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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Tui would trade it all to drop Sun Devils

    Willie Tuitama -
    Willie Tuitama –

    Arizona vs. ASU

    If there was an argument to determine the best quarterback in the Arizona football program’s history, it would be impossible not to include Willie Tuitama’s name in the conversation.

    After all, Tuitama holds school records in passing yards (8,602) career touchdown passes (63) and career completions (737).

    But if Tuitama was judged solely on his performances against rival ASU, his name would surely be passed over, given that the quarterback is 0-3 in his career against the Sun Devils.

    Tuitama has shrugged off each milestone he surpassed during his career, but the rivalry isn’t something the quarterback can dismiss.

    “”I am not proud yet,”” Tuitama said of his repertoire of school records and accomplishments. “”We are going to a bowl game, but we all want (the ASU) game right now (more) than any bowl game possible. That’s our mindset and that is how we all feel.””

    Added UA head coach Mike Stoops: “”I think Saturday, he would throw all of the records out to win. If he doesn’t throw for a yard, or if we win by one point, it is very insignificant to him. … That is the kind of kid he is.””

    While Tuitama’s name will be inserted into the media guides and game programs as one of the most prolific passers in the history of the program, he certainly doesn’t want his legacy to be tainted by the inability to knock off the Sun Devils.

    For Tuitama, his last chance to grab the elusive win over ASU comes Saturday at Arizona Stadium when the Sun Devils come to town for the battle for the Territorial Cup.

    A bowl berth is at stake for the Sun Devils, while the Wildcats (6-5, 4-4 Pacific 10 Conference) are searching for better position in addition to returning the favor to ASU (5-6, 4-4) in terms of sending the team home early – without a postseason.

    Asked if there was pressure in the game, given it means so much again this year, Tuitama said he wasn’t fazed by the prospect of losing.

    “”I don’t plan coming up short,”” Tuitama said.

    The senior signal caller may have had plenty of moments of glory as a Wildcat – including his first game during his freshman season in 2005 when Stoops pulled his redshirt and he went on to lead Arizona in a route over then-No. 7 UCLA – but the ASU game has never been a source of accomplishment.

    Instead, it is one of the few portions of Tuitama’s career at Arizona where he has come up short.

    The glory from the monumental Homecoming upset over the Bruins didn’t carry over to the Duel in the Desert in 2005, as Tuitama was knocked out of the game because of an injury with Arizona leading the Sun Devils, but ASU eventually came back to win 23-20.

    In 2006, he was knocked out of the game yet again after a hit from ASU’s Kyle Caldwell, which was part of the aftereffects of a series of head issues Tuitama struggled with during his entire sophomore season after a big hit from LSU safety LaRon Landry in Arizona’s loss in Baton Rouge in the second week of the season.

    Needless to say, the Wildcats lost at home – 28-14 – causing Arizona to miss the postseason in a year many thought the team would be invited to a bowl.

    Last season’s 20-17 loss in Tempe was one Tuitama remembers, given it was the second time in as many years the Sun Devils sent Arizona away while denying the squad any hopes of a bowl berth.

    “”I think the one that hurts the most is last year because it was the first game I finished,”” Tuitama said. “”I went through injuries my first two years, but really last year not being able to make some plays when we had opportunities, and that is the main thing. When you have the opportunities, especially in big rivalry games, you have to make them.””

    Having come up short against ASU three consecutive times, some could say Tuitama’s legacy is hinging on Saturday’s game.

    Tuitama’s teammates think otherwise.

    “”I hope he will be remembered as a guy who worked really hard and helped this program,”” said offensive lineman Joe Longacre. “”I don’t know if he will be the greatest quarterback or anything like that, but I hope he is known as a guy who really tried. I think he helped us get the program going in the right track.””

    But Tuitama isn’t worried about his legacy. Instead, he said he would trade just about everything for only one thing.

    “”With a win, really,”” Tuitama said. “”That’s it.””

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