More than five years after leaving the UA for an NFL career, Earl Mitchell returns to campus...
Arizona Hosts Washington for Homecoming Football Game
The Wildcats and the Huskies will duel Saturday, Oct. 23, in a critical Pac-10 Conference showdown. Upper-division status in the league will be on the line in the nationally televised game.
Arizona will defend its home turf on Saturday, Oct. 23, against Washington to cap off the UA's Homecoming festivities commemorating the University's 125th anniversary.
The UA will prime its national Top 10 defense for a fracas against a balanced system spearheaded by probable NFL first-rounder Jake Locker.
Will Arizona tweak its offensive attack or simply take what it gets against UW's 98th-rated total defense? Quarterback mobility has been a thorn in the UA's side, and Locker is his club's second-leading rusher.
A couple of big-play receivers will be in action – the UA's Juron Criner and UW's Jermaine Kearse.
A sellout crowd is expected (would be the Cats' third of the year), notably because of desert dwellers' fondness for night football and Homecoming.
Arizona will enjoy the home-field advantage (8-2 in last 10 games in Arizona Stadium) before a two-week tour to Pasadena and Stanford.
Last week, Arizona proved it could win without some of its principals and turned in a team effort on the road to outpace an improving Washington State, 24-7, in Pullman.
With junior star Nick Foles sent to the sideline with a knee injury, Matt Scott came on in the second quarter and helped lead the Cats to three scores with modest stewardship built of little previous 2010 playing time.
Arizona's defense, though, stepped forward and kept WSU one dimensional enough to limit the Cougs' scoring opportunities, helped by four takeaways.
The one dimension, WSU quarterback Jeff Tuel, hurt UA some including one big 83-yard toss to the Arizona 12-yard line, but two plays later the man who got beat on the long throw, freshman corner Shaquille Richardson, got his second interception of the game in the end zone to kill the threat.
Arizona accumulated a sub-par 352 yards in the game but got some key running from Keola Antolin (92 markers, two touchdowns) and Nic Grigsby (66, one score) to provide some thrust along with Scott's (139) and Foles' (71) throwing yardage.
It was clear the change in general affected the passing game, though, with the UA held scoreless through the air for the first time in 2010.
The UA had seven sacks in the game led by Ricky Elmore with 2.5, but suffered six of its own trying to block for the new guy.
Arizona scored a touchdown in each of the first three quarters to take a 21-0 lead before Tuel hit Marquess Wilson for a 23-yard score at the end of the third stanza.
Alex Zendejas kicked a 40-yard field goal four minutes into the fourth period for the final score of the game.
True freshman Richardson, who joined UA's team in July after leaving UCLA, started for injured junior Trevin Wade and learned a lot. He finished with a team-high tying seven tackles, the two picks and a game-high three pass break-ups.
Arizona totaled 13 tackles for losses to keep WSU off balance and mostly out of the end zone with its 297 yards in total offense.
Knocked out of the game along with Foles were freshman defensive tackle Justin Washington (knee) and freshman receiver Richard Morrison (shoulder), both likely out for this week. But the injuries proved another strength of the UA program – depth. Backup DTs Sione Tuihalamaka and Willie Mobley filled in with a pair of tackles apiece, for example, and the UA simply played 55 guys who found ways to win the game.
Matt Scott is 2-1 as the starter of record for the UA, opening 2009 with wins against Central Michigan and Northern Arizona before a loss at Iowa. Since then Nick Foles was 11-5 as the starter including last week's opening at Wazzu.
Scott interned as a true freshman under Willie Tuitama in 2008 while Foles was redshirting after playing a game as a true freshman at Michigan State in 2007. They entered the season last year basically neck-and-neck until Foles capped the Iowa loss with a decent fourth quarter and then took his debut start at Oregon State (37-32 victory, 254 yards, 3 touchdowns) and ran with it.
Scott has played in 19 games in his three years. He's a 6.3 yards per-carry career rusher (486), many of those designed, and has completed nearly 60 percent of his 117 career passes. He's a capable threat and now's a good time for him to relax, focus and do his thing.
Arizona will hit the road for two straight away games, starting at UCLA on Oct. 30. The game has been selected for a national cablecast on Fox Sports Net beginning at 12:30 p.m. PT.
UA's game on Nov. 7 at Stanford remains in the mix for broadcast by Pac-10 TV partners, which will determine the kickoff time of the game. An announcement is expected on Monday, Oct. 25.