Coaches can’t let Wildcats relaxby John Moredich on Sep. 01, 2008, under Sports
Arizona football coaches already have a list of things to improve, despite a 70-0 win over Idaho.
Never mind that it was the most lopsided victory for the Wildcats in 87 years.
There can’t be any relaxing. No swelled egos. The time for coaches to get tougher is exactly when the team might be feeling too good.
“Coach (Mike) Stoops has already said we’re going to have a harder week of practice this week,” offensive tackle Eben Britton said. “I appreciate that. I don’t want guys thinking we are ‘the team’ now just because we did that.”
Stoops, as he prepares for a home game against Toledo on Saturday night, might have a hard time keeping a straight face when bringing up “all” the negatives in team meetings.
Especially after telling reporters the Wildcats played almost “perfect” football.
“Anywhere, even when I was at Oklahoma or Kansas State, this was as clean a game as I have ever been involved in,” Stoops said. “. . . Are you kidding me?”
It’s safe to say Toledo will be far better than Idaho. The Rockets finished 5-7 last year, only their second losing season since 1993, but they have a one-two receiving punch in Nick Moore and Stephen Williams.
“The yards will become harder and the game will become harder but that’s OK,” Stoops said.
Arizona made it look easy – real easy – against Idaho, but UA offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes found some mistakes to repair.
“There will be a lot of things, I promise you that,” Dykes said. “On the first play of the game, the ball hits us in the chest and we drop it.”
Terrell Turner, the receiver Dykes was referring to, also dropped another pass and Delashaun Dean mishandled one. They were three of quarterback Willie Tuitama’s four incompletions, as he converted 17 of 21 passes for 179 yards and three touchdowns.
Tailback Nick Grigsby might have missed a hole once, maybe twice, but he still had 169 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Turner redeemed himself with a 3-yard TD catch with nine seconds left in the first half to make it 49-0 – the most first-half points in school history – and Dean led UA with five catches and 77 yards.
The starters watched the second half from the sideline.
The reserves scored 21. That’s five more points than the 2006 squad averaged per game.
“Our first group was pretty sharp,” Dykes said. “We had a little bit of a lull in the second half.”
Sound like nit-picking? Probably, but small mistakes could prove costly in Pac-10 play.
Backup quarterback Matt Scott ran for 54 yards and a TD and passed for 77 and a score in his freshman debut, but he had fumbles issues on some snaps.
Twice, UA was short one player in kicking situations. The Wildcats didn’t have a sack, but didn’t allow one either.
“We didn’t show much pressure,” Stoops said. “We didn’t want to do much in our pressure schemes. We have to get better. We have to get pressure on the quarterback consistently. If you can get that type of pressure, that can really help a team.”
Pardon the players if they get a little carried away with scoring 10 – yes, 10 – touchdowns against Idaho after the opening kickoff was delayed 62 minutes because of lightning.
“We wanted to put up more (points), but we had to be considerate for the other team,” Grigsby said.
The Wildcats were anything but gracious hosts, moving the ball at will.
The first drive was pivotal, with Turner getting open on a third-and-10 for a 15-yard catch, and Dean converting on a third-and-7 for 15 more yards. Grigsby capped off the drive with a 1-yard TD run.
“We wanted to come out and put the hammer on,” senior Tuitama said.
Tuitama was successful, throwing TD passes to Mike Thomas, Chris Gronkowski and Turner to become the school’s all-time leader for touchdowns (47), passing Tom Tunnicliffe.
UA had nice balance, running for 265 yards and passing for 256.
“I have never been on a team that won like that,” Britton said.
The Wildcats have never had an offense, at least in recent history, that had the capability to put up 70, even against a struggling Idaho program.
“At times, yes, it was easy,” Tuitama said. “There were guys that were wide open. We took what they gave us. We could have had a couple more touchdowns. There were (running) holes all over the place.”
And, oh, yeah, the defense shut out the Vandals for the first goose egg since a 41-0 victory against Illinois in 1996.
“Even in a win like this (the coaches) are still going to get on you for the small things,” UA defensive end Brooks Reed said. “You just can’t let little things go by just because we won by 70.”
TOLEDO (0-0) AT UA (1-0)
When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
Where: Arizona Stadium
Radio: 1290 AM
Series: UA leads 1-0, a 23-10 win in 1985 in Tucson.
Rockets ripe: Toledo went 5-7 last year, but receivers Nick Moore and Stephen Williams combined for 133 catches and 15 touchdowns. Tailback Dajuane Collins rushed for 636 yards as a backup in 2007.
BY THE NUMBERS
4: Trevin Wade picked off two passes, and Nate Ness and Joe Perkins had one apiece.
35: A record was set for most points scored in a quarter.
48: Idaho’s passing yards.
49: The 49-0 lead at halftime was the most points in a single half in school history.
62: Minutes the game was delayed because of lightning