excited about what we are doing, probably optimistically cautious.””

    As Arizona continues to progress through the Pac-10, every win the Wildcats are able to add is exponentially important in terms of qualifying for a bowl game and the overall race in the conference.

    “”It is exciting. It is definitely a change from years past, and it is nice to see all the hard work pay off,”” said offensive lineman Eben Britton. “”I think everyone on the team realizes what we have right now, the opportunities that we have, and we are really excited about that, but we know how much work we have to do to.””

    While many are excited about the prospect of Arizona leading the Pac-10 race heading into the weekend, the reality sets in. Though any two wins in the conference are important – regardless of where they come from – the Wildcats have yet to be fully challenged. Both UCLA and Washington have major injuries on the offensive side of the ball, causing the scoring threat to seriously lessen.

    Even so, the team is encouraged by the impressive wins they have been able to rack up, mainly because it is understood that the squad has no control over who it plays and how good its opponents are.

    “”I think we have learned how to play at our level rather than lowering our own talent level down to the teams that we are playing, and that’s what we have done in the past,”” Britton said. “”We really make sure to beat the teams well that we should beat, and I think that’s the difference. We aren’t winning by a touchdown or a field goal anymore; we are winning by 21-plus points, and that’s the big difference.””

    Contrary to his teammates, running back Nic Grigsby isn’t ready to smile about where Arizona currently sits.

    To Grigsby, a win over Stanford is all he is concerned with. And he gave his teammates this message directly after the win over Washington.

    “”I told them after the game, ‘This is nothing,'”” Grigsby said of the win over the Huskies that sent Arizona to a 2-0 record in conference play. “”The Pac-10 is crazy. Teams are getting knocked out left and right. We need to play like we’re still 0-0.””

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