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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    ‘Cats 100 percent healthy heading into bye

    Athletic trainers examine UA defensive back Nate Ness after he flipped in the air when he was blocked by USC running back Stafon Johnson in Arizonas 17-10 loss Saturday night at Arizona Stadium. A handful of Wildcats were injured in the game, but they will be 100 percent healthy heading to Washington State.
    Athletic trainers examine UA defensive back Nate Ness after he flipped in the air when he was blocked by USC running back Stafon Johnson in Arizona’s 17-10 loss Saturday night at Arizona Stadium. A handful of Wildcats were injured in the game, but they will be 100 percent healthy heading to Washington State.

    It was easy for coaches and players on the Arizona football team to point out the most memorable play in the Wildcats’ 17-10 loss to USC during their weekly film session.

    Senior safety Nate Ness blitzed on a third-down play but was sent head-over-heels by a devastating cut block that allowed Trojan quarterback Mark Sanchez to find an open man on a play that proved to be the game-winning score.

    “”Coach Mark (Stoops) was like, ‘Oh, you should have tried to jump over him,’ and I was like, ‘I did try to jump over,’ and he goes, ‘Oh, I see. Well, you didn’t quite make it over,'”” Ness joked at Wednesday’s practice, the first time Arizona took to the field since Saturday’s loss.

    Perhaps it was that play – one that saw Ness injure his knee, although he did return later in the game – that aided Arizona head coach Mike Stoops’ decision to give the Wildcats Monday and Tuesday off from practice. Another reason was the numerous injuries Arizona sustained during the USC game.

    Running back Keola Antolin left the game in the second quarter after injuring his shoulder and defensive end Ricky Elmore went down with a lower left leg injury, both of which appeared to be serious setbacks when they occurred. Cornerback Devin Ross was forced from the game by a nagging groin injury, but he was able to return later in the contest.

    With so many key contributors suffering injuries against the Trojans, Mike Stoops decided to do something a little out of the ordinary when he released his team from their Monday and Tuesday practice duties.

    “”I’ve been here for three years, and I don’t think he’s ever given us two days off like that back to back,”” Elmore said. “”I think it helped us out a lot, not only physically but mentally. It helped us get a little bit away from (the USC loss) and get ready this last part of the season.””

    Somewhat surprisingly, all the injured players participated in Wednesday’s practice and even those with more serious injuries, like Elmore and Antolin, were back on the field.

    “”It was good to get back. We were a little sluggish, but I think the time off was good,”” said Mike Stoops. “”I really like the way our kids that were nicked up came back today, and it looks like we’re gonna be 100 percent healthy for the Washington State game.””

    Even with the Cougars being as bad as they are this year, Arizona would like to get as healthy as it can over the next few weeks, because the stretch run of the season will determine what the Wildcats will do over winter break.

    The two days off practice helped the Wildcats regain some of their energy, but they didn’t take off completely. While Elmore was primarily resting, Antolin said he hit the weight room while Ness worked on some conditioning drills.

    Players were staying somewhat loose during the beginning of the week because the stakes will be higher than ever during the last five weeks of the season in the Mike Stoops era. A slip up against Washington State would severely dent Arizona’s bowl hopes and send the team into panic mode before consecutive games against two schools ahead of the Wildcats in the Pacific-10 Conference standings – Oregon and Oregon State. Arizona can’t afford to become complacent this late in the season, but Stoops doesn’t think that will happen as a result of the two-day layoff. This group of Wildcats is focused on the job at hand, no matter what obstacles – or injuries – get in their way.

    “”We’re hungry. We’ve got a lot more season left, and we’re trying to win out,”” Ness said. “”This is a physical game. It’s a contact sport and people are gonna get hurt.””

    “”But you know what? So what,”” Ness said with a grin. “”We’re gonna come back and practice the next week.””

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