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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Stoops pleased with offensive progression

It was business as usual for Arizona football head coach Mike Stoops on Monday, who was more pleased with the performance of his team during the 29-21 win over UCLA than he was about the bigger picture of improving his career record to 40-40.

“”I thought we played with a lot of balance as a team,”” Stoops said at his weekly press conference. “”Offensively, that was our biggest production of the year. It was good to see that type of balance, I think our run game has really come on the last couple weeks, and I think that will bode well for us down the stretch.””

The Wildcats totaled a season-high 583 yards against the Bruins. That passing game has continued to move right along despite Nick Foles being sidelined with a knee injury — Arizona leads the Pacific 10 Conference with 300.6 passing yards per game — but the improvement of the running game is noticeable. The Wildcats have slowly built up their rushing average, which now stands at 152.8 yards per game.

On the other side of the ball, the nation’s 10th best defense was dominant on Saturday, with the exception of two big plays that alone yielded 117 yards and 12 points.

“”Defensively I thought we played pretty well, not one of our best,”” Stoops said. “”Our safety play, letting them get two easy touchdowns, is concerning and disappointing, and we’ll have to correct that this week and be better in the back end.””

The win put the Wildcats at 7-1 — their best start since 1998 — and in good position to contend for the Pac-10 championship down the stretch.

According to Stoops, however, that won’t happen if the offense doesn’t improve its red zone efforts.

“”Overall, really pleased with the win (but I’m) disappointed we didn’t score more points,”” Stoops said. “”Red zone efficiency wasn’t great. Going on the road and getting three points in a lot of those situations against a really good team will hurt you. We just have to convert more. The points didn’t equate to the way we moved the football.””

An early look at Stanford

Stoops said that the late-season implications combined with ABC announcing Saturday’s matchup with the Cardinal would be broadcast as its game of the week should be enough to get his players excited about the game, but he stressed that Arizona needed a perfect week of practice in order to improve to 8-1.

“”We have to be more efficient scoring because these guys are going to score some points,”” Stoops said. “”This is a very good football team, very well-coached.

Obviously they play hard and do a lot of things very similar to the way we operate. Kids play hard. They’re a disciplined fundamental football team.””

What stands out about the Cardinal is its offense. Led by quarterback Andrew Luck and a steady power running game, Stanford averages 42.4 points per game. Part of it is the talent on that side of the ball. Another part is the offense schemes that head coach Jim Harbaugh has installed.

“”They move their personnel around. They want to talk about being physical, but it’s a game of manipulation when you play Stanford,”” Stoops said. “”They create so many formations. It’s a very pro-oriented situation when you watch Jim’s teams play, but it’s more about manipulations than it is anything else.””

Last year the Wildcats and Cardinal took part in a classic shootout when UA beat Stanford 43-38 in a game that featured 1,137 combined yards of offense. Arizona, according to Stoops, made an effort to try and take away Stanford’s running game — which at the time was led by All-American Toby Gerhart — but in doing so was burned for 434 yards through the air.

Because Stanford is so proficient in all facets on offense, Stoops said that his defense needs to play a well-rounded game rather than picking its poison like it did last year.

“”The thing that’s difficult about Stanford is that we can take away the run if we want to take it away, but last year they threw for 400 yards on us,”” Stoops said.

As for the similarities between Stoops and Harbaugh — both came in as young head coaches and lifted their programs from the depths of the Pac-10 to the top — Stoops reverted to a headline grabbing quote that the Stanford coach had a few weeks ago.

“”Jim is Jim,”” Stoops said with a laugh. “”I know he’s got a great wife and a great quarterback.””

Injury update

Stoops was pleased to announce that his team’s injury list is shrinking.

“”We’re healthy,”” he said. “”I anticipate everybody being available for Saturday. I’d imagine Nick (Foles) will be a firm option for us. Justin Washington will play. The guys that didn’t play last week that start or play a considerable amount for us, we anticipate back for this game.””

Stoops wouldn’t name a starter, but he did say that the position remains Foles’ when he is ready.

“”If Nick (Foles) is healthy enough to play and practice and do the things necessary, then he will start,”” Stoops said.

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