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In the (red) zone: Cats are nation’s best inside 20

Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama lifts up running back Nic Grigsby after Grigsby scored a touchdown during Saturday’s game against Toledo.

Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama lifts up running back Nic Grigsby after Grigsby scored a touchdown during Saturday’s game against Toledo.

Getting inside the red zone didn’t guarantee anything for Arizona a year ago.

The Wildcats are a sure thing, at least so far, when getting the ball to the 20-yard line after victories over Idaho and Toledo.

What a difference from a year ago, when the red zone made the Wildcats feel blue with only a 43 percent touchdown ratio when inside the 20.

“We have really worked on it,” UA coach Mike Stoops said. “We had the right plays called. We just couldn’t execute as well as we needed to.”

This season, UA (2-0) is perfect inside the red zone: 15 for 15.

The Wildcats will try to keep the perfect mark at New Mexico, with a 5 p.m. kickoff on Saturday.

Arizona leads the country in red zone efficiency with seven rushing touchdowns, six passing and two field goals in its 15 possessions at or inside the 20.

The next best team is Oklahoma, with 13.

“We’ve done a good job when we gotten the ball in there, and we need to keep that up,” quarterback Willie Tuitama said.

Arizona ranked 100th in red zone efficiency last year. The Wildcats had 42 possessions with 31 scores, but just 18 touchdowns.

That was ninth in the Pac-10, just ahead of Stanford.

“We have to be able to execute when we are covered. That is the thing we could not do last year. We could not execute well enough,” UA offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes said. “That is why we struggled so much in the red zone.

“When you get down there, the field shrinks on you; the execution has to be better.”

It’s been precise in the two games, although against two weak defenses.

There have been 97 points scored with 9-for-9 conversions in the red zone against Idaho and 6 for 6 against Toledo.

Tuitama’s top weapon near the goal line hasn’t even suited up. Tight end Rob Gronkowski caught the majority of his touchdowns a year ago as the go-to guy near the end of the field.

Gronkowski is scheduled to come back soon, maybe this weekend against New Mexico.

LSU led the country in 2007, scoring 49 touchdowns in 75 trips to the red zone for a 65 percent cap, and a 93 percent scoring ratio overall.

The Wildcats failed to score 11 times, leaving at least 33 points available, which proved costly with the Wildcats losing four games by seven points or fewer.

Arizona’s defense has stiffened in the red zone as well, allowing one touchdown.

Toledo settled for field goals twice, despite getting inside the 4.

“We have allowed one touchdown in two games. Hopefully we don’t give up another one,” UA defensive end Brooks Reed said.

Toledo’s lone touchdown came after the UA offense gave the ball away at the 3.

That put the defense’s backs against the wall.

A 3-yard touchdown pass resulted.

“I was really happy with the other goal-line stands,” UA defensive coordinator Mark Stoops said. “I just love those guys and the way they’re working and their attitude and effort and all of that.

“When they did get a long drive, you certainly want to gut it up and hold them out of there, and that’s what we did.”

The defense was generous a year ago, giving up scores 39 out of 45 trips inside the 20. The Wildcats gave up 29 touchdowns.

That meant 65 percent of the time opposing offenses reached pay dirt.

UA is showing a tougher attitude, although that will be tested with the likes of UCLA, Stanford and Washington coming up after wrapping up the nonleague schedule with the Lobos.

“If you can stop people in the red zone, it is very important,” UA safety Nate Ness said. “That’s when you have to get tougher.”

UA receiver Mike Thomas dives forward after receiving the ball.

UA receiver Mike Thomas dives forward after receiving the ball.



Arizona (2-0) at New Mexico (0-2), 5 p.m. Saturday. TV: CSTV. Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM



Last year, UA ranked 100th nationally in red zone efficiency. This year, UA is perfect inside the 20 and tied for first with 33 other teams. The first five, based on points:

School Drives Scores Pts

Arizona 15 15 97

Okla. 13 13 86

Ark. St. 12 12 59

ASU 11 11 57

Houston 10 10 57



The Wildcats were not efficient a year ago in the red zone on either side of the ball.


Rank School Drives Scores TD FG

1 LSU 75 70 49 21

14 ASU 53 47 31 16

29 USC 66 57 44 13

39 Oregon 60 51 38 13

52 Wash. 48 40 30 10

66 UCLA 42 34 18 16

82 Cal 51 40 32 8

87 Ore. St. 58 45 33 12

92 Wash. St. 47 36 27 9

100 Arizona 42 31 18 13

104 Stanford 37 27 18 9


Rank School Drives Scores TD FG

1 Temple 47 32 20 12

4 Oregon 42 29 17 12

18 Ore. St. 35 26 17 9

27 USC 37 28 20 8

30 UCLA 38 29 23 6

39 Stanford 50 39 25 14

60 Cal 63 51 34 17

89 Wash. 53 45 28 17

99 Arizona 45 39 29 10

110 ASU 37 33 21 12

112 Wash. St. 49 44 32 12

Citizen Online Archive, 2006-2009

This archive contains all the stories that appeared on the Tucson Citizen's website from mid-2006 to June 1, 2009.

In 2010, a power surge fried a server that contained all of videos linked to dozens of stories in this archive. Also, a server that contained all of the databases for dozens of stories was accidentally erased, so all of those links are broken as well. However, all of the text and photos that accompanied some stories have been preserved.

For all of the stories that were archived by the Tucson Citizen newspaper's library in a digital archive between 1993 and 2009, go to Morgue Part 2

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