DEVILLE: Hey, it's just football!

The last time I checked, wasn't football considered a physical game? When 300-pound bodies are flying through the air crashing into one another, there are going to be injuries. Sometimes those injuries are career-ending; a torn ACL, a broken leg, a concussion.

But other times, those injuries are nothing more than a sprained ankle or a bump or a bruise.


But that's football, right?


Well, everywhere but in the Pac-10.


In a league known for high-powered offenses and ultra-soft defense, contact is frowned upon, almost not allowed. Sure the players wear shoulder pads and helmets, which are there to protect the athlete from injury, but how dare they actually hit one another.


Can you believe a college football coach actually uttered the following words?


"That is one thing coach (Mike) Stoops expressed to the officials, please protect our quarterback. I'm not sure that was done tonight. We tried to protect him. We tried to change our protection to keep him protected."


Please protect our quarterback? Are you kidding me?


That was Arizona offensive coordinator Mike Canales repeating head coach Mike Stoops' words to officials during Arizona's 45-3 loss to LSU in Tiger Stadium.


Again… Please protect our quarterback?


The quarterback in question – Arizona sophomore Willie Tuitama.


It was a long day the youngster from Stockton, Calif. Tuitama got popped on the first play from scrimmage by LSU defensive end Tyson Jackson – and his coaches and teammates said he was never the same. Jackson was flagged for roughing the passer, not so much for a late hit, but for helmet to helmet contact.


Canales even went as far as to insinuate that Jackson was trying to intentionally hurt Tuitama and that he needed to be ejected from the game.


"I would think they would go after Willie some way, somehow," Canales told the Tucson Citizen. "A blow to the head, that was pretty malicious. I am surprised (Jackson) was still in the game because it was a straight-on shot to the head. No excuses."


Later on in the article, John Moredich wrote, "Tuitama suffered another hard hit moments after the first blow, taking an extra second to regroup and get up."


Obviously the contact to which Moredich was referring was the clock-cleaning hit LSU senior free safety LaRon Landry laid on the Arizona signal caller. While Jackson was flagged for helmet to helmet contact, Landry's leveling of Tuitama was more than clean.


"Willie seemed like a little dazed," said Arizona backup quarterback Adam Austin told the Citizen. "I asked him if he was all right. He said he was, but as the game wore on, it might have come on him more."


Did the hits on Tuitama affect his performance? Absolutely, wasn't that the point. Isn't that what the defense is there for? Is the defenses' job to affect the opposition in a physical nature and stop the opponent. Football is a violent game and people get hurt. It's obvious that football in the SEC is much different – and physical – than in the Pac-10.


Instead of asking the officials to help protect their quarterback, maybe Stoops and Canales should try asking the offensive line to block someone. The LSU defense terrorized the Wildcat quarterback sacking him three times and delivering one vicious blow after another. The Wildcat rushing attack mustered all of 35 yards and the Arizona offense managed just 152 total yards.


LSU head coach Les Miles took responsibility for the illegal hit on Tuitama. However, Miles said he has reservations as to the validity of the penalty in question. After watching the film, he feels as if the hit was clean and intends to send the tape of the play to the SEC for further review.


"I take the responsibility," Miles said. "I wanted our defense to play with emotion. I take the credit or discredit and I defend Tyson Jackson on the hit. I thought the hit was perfectly timed and I question the helmet to helmet contact. I intend to turn that tape into the SEC for review.


"I can assure you, if Tyson had seen that their quarterback (Tuitama) had already released the ball, he would have let up," Miles added.


At any rate, the game ended 45-3. A healthy Tuitama wouldn't have mattered in the grand scheme of things. Arizona was outmanned at every position and was physically dominated by the Tigers.


Sure the Cats were better than they were when LSU delivered a 59-13 rout in 2003 at Tucson. But the 42-point loss definitely proved Stoops and Co. have a long way to go.


And as for the rough stuff, hey… that's just football.




Matt Deville is the editor of Tiger Rag magazine. Reach him at

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