Citizen Staff Writer
Warning: Don’t overlook the Washington Huskies.
Arizona coach Mike Stoops is cautioning his Wildcats to take winless Washington seriously for their 4:30 p.m. kickoff Saturday at Arizona Stadium.
“We understand that Washington is not going to give us anything and that we have to work for it,” Stoops said.
Underestimating underdogs is a lesson players say they’ve learned since falling to New Mexico 36-28 in Albuquerque, N.M., on Sept. 13 – the Cats’ only blemish this season.
“It’s a new era,” tailback Nic Grigsby said. “We are more levelheaded. That loss humbled us and we’re hungry.”
The Lobos were 0-2 before they rushed for 221 yards and capitalized on five Arizona turnovers in the upset win.
UA (3-1, 1-0) still has to prove it can handle success as a 19-point favorite over the Huskies.
Washington (0-4, 0-2) not only is without starting quarterback Jake Locker, who the Wildcats worked on defending throughout its open week, but coach Tyrone Willingham’s job is in jeopardy.
“I would imagine that they would come in with a pretty open game plan like they have nothing to lose,” Stoops said. “That can be very dangerous if you are not prepared.”
The Wildcats were the desperate team a year ago, taking a 2-6 record into Seattle before rallying from a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter to win 48-41.
This year, UW’s defense is allowing 40.5 points and 507 yards per game. Oklahoma racked up 28 first downs, 591 total yards and 274 rushing yards in a 55-14 win over the Huskies.
Oregon took over in the second half to knock off the Huskies 44-10 in the season opener. Stanford methodically controlled the game a week ago.
“Getting the defense is the hardest thing to turn around in a program,” Stoops said. “You can get quarterbacks and running backs, but defensive personnel is the hardest to get to play consistently. It’s very difficult to do against good offenses.”
The Huskies slowed down BYU on Sept. 6 and might have sent the game into overtime if Locker hadn’t been called for a last-second TD celebration penalty. BYU blocked the longer extra-point attempt to win 28-27.
BYU, now ranked No. 8 nationally, dodged an upset. UA might not be so lucky if it takes the Huskies for granted.