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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Antolin earns conference honors

    UA running back Keola Antolin runs downfield in Saturdays 42-27 win over then-No. 25 California. Antolin was named the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Week on Monday.
    UA running back Keola Antolin runs downfield in Saturday’s 42-27 win over then-No. 25 California. Antolin was named the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Week on Monday.

    Not even a full year into his college football career and true freshman running back Keola Antolin is already making a difference for the Arizona football team.

    And the Pacific 10 Conference has noticed.

    Antolin found his name among the Pac-10 elite yet again Monday, as the conference announced the running back as the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Week.

    “”I didn’t even know I had it until coach told us before we started practice,”” Antolin said. “”It’s a nice surprise.””

    The Las Vegas native, who was named the Pac-10 Special Teams player of the Week Sept. 6 for his performance against Toledo, racked up 237 all-purpose yards in Arizona’s win over then-No. 25 California on Saturday en route to his second accolade from the Pac-10 this season.

    Antolin rushed 21 times for 149 yards and scored three touchdowns against the Golden Bears, easily making him the difference in a win that most believe saved Arizona’s season.

    Antolin’s performance left a lasting impression on the coaching staff.

    The freshman stole the show with his unique ability to combine speed and power, as he proceeded to run all over the California defense.

    “”He played like a veteran,”” offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes said following the game Saturday. “”He took care of the football. He ran hard, he gave us some pop.””

    In order for Antolin to get a full shot, however, starting running back Nic Grigsby had to make a mistake. After battling a fumble problem for much of the season, UA head coach Mike Stoops took Grigsby out after he fumbled on his first carry Saturday.

    This time, Stoops had had enough.

    “”I was disappointed with Nic (Grigsby) because he put the ball on the ground, but he gave someone else an opportunity,”” Stoops said following Arizona’s win Saturday.

    Grigsby didn’t return to the game, but Stoops said following the win that the sophomore would remain the starter if he can prove he can hold onto the ball with more authority.

    “”Nic will continue to be our starting running back unless he wants to continue to put the ball on the ground,”” Stoops said. “”It was a great lesson. There is nothing against Nic, but there were just too many fumbles, and ball security is something we pride ourselves on and hopefully he will get that corrected.

    “”When you get off to a bad start sometimes it can linger with you,”” Stoops continued. “”I don’t know if I liked his body language on the sideline. When you make a mistake, that’s fine. We may sit you down, but you need to show me that you want to get back, and I don’t know if we felt that with Nic and that’s something Nic needs to work on.””

    Though Grigsby certainly was displeased with sitting out nearly the entire game against the Golden Bears, Stoops said it is important to overcome issues in terms of gaining more maturity at the position.

    Stoops said Grigsby must take the bad game with a grain of salt and move forward as Arizona’s starting running back, even if that means sharing time with Antolin.

    “”He has got to overcome adversity at some point in (his) career and Nic understands what his role is on this team,”” Stoops said. “”He’ll bounce back and he just has to protect the football better than he has.””

    Rather than worrying too much about what happened, Grigsby watched videos of the former New York Giants great Tiki Barber, who had a fumble problem as well in his career, to see how he learned to protect the ball.

    Grigsby said Saturday is over and he is looking forward to getting back in his usual role as the team’s starting tailback.

    “”It’s my fault. It was just me being careless with the football,”” Grigsby said after practice Monday evening. “”I watched the Tiki Barber film over the Internet and I was watching straight ball security, and I was watching some film on me and I get careless with the ball sometimes.

    “”I know (Barber) started off his career with bad ball security,”” Grigsby added. “”And he ended up turning around and being one of the best ball carriers in the NFL, so it was a good thing that I watched it.””

    Though Grigsby is still in the mix, Antolin did more than enough to solidify a spot as a member of Arizona’s backfield.

    Despite standing at just 5-foot-8, 180-pounds – numbers that still seem rather generous – Antolin provides the Arizona rushing attack with a powerful running style between the tackles.

    While his small body can be deceiving to opposing defenses, Antolin showed an ability to run over people in a dynamic blend with speed – regardless of his sizeÿ- that makes the case for more playing time.

    Grigsby’s style is different than Antolin’s, and the UA coaching staff describes Grigsby as a “”slasher.”” The sophomore starter uses his speed and unique vision to create cutback lanes and make people miss, often resulting in big plays when least expected.

    With each running backs’ unique style bringing different threats on behalf of the Wildcats’ offense, Stoops said in his weekly press conference Monday that Grigsby and Antolin will both have a role Saturday in Arizona’s Homecoming game against No. 6 USC that will decide which team remains in first place in the Pac-10.

    “”They’ll both play,”” Stoops said.

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