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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Injuries give Nwoko carries

Michael+Ignatov+%2F+Arizona+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0AUniversity+of+Arizona+meets+Northern+Arizona+University+in+an+NCAA+mens+football+game+in+Arizona+Stadium%2C+Tucson%2C+Ariz.%2C+Sept.+5%2C+2009.+Arizona+won+34-17.
Michael Ignatov
Michael Ignatov / Arizona Daily Wildcat University of Arizona meets Northern Arizona University in an NCAA men’s football game in Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Ariz., Sept. 5, 2009. Arizona won 34-17.

At the start of the season, most Arizona football fans knew of the Wildcats’ two explosive running backs, junior Nic Grigsby and sophomore Keola Antolin. But after both players were injured during Saturday’s 37-32 UA win against Oregon State, fans were formally introduced to Arizona’s third-string running back, Greg Nwoko.

Nwoko, a redshirt freshman, wasn’t expected to produce much this season because of who he backed up, but Saturday presented him with an opportunity to show he can play on a big stage.

Actually, he proved it on his first carry of the game. Late in the second quarter, Nwoko galloped 19 yards into the endzone. He finished the night with 120 total yards — 44 rushing, 76 receiving — and one touchdown on 13 touches.

“”We ran our offense and he was the guy who got the ball and he made the most of his opportunities,”” said UA head coach Mike Stoops. “”He does what he’s coached to do every day. It was fun to watch him. I think it gave him a lot of confidence in his ability.””

Throughout summer and fall camp, UA coaches and players raved about how hard Nwoko worked. It was just a matter of Nwoko getting more experience so he could get used to the college game, and after that, it would only be a matter of time before his talent shined through.

“”Ever since camp he’s been real good. He’s real athletic, he can catch the ball and he can run,”” said junior offensive lineman Colin Baxter. “”He’s a young guy and we’ve got established backs so that kind of cuts his time down a little bit, but when we needed him he came through and played great. I feel perfectly fine with him back there.””

If Nwoko wants to see more playing time, he knows he’ll have to keep improving with Grigsby and Antolin coming back. Fortunately for Nwoko, both backs have been lending him a helping hand.

“”Those two are great backs right there. They’re always helping me out, I always learn from both of them,”” Nwoko said. “”They help me on my pass blocking, how to stay inside and out, running hard and just doing everything right and going for it.

“”I love watching Keola and Grigsby,”” he added. “”And every time I watch them I learn, too. But if they go down I’m going to step in and try to do the job.””

Nwoko describes himself as a hard-nosed, downhill-style running back. Listed at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, it’s hard to ignore the physical presence he brings to the game. But Nwoko can also do the little things — that’s what makes him such a good player.

“”He’s better in the open field and he does have a little bit more speed than you would expect from a guy his size,”” said UA offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes. “”The good thing is he’s just going to keep getting better, that’s what’s exciting about him. I think when guys have a chance to get into a game and play a little bit, I think that does nothing but make them more excited and makes them want to work harder in practice and continue to develop.””

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