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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Is Willie Tuitama in a sophomore slump?

    Pro: Tuitama’s lack of production a glaring difference from 2005

    Football, like any sport, is a game of numbers – gaining first downs, converting third-and-long and putting points on the scoreboard.
    Quarterback Willie Tuitama hasn’t performed well in any of those areas in his sophomore season.
    After emerging as by far the most promising quarterback the Arizona football team has had under head coach Mike Stoops during the final five games of 2005, Tuitama entered the fall with expectations of putting on an aerial show while leading the Wildcats to their first postseason berth in eight years.
    So far, so mediocre: While the team is at 2-2 and still in the hunt to finish at .500 and reach a bowl game, Tuitama – two touchdowns, four interceptions, 53.4 percent completion – has been a shell of the poised, polished performer he appeared to be last year (nine touchdowns, five interceptions, 57.7 percent completion).
    In fact, statistically he hasn’t even separated himself from his recent, forgettable predecessors when looking at the opening four games of their first seasons as the week-one starter.
    In 2004, Kris Heavner, then a sophomore, took on two national top-20 teams (Utah, Wisconsin) and converted nearly two-thirds of his pass attempts with four touchdowns and one interception.
    The year before, facing a pair of top-15 opponents (Purdue, California), redshirt freshman Ryan O’Hara came through on 42 percent of his passes with one score and four picks.
    Based on his numbers thus far, Tuitama fits in between the two, having also played against a couple of nationally ranked teams in then-No. 8 Louisiana State Sept. 9 and No. 3 USC Saturday.
    In each game, when he wasn’t picking himself off the grass after big hits, Tuitama overthrew receivers and failed to sustain drives, as the Wildcats went a combined 5-of-27 on third downs in those contests.
    Although a weak running game and learning offensive line has played into Tuitama’s early inefficiency, a quarterback’s ultimate worth to his team is in his numbers, both on the stat sheet and how he contributes to the win column.
    Early in this all-important encore for Tuitama, he’s not measuring up.

    Con: Those around Tuitama need to improve

    So Willie didn’t dazzle against Southern California (14-of-23, 170 yards and an interception), but does one bad game indicate a slump?
    Sure, he already wasn’t off to the greatest start (33-of-65, 297 yards and two touchdowns against three interceptions through three games), but consider that the young signal caller has now played two top-10 teams – and was concussed on the first play of one of those games – and missed the majority of the game against Arizona’s easiest opponent of the season.
    Tuitama still has this team where it wants to be – in prime position to make a bowl game. Arizona could easily be 1-3 if not for a 13-play, 44-yard, Tuitama-led drive and the golden toe of Nick Folk.
    In times of need, No. 7’s been there. Through four games, his Wildcats have already matched 2005’s total for fourth-quarter points (25).
    So, no, Tuitama isn’t headed for a sophomore slump.
    But don’t take my word for it; take that of UA head coach Mike Stoops, who’s more concerned about the players around Tuitama.
    “”Willie’s not the type of quarterback – I don’t know how many are – that carry their team on their back,”” he said earlier this week. “”We have to be able to run the football. We have to be able to protect the quarterback. We have to be able to run routes and get people open. When people have been open, he’s put the ball right where it needs to be.
    “”We have to get better and keep building around him and get stronger around him so he can make those plays.””

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