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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Turnovers costly for Wildcats

    UA quarterback Willie Tuitama, left, hands the ball off to running back Nic Grigsby during Saturdays 36-28 loss to New  Mexico in Albuquerque, N.M. Tuitama will take on UCLA this Saturday in Los Angeles for Arizonas Pac-10 opener.
    UA quarterback Willie Tuitama, left, hands the ball off to running back Nic Grigsby during Saturday’s 36-28 loss to New Mexico in Albuquerque, N.M. Tuitama will take on UCLA this Saturday in Los Angeles for Arizona’s Pac-10 opener.

    Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama may not be the entire team, but the Wildcats’ performance certainly hinges on him. That was never more evident than in Arizona’s 36-28 loss to New Mexico at University Stadium in Albuquerque on Saturday.

    While a simple glance at the box score may not completely indicate an off game – Tuitama did throw for 321 yards and three touchdowns – the quarterback was seemingly infected with the turnover bug.

    After Arizona committed just one turnover in their first two wins over Idaho and Toledo, the Wildcats had a sloppy five turnovers against the Lobos, four of which came from Tuitama in the form of two interceptions and two fumbles.

    “”Obviously the turnovers are costly. You can’t beat anybody turning the ball over like that,”” said UA head coach Mike Stoops. “”Losing the turnover battle five-to-one, you are not going to win any games. … That was frustrating.””

    Arizona found itself in a position Saturday that it wasn’t used to prior to the game: relying solely on Tuitama to lead the squad in a close contest. The Wildcats’ running game that looked so promising behind running back Nic Grigsby wasn’t as reliable against the Lobos, thus forcing Tuitama to throw the ball 50 times.

    While the spread certainly is a pass-heavy offense, Stoops said throwing the ball in excess should be the coaching staff’s decision, not something the other team dictates.

    But the Lobos had the Wildcats in a position in which all they could do was throw in order to get back in the game.

    “”They kind of dictated the tempo of the game and that’s really where we have struggled when we have gotten down and tried to come back real quickly,”” Stoops said. “”When Willie has to throw 50 times a game, that’s not what we want to do. We want to throw when we want to throw, not when we have to throw and that really threw us off a little bit.””

    Nevertheless, Tuitama acknowledges he had an off game in terms of ball security, but is looking to get past it by focusing on this weekend’s game against UCLA in Los Angeles.

    “”At times I was just over-thinking the blitz a little bit and not just reading it out,”” Tuitama said after Saturday’s loss to New Mexico. “”I didn’t play my best game at all. I take full responsibility for what happened out there because a lot of things happened because of me. So I just have to man up to it and that’s the truth.””

    While offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes said he wasn’t very impressed with Tuitama’s performance following the loss Saturday, he is still completely confident in his quarterback’s ability to lead the Wildcats.

    Stoops said he had no thoughts about bringing in freshman dual-threat quarterback Matt Scott to change the tempo of the game.

    “”(The loss) certainly doesn’t fall all on Willie because he has been a very good player for us and threw some exceptional balls in that game,”” Stoops said. “”We just need to clean some areas up and not panic when we get down.””

    Gronkowski, Antolin, Kelley all probable for Saturday
    If there is any good news for the Arizona football team, it’s that Stoops announced at his weekly press conference Monday that sophomore tight end Rob Gronkowski is a probable opener for Saturday’s Pacific 10 Conference at UCLA.

    Gronkowski, who was viewed as one of Arizona’s biggest pre-season weapons before coming down with strep throat, is likely to get the start against the Bruins this weekend.

    “”Robby is obviously probable. He will start this week and hopefully nothing will set him back,”” Stoops said. “”I think that will give our offense a shot in the arm and give us another weapon offensively.””

    After being named the Pac-10 Special Teams Player of the Week after the Toledo game, freshman reserve running back Keola Antolin missed Saturday’s game against New Mexico.

    Antolin wore a protective boot last week and Stoops said Antolin is also probable for this weekend’s game against UCLA.

    “”(Antolin) had a sprained toe and we thought he would be able to go, and he just wasn’t able to go,”” Stoops said. “”I think he is still a little bit questionable, but I think he is more probable than questionable.””

    Linebacker Xavier Kelley is also probable for the game against the Bruins.

    “”Xavier should be more probable than questionable,”” Stoops added.

    UCLA blowout hasn’t left Arizona cocky
    Arizona may be coming off a loss that stings a little more than the usual blunder, but it is quite possible that UCLA – the team Arizona faces in Los Angeles on Saturday in both teams’ Pac-10 opener – is feeling worse.

    The Bruins got off to a quick start under first-year head coach Rick Neuheisel by beating Tennessee at the Rose Bowl, but were embarrassed Saturday in a 59-0 loss to Brigham Young.

    Even so, Arizona’s loss to New Mexico ruined an unblemished record and humbled the Wildcats, as a handful of players said they certainly won’t make the mistake of underestimating a team again.

    Linebacker Vuna Tuihalamaka said the Wildcats grew cocky after starting the season with two blowout victories. Too cocky, in fact, to take New Mexico seriously, which could have been a key factor in Arizona’s season-altering loss to the Lobos.

    “”We just thought they weren’t that good,”” Tuihalamaka said of the Lobos. “”We weren’t as aggressive as we should have been.””

    UCLA may be coming off an embarrassing loss, but Arizona sure isn’t going to treat it that way.

    “”We look to go there. The Rose Bowl is a lot of fun to go to,”” said offensive lineman Joe Longacre. “”We haven’t seen a lot of film on them yet. We got to see them play against Tennessee and they looked pretty good.

    “”They are going to come ready to play,”” Longacre added.

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