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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Arizona football falls under Cardinal rule

    PALO ALTO, Calif. – There is just something about Stanford.

    It may not be the best team in the Pacific 10 Conference, but the Cardinal sure know how to make opponents fall under their spell every now and then.

    Just ask USC.

    Or more appropriately, send the question over to Arizona offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes, who just saw his team fall to Stanford in heartbreaking fashion for the second consecutive year.

    “”The way (the Cardinal) play, they just kind of get you into these kind of games,”” Dykes said. “”This is what they do to everybody. This is how they beat USC last year.””

    Dykes was commenting on Stanford’s knack for keeping games close, regardless of its opponent. The Cardinal did so to the top-ranked Trojans last season and kept an extremely potent Arizona offense in check Saturday.

    The Cardinal’s tactics are simple and predictable. They use a power-run game to control the game clock, which in turn takes away from the opponents’ possessions and systematically keeps the game manageable.

    Against Arizona, Stanford had two 100-yard rushers in junior Toby Gerhart (116) and senior Anthony Kimble (110) – the first time the Cardinal has had two players rush for over 100 yards since Brian Allen (143) and Kenneth Tolon (100) did it against the Wildcats in 2001.

    With the steady ground game, the Arizona offense was limited, and the pressure was increased with each passing possession.

    The Wildcats had only four possessions the entire first half, including one that lasted for nine seconds before halftime when they took a knee to run out the clock. In the second half, the Wildcats were again limited offensively with five drives, and the final possession of the game was in desperation mode for 19 seconds.

    The bottom line is Arizona never could get into sync.

    “”It was hard times, especially in the first half because we only had the ball three times,”” said UA quarterback Willie Tuitama. “”Just to get rhythm you need to move, move and move, and that’s something we just didn’t get.

    “”When you are watching the clock and the clock keeps going and going, and they are able to run the ball the way they did and mix in their play action and their drop-back passes and everything, you see the clock just ticking down,”” Tuitama added.

    Give the credit to Stanford, or take it away from Arizona.

    The Wildcats had plenty of opportunities to put the Cardinal away, given that they were forced to settle for three points three different times after getting inside of Stanford’s 10-yard line.

    Perhaps the most disappointing red zone trip was when Arizona had a three-point lead with less than seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, and a first-and-goal from the 6-yard line – they were unable to score a touchdown that would have most likely sealed the deal for the Wildcats.

    With weapons like tight end Rob Gronkowski, receiver Mike Thomas and running back Nic Grigsby, the Wildcats stuck to the predictable in the first two plays with dives by Grigsby.

    On a third down, and with a touchdown almost necessary to put Stanford away, the Wildcats were fooled by a Stanford defense “”bluffing”” to double-cover Gronkowski – the go-to receiver in Arizona’s red zone appearances.

    Instead of finding a single-covered Gronkowski, Tuitama darted it to Thomas and the ball was deflected, forcing the Wildcats to settle for yet another field goal.

    An offense that has looked unstoppable at times this season looked rather helpless as they jogged off the field.

    “”Any time you are on the road and you have to settle for three points, you have problems,”” Stoops said. “”I have always said that and we couldn’t get the knockout punch and that’s what happens.””

    While it is just one loss, it’s a pretty devastating blow to Arizona’s path toward the postseason.

    Flying high from a fast start in the Pac-10, it seems as if Arizona lacks the killer instinct needed to become a player in a very tight conference race.

    And with California and USC coming to Tucson in the next two weeks, respectively, if Arizona doesn’t take at least one of the two, it looks as if the Stanford loss could be a season-defining blunder for the second year in a row.

    If the Wildcats fall in the next two games – something that could surely happen given the opponents – they will be sitting at 4-4 and right back in the same position as the year before.

    So much for the fast start. Desperation mode starts now.


    – Ari Wasserman is a journalism senior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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