Victory over BYU crucial for fast start by Arizona
Mike Stoops won’t predict how many games the Wildcats will win this season, but the University of Arizona football coach is emphasizing a quick start.
That means UA needs to beat Brigham Young in the opener Sept. 2 at Arizona Stadium, before going on the road to play LSU on Sept. 9.
Six victories would make UA bowl eligible, but seven wins would most likely guarantee the school its first bowl game since defeating Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl in 1998.
“You can’t worry about going 7-5 or 8-4,” Stoops said. “To me, if you do that, you are conceding games. That is something we are never going to do.
“I think we are going to have the opportunity to win more this year than any other year. We will compete on a national level with this team if we can stay healthy.”
The Wildcats, with 17 starters returning, have been predicted to finish anywhere from fifth to eighth in the Pac-10 by most preseason accounts.
Arizona was eighth last year with a 2-6 league mark, finishing with a second straight 3-8 overall season.
A better finish might depend on how UA fares against BYU.
“It is critical we get off to a really good start,” Stoops said. “BYU is a terrific team. It is going to be a helluva game. We are going to have to play well right off the bat.”
The Cougars are coming off a 6-6 season, which included a 35-28 loss to California in the Las Vegas Bowl.
BYU returns starting quarterback John Beck (27 touchdowns), top running back Curtis Brown (1,123) and tight end Jonny Harline (63 receptions).
Under Beck, a Mesa Mountain View High School grad, the Cougars ranked 13th nationally in total offense last year, but BYU has not fared better than .500 since 2001.
“I have one go-around to get this thing done,” Beck told the Deseret Morning News of Salt Lake City
The Wildcats will be on television three of the first four games with TBS picking up BYU, ESPN2 showing the LSU game, and ABC airing the fourth game against USC.
“We have a chance to showcase we are finally right there now,” Stoops said. “We need to show people we are a good football team. Hopefully we take advantage of that opportunity.”
Arizona has newcomers reporting Tuesday, with veterans checking in Aug. 2 and the first practice Aug. 3 at the Rincon Vista Complex on 15th Street between Plumer Street and Tucson Boulevard.
The public and media can watch the workouts at Rincon Vista during camp drills, but practices will be closed during the regular season.
It is clear Stoops is looking for different results this season, especially after the Cats lost five games by seven points or fewer in 2005.
“We need to start eliminating mistakes, quit beating ourselves in critical situations and make more big plays,” Stoops said. “If we do, we will have a chance to win a whole bunch of games. If you do, inevitably you will go to bowl games.”
Arizona needs to get its offense in order after averaging just 23 points and 351 yards per game, become more dominant at the line of scrimmage and create more turnovers.
The Wildcats ranked 88th nationally in rushing offense (122 yards), 80th in scoring and 74th in total offense in 2005.
Defensively the Wildcats took a step backward, allowing 183 yards rushing and 408 yards of total offense, along with 26 points per game.
“This team is starting to understand we need to be more accountable and understand we need to do things better to win,” Stoops said.
If not, the Wildcats won’t like their win count at the end of the season once again.
DID YOU KNOW?
Senior John Beck (above) needs 2,401 yards this season to pass Jim McMahon for second on the BYU career passing list.
The 6-foot-2, 212-pound quarterback led Mesa Mountain View High to a 21-14 win over Sabino in the 1999 Class 5A state title game.
BYU CAREER PASSING
1. Ty Detmer (1988-91) 15,031
2. Jim McMahon (1978-81) 9,536
3. Robbie Bosco (1983-85) 8,400
9. John Beck (2003-current) 7,136
● Starters: 17, seven on offense, nine defensively, plus place- kicker Nick Folk
● Leading rusher: Chris Henry (34 carries, 119 yards, 0 TDs)
● Leading passer: Willie Tuitama (82-142, 1,105 yards, 9 TDs)
● Leading receiver: Mike Thomas (52 catches, 771 yards, 5 TDs)
● Leading tackler: Michael Johnson, safety (60, 40 solos)
UA 2006 SCHEDULE
(All times p.m.)
Date /Opponent /Time /TV
Sept. 2 BYU 7:15 TBS
Sept. 9 at LSU 3:30 ESPN2
Sept. 16 S. F. Austin 7 p.m.
Sept. 23 USC 5 ABC
Sept. 30 Washington 7
Oct. 7 at UCLA TBA
Oct 14 at Stanford TBA
Oct. 21 Oregon St. 4
Nov. 4 at Wash. St. TBA
Nov. 11 California 4
Nov. 18 at Oregon TBA
Nov. 25 ASU 4 FSN