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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    WSU’s defense opens plenty of holes for Arizona

    UA running back Nic Grigsby celebrates after scoring a touchdown, his 10th of the season, during a 17-10 Wildcat loss to USC on Oct. 25 at Arizona Stadium. Grigsby could significantly add to his scoring total against Washington State this weekend as he will face a rush defense that allows nearly 300 yards rushing per game.
    UA running back Nic Grigsby celebrates after scoring a touchdown, his 10th of the season, during a 17-10 Wildcat loss to USC on Oct. 25 at Arizona Stadium. Grigsby could significantly add to his scoring total against Washington State this weekend as he will face a rush defense that allows nearly 300 yards rushing per game.

    If there is a defense running backs drool over, it’s Washington State’s.

    Ranked 118th in the nation for yards allowed per game, there aren’t many defenses with wider holes than the Cougars’. In fact, only San Diego State has given up a higher average with nearly 300 yards allowed per game.

    Needless to say, Arizona’s running backs have not overlooked this bit of information.

    Sophomore Nic Grigsby said everyone on the team is excited for the matchup.

    “”Oh yeah, everybody’s lickin’ their chops,”” Grigsby said. “”But we still know we gotta prepare and be ready to go out there like they’re No. 1.””

    While that is a noble thought, the Cougars are far from a top-ranked team. Currently sitting ninth in the Pacific 10 Conference with a 0-6 conference record and 1-8 overallÿ- with their only win against Portland Stateÿ- Washington State has allowed just under 275 rushing yards per game and more than 6.5 yards per play.

    The Cougars also lead the country in rushing touchdowns allowed by 11, as they’ve let opposing running backs into the endzone 41 times so far.

    To gain perspective of Arizona’s potential against this kind of defense, the team just above WSU in the rushing defense standings is Washington.

    When the Huskies last made the trip to Tucson, Arizona used a combination of four different backs and a couple of quarterback keepers to rack up 256 yards on the ground, including a pair of scoresÿ- one by Grigsby.

    While the sophomore led the Wildcats that night with 113 yards out of the backfield, his longest run was only 35ÿyards – backup quarterback Matt Scott later got the best of him with a 36-yard jaunt later in the game.

    Grigsby’s longest run this year has been 58 yards, but the second-year back said it’s up to him this weekend if he wants to take one the distance.

    “”The long run comes from me just finishing plays,”” Grigsby said. “”The line will give me a good burst for those first five yards, so hopefully I can get that break away but I’ll have to help myself.””

    Despite all the things that can be said regarding the Cougars’ soft rushing defense, offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes isn’t having it.

    When asked his thoughts regarding Stanford’s recent 58-point shellacking of Washington State, in which the Cardinal amassed 344 yards on the ground to go along with seven touchdowns, Dykes said the issue appeared to be more of a strategy issue.

    “”Stanford just kind of did what they normally do, which is have a bunch of big plays in their running game,”” Dykes said. “”That’s one thing Washington State’s trying to do is taking away the rushing attack by getting safeties up on the line of scrimmage, and when that happens sometimes you give up some big plays.””

    After the beating they received last week, the Cougars will likely be doing all they can to prevent yet another slashing.

    But they will not be facing a quiet offense.

    For the season, Arizona has averaged more than 150 rushing yards per game, including a 131-yard effort against the No. 5-ranked rushing defense in the country in USC.

    Both of the Wildcats’ primary backs, Grigsby and freshman Keola Antolin, are averaging slightly less than six and five yards per carry, respectively.

    But none of that appears to be going to their heads – at least in public.

    “”We can’t really sleep on any defense in the Pac-10 because everybody’s good,”” Antolin said. “”Anyone can get beat, just look at Oregon State and USC. We just need to come out, play 100 percent like we’ve been doing, and hopefully come out with a win.””

    Late Hits

    Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Terrell Reese, who has not played in a game for Arizona since being arrested and charged with a DUI Sept. 5 but has continued practicing with the team, did not participate in Tuesday’s practice due to “”academic issues,”” said UA head coach Mike Stoops.

    Reese served a two-game suspension for the DUI arrest and was also suspended for the Sept. 6 Toledo game for missing too many classes.

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