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Arizona football notes: Can the Cats be competitive at home again?

The Zona Zoo has helped spur the Cats to some big home wins. Photo by Chris Morrison-US PRESSWIRE

Arizona coach Mike Stoops’ mantra, basically since his first day on the job, has been to compete.

That hasn’t always happened lately — last week’s loss at Oklahoma State being the latest example — but it has happened at home.

The Wildcats are 19-8 at Arizona Stadium in the past four-plus years, and they are not far off from having a better mark — last season’s loss to Arizona State being the latest example.

Arizona hasn’t lost by more than a touchdown at home during the past 27 games, beating No. 2 Oregon, No. 9 Iowa and No. 25 Cal during that stretch. That is competitive.

We’ll see how that works out against sixth-ranked Stanford this Saturday, and then No. 12 Oregon on Sept. 24.

“We want to come home and put on a great show for our fans,” said free safety Robert Golden.

“We want to show them that we can respond. That game last week doesn’t determine the rest of our season. This game is way more important than last week. We know the Pac-12 is still open for us.”

Arizona lost home games last season by one point (ASU), two points (Oregon State) and three points (USC).

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The Arizona secondary faces another big-time receiver this week in Stanford’s Chris Owusu. He’s 6-2, 200 pounds, which makes him smaller than the star wideout the Cats saw last week — Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon — but Owusu is shiftier and speedier.

“He’s a smart player, runs really good routes and plays hard every snap,” said UA secondary coach Ryan Walters.

Said Golden: “Owusu is a great receiver. They run great routes out there.”

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Arizona receiver Terrence Miller emerged late last season, catching 25 passes in the final five games. He had seven receptions for 116 yards against USC.

But the junior has been a non-factor this season.

“We have to get more protection out of Terrence,” Stoops said. “He has to become a better blocker for us on the perimeter. … We have to block better. All the receivers have to block better on the perimeter.”

Miller has been bumped down the depth chart, as David Douglas has moved back from an outside receiver position to the inside. That gives UA a rotation of Douglas, David Roberts and Richard Morrison ahead of Miller.

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Arizona quarterback Nick Foles, in two games against Stanford, has completed 69 of 99 passes for 663 yards, with four touchdowns and one interception.

Cardinal quarterback Andrew Luck is 44 of 67 for 622 yards, with five touchdowns and one interception in two games against the Cats.

“He just knows how to control the ball,” Golden said of Luck. “He limits the mistakes he makes. He just runs his offense. There is nothing better than facing a challenge like this.”

Arizona and Stanford have split the past two games.

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Stoops is 2-4 against Stanford, which won one-point games against the Wildcats in 2007 and 2008. The Cardinal has rushed for 653 yards in the past three games against Arizona, emblematic of the blue-collar, downhill running style installed by former coach Jim Harbaugh.

The Cardinal, under first-year coach David Shaw — who had been Stanford’s offensive coordinator — is 44th nationally in rushing after two games, averaging 173 yards per game.

Stoops said Stanford has kept it basic against San Jose State and Duke so far.

“They haven’t shown nearly what they did a year ago offensively,” Stoops said. “But I know they have it. They haven’t changed their style. They are doing everything they did a year ago.”

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