"Week Seven": Stanford @ Arizona

The Bootleg's Scott Cooley shook off the funk of Saturday's calamity in Corvallis and headed out to Tuesday's weekly press conference at the Arrillaga Center. Scott brings us quotes from coaches and players as the "relentless" Cardinal team prepares to demonstrate it can be "resilient" Saturday in Tucson. It's been a mighty-long time since each and every week has meant something, folks! Enjoy it!

"Week Seven":  Stanford @ Arizona

The reverberating sound we have been hearing outside isn't thunder from the storms hovering over the battered Bay Area, but instead Stanford's Rose Bowl aspirations and Heisman hopes crashing back to earth (at least for one week!).


Going into the much-anticipated game against Oregon State the Cardinal were the flavor of the week, the trendy pick. After a dose of reality and heads being yanked from the clouds, the Stanford team must refocus on its primary goal of finishing 2009 with a winning record and a post-season bowl appearance.


That objective will become tougher and tougher every week for the rest of the year, beginning with a formidable Arizona Wildcats (3-2, 1-1) opponent on Saturday. This could be the best overall team Stanford (4-2, 3-1) has faced midway through the season.


The Versus Network will broadcast the game live from Wildcat Stadium, where Stanford will attempt to win its series-record fifth-straight against Arizona on the road. The contest can also be heard over the airwaves on XTRA Sports 860 AM with the kickoff slated for 4:30 p.m. (PT).


How Stanford responds in another conference road game (5-11 since 2006) will be a testament of this team's resilience. The Cardinal defense got slapped in the face by the mission-minded Beavers, surrendering 463 yards of total offense.


"We are determined," said Will Powers, when asked what the feeling of the team was this week. "[Tuesday] has to be the best practice of the week because it's going to be the one that shows how we respond. I expect our team to respond with the character on which that we've built this program."


As devastating as the loss was for Stanford on Saturday, the Wildcats suffered an even more gut-wrenching defeat. Playing at Washington, Arizona gave up two touchdowns in the final three minutes of the game to lose to the Huskies 36-33. The game-clincher was fluky play where a pass deflected off the heel of a Wildcat receiver and into the arms of the defender who returned the interception 37 yards for a score.


Had this fourth-quarter collapse not happened, Arizona would have remained sky-high with Pasadena dreams. But this team will rebound and is battle-tested, having faced tough out-of-conference opponents in No. 9 Iowa and a veteran Central Michigan team.


During the Iowa contest the Wildcats made a quarterback switch, replacing the more mobile Matt Scott with sophomore Nick Foles. In his first collegiate start, Foles completed 25-of-34 passes for 254 yards and three touchdowns while defeating Oregon State in Corvallis.


Foles is a Texas-bred gunslinger who transferred from Michigan State. He has a big arm to accompany his enormous 6-5, 235-pound frame.


"[Foles] is playing very well," said Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh. "I think he has a real understanding of what they're doing. I think they are adding to his package every week. He is doing a really good job of spreading the ball around."


In offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes' system, which comes from the "Mike Leach" (Texas Tech) school of thought, the ball is going to be disbursed to a plethora of receivers. Five Wildcat receivers have double-digit reception totals this season. The team's second-leading receiver, Terrell Turner, torched the Cardinal for 10 catches and 175 yards last year.


Without question, the Arizona gameplan will be to toss the rock (56 pass attempts last week). The spread attack will attempt to create space, much as Oregon State did last week.


The Wildcats will have to lean even more heavily on the passing game with Arizona's stud running back Nic Grigsby hampered by a lingering shoulder injury. Grigsby totaled a single carry in Week 5 and only five carries versus Washington.


Backup tailback Keola Antolin didn't play last week and redshirt freshman Greg Nwoko has received bulk of workload the past two games. It is uncertain how healthy Grigsby and Antolin are heading into the game, but Harbaugh hinted the latter would be "okay to play".


Defensively, Arizona ranks in the Top 20 nationally in total defense yielding an average of just 281.8 yards per game. The secondary is a lock-down unit that gives up a little more than 110 yards per outing and Stanford's redshirt freshman quarterback has taken notice.


"[The DBs] are very fast and athletic, first of all," said Andrew Luck. "But they make plays on the ball very well. When the ball is in the air they run around and almost turn like a receiver going up to get the ball with both hands. It's going to be a challenge."


Sophomore Trevin Wade leads the team with four INTs on the season. In the front seven, the ‘Cats 2008 sacks leader, Brooks Reed, has missed last two games with a sprained ankle and is listed as questionable for Saturday's affair. Players like defensive end Ricky Elmore have stepped up in his absence, with Elmore registering 4.5 sacks thus far this year.


"They are solid on defense," Toby Gerhart confirmed. "They have the best DBs we have played so far this year. Their linebackers aren't as big as the linebackers we've played the last couple of weeks, but they're quick and play downhill. Their defensive line is fast and physical. As a whole, they are a good defense and we're going to have to be on our A-game to do what we do."


Stanford's defense will also need to play its best game in hopes of containing Arizona's high-powered aerial onslaught. Last week, the Cardinal defense didn't seem to have the same "killer instinct" that defined the squad from Weeks 3 to 5. The identity of being a physical team was absent.


"We have to go attack people as opposed to trying to run around them," said senior captain Clinton Snyder.


When it was able to execute its original gameplan in the second half last week, Stanford's offense delivered. Scoring drives of 83, 91 and 99 drives got the Cardinal back in the game, but it was too little, too late. Even though the ground game was limited after getting behind so quickly, Gerhart still managed to compile 96 yards and two touchdowns (hardly a disappointing effort under most circumstances).


"It's hard to get penetration, the way they block," said Arizona head coach Mike Stoops. "They do a great job not letting people penetrate and hit [Gerhart] in the backfield. They do a great job at the point of attack. They block exceptionally well."


In last year's 24-23 victory over Arizona, Gerhart ran for 116 yards on 24 carries and scored the winning touchdown with 25 seconds remaining in the contest.


"The feeling I had over the weekend was like I went to my Uncle Jerry's funeral," Harbaugh said. "It felt like a close family member passed away, but now we have new life. Every week is a new week, you've got life again. Our focus is going down to Arizona with our backs against the wall and getting a win. You come to embrace that, you live for that kind of challenge!"

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