Quarterback Willie Tuitama forced too many plays in an upset loss to New Mexico, but he wasn’t the only one.
Arizona offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes said he overreacted to the Lobos’ defense in a 36-28 loss as well.
“I didn’t do a good job of calling the game when things didn’t go well,” Dykes said. “We got away from the game plan a little bit instead of staying with what we do and we got a little frantic.”
Arizona will look to manage the game better against UCLA on Saturday. Kickoff is noon at the Rose Bowl.
That means if the Bruins get a quick lead, don’t count on UA abandoning the run and focusing only on the pass.
“Willie had to throw some better passes, but it was definitely more me than him managing that game,” Dykes said. “Against that defense, you have to stay balanced and run the ball more. We sort of played right into their hands and threw more than we should have. I didn’t do a good job.”
Tuitama completed 27 of 50 passes for 321 yards and three touchdowns, but also had his first two interceptions of the season and two lost fumbles while staying in the pocket too long.
A more traditional defense will be faced this week, although the Bruins might try more blitzing than normal after seeing New Mexico’s success.
Tuitama has had success against UCLA. The senior completed 21 of 35 passes for 341 yards and three touchdowns a year ago in a 34-27 victory and he orchestrated a 52-14 triumph over the then No. 7-ranked Bruins in 2005 in Tucson.
“This is an experienced quarterback who had a great day against us a year ago,” UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel said. “He had a host of big plays against us. We are going to have to not only shake off (a 59-0 loss to BYU) but shake off and rise up and play a prolific quarterback who has had that feeling of success against us.”
The last time Tuitama played in the Rose Bowl he was knocked out and taken to the hospital with concussion-related symptoms. The head injury was a carry-over effect from an earlier season hit against LSU.
Tuitama can take hard hits, but his mistakes against New Mexico hurt an offense averaging 46.3 points per game.
“I was really tough on myself. I knew the mistakes I made and I have to get better at it. I have to lead this team,” Tuitama said about the loss to New Mexico. “I have to hold onto the ball when guys are trying to take me down. Some of the picks, that is going to happen.”
There are going to be a few errant throws with how often the Wildcats put the ball in the air. Sometimes, though Arizona needs to run the ball.
Nic Grigsby had back-to-back 100-yard games before settling for 72 yards against the Lobos. He still ranks ninth nationally at 125 yards per game.
“If we are throwing it 50 times a game that is not what we want to do,” UA coach Mike Stoops said. “We want to throw when we want to throw and not when we have to throw. (New Mexico) threw us off a little bit. The game went how they wanted it to go. (We) didn’t have to get into a desperate situation.
“We tried to force the game a little bit and we got a little desperate early in the game and tried to make everything up.”
That blame falls not just on Tuitama, who shouldered much of the responsibility the other night, but on Dykes.
“We should have stuck with what we were doing and not force the game,” Stoops said. “That happens sometimes.”
After a fast start, Willie Tuitama had four turnovers at New Mexico:
Idaho 17-21-179 3 0 0
Toledo 25-33-292 2 0 0
at N.M. 27-50-321 3 2 2
Totals 69-104-792 8 2 2
UA (2-1) at UCLA (1-1), noon Saturday. TV: FSNA. Radio: 1290 AM, 107.5 FM. Line: UA by 2.5