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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    T’n’T named Players of Week

    Willie Tuitama may have been close to losing his job before Saturday’s football game at Washington.

    His head coach called him out for not being a vocal leader, and there was speculation that his backup, fifth-year senior Kris Heavner, was ready to take over at quarterback.

    Then Tuitama went to Husky Stadium and proved in a big way that the starter’s job was his, as he put together a career day that included throwing for a

    school-record 510 yards and completing 38-of-51 passes for five touchdowns.

    Tuitama led the Wildcats to 22 fourth-quarter points en route to a 48-41 victory. Arizona trailed by 15 points with just under 13 minutes to play.

    For his performance, Tuitama was named the Pacific 10 Conference’s Offensive Player of the Week yesterday for the first time in his career.

    “”It feels good,”” Tuitama said. “”The offensive line did a great job of getting me a whole lot of time to go through my reads and everything, and the wide receivers made some great plays on the ball.””

    Tuitama’s season has somewhat paralleled that of former Wildcat Jason Johnson in 2002, except Tuitama has four games to play and is close to, or already has broken, Johnson’s school records.

    Tuitama has 2,804 passing yards, only 523 yards behind Johnson for the all-time single-season record at Arizona, and is only 12 attempts (398) behind him. He has already passed Johnson in completions (257) for first in the Arizona record book.

    Tuitama also leads an offense that ranks No. 7 in the country in passing.

    “”The kid is extremely talented,”” said UA head coach Mike Stoops. “”It’s just good to see. I liked his leadership, his competitive spirit in the fourth quarter. That’s what we need from him and that part is coming, because there’s nothing the kid can’t do physically.””

    Stoops noted that Tuitama has received the bulk of the criticism on the field simply because of his position and the leadership traits it entails.

    “”I’m gonna get criticized the most, and probably him the second most,”” Stoops said. “”That’s just kind of the pecking order of how it falls. In this modern day of football, everything goes through the quarterback.

    “”He’s starting to understand the accountability and the leadership that goes along with being a quarterback,”” he added.

    Thomas lauded for special teams

    Mike Thomas didn’t expect to ever receive accolades for being an outstanding special teams player, but he did yesterday, winning the Pac-10’s Special Teams Player of the Week award.

    The award is the first of his career and the second such award for Arizona this season. Punter Keenyn Crier won it two weeks ago after his performance at USC.

    “”It was a fun time,”” Thomas said. “”I was just the one on the receiving end catching the ball. Statistically, it was a pretty good game.””

    Thomas had 338 all-purpose yards as he took over for the injured Devin Ross (pulled muscle) and returned six kickoffs for 173 yards, including a 45-yard return in the fourth quarter that sparked the Arizona comeback.

    Thomas also had 10 receptions for 165 yards and three touchdowns on offense, which could have been enough for Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Week honors were not for Tuitama.

    “”Mike probably could have had a few more touchdowns if I would have thrown the ball a little bit better,”” Tuitama said.

    “”The kickoff return was huge after they went up 15,”” Stoops said. “”It was probably as big of a play as there was in the game… I knew that would give us some life to get some points on the board quickly.””

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