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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Wildcats pass past ‘Jacks

    Defensive back Corey Hall stuns NAU running back Alex Henderson in the third quarter of the Wildcats 45-24 win at Arizona Stadium Saturday night. The Wildcat defense held the Lumberjacks to 243 yards of total offense.
    Defensive back Corey Hall stuns NAU running back Alex Henderson in the third quarter of the Wildcats’ 45-24 win at Arizona Stadium Saturday night. The Wildcat defense held the Lumberjacks to 243 yards of total offense.

    The Arizona football team came into Saturday’s game against NAU with one major goal in mind: run an effective offense.

    A week removed from totaling 255 yards, the Wildcats (1-1) had a stronger outing behind 490 total yards, including 283 passing.

    “”It was like they actually did the offense they practiced all spring and all summer, and it was about time,”” said cornerback Antoine Cason after the Wildcats defeated the Lumberjacks (1-1) 45-24 in front of 52,638 fans at Arizona Stadium. “”This is the first game with that offense, so we can just go from there.

    “”This is what we better expect from now,”” Cason added. “”It better happen like this (from) now (on).””

    The offense was less conservative than it appeared at last weekend’s 20-7 loss to Brigham Young. The play selection was filled with screens, reverses and passes downfield. The Wildcats even lined up in a four-wide receiver set on the first play of the game.

    Quarterback Willie Tuitama led the way, finishing 23-of-44 for 283 yards and a career-high five touchdown passes – one shy of the school record – all to different receivers.

    “”That’s the good thing about our offense, we have a lot of guys starting to make plays,”” said offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes. “”When five different guys are scoring touchdowns and executing, that is a pretty good job of spreading the ball around.””

    The Wildcats came out looking to make a statement offensively from the get-go, as Tuitama orchestrated a 10-play, 69-yard scoring drive on Arizona’s first possession, capped off by a 20-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Mike Thomas.

    “”I thought it was a solid game by the offense, defense and special teams tonight,”” said UA head coach Mike Stoops. “”We were methodical all night in how we moved the ball, and were able to put some points on the board.””

    Cason provided the early spark for Arizona.

    With the Wildcats up 7-0 early in the second quarter, Cason returned his second career punt 70 yards for a score, making various cuts to spring himself from the Lumberjack defenders.

    “”That was the biggest play of the day,”” Stoops said. “”He showed explosiveness and some nice moves. I hope now people won’t question his quickness.””

    Taking a 14-3 advantage into halftime, the Arizona offense exploded in the third quarter. The Wildcats’ 24 points were bolstered by Tuitama’s three touchdown strikes and 160 yards passing in the period.

    It took Arizona just three plays and 53 seconds into the second half to strike again, as Tuitama connected with wide receiver Terrell Turner on a 34-yard touchdown pass.

    Tuitama later hit Anthony Johnson for a four-yard touchdown strike and a 26-yard touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski, expanding the score to 38-10 heading into the fourth quarter.

    “”Coach opened up the offense this week,”” Tuitama said. “”The second half we came out relaxed and just went out there and played and had fun.””

    But some Arizona mistakes in the fourth quarter allowed NAU to creep back into the game.

    After NAU quarterback Lance Kriesien scored on a 2-yard run, the Lumberjacks attempted a squib kick down the middle of the Arizona receiving team. No Wildcat jumped on the ball, allowing NAU to recover deep into Arizona territory.

    From there, the Lumberjacks scored its second touchdown in 45 seconds off of a 13-yard touchdown scamper by Lionel Scott, cutting the Arizona lead to 38-24.

    Arizona responded with another touchdown – Tuitama’s 20-yard touchdown bullet to a diving Delashaun Dean in the end zone.

    The Lumberjacks’ 24 points were the most they have put up
    against Arizona.

    Stoops said he was still impressed with the team’s growth.

    “”The offense played well moving the ball, but we made some mistakes in the second half,”” he said. “”We just have to continue to get better. We have another week to improve before we open the Pac-10 season.””

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