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Shifting Attention To Arizona: Beware Of Wounded Cats

Let's hope by now everyone has completely flushed out the BYU game out of its system because we have a huge game coming up this Saturday against another desperate team.

Arizona is coming into the Rose Bowl as another embarrassed Pac-10 team after a disappointing, sloppu road loss against New Mexico featuring five turnovers. Arizona started the season 2-0 against cup cake opponents such as Idaho and Toledo, but fell apart against New Mexico. Their star QB, Willie Tuitama was not in top form as he fumbled twice and got picked off twice in that 5 turnover disaster. Offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes specifically called Tuitama out after the loss:

UA offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes' biggest criticism was reserved for his senior quarterback, who struggled to read New Mexico's complex defensive schemes. Tuitama completed 27 of 50 passes for 321 yards. His three touchdowns were basically negated by his turnovers.

"He played as bad as I've seen him play," Dykes said. "I wish I had an explanation. It was little things we've had since Day 1. … We couldn't make the right decisions. It was kind of an embarrassing performance, really."

Said Tuitama: "A lot of things happened because of me, and I have to man up to it."

While Arizona’s offense was turning the ball over, its defense was being run over by New Mexico tailbacks:

Arizona's defense was solid in the first two weeks, limiting opponents to a combined 138 rushing yards on 49 attempts.

But the Wildcats struggled against New Mexico, surrendering 221 yards and two touchdowns on 47 carries. Tailback Rodney Ferguson led the Lobos with 158 yards on 26 carries. His second-effort yardage demoralized a UA defense that repeatedly sold out in an attempt to stop the run.

"We should have been able to defend the run better than that, and that's disappointing because we committed a lot of guys to the run on a lot of those plays," Stoops said.

Fatigue was a factor. By the end of the game, the Cats appeared beat on the interior line — Earl Mitchell, Donald Horton, Kaniela Tuipulotu cycled in at the two defensive tackle positions. Starter Lolomana Mikaele missed his third straight game as punishment for violating team rules.

Arizona must prove it can stop the run — or else adjust its scheme to include more blitzes.

More notes via the Arizona Daily Star:

● Arizona can score points. Arizona's 139 points are the most the Wildcats have ever scored against nonconference opponents to start the season. Credit the Air Zona offense — or blame a light schedule — but it's true.

● Arizona's "no-name" defense is living up to its reputation. And that's a bad thing. The Wildcats must find playmakers and develop leaders if they hope to compete with some of the Pac-10's top offenses. Sterling Lewis and Devin Ross have been bright spots, but no player has stepped forward as a leader.

● Mike Thomas is for real. Arizona's senior wide receiver has caught 26 passes for 302 yards and scored three touchdowns in the first three games. The Wildcats must find a way to get him the ball even more.

Yet, our guys should not have any false sense of comfort going against this team on Saturday. These guys can explode on offense against a Bruin defense which is going to look to recover from the psychological destruction from Saturday.

Don’t forget it was same Tutitama who burned the UCLA secondary by passing for 341 yards and 3 TDs, while completing 21 of 36 passes. There was also Nic Grigsby who rushed for 124 yards in 20 carries, who is back for this season. Zona lost all but one starter on offense. Here are the gory stats from last year.

The notes above mention Mike Thomas. His early season production is not a surprise, as he led the Pac-10 in receptions (83) and touchdown catches (11) last season. In addition to Mike Thomas, Arizona will have also have the services of their best receiver, TE Rob Gronkowski, who is coming back for this game after missing the first three due to health issues.

We will have more on the ‘’Cats later. But this should get us going in terms of starting to think about this game. Arizona is going to be in desperation mode, looking to give an embattled coach a huge lift. So our boys will need to be ready for this team after the devastating Saturday against BYU.