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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

“Wildcats, Huskies face off in key conference clash”

Running back Nic Grigsby jumps to his feet after being knocked out of bounds by three Iowa defenders.
Running back Nic Grigsby jumps to his feet after being knocked out of bounds by three Iowa defenders.

Arizona football is set to take part in a make-or-break Pacific 10 Conference game. A win will give the Wildcats further credibility, while a loss sends them back to the drawing board.

The Wildcats head to Seattle, Saturday to face the Huskies at 7 p.m.

“”We’ve been preparing for two weeks now, and we’re getting really excited to play on Saturday coming off a big win (against Oregon State),”” senior cornerback Devin Ross said. “”We’re going to be ready on Saturday.””

The road win over Oregon State propelled Arizona from a possible contender to a legitimate threat and the favorite to beat Washington this weekend. But that’s today — a lot can change by tomorrow.

The Huskies have been a revelation this year, thanks mostly to new head coach Steve Sarkisian. “”Sark,”” the brash 35-year-old, is in his first season at the helm after commanding the Trojan offense as USC’s offensive coordinator.

The offensive mastermind has made Washington competitive again, keeping it close against LSU and Notre Dame and upsetting his former school in week three. He’s also turned junior quarterback Jake Locker from a potential great to a superstar, and the country has taken notice.

“”We’re glad that people finally see the player that he is and that he’s getting the respect that he deserves,”” said defensive coordinator Mark Stoops of the suddenly-famous Locker. “”He’s absolutely one of the best players we’ve ever defended since I’ve been at Arizona.

“”He throws it, he can run it and he’s so well coached in this system,”” Stoops added. “”Coach Sark and the rest of his staff are really putting him in some good situations.””

Locker has one of the strongest arms in the entire country and the size and speed of a running back, making him a dual threat. The junior leads the Pac-10 with 256.6 passing yards per game and has three touchdowns on the ground to go along with his seven through the air.

Arizona has spent countless drills over the past two weeks practicing containment, making sure that players on the weak side are always prepared for Locker to reverse a broken play and run toward them — something that a traditional quarterback doesn’t do. They’ve also spent more time on traditional tackling drills, seeing as Locker’s 6-foot-3, 226-pound body puts him on the same scale as some of the biggest running backs in the nation.

“”We have to play well,”” Stoops said. “”We have to be very disciplined in our rushes. He’s going to run and he’s going to get some yards, but we can’t let him run wild and buy that extra time to chuck it down the field. We have to play well in all phases.””

Stopping Locker will be a challenge, but Arizona needs to play offense, too.

For four weeks, the UA offense was all that anyone could talk about, but now that they’ve found success behind quarterback Nick Foles it’s become an afterthought.

“”(The lack of attention) is not really anything we think about too much, we just think about what our job is,”” junior center Colin Baxter said. “”What people say and what people think isn’t really relevant to what we have to do. We just have to go out there like every week and execute and make plays.””

Maybe the reason that there are fewer concerns about the Wildcats’ offense this week is because Washington is ninth overall in the Pac-10 in both scoring defense and total defense.

That’s not to be taken lightly, though.

“”That’s a stat that we can’t pay attention to at all,”” Baxter said. “”If we go in there thinking that, they’ve given up all these yards and all that stuff, that’s when you go in there and get your ass whooped.””

 

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