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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Henry’s mentality unchanged with success

    Running back Chris Henry has sparked the Arizona offense of late, including a two-touchdown performance over the weekend against  Washington State.
    Running back Chris Henry has sparked the Arizona offense of late, including a two-touchdown performance over the weekend against Washington State.

    If you were to ask him, Chris Henry would tell you nothing’s changed.

    But after a career-best 94-yard, two-touchdown performance on a school-record 35 carries in Arizona’s 27-17 win over then-No. 25 Washington State, it’s evident something is different for the running back.

    “”His presence has really shown lately,”” said UA head coach Mike Stoops. “”I just noticed his attitude is a lot different. It’s a lot more consistent. And he’s really coming on.””

    Said Henry: “”I appreciate (Stoops) noticing …whatever that they noticed. Maybe I have changed, and I just didn’t notice.””

    The junior opened the season with a bang, rushing for 63 yards, including a career-long 54-yard dash, in Arizona’s season-opening win over Brigham Young Sept. 2. But after gaining just two yards on six carries against then-No. 8 Louisiana State a week later, Henry was suspended for violating team rules before the Sept. 16 Stephen F. Austin game, a game that saw backup Chris Jennings explode for 201 yards against the Division I-AA school.

    Over the next three games, Henry got just 16 carries – gaining 26 yards – as he played second fiddle to Jennings, who carried the ball 29 times in that span. But the cutback in his workload didn’t seem to press on Henry’s mind that much.

    “”I don’t really like to worry or stress over things you have absolutely no control over,”” Henry said after practice earlier this week. “”You’re wasting your energy, and you might waste someone else’s energy if you’re worried about (uncontrollable circumstances).””

    Then finally, on Oct. 14 at Stanford, Henry got more of a chance, rushing for 91 yards on 16 carries, including his first score of the year.

    A week later at home against Oregon State, Henry showed that he can do more than just run and block, catching eight passes for a career-high 87 yards. The following Monday, he was back at the top of the depth chart.

    “”A lot of people would crumble under different circumstances,”” Henry said, “”but I definitely tried to stay strong for my teammates and my coaches and the team and just tried to win games.””

    But about that change?

    “”I really couldn’t tell you,”” he said, “”because I have the same mentality right now that I had at the beginning of the season.””

    And though those around him do see changes – “”He’s definitely more determined right now,”” said quarterback Willie Tuitama – perhaps the biggest change of all went unsaid: He now has the chance to prove himself.

    “”I’m just trying to do the same thing I’ve been trying to do all season, and I’m finally getting the opportunity,”” Henry said.

    Henry’s big game last Saturday played no small part in Arizona’s big win over the Cougars, a win that inched the team closer to realizing their bowl hopes.

    His legs picked up a number of key third downs, but most importantly, they carried him past the goal line when Arizona needed a score most – in the second quarter after WSU had taken a 10-7 lead, and again in the third after the Cougars cut the lead to three at 20-17.

    “”‘C-Hen’ just kept running all night,”” Tuitama said. “”He’s a workhorse, and we were counting on him. He came through big time.””

    The record number of carries also led to Arizona controlling the ball nearly 11 more minutes than WSU and enabled the offense to give the defense some rest.

    “”It feels really good to be able to hold the ball for that long and also get production out of it,”” Henry said. “”Obviously, if you do hold the ball for that long, you’re getting something out of it.

    “”Thus far throughout the season, we haven’t been able to do that.””

    It’s a strategy Stoops hopes to continue to employ: rush the ball effectively, win the game.

    “”It’d be nice if he can carry it 35, 38 times (again),”” Stoops said. “”That means we’re possessing the ball, and that’s a good thing.””

    And Henry? He wouldn’t mind, either.

    “”I’m always up for a challenge. The whole backfield is,”” he said. “”We’ve got three good backs to spread the ball around. Thirty-five? We could get more than that.””

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