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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Wildcats O-line reaching peak at perfect time

    UA guard Joe Longacre (75) leads the way for running back Nic Grigsby during a 17-10 Wildcat loss to USC Oct. 25 at Arizona Stadium. Longacre and the rest of the UA offensive line are a big reason the Wildcats lead the Pacific 10 Conference in points per game (39.11) and rank 33rd in the nation in average total offense (400.22 yards).
    UA guard Joe Longacre (75) leads the way for running back Nic Grigsby during a 17-10 Wildcat loss to USC Oct. 25 at Arizona Stadium. Longacre and the rest of the UA offensive line are a big reason the Wildcats lead the Pacific 10 Conference in points per game (39.11) and rank 33rd in the nation in average total offense (400.22 yards).

    When six different Wildcats combined for seven rushing touchdowns Saturday against Washington State, they were not the only ones walking proud.

    After the Wildcats 59-28 beat down of the Cougars, Arizona’s offensive line also contributed to a strong effort on the ground.

    “”We definitely do (take pride having so many rushing touchdowns),”” said guard Joe Longacre. “”Our job as an O-line is to help our team score, and it’s a really good feeling seeing so many of our backs get into the end zone behind us.””

    While the ball doesn’t cross the goal line without someone carrying it, the ball hardly gets close to that point without the effort of a strong offensive line – something the Wildcats had in Saturday’s win against the Cougars.

    In addition to blasting Washington State’s goal-line defense for seven rushing touchdowns – including a four-yard scamper by quarterback Willie Tuitama – the Wildcats’ offensive line opened the door for 317 total rushing yards coming from a combination of seven different players. Nic Grigsby led the way for Arizona with 189 yards on 28 attempts.

    While the Wildcats consider themselves fairly deep at the running back position, the Arizona coaching staff can’t deny the production they’re seeing from their big men up front.

    “”I think our offensive line played exceptionally well last week,”” said head coach Mike Stoops. “”Anytime you can run the ball with them knowing you’re going to run it, that’s very positive.””

    Despite the Cougars’ preparation for the Wildcats’ run game, Arizona still managed to put up season highs on the ground in total yards and touchdowns. The Wildcats’ previous highs came from their opening day 70-0 blowout of Idaho in which the offense racked up 265 yards on the ground to complement their five scores.

    With three games still ahead and the two Oregon schools in consecutive weeks, including conference title contender Oregon State, the Wildcats’ offense appears to be peaking at the right time. The lineman, however, think their best performances may still be yet to come.

    “”I think we’re very confident, I don’t necessarily know if we’re peaked yet,”” Longacre said. “”We’re just really confident and we’re excited to play, and that’s something we haven’t always been in the past.””

    Something Arizona’s front line did indirectly last weekend was allow some of its confidence to rub off on several Arizona tail backs.

    While the Wildcats main running threat in Grigsby found the end zone once, secondary options Keola Antolin and Xavier Smith also both crossed the goal line with one and two scores, respectively.

    Although not reaching the end zone himself, fourth-string back Nick Booth also saw action and was implemented on four plays during the afternoon.

    Against a rush defense currently ranked dead last in the NCAA for giving up an average of more than 279 yards per game, the Wildcats had the luxury of allowing multiple backs to get carries. But this week against a much better run defense in Oregon, a team that allows only 114.2 yards per game, Arizona will not have such an opportunity and may be forced to look to the air more frequently.

    “”(All of the running backs) work hard all the time, so it’s good to get them in the game and let them play a little bit,”” said offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes. “”But we have to continue to run the ball well, this time against a better defense than we did last week.

    “”We’re likely going to have to resort to a more balanced offense,”” Dykes added. “”They have a very aggressive defense so it’ll be a good challenge.””

    While Arizona may stray from its running game this Saturday in Eugene, Ore., the Wildcats’ offensive line will need to put forth yet another effort which has placed Arizona in the top 45 rush offenses in the nation with nearly 170 yards per game as well as the top scoring offense in the Pacific 10 Conference with more 39 points per contest.

    “”We like seeing (our backs gain a lot of yards), but goals-wise it’s just win,”” Longacre said of Arizona’s offensive line. “”That’s really what we take our pride in.””

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