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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    ‘Cats roll thanks to second half surge

    UA running back Keola Antolin plows over a California defender during the Wildcats 42-27 win over the No. 25 ranked Golden Bears at Arizona Stadium Saturday night. Antolin gained 149 yards on 21 carries and scored three touchdowns in the game.
    UA running back Keola Antolin plows over a California defender during the Wildcats’ 42-27 win over the No. 25 ranked Golden Bears at Arizona Stadium Saturday night. Antolin gained 149 yards on 21 carries and scored three touchdowns in the game.

    The Arizona football team wasn’t quite ready to concede its season.

    After a heartbreaking loss to Stanford last weekend that seriously put the Wildcats’ backs against the wall, Arizona responded with yet another mid-season, home victory over a top-tier opponent under head coach Mike Stoops.

    Despite trailing by 10 points at halftime, Arizona (5-2, 3-1 Pacific 10 Conference) used a 28-point third quarter to knock off No. 25 California (4-2, 2-1) at Arizona Stadium Saturday night in front of an announced attendance of 48,372 fans.

    “”Obviously I am very excited about the effort of both the coaches and the players. I can’t put into words to describe what we came through to get here”” Stoops said. “”There was much written and much said and a lot of times we were written off, but we keep coming back.

    “”Sometimes it take’s time to get to a certain point,”” Stoops added, “”and I think you saw that in the game tonight.””

    Arizona was powered by its running game, but it wasn’t the familiar face of sophomore running back Nic Grigsby that led the way, but rather true freshman Keola Antolin.

    While Grigsby got the start for the Wildcats, he fumbled the ball on his only carry on Arizona’s first possession and the turnover led to a Cal touchdown that gave the Golden Bears an early 7-0 lead. Grigsby didn’t return for the remainder of the game.

    Antolin entered the game two series later and stole the show for Arizona.

    In by far his biggest workload in collegiate play, Antolin carried the ball 21 times for 149 yards and scored three touchdowns. Despite his small stature of 5-foot-8, 180 pounds, Antolin was the biggest player on the field.

    “”I just came out and did my thing. When they call my number, I just stepped up and made plays,”” said Antolin, who heard he was too short more than once during his recruitment process. “”This was my first real college football experience. I was so nervous. After my first touchdown, I calmed down though.””

    In the absence of Grigsby – who Stoops said would remain the Wildcats’ starter as long as he stops putting the ball on the ground – Antolin surely made a case for more playing time.

    And it couldn’t have happened at a better time.

    “”He really stepped up this game and we are glad he is back healthy,”” said offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes of Antolin. “”Competition really forces those guys to bring it every day to practice.””

    Perhaps the biggest play of the game came in the third quarter after an Antolin touchdown gave the Wildcats their first lead, but it wasn’t the freshman who delivered. This time it was the Wildcat defense.

    Arizona cornerback Devin Ross picked off California quarterback Nate Longshore and took it back 21-yards for a touchdown and gave Arizona an eight-point lead.

    While the play was officially ruled an interception, Ross ripped the ball out of California receiver Verran Tucker’s hands before advancing for the score.

    “”I just took it from him I guess,”” Ross said. “”It was a nice job by the defensive line that gave good pressure, and I came up with the pick.””

    Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama, who passed Tom Tunnicliffe (1980-83) as the program’s all-time leading passer (7,814 yards) and career all-purpose yards leader (7,365), finished the game 16-for-27 with 225 yards and two touchdowns, one each to receiver Mike Thomas and tight end Rob Gronkowski.

    With the Wildcats’ season dangling by a thread, Arizona threw itself back into first place in the Pac-10 with the win over Cal, which was previously unbeaten in the conference.

    Arizona will invite USC into the friendly confines of Arizona Stadium next week with first place in the conference at stake.

    “”You have to. Why not?”” Thomas said about believing in Arizona’s ability to knock off the Trojans next week. “”That’s what you play for – to win. So why wouldn’t we go in there with confidence and believing that we are going to win?

    “”We at home, we are undefeated at home this season,”” Thomas added. “”We are going to try and keep that going.””

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