Tuitama provides a spark

Arizona could not overcome four turnovers and a few big mistakes and fell to the Oregon Ducks 28-21. True freshman passer Willie Tuitama came off the bench to spark the Wildcats, but a fourth quarter fumble ended the team's hopes.

The Cats trailed 21-0 but scored three consecutive touchdowns to tie the game. All the momentum was on Arizona's side when Mike Bell misplayed a handoff and Oregon's Brent Haberly scooped up the ball and raced 24 yards for the score.

It proved to be the game winner.

Bell fumbled a few possessions later in Oregon teritory, killing a Wildcat drive, and the UO was able to run out the clock.

It was a tough finish for Bell who had his best rushing game of the season. The senior running back ran 20 times for 158 yards and a score. He rattled off three of the Cats' four longest runs of the season, going for 20, 41 and 50 yards.

The game was marred by injuries. Arizona lost Syndric Steptoe and Brad Wood to concussions in the first quarter. Both were hit with what appeared to be helmet to helmet blows. Neither were flagged.

Punter Danny Baugher left the game in the third quarter with a knee injury. Baugher had a punt blocked but recoverd it deep in Arizona territory and ran 33 yards before being brought down a yard short of the first down. It was on that run that he was injured. Wildcat coach Mike Stoops called the injury "worse that originally expected."

The Ducks lost starting quarterback Kellen Clemens and back-up passer Dennis Dixon on successive possessions in the third quarter. Sophomore Brady Leaf closed out the game for Oregon.

It was all Ducks early. After Arizona drove deep into UO teritory, only to miss the field goal, Oregon took over and marched down for the score in only three plays. Cameron Colvin took a shovel pass and then broke a pair of tackles before racing 55 yards for the initial touchdown.

The punting game led to Oregon's next two scoring chances. Baugher had a punt blocked, but Oregon settled for a field goal attempt that missed. Justin Phinisee returned the next punt 68 yards for a score.

Oregon kicker Matt Evenson missed on all three field goal attempts.

Jonathan Stewart added a four-yard score and the rout was on.

Or was it?

Tuitama entered the game in the second quarter and struggled a bit in the early going. His first pass attempt was picked off, but a penalty wiped out the turnover.

Early in the second quarter he started to heat up and found Travis Bell in the corner of the endzone for his, and Bell's, first touchdown. It was actually Bell's first collegiate catch.

Mike Bell broke the 50-yarder to trim the lead to seven at the half.

A second missed field goal ended Oregon's opening drive of the second half and the Cats came back to tie the game. Tuitama found Mike Thomas on an inside screen and the speedy freshman raced 17 yards for the score.

Thomas also had a crippling drop in the quarter. He split two defenders and Tuitama put a pass right on his hands, but Thomas could not hang onto a delivery that appeared to be an easy score.

Neither offense scored again and the Ducks sealed the game on Haberly's fumble return.

Tuitama's numbers were decent. He was 18-34 for 182 yards and a pair of scores. He did throw one interception.

After the game Stoops would not commit to Tuitama starting next week against Oregon State but admitted the team was leaning that way.

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