Getting to UCLA quarterback Kevin Craft early is a big key for Arizona on Saturday.
The Wildcats want to rattle him and shake his confidence.
“We definitely have to get him,” UA linebacker Ronnie Palmer said. “We have to get pressure on him. . . . We have to do that from the first series.”
That might be harder to do than the Wildcats (2-1) hope when they travel to the Rose Bowl to play the Bruins (1-1) at noon.
Craft has already proved to be resilient, coming back from being intercepted four times in the first half of the season opener against Tennessee. He led the Bruins back in that game for a 27-24 win in overtime.
He’ll have to rebound again after UCLA was destroyed 59-0 at BYU last week.
Craft, a junior, has thrown for 489 yards and is completing 59 percent of his passes. He has just one touchdown and five interceptions.
The Wildcats want to make sure he doesn’t get going like he did against Tennessee.
“Everybody is trying to get to the quarterback early, if he has experience or not,” UA defensive coordinator Mark Stoops said.
Craft has two games under his belt after transferring from Mt. San Antonio (Calif.) College.
The junior wasn’t supposed to be in this position.
Either Ben Olson or Pat Cowan was projected to lead the Bruins this year. Both went down with injuries in spring drills.
“It was a strange day,” said UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel of the day the two were injured. We had no pads. We were out there just going through some drills and Ben took off to his right to hand off the ball and carry out a fake.
“I thought he had his foot stepped on. He was hopping around. Playing the position, I knew what it was like to have a 300-pound guy step on your foot so I was kind of giggling at him.
“The next play Pat moved to the right and went down in a heap. Ben went back into the huddle and couldn’t take two steps. We have these two senior quarterbacks out there that we were counting on in big heaps on the ground.”
So now Craft is in charge of the UCLA offense. And with his limited experience, the Wildcats plan to attack.
UA (2-1) at UCLA (1-1), noon, Saturday. TV: FSNA. Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5 FM, Line: UA by 2.5