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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Tuitama still free of injury bug – for now

    College football is a topsy-turvy game. Last year there were more upsets than in recent memory, and there’s already been a rash of huge upsets this year – including Oregon State over then-No. 1 USC and Ole Miss over then-No. 4 Florida.

    Even Arizona was served a slice of humble pie when they lost to New Mexico earlier in the year. Take that loss out and the Wildcats are undefeated. There has been one constant behind all four wins: solid play from senior quarterback Willie Tuitama.

    The three-year starter is more comfortable in Sonny Dykes’ offense this season, a scary thought considering he led the Pacific 10 Conference in touchdown passes last year with 28. Tuitama has been so proficient the past two seasons that he is just 283 yards away from becoming the all-time leading passer in Arizona history, which would pass Tom Tunnicliffe’s total of 7,618 yards.

    If the Wildcats’ hope to continue their recent string of success and become a legitimate threat to win the Pac-10 title, keeping their signal caller healthy should be the top priority. Don’t take my word for it, though; just look around the rest of the conference.

    The injuries at the quarterback position started to rack up in the preseason. UCLA lost Ben Olson and Patrick Cowan on back-to-back plays during a practice. Oregon lost projected starter Nate Costa for the season due to a knee injury before he could kick off his attempt to replace the highly versatile Dennis Dixon.

    Although the Bruins did manage to beat Tennessee in the opening week of the season, much of that can be attributed to a terrible Volunteer team and not the play of Kevin Craft. He did throw four first half interceptions.

    Even with Craft starting all five games this year, he has more picks than scores, and the Bruins have one of the worst offenses in college football – UCLA is the 100th-ranked scoring offense out of 120 teams. Unless the Bruins find a new Troy Aikman or Cade McNown, expect that number to stay where it is.

    Oregon’s preseason troubles were only the beginning. The Ducks are now on their fourth quarterback of the regular season. Jeremiah Masoli, Justin Roper, Darron Thomas and Chris Harper have all taken snaps for Oregon this season and that inconsistency partially explains their two losses in the past three weeks, one a home defeat to Boise State. The Ducks must have consistent play from their quarterback position, or more 34-point blowouts in Pac-10 games, such as the USC loss, are likely.

    Washington’s quarterback situation has been well documented with Jake Locker expected to be on the shelf for at least another five weeks. Redshirt freshman Ronnie Fouch is left with the task of saving Tyrone Willingham’s job, and the projections from Seattle aren’t good.

    The Huskies’ in-state rivals have even worse issues: Head coach Paul Wulff held open tryouts for a scout team quarterback earlier this week. It’s no surprise that the Cougars are winless (0-5, 0-3 in the Pac-10) and ranked 99th in scoring offense.

    While USC didn’t lose to the Beavers because the Trojans’ offensive leader was down, Mark Sanchez did hurt his left knee in USC’s 44-10 win over Oregon last week. Sanchez is still listed as questionable for this week’s game against ASU.

    Speaking of the Sun Devils, their signal caller’s status for the game is up in the air, too. Rudy Carpenter sprained his left ankle in a 24-14 loss to California last weekend and hobbled out of the stadium on crutches.

    California hasn’t had any injuries to its quarterback yet this season, but the inconsistency in starters has hurt the team. Before the season began, Golden Bear fans wanted Kevin Riley to start over senior Nate Longshore and head coach Jeff Tedford obliged. After losing to Maryland in Cal’s third game, Riley got the hook and Longshore took the reins back.

    Only Stanford, Oregon State and Arizona have yet to have any issues with quarterbacks, and the three schools have combined for a 5-2 record in Pac-10 play including Stanford’s season opening win over Oregon State.

    While Tuitama is confident in the abilities of backups Matt Scott and Bryson Beirne, neither has proven that they can distribute the ball the way Tuitama can. If Tuitama does get injured, it would be a safe bet that the offense wouldn’t be as dominant as they are with the senior present, given that they have scored almost 44 points a game thus far this season. If Arizona wants to go to a bowl game, it must keep Tuitama out of the trainer’s room so he can put himself in the history books.


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

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