Stoops Says Signal Caller is Good to Go

Arizona's Head Coach Mike Stoops addressed the ASU media on Monday and talked about the various injuries to his team, including quarterback Willie Tuitama.

Q: Can you talk about your injuries to Willie Tuitama and you other players?

A: "We think he is going to practice today, and be fine. Him and Steptoe should be good to go for today and hopefully be on schedule and start and go with the same guys we started with last week. I think Michael Johnson should be available to go Saturday, he's probable. And Michael Dotson is probably questionable at this point and that's where we are at with those four guys who have started for us."

Q: Can you talk about the nine turnovers you have forced and their impact over the past few weeks?

A: "I think that's been a really big part of this run. It's not only good to get turnovers, but we're protecting the football pretty well. Our backs haven't fumbled the ball all season. Those are very positive things and they add to more opportunities. I would say the time of possession has been a big deal for us. The last three wins we're averaging close to 35 minutes of possession time. With those turnovers we're number one in the conference now."

Q: Did the team have a sense of strong belief after the win over Washington State? A: "I think that was a critical junction for the season. A team that beat UCLA on the road and us coming off a down week against Oregon State, I thought that was a huge week for us. Our kids learned the game plan and really stuck to it and really grinded it out. To win a big game on the road that's probably the biggest turning point on the season, without question. Coming back the next week and matching up against Cal, we knew that was going to be a tough match up. We're able to make plays and we finally have an offense. Our defense has been consistent. All those guys on offense are making plays now Tuitama, (Chris) Henry, (Cedric) Steptoe give us more flexibility and confidence in our offense."

Q: Can you talk about your Offensive line and their improvement over the season?

A: "I think they improved a great deal. Any time you play four freshmen out of the front seven that can be a problem. It created some problems early but the kids have grown up a lot and have gotten better. That's an area we have improved on quite a bit. You're not going to win if you can't run the football. We were pretty inept running the football the first half of the season and that's been the biggest difference."

Q: Do you think the match-ups with ASU have been even ever since you got to Arizona?

A: "One or two plays can change a game…each of the past few years have come down to one or two of those plays down the stretch. It's been very competitive the first two years and looks like to be a competitive game this year. It's a great rivalry and it's good to see us getting back to where ASU is, to where we're competitive and both teams fighting for bowl positions. I think its great for both football programs."

Q: Have Injuries to Willie Tuitama affected his development?

A: "I think a great deal. When you look at our opening stretch of games and you play BYU, LSU and USC first three out of your first four…we didn't get off to a great start offensively and three of the four teams are ranked in the top 25. It's very competitive and we didn't get any rhythm in our offense and getting Willie hurt really made it hard for us to get a flow in our offense and that's something we haven't had till the last month of the season."

Q: Were you worried about his confidence?

A: "I did a great deal though in the beginning and the middle part of the season. Willie is playing some of his best football right now, he's really seeing the game and he feels good about the direction he's heading. I think the game is coming back to him and starting to slow down for him, and I think he's playing some of his best football right now."

Q: Can you talk about your defense so far this year?

A: "I think we have been consistent all the way through the season. We fought through a stretch where we weren't getting much production on the offense and we really hung in there and gave ourselves chances to win. And when you play good defense you always have a chance to win, that's always been my belief. We're going to have to play a really good game defensively this week…these guys have been very healthy. You can see we have been pretty much injury free and we have only had three starters miss two games each. When you're healthy it leads to a more consistent defense."

Q: How much does a bowl game on the line add to this rivalry?

A: "I think all bowl games are great rewards for great seasons. If we can win out and we're fortunate enough to win on Saturday, to finish our four game winning streak (in a bowl game) it would validate (what were doing). It's always been my mission to get the program back on top, and we've worked extremely hard to get back credibility through out college football. Ultimately it would be a great reward for our players for a very successful season."

Sun Devil Source Top Stories