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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Next step forward

Colin Darland / Arizona Daily Wildcat

The Arizona Wildcats take on the Stanford Cardinal at Arizona Stadium on Saturday October 17, 2009. Wildcats win with final score of 43-38
Colin Darland
Colin Darland / Arizona Daily Wildcat The Arizona Wildcats take on the Stanford Cardinal at Arizona Stadium on Saturday October 17, 2009. Wildcats win with final score of 43-38

The tides have started to turn in the Pacific 10 Conference. Some traditionally weaker teams like Arizona are on their way up while traditionally stronger teams like UCLA are on their way down.

For a team like Arizona, ranked No. 22 in the first BCS Rankings this season, this weekend against the Bruins could serve as a trap game.

That sounds weird, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t Arizona (4-2, 2-1 Pac-10) be a trap game for UCLA (3-3, 0-3 Pac-10)? Not this year.

“”They’re desperate,”” head coach Mike Stoops said. “”This will be another pretty big challenge this week to continually find yourself in a better position in the Pac-10. Obviously you take it one game at a time, and this will be another big game for us.””

Arizona is now in uncharted territory. The Wildcats are the favorite, and the team is moving forward without a hitch — business as usual.

“”We do the same things every week,”” offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh emphatically stated this week.

Not changing an offensive philosophy is a bold move considering what the offense is going up against. UCLA, despite its struggles as a team, sports one of the nation’s most talented defenses.

“”When you look at them it all starts up front,”” offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes said. “”Their defensive tackle is really solid up there and he causes a lot of problems, puts a lot of pressure on you offensively. I think they’re really solid at linebacker and they’re good on the back end.

“”Really, they’re a good defensive football team and they don’t have a lot of weaknesses,”” he added. “”They have good team speed, they’re good against the pass and good against the run. It’s just a tough overall defense.””

The defensive tackle that Dykes eluded to is junior Brian Price. Price has been a force all season long, and has anchored the Bruin defense and caused problems for opposing offenses.

While Price won’t alter the Wildcat’s game plan, he will draw some extra attention.

“”We have our work cut out for us, and it’s going to be a huge challenge,”” Bedenbaugh said. “”Obviously they’ve got a talented defensive line, one of the best that we’re going to see and that Price kid is as good as anybody in the country, but he’s not the only guy. They’ve got young, athletic defensive ends that can rush the quarterback. They play hard and they do a good job of rallying to the ball. We have to do a good job of protecting.””

If the Bruins can create pressure with that vaunted front-four, expect to see more of the same from Arizona — quick screen passes, quick timing routes, draws and jet-sweeps on the ground, not to mention the occasional shot downfield.

If it’s worked so well so far, why change it?

“”Offensively we really seem to be finding our rhythm,”” head coach Mike Stoops said. “”We’re kind of continually working some things and getting into a rhythm throwing the ball, and you can see our ability to run.

“”It’s going to be a challenge week-in and week-out in the Pac-10,”” Stoops said. “”(UCLA) will be another challenge, they play a pretty strong game and they make you work hard.””

 

Players to watch

Cam Nelson, S – The senior is the leader of a defensive unit that has hit a rough patch, and no one is more capable of lifting the group out of its rut than Nelson. Making a big play on the first drive will set the tone for the game and tell the rest of the defense that enough is enough.

Bug Wright, WR/PR – Wright saw some action against Stanford, but this is his first full game back from minor knee surgery. He’s the quickest player on UA’s offense and has the ability to make a big play out of nothing, and his contributions as a punt returner should give Arizona a major lift.

Brooks Reed, DE – We miss you, Brooks. The junior defensive end has been limited due to injury and the defense just hasn’t been the same without him. Reed will give the d-line its depth back and is guaranteed to make plays. Think Minnesota Vikings DE Jared Allen – big, tough, and a constant motor – except with long, blonde hair.

Keys to the game

Defense, where art thou? – The ‘D’ was supposed to carry the team this season while the offense found its way, but it’s been quite the opposite. The unit is as fast as any in the country and is aggressive enough to stifle an anemic UCLA offense. If the defense plays up to its capability, Arizona wins easily.

Block, block, block – UCLA’s defensive front is as good as any, and it starts with defensive tackle Brian Price. Price will likely draw several double-teams given his ability to stop the run and rush the passer, so the offensive line has to make sure it covers all of its bases on each and every play.

Stay healthy – Seems easy enough, but few teams have been hit with the injury bug as badly as Arizona. Whether it’s major back surgery, concussions or even the flu, the Wildcats have had a hard time fielding its original starting-22. You can’t control injuries, but maybe if we ask the football-Gods nicely enough they will give the Wildcats a break.

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