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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Take two big wins for what it’s worth

    Brian Kimball - Asst. Sports Editor
    Brian Kimball – Asst. Sports Editor

    Kimball’s Bits

    The Arizona football team looked almost unstoppable in its first two games of the season, but don’t anoint them as bowl worthy just yet.

    Both teams were Division I Football Bowl Series teams, formerly Division I-A, but they certainly weren’t the cream of the crop either.

    First up was Idaho, one of the worst teams in college football. The Vandals – ranked in the preseason No. 117 out of 117 FBS teams, came into Tucson off of a 1-11 campaign from last year. Their only win was against Cal Poly, which is a Division I Football Championship Series squad, formerly Division I-AA. Following Idaho’s 70-0 demolition by Arizona, the Vandals played Idaho State and allowed the FCS team nearly 400 yards and 27 points in their 42-27 victory. Those 35 second-quarter points by Arizona don’t look quite as impressive when paired with that.

    Second came a Toledo team, which – although talented on offense – didn’t have enough athletes to match up with the Wildcats man-for-man. The Rocket defense didn’t exactly blast opponents last year either as the group allowed just more than 39 points per game. In Toledo’s first game of the year in 2008, Arizona’s 41 points seem about par for the course of the Rockets.

    Now it is good to see that UA sophomore running back Nic Grigsby, senior quarterback Willie Tuitama and the entire receiving corps are on the same page in the second season of the Sonny Dykes offense. It will be interesting, however, to see how the team adapts to the re-addition of a healthy Rob Gronkowski, whenever that may be.

    It is promising that a running game, which was suddenly anemic last year, finds itself with the nation’s eighth-best rusher in Grigsby (152 yards per game), who has almost tripled his touchdown total of last year: two all of last season and five this year.

    The fact that Tuitama has completed 78 percent of his passes without the security blanket of Gronkowski shows he is more comfortable in Sonny Dykes’ offense, is also promising.

    The defense has looked good, too, as it has allowed just one touchdown on a possession that started on its own 3-yard line. It has shown that it has an athletic group of players, but can they cover equally athletic ones in the weeks to come?

    But the main reason to be wary about this year’s Wildcats comes from the weak opponents and the fact that the Wildcats have yet to play a road game.

    Even if Arizona wins Saturday in Albuquerque, N.M., and avenges last year’s loss to the Lobos, the Wildcats need to prove they can win consistently – at home and on the road – in its own conference. Since UA head coach Mike Stoops has been at the helm, Arizona is 12-22 against the Pac-10 and 6-11 in nonconference games.

    The best indicator of what Arizona can actually achieve will come after the Wildcats go to Pasadena, Calif., to play UCLA on Sept. 20.

    If the same Bruin defensive line shows up that played against then-No. 18 Tennessee, it could yield a result similar to the 2006 version of Arizona’s game against UCLA, when Tuitama was knocked out of the game and the Bruins handed Arizona a 27-7 loss. UCLA’s offense might be thin on the depth chart this season, but it did enough against the Southeastern Conference talent on the Volunteer offense to sneak away with a home win.

    Following the USC road trip is a bye week, and then lowly Washington. The last time Washington came to Tucson it had a dual-threat quarterback – then Isaiah Stanback – and reeled off 21 second-quarter points in less than six minutes. This year they bring Jake Locker, and although not as fast as Stanbeck, Locker is tough to bring down at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds. He is also a better pure passer.

    Arizona has looked good, and already finds itself one-third of the way to the bowl eligible level of six wins, but let the meat of the season get underway before jumping to conclusions.

    Perhaps the most promising thing about this year’s Wildcats is that they know they still have a lot to prove. After all, Arizona has yet to play a conference game.

    – Brian Kimball is a journalism redshirt senior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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