Q&A: Arizona under the Microscope

Cal Sports Digest staff writer Demar Richardson had the opportunity to talk with John Moredich of www.azcentral.com about the state of the Arizona Wildcats heading into their game against the California Golden Bears…

The California Golden Bears take on the Arizona Wildcats this Saturday with first place in the Pac-10 at stake. This game will feature an explosive Wildcat offense led by Willie Tuitama against an underrated Bear defense that features some of the best linebackers in the country in Anthony Felder, Worrell Williams, and Zack Follett. Cal will attempt to beat Arizona on the ground while the Wildcats will attack the Bears through the air. With USC coming to Tucson the following week, Arizona is in a must win position this week. A Cal victory will assure that the Bears will continue to climb up the polls and sustain sole possession of first place in the league.

John Moredich of www.azcentral.com answers six pertinent questions about the upcoming Cal-Arizona matchup…

Mike Stoops has a lot of pressure on him to get Arizona to a Bowl game. How has Stoops dealt with the losses to Stanford and New Mexico and have those losses put additional pressure on him?

Coach Stoops has known what has been at stake from day one. He has recognized that fact. There has been little difference after the two losses. He does not appear to be more nervous, or trying to circle the wagons. You can tell he believes this is a good team. There is, however, pressure to win at least six games and go to a bowl game. More would take the considerable heat off him.

Quarterback Willie Tuitama is an experienced starter. The running game led by Nic Grigsby is a constant threat and receivers Mike Thomas and Terrell Turner are explosive players. Does the offense have to lead this team to wins or can they win games defensively?

Arizona's defense entered the season with only three returning starters. It is a unit that has done well against the pass, obviously with its No. 1 ranking. If the Wildcats are going to win the second half of the season against the better teams in the Pac-10 they must put up plenty of points. The defensive line is too inexperienced and not big enough, as New Mexico and Stanford proved.

Not many teams play the 3-4 defense. Is Mike Stoops concerned with the problems that the Bears' 3-4 defense can present for his offense?

Coach Stoops acknowledged the Bears have done well in the first year with the 3-4. He mentioned they already have faced a 3-4 team already so that shouldn't be a big factor. He does realize, as everybody who follows the games, that the Cal linebackers are big and physical.

Arizona should be 6-0 and they have not been to a bowl game since 1998. Is this program tough enough mentally to put the New Mexico and Stanford game behind them and deal with playing Cal and USC in consecutive weeks with the pressure of becoming bowl eligible in the back of their minds?

No. Players said this week that they were becoming "comfortable" with winning after starting out 4-1 prior to the loss at Stanford. Some players even said they felt "invincible" after defeating Idaho and Toledo. New Mexico followed. When teams and players are in a losing cycle it is tough to change a mindset.

What aspect of the Bear's team concerns Arizona the most?

The run game. Stanford rushed for 286 yards. Stoops has talked about [Jahvid] Best and [Shane] Vereen, and what they bring to the table. After giving up big yards in their losses on the ground that is priority No. 1.

Willie Tuitama has thrown a total of 57 touchdowns in his career at Arizona. Is there a quarterback on the roster that the coaches feel can step in and be productive in this offense next season and has Mike Stoops been able to do a good job in recruiting over the last few seasons?

The heir apparent at this point is true freshman Matt Scott, a scrambler who is from a spread offensive system in high school. He has played in a couple of the blowouts. Taking snaps without fumbling was a big issue in the fall camp. When he has the ball in his hands there are few on this team faster. His quickness will bring a new element in the years to come.


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