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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Opportunity slips away

    Senior wide receiver Syndric Steptoe cant hold on to a pass from Willie Tuitama in the third quarter of Arizonas 21-10 loss to Washington Saturday at Arizona Stadium. The drop came on third-and-goal from the 24-yard line when the Wildcats trailed 21-3. Arizona missed a 41-yard field goal on the next play.
    Senior wide receiver Syndric Steptoe can’t hold on to a pass from Willie Tuitama in the third quarter of Arizona’s 21-10 loss to Washington Saturday at Arizona Stadium. The drop came on third-and-goal from the 24-yard line when the Wildcats trailed 21-3. Arizona missed a 41-yard field goal on the next play.

    Once again, the Arizona football team had no answer for Isaiah Stanback.

    Only this time, the Washington quarterback dashed the Wildcats’ hopes for a win with his arm rather than his feet.

    Stanback had a season-high 293 yards passing Saturday, using an aerial display toward the end of the first half to lift the Huskies to a 21-10 victory in front of 55,409 at Arizona Stadium.

    While Stanback led a blitzkrieg on the ground with 96 of Washington’s 333 rushing yards in a 38-14 win in Tucson last November, the senior scrambled more sparingly in the rematch, finishing 14-of-25 with two touchdowns.

    “”Truly, I am really not that happy right now,”” said Stanback, who also had 47 yards on 10 carries. “”Yeah, we won the game. I am happy we won, but we didn’t take care of what we needed to take care of on offense. Our defense saved our butt.””

    Indeed, the Huskies (4-1, 2-0 Pacific 10 Conference) held an oft-desperate Wildcats offense to only 1-of-14 on third down, but the bigger factor in Washington’s win was the passing clinic Stanback put on in a six-minute stretch to end the second quarter.

    After Nick Folk’s 52-yard field goal broke a scoreless tie with 10 minutes remaining in the first half, Stanback connected with wideout Sonny Shackelford three times on the ensuing drive, first on a season-high 50-yard reception for the receiver and finally for a three-yard touchdown and a 7-3 lead.

    Stanback threw a 44-yard strike to Anthony Russo on Washington’s next drive to get inside the Arizona 10, and a pair of four-yard Kenny James runs later, the Huskies were up 14-3.

    The Wildcats (2-3, 0-2) went three-and-out on their following possession, and with less than a minute remaining, Stanback hit Shackelford for 25 yards on first down before flinging a 55-yard touchdown to receiver Quintin Daniels on the next play.

    “”We broke down in the second quarter,”” said safety Michael Johnson, who had one of Arizona’s few highlights with a leaping interception, his first of the season, in the first quarter. “”That’s what cost us the game.””

    Following the Wildcats’ 20-3 loss to No. 3 USC last weekend, which seemed a confidence-builder for Arizona after the Wildcats were dominated in the teams’ previous four meetings, UA head coach Mike Stoops had called Saturday’s contest “”the biggest game of the year.””

    Evidently, the Wildcats’ offense failed to get the message.

    Although quarterback Willie Tuitama turned in his best performance of the season, completing a career-high 24 passes for a season-high 308 yards, his ability to turn long completions into eventual scores was again hindered by a lack of protection and an unproductive running game.

    Arizona finished with negative rushing yards – minus seven on 24 carries – for the second straight game, including the 62 Tuitama lost on his six sacks.

    Wide receivers Syndric Steptoe and Mike Thomas finished with 91 and 85 receiving yards, respectively, but mostly because the team abandoned the run game in the second half.

    “”I just think we let a good opportunity slip away,”” Stoops said. “”Washington’s got a good football team. They have a great playmaker in Isaiah Stanback. They believe in the kid, and we just got to get people believing in our quarterback and getting some guys around him that take a great deal of pride in protecting him and go to work for him.

    “”We’re just not getting it done.””

    Tuitama began the third quarter by completing eight of 12 passes on Arizona’s first two drives, punctuated by a 13-yard touchdown to Steptoe on fourth-and-two.

    It was the Wildcats’ first touchdown in 100 minutes, 53 seconds, dating back to Tuitama’s three-yard pass to Anthony Johnson in the fourth quarter Sept. 16 against Stephen F. Austin.

    “”It was good to throw the ball a little bit more than usual, but at the same time, it took away from our running game. We had no running game at all,”” Thomas said. “”We want to try to be balanced as much as possible.””

    After missing his first four attempts, Stanback completed 10 in a row to finish the first half 10-of-14 for 244 yards, which was already a season high to that point.

    Shackelford needed only two quarters to get his five catches and game-high 105 receiving yards.

    “”They were playing man to man against us. They weren’t respecting us, so we felt like as receivers that we were just telling the coaches that we need to take shots, we got to go deep,”” Shackelford said. “”The very next series we went out there and they called the plays, and we made the plays.””

    – Ari Wasserman contributed to this report.

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