UA’s Tuitama may set them vs. California
Tom Tunnicliffe set the standard for all quarterbacks to follow at Arizona, but after 25 years the high-profile records are about to fall.
Willie Tuitama broke the majority of the single-season marks a year ago, and most of the career records are within his reach with the Wildcats hosting No. 25 California for a 7:07 p.m. kickoff Saturday.
“When I first got here, I honestly had no idea what the records were,” Tuitama said.
Tunnicliffe was an unfamiliar name to Tuitama, a former standout from St. Mary’s High School in Stockton, Calif.
Tunnicliffe has been the school’s marquee quarterback for throwing for 7,618 yards, completing 574 of 1,069 attempts, throwing for 46 touchdowns, and helping to turn around the program with historic wins.
Tunnicliffe is known as much for starting a nine-game unbeaten streak over Arizona State as he is for his passing prowess. He orchestrated a 28-18 win over the sixth-ranked Sun Devils in 1982 that started the streak.
Tuitama wants to be known as the quarterback who reverses the bowl slide at Arizona. The Wildcats seek their first bowl appearance since 1998.
“I want wins. I will take wins over stats any day of the week,” Tuitama said.
Tuitama has passed the all-time mark for touchdowns (57) and completions (612). He is 30 passing yards, five pass attempts and 172 total yards away from owning every major quarterback stat at UA.
That could be accomplished by halftime if the Wildcats’ offense gets on track. The Bears know it.
“You can really see his comfort level has grown. He was always really talented. Early on, there was some indecision on where he was going, but right now he has great control of what they are doing,” California coach Jeff Tedford said. “If you try to blitz him, he knows how to beat a blitz. He has great command of that offense.”
Tuitama could cap off the record book against a team he followed as a kid.
Tedford tried to convince him to become a Golden Bear just days before he signed with Arizona.
“He gets the ball out really quickly,” Tedford said. “He is pretty dangerous that way.”
Tuitama, who has started since late in his true-freshman season, could have had his name on top already if not for sitting out most of the second halves of blowout wins over Idaho, Toledo, Washington and UCLA this year.
The 6-foot-3, 220-pound senior sat out the entire second half against Idaho with the Wildcats ahead 49-0.
“He didn’t want to play any more. He wanted the other guys to play. He could have thrown for 600 yards in that game if he wanted to,” UA coach Mike Stoops said. “He has much bigger goals.”
It will take a huge day for Tuitama to beat Tunnicliffe’s last big remaining record of six touchdown throws – against Pacific in 1982. Tuitama had five scoring tosses against both Northern Arizona and Washington during the 2007 campaign.
The Wildcats are 4-2 with Tuitama throwing 13 touchdowns and two interceptions through the midway point. He has 25 interceptions during his career, compared to the school-record 56 by Tunnicliffe.
More is expected from Tuitama with much at stake.
“We want to get to a bowl game,” Tuitama said. “That matters more.”
There are 200 tickets remain for the Oct. 25 homecoming game against No. 6 USC. The majority of those tickets are single seats. There are ample tickets remaining for Saturday’s game against California, as well as games against Oregon State and ASU.
TUITAMA ON TARGET
To set UA career marks, senior quarterback Willie Tuitama needs:
• 30 yards for passing lead (7,589)
• 5 throws for attempts lead (1,065)
• 172 yards for total offense (7,164)
He holds career records for:
• Completions (612)
• Touchdown passes (57)
TUITAMA’S SINGLE-SEASON MARKS
• Passing, 3,683 yards, 2007
• Attempts, 524, 2007
• Completions, 327, 2007
• Touchdown passes, 28, 2007