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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

‘A win’s a win’ – Cats get it done in Palo Alto

Arizonas Spencer Larsen and Ronnie Palmer take down Stanford running back Toby Gerhart during the first half of Arizonas game against Stanford Saturday at Stanford Stadium in Stanford, Calif. Arizona beat Stanford 20-7.
Arizona’s Spencer Larsen and Ronnie Palmer take down Stanford running back Toby Gerhart during the first half of Arizona’s game against Stanford Saturday at Stanford Stadium in Stanford, Calif. Arizona beat Stanford 20-7.

PALO ALTO, Cal – Even as the quarterback carousel continued at Arizona, the offense finally clicked.

With backup quarterback Adam Austin – starting in place of the injured Willie Tuitama – sidelined midway through the game, third-stringer Kris Heavner managed a suddenly successful Arizona running game in guiding the Wildcats (3-4, 1-3 Pacific 10 Conference) to a 20-7 win over Stanford (0-7, 0-4) Saturday night at Stanford Stadium.

“”We wanted to come in and run the ball, and we rushed it for 220-some yards,”” UA head coach Mike Stoops said of Arizona’s 220 yards on the ground, the most against a Division 1-A opponent this season. “”That’s something we haven’t done pretty much all season.””

And the running game got started early. Both Chris Henry and Chris Jennings found the end zone by the time the first quarter ended, with each back finishing just shy of 100 yards (94 and 89, respectively).

Redshirt freshman Xavier Smith added 56 yards, one shy of his career high, on 12 carries.

“”We have talented players in the backfield, and it was good to see all three of them run and share the football,”” Stoops said. “”I couldn’t even tell you who had the most yards. To me, they all contributed and had pretty decent games.””

With Tuitama sidelined because of his second concussion of the season – suffered last week at UCLA – Austin went 6-of-8 in the first half as Arizona jumped out to a 17-0 lead. But his ninth pass was intercepted by Stanford cornerback Wopamo Osaisai in the second quarter and returned 72 yards for a touchdown to cut Arizona’s lead to 10 with 3:46 to play in the half.

Austin’s left knee was hit by a Stanford defender on the play, and the redshirt senior lay holding his leg at midfield before he was helped off the field and later to the locker room. He wouldn’t return, and his status was uncertain after the game, with a tear possible but not likely.

“”The only disappointing part of game was Adam’s injury,”” Stoops said. “”He should have just been patient and ran the ball. He got overzealous and our protection got messed up, and they got a guy free.

“”I don’t think it will need surgery from what I hear,”” he added later, “”(but) that could change by the time they examine him back home.””

With Austin out, Arizona was content to pound the ball up the middle and eat clock.

Heavner, who started for Arizona as a true freshman in 2003, finished the first half without attempting a pass as Arizona reeled off seven straight runs up the middle to Henry, who finished the half with 68 yards on 11 carries.

The trend continued on its opening drive of the second half, as Arizona marched 46 yards down the field despite only throwing one pass on an 11-play drive that spanned 6:06 to expand its lead to 20-7 on Nick Folk’s 24-yard field goal.

“”That was pleasing to see, to control the line of scrimmage and run the ball when they knew we were going to run the ball,”” Stoops said. “”We were limited in some of our play selection (because of Austin’s injury).””

Arizona wouldn’t throw again until the fourth quarter, when a bubble screen to wideout Syndric Steptoe gained four yards. Heavner finished the game 4-of-4 for 11 yards.

“”If we win, and I don’t throw any passes – a win’s a win. Nothing can beat a win,”” Heavner said. “”If I throw for 500 yards and six touchdowns, and we lost? It doesn’t matter. A win’s a win.””

With Stanford starting quarterback Trent Edwards sidelined because of a right foot injury he suffered on his team’s first drive of the game, the Cardinal offense was largely ineffective with backup T.C. Ostrander at the helm, gaining just 21 yards of total offense at the half and finishing with minus-6 yards rushing.

It was the first time Arizona held an opponent to negative rushing yards since 1999, when they held UCLA to minus-31 yards on 30 carries, and Stanford’s 52 yards of total offense was an Arizona defensive school record in Pac-10 play.

“”You can’t win football games with negative yardage rushing,”” Stoops said, his own team entering into the game with three straight negative yardage performances on the ground and three straight losses. “”Stanford had negative yardage rushing. We’ve been in that situation. It’s a very uncomfortable and stressful position.””

Added Stanford head coach Walt Harris: “”When it came down to be able to bang, clang and be physical with them, we were not able to do it, and that was the game.””

Early in the first half, the Arizona offense did as it pleased, scoring on three of its first four possessions to jump out to a 17-0 lead with just over 10 minutes to play in the second quarter.

After defensive end Jason Parker stripped Stanford backup quarterback T.C. Ostrander, defensive tackle Yaniv Barnett fell on the fumble on the Cardinal 39-yard-line.

Chris Henry broke two tackles up the middle on an 18-yard dash three plays later that gave Arizona a 14-0 lead with 3:40 to play in the first quarter.

The Arizona offense marched 63 yards down the field on its first drive of the game in just over four minutes, capped by Chris Jennings 16-yard cutback, to give the Wildcats a 7-0 lead.

Late hits

With Arizona opening the game in a four-wide set, freshman wideout Terrell Turner got his first career start …Facing third-and-27 from their own 3-yard-line late in the third quarter, Harris surprised Arizona when Ostrander punted from his own end zone in shotgun formation …Arizona used all three of its second-half timeouts by the end of the third quarter …Co-offensive coordinator Mike Canales said he considered using Syndric Steptoe, who played quarterback in high school, under center should Heavner have gone down. Freshman quarterback Brandon Lyon, who is redshirting, was also an option.

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