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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Junior running back sets Arizona record for carries in Wildcat upset

    All season long, the Arizona defense has played the patient older sibling, waiting for the team’s young offense to emerge as a dependable partner in crime.

    If Chris Henry continues his on-field maturation, the Wildcats may just be wreaking havoc in the postseason.

    The junior running back carried a school-record 35 times for 94 yards and two touchdowns, as Arizona upset No. 25 Washington State 27-17 in Pullman, Wash., on Saturday in front of 35,177 at Martin Stadium.

    “”Chris ran the ball really well,”” kicker Nick Folk said in a phone interview yesterday. “”He carried the load for us. He was an animal.””

    The win was the Wildcats’ first road victory over a national top-25 opponent since 2000 and gave Arizona (4-5, 2-4 Pacific 10 Conference) its highest victory total since 2002 (4-8).

    It also marked UA head coach Mike Stoops’ third win over a ranked team in his two-plus seasons, the last coming in a 52-14 home triumph over then-No. 7 UCLA last November.

    Arizona would qualify for its first bowl game since 1998 with two wins in its final three contests, starting with Saturday’s Homecoming contest against No. 8 California.

    “”There’s hope,”” UA co-offensive coordinator Mike Canales said in a phone interview yesterday. “”That’s all you want is chance now, a hope.””

    The Wildcats’ defense forced four fumbles against the Cougars (6-4, 4-3) and sacked quarterback Alex Brink four times.

    Thanks to Henry’s steady running, Arizona kept the ball for 11 minutes of the fourth quarter as it held to a 10-point lead.

    The Wildcats drained seven minutes off the clock with a nine-play, 30-yard drive, keyed by Henry’s 19-yard run to Arizona 41-yard line on third-and-17.

    Brink threw three straight incomplete passes on the Cougars’ next possession, and the Wildcats got the ball back on Washington State’s 46 with 4:38 left.

    Arizona rushed five times and kneeled twice before a Folk punt put the Cougars on their own 20 with 40 seconds remaining.

    After Brink missed wide receiver Chris Jordan on first down, he was sacked by defensive end Louis Holmes before hitting wideout Brandon Gibson for nine yards to end the game.

    Folk said a steady drizzle at Martin Stadium appeared to take a toll on the Cougars as the second half progressed.

    “”A lot of their guys weren’t very focused,”” he said. “”Their guys weren’t making catches they would.””

    Quarterback Willie Tuitama made a successful return to the starting lineup after missing the past two games while recovering from a concussion suffered Oct. 7.

    He completed 10-of-17 passes for 159 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

    “”He’s the same kid we saw against (Brigham Young in the season opener),”” Canales said. “”He’s back.””

    Tuitama hooked up with receiver Anthony Johnson for a 78-yard score on the third snap of the game.

    “”Confidence, confidence, that’s what it’s all about,”” Canales said of the early score. “”That’s (scoring quickly) what Washington State likes to do to win games.””

    Henry has alternated carries with junior walk-on Chris Jennings throughout the year but earned the start Saturday after making eight receptions for 87 yards in a 17-10 loss to Oregon State on Oct. 21.

    After a Romeen Abdollmohammadi field goal gave the Cougars a 10-7 advantage, Henry finished a 13-play, 80-yard drive with a 3-yard plunge into the end zone with 13:08 left in the second quarter.

    Later in the game, after Tuitama hit wide receivers Syndric Steptoe and Mike Thomas for 21- and 16-yard gains, respectively, to move the Wildcats to Washington State’s 8-yard line with three minutes left in the third, Henry scored on a six-yard run two plays later to give Arizona a 27-17 lead.

    “”He ran strong,”” Canales said. “”That’s the really big thing. He gave the quarterback a chance to make some throws.””

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