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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    T’n’T combo lifts ‘Cats in 4th

    There is no such thing as impossible.

    Though the Arizona football team has struggled in close games this season, the Wildcats seemed to catch every break they needed to beat Washington, 48-41, Saturday at Husky Stadium, perhaps keeping their dim hopes of a postseason berth alive.

    “”It was a little bit more of a complete effort Saturday,”” said UA offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes. “”In the past we just didn’t make any plays down the stretch. If you go back and look at the games that we lost – especially the close ballgames – we just didn’t make any plays to win.

    “”It felt good for us just to win a game. We felt there were a lot of games this year that we could have won, and should have won, and just didn’t get it done.””

    But something clicked for the Wildcats (3-6, 2-4 Pacific 10 Conference) – a team that apparently had nothing left to play for.

    Arizona was backed by a career day from quarterback Willie Tuitama, who passed for a school-record 510 yards, including a game winning 27-yard

    It felt good for us just to win a game. We felt there were a lot of games this year that we could have won, and should have won, and just didn’t get it done.
    – Sonny Dykes, UA offensive coordinator

    strike to Mike Thomas with just over two minutes remaining.

    The Wildcats found themselves down by 15 points with 12:52 remaining in the game, and though it may have been somewhat expected that they were going to fizzle out and fall victim to missed opportunities, the exact opposite happened.

    Just over a minute later, Tuitama hit wideout Terrell Turner on a 33-yard fade pattern for a touchdown to bring the Wildcats within eight. After a Spencer Larsen fumble recovery on the following Washington (2-6, 0-5) drive, Tuitama hit Thomas on a 2-yard touchdown pass on a drive that tied the game when he found Thomas again for the two-point conversion.

    Thomas finished the game with 10 receptions for 165 yards and three touchdowns.

    “”Willie really played a lot better than he has been playing,”” Dykes said. “”He really executed and stayed within himself and did a good job of getting the ball into the hands of the receivers so they could make plays.

    “”(Thomas) is one of those guys who always wants the ball in crucial situations, and he is a good player. I think he and Willie are starting to get more and more comfortable with each other, which is going to lead to great things.””

    Though the defense had a hard time stopping UW quarterback Jake Locker and the delayed option out of the shotgun formation – in the first half Washington put up 415 yards of total offense – the Wildcats responded in the second half by holding the Huskies to 157 total yards and 13 points.

    Arizona hasn’t seen a quarterback with a run-first mentality like Locker thus far this season, and the designed quarterback draws caught them off-guard.

    “”I think the speed of the zone-read option that they run is hard to simulate in practice at full speed,”” UA defensive coordinator Mark Stoops said. “”(Locker) was extremely hard to defend. He is a tremendous athlete, and he did a great job of cutting back and creating big plays for them.

    “”I think in the second half we just went back to the fundamentals and just played a little more spirited and made some key stops.””

    A week removed from a Stanford loss so demoralizing it had players and coaches emotional following the game, the Wildcats were a different team.

    With less pressure on Arizona’s shoulders, Dykes said he thought the team played a virtually stress-free game.

    “”The thing we did at Washington for whatever reason was we weren’t afraid of making mistakes,”” Dykes said. “”We got down a little bit and we weren’t afraid to make mistakes. We played looser, and we have to carry that over to this weekend.””

    Though the sight of Arizona’s first bowl berth since 1998 seemed out of sight after the Stanford loss, following the victory over Washington, the goal – though slim – remains attainable if the Wildcats run the table with a schedule that includes two top-five teams in the BCS in No. 4 ASU and No. 5 Oregon.

    “”I think this win was really big for the program,”” Stoops said. “”We feel like we have a great chance to win each and every week. There is always a critical five or six plays that can change the outcome, and fortunately we made those plays this past Saturday.””

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