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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    RB Grigsby responds to adversity

    Arizona running back Nic Grigsby never quite knows what to expect.

    Last season when he arrived at Arizona as a freshman, Grigsby had no idea how large his role would be in the Wildcats’ backfield. When he came in as a sophomore this season with a considerable amount of experience under his belt, the running back felt he had a firm grip on the job.

    Then a fumble against California changed everything.

    Freshman Keola Antolin emerged as another weapon in the Arizona backfield in the Cal game, rushing for 149 yards and three touchdowns while Grigsby sat out and watched from the bench.

    Head coach Mike Stoops said he believed that was when Grigsby started to fight back.

    “”Probably when the other kid (Antolin) started getting the headlines,”” Stoops said of when Grigsby started to feel for his job.

    While Grigsby continued to assume a bigger role in Arizona’s offense in the USC game, especially after Antolin left with a shoulder injury, the sophomore said Monday that watching Antolin excel on the field was a turning point in his season.

    “”Seeing guys perform good definitely motivates me because I want to perform better,”” Grigsby said. “”It was definitely a big hit to me because I wanted to see myself in that situation, but I wasn’t. I was happy for (Antolin) because he really hit me in the face and showed me he was trying to take my spot.

    “”It goes to show that everybody in the world today is trying to take my spot whether they are in high school or just younger than me,”” Grigsby added. “”I have to practice like it’s my last day or practice every day.””

    It isn’t a rarity for players to lash out in situations of adversity, and Stoops said he was pleased to see Grigsby put his head down and get back to work. Instead of pouting about his situation, Grigsby’s performance against Washington State spoke for itself.

    In Arizona’s 59-28 win over the Cougars Saturday, which clinched Arizona’s first bowl berth since 1998, Grigsby rushed a team-high 28 times for a career-high 189 yards, including a six-yard touchdown scamper in the second quarter.

    Grigsby was down, but never out.

    Perhaps the most impressive play of the game came from Grigsby, when he darted toward the sideline after taking a handoff from quarterback Willie Tuitama. Washington State’s Romeo Pellum, who played at one of Grigsby’s rival high schools, looked to have the running back in the backfield, but Grigsby hopped over the defender and rushed for an additional 15 yards.

    “”We were going back and forth making plays, and he made the first play of the game with an interception, so I had to get him back some way, some how,”” Grigsby said of Pellum. “”He kept chopping me the whole game, so I was like, ‘All right, I am going to get him.’

    “”I was either going to run through him or jump over him,”” Grigsby added. “”So at the last second, I jumped over him.””

    Defensive backs making big impact for Wildcats

    Cornerback Devin Ross had to wait his turn, while freshman Trevin Wade just arrived, but both are having a big impact for the Wildcats’ defense this season.

    Defensive coordinator Mark Stoops said he has been impressed with Ross’ ability to maintain a high level of play in the defensive backfield on a consistent basis, which has been one of the reason the Wildcats’ defense has enjoyed as much success as it has.

    “”He is playing very, very well. He has been very disciplined but he isn’t afraid to take chances and to make great breaks on the ball,”” Mark Stoops said of Ross. “”He is a confident guy. When he is healthy and locked in and able to really feel good, he is one of the better defensive backs in the conference that I have seen.””

    After playing on a limited basis under former UA cornerbacks Antoine Cason and Wilrey Fontenot last season, both of whom have homes in the NFL this season, Ross has been confident in his ability to pick up the slack.

    “”I feel like I am doing a good job out there and contributing the best that I can,”” Ross said. “”I just come out and do what the coaches tell me to do and play hard every game.””

    Against Washington State, Ross nabbed his third interception of the season, which temporarily tied him for the team lead with freshman cornerback Trevin Wade. It didn’t last long, however, as Wade pulled an interception down late in the game to grab his fourth of the season.

    Wade has been a pleasant surprise for the Arizona coaching staff, particularly with his knack for intercepting the ball. Though he has played an estimated 50 total plays this season, Wade leads the Pacific 10 Conference in interceptions with four.

    “”I have been impressed, even when he went in against USC for just a play, but just like any team the first play he went it they went right after him,”” Mark Stoops said. “”He was in a tough situation. The defense we were in was a very difficult play, and he sucked him up and he covered that guy well. That was against USC when the game was on the line, and so it’s not just junk plays at the end of games.””

    Though Wade has played sparingly, the freshman has enjoyed his steady contribution to the Wildcats’ defense while steadily learning the ropes.

    “”When I get a chance to go in, I do what I can to make a play,”” Wade said. “”When I see the ball in the air, I tell myself it’s mine and go for it.””

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