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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Establishing a ‘W’ weekend

    Arizona football established a Homecoming aura two years ago with a big upset of then-No. 7 UCLA and bolstered it last season with an unlikely surprise of then-No. 8 California.

    It won’t be as big a miracle for the Wildcats (3-6, 2-4 Pacific 10 Conference) to win tomorrow’s 12:30 p.m. Homecoming game at Arizona Stadium against an unranked Bruins squad (5-3, 4-1). If nothing else, it would simply reaffirm the belief that the Wildcats play better on Alumni Weekend.

    On the field, the team insists there isn’t an atypical attitude involved with Homecoming.

    “”I don’t think there’s a different atmosphere or anything like that,”” said UA linebacker Spencer Larsen. “”We don’t think it determines anything about what’s going to happen, so we have to really prepare and not act like we always play well on Homecoming because, obviously, with what’s going on this year, it’s a new year.””

    The last time UCLA came to Tucson, 8-0 in 2005, quarterback Willie Tuitama made his first collegiate home start. He guided the Wildcats to an improbable and unforgettable 52-14 victory that culminated in virtually the entire Zona Zoo student section rushing the field.

    “”That was a great game for the program and for Tucson, but that was two years ago,”” Tuitama said. “”The past two years (on Homecoming) have been big. Why? I don’t know.””

    Cornerback Wilrey Fontenot, a sophomore in 2005, recalled Tuitama and the offense being completely in sync.

    “”It was basically the most perfect game for us,”” he said. “”No matter what we tried, we knew what was happening. We knew everything that they were going to do before they even knew what they were going to do.””

    Arizona head coach Mike Stoops was asked Monday if he remembered what happened the last time UCLA was here.

    “”No, what happened?”” he joked. “”All I remember is last year we went up there and didn’t play very well, and that, to me, is what I remember the most. We have to play better than we did a
    year ago.””

    And that’s the

    To beat a team that was very highly ranked is a lot of fun.

    -Spencer Larsen,
    linebacker

    attitude resonating with the entire football squad. In Los Angeles last season, the Bruins dominated
    Arizona in a 27-7 victory in which Tuitama was knocked out with a concussion.

    The Wildcats sport a 43-32-5 all-time record on Homecoming, including a 3-2 record against UCLA.

    The weekend has hosted some of the biggest upsets in school history, including the 1992 team’s 16-3 upset of No. 1 Washington.

    Last year, the Wildcats took down the Golden Bears with a huge second-half comeback, winning 24-20, and again virtually the entire Zona Zoo rushed the field.

    “”It was one of the most exciting games I’ve ever been involved in,”” Larsen said. “”To beat a team that was very highly ranked is a lot of fun.””

    Fontenot said the feeling after the last two years has been
    indescribable.

    “”It’s just a great feeling,”” he said. “”It lets you know that we have the potential to play well and that we can just step up and do it any week against anybody.””

    Arizona insists it’s taking tomorrow’s game just like any other.

    “”The past history shows that we come out on Homecoming and play pretty good, but we plan on playing pretty good every week,”” wide receiver Mike Thomas said. “”Hopefully, we can do that this week and have some fun.””

    Added Tuitama: “”We got a new week and a new team coming up. We’re definitely going to try to repeat it, but the past is the past.””


    Ritter’s Rules

    Quarterbacks
    Willie Tuitama is having one of the best seasons for a Wildcat quarterback ever. By the time it’s all said and done, he might have the best numbers in school history. For UCLA, Patrick Cowan isn’t the first choice at the position, but he’s taken over for the injured Ben Olson for the second year in a row.
    Advantage: Arizona

    Running backs
    The Bruins just found out their star running back, Kahlil Bell, will be out for the rest of the season, clearly a big blow for UCLA. That means Chris Markey, who has rushed for more than 300 yards fewer than Bell, will be the main back in the system. Markey has solid numbers ðð- 408 yards on 81 carries and three touchdowns. That’s two more scores and 0.5 yards per carry more than Arizona freshman Nicolas Grigsby.
    Advantage: UCLA

    Wide receivers
    There will be a lot of passes from Cowan to Cowan. Patrick’s older brother, wide receiver Joe, has become one of his favorite targets. He is second on the team with 22 catches and 289 yards. The Bruins have only 116 catches on the season, compared to Arizona’s 262.
    Advantage: Arizona

    Offensive line
    Given the Bruins are clearly a rushing team (301 runs called to 116 passes this season), the offensive line has to be doing something right. It has allowed 18 sacks in eight games and blocked for backs who have combined for nearly 1,300 yards. Arizona’s allowed 22 sacks and isn’t quite at the 700-yard mark.
    Advantage: UCLA

    Defensive line
    If games are won at the line of scrimmage, then Bruins defensive end Bruce Davis is trying single-handedly to do just that. Tuitama certainly remembers Davis from last year’s matchup in Los Angeles, when Davis gave him one of his many concussions. Davis leads UCLA with 6.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss. He also has five pass breakups and a forced fumble.
    Advantage: UCLA

    Linebackers
    It’s said every week: Senior Spencer Larsen is the heart and soul of the Arizona defense. He has 92 tackles, 8.5 for losses, an interception, four pass breakups, three fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles. He leads the team in most of those categories.
    Advantage: Arizona

    Cornerbacks
    The same can be said about Antoine Cason. Week after week, his NFL stock just continues to rise. Last week, his interception sealed a win over Washington, just as he has done so many other times in his career.
    Advantage: Arizona

    Prediction
    In UA head coach Mike Stoops’ tenure at Arizona, the Wildcats are 2-0 on Homecoming against teams ranked in the top eight nationally and 0-1 against unranked teams. Well, UCLA isn’t ranked, but Arizona will continue its trend of successful Homecomings. The Bruins are depleted at quarterback, running back and wide receiver. It won’t be 52-14, though.
    Arizona 35, UCLA 30

    -Mike Ritter


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