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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    USC’s Maualuga speaks highly of Wildcats

    Arizona safety Nate Ness (32) wrestles USC tight end Anthony McCoy to the ground during a 17-10 Trojan win Saturday night at Arizona Stadium. While the Wildcats fell short of an upset, some USC players and coaches said the talent gap between the two programs has closed in recent years.
    Arizona safety Nate Ness (32) wrestles USC tight end Anthony McCoy to the ground during a 17-10 Trojan win Saturday night at Arizona Stadium. While the Wildcats fell short of an upset, some USC players and coaches said the talent gap between the two programs has closed in recent years.

    In the wake of Arizona’s 17-10 loss to perhaps one of the best teams in the country in then-No. 6 USC Saturday night at Arizona Stadium, it became quite apparent the Wildcats have come a long way under head coach Mike Stoops.

    The Wildcats aren’t the only ones who have noticed an improvement.

    “”This is a team that is going and is building and is going to win some more games after this weekend, and they did a phenomenal job against us,”” said USC senior linebacker Rey Maualuga of Arizona’s progression as a team under Stoops. “”The style of offense and the way (senior quarterback Willie) Tuitama has matured over the years, they did a phenomenal job.””

    Following the game, rather than being optimistic about the fact the Wildcats kept the game close with a national power, the players who emerged from locker room all had the same disheartened looks on their faces.

    While Arizona felt it let the Trojans off the hook, it took the loss extra hard because it played toe-to-toe with USC but managed to let the game slip away.

    “”Definitely, and I think they did,”” Maualuga said of Arizona pushing the Trojans to the limit. “”They are going to do a phenomenal job this season.””

    Entering the season, the biggest concern for this year’s team was on the defensive side of the ball. The unit had posted solid numbers up until the Homecoming game with USC, but some felt it was a result of weak competition.

    That certainly didn’t turn out to be the case on Saturday night.

    The Wildcats’ defense held an extremely explosive USC offense to a season-low 17 points and 367 total yards, just one week after the Trojans scored 69 points against Washington State. USC’s yardage against Arizona was more than 100 yards below its season average, and the performance by the Wildcats’ defense kept them in the game.

    Playing close with USC for the third consecutive year would suggest that the Wildcats have narrowed the talent gap between themselves and the Trojans, a team that has become known for consistently landing the best high school players on a yearly basis.

    Despite the perceived gap in talent, Arizona wasn’t an easy win for the Trojans according to head coach Pete Carroll.

    “”(Playing at Arizona) was a really tough game (Saturday) with two teams going at it for four quarters,”” Carroll said. “”We played tremendous on the defense end. All in all, this game featured a lot of coaching. In such a tight contest, it came down to a lot of big decisions.””

    But the USC’s defensive prowess and high skill level was evident as it contained a potent Arizona offense that came into the game averaging more than 40 points per contest.

    Even so, Arizona still sits in prime position for that elusive bowl selection that hasn’t hit Tucson since 1998. The Wildcats need to win one of their next four games in order to qualify for a bowl berth, while two victories solidifies their chance at a postseason game.

    After Arizona’s bye-week this weekend, the team travels to Pullman, Wash., to take on a Washington State team that has yet to win a conference game and averages a deficit of 34.3 points per game in its losses.

    Arizona certainly has a bad taste in its mouth after the loss to the Trojans, but still realizes the opportunities in front of them with their next four games on the horizon.

    “”We were happy with the way we played; we just didn’t finish,”” running back Nic Grigsby said about the loss. “”We played them hard the last few years, and we really thought we had a good chance against them. USC is a sound ball club and it showed.

    “”We will bounce back and prepare hard for Washington State,”” Grigsby added.

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