Wildcats aim to get back on track

By Craig Sanders
Arizona Daily Wildcat
October 4, 1996

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Redshirt freshman Keith Smith (12) gets his third start this season, against Washington State tomorrow. He threw for a career-high 228 yards two weeks ago at Washington.


To say that the second conference game of the season is do-or-die may be a little premature, but if Arizona head coach Dick Tomey's actions during the bye week are any indication, it's time to get tough or get out.

"We have to try harder, be more physical and tougher," Tomey said. "You can't beat anybody if you're not tough."

The Wildcats (2-2 overall, 0-1 in the Pacific 10) face the Washington State Cougars (3-1, 1-0) at 7:07 p.m. tomorrow at Arizona Stadium.

Washington State is coming in with an offensive rebirth this season. The Cougars have had back-to-back 55 point efforts against Pac-10 foe Oregon and San Jose State. Their offense has already scored 19 touchdowns this season, compared to 29 all of last year. Washington State threw for more than 400 yards in its last game against San Jose State.

"We've just hit on all eight cylinders for a couple of weeks," Cougar coach Mike Price said. "This game will be real indicative of what both teams can do."

Cougar quarterback Ryan Leaf may be a big reason for the offensive improvement. Leaf has thrown for 1,016 yards and 15 touchdowns on 64-of-112 passing in his four games this season. His main targets have been receiver Chad Carpenter, who has 16 receptions for 217 yards, and tailback Kevin McKenzie, who has 10 catches for 247 yards.

The Cougars are led on the ground by junior Michael Black, who has gained 430 yards on 76 carries and has run for four touchdowns. He is backed up by Miguel Meriweather, who has 65 yards on 12 carries.

Washington State's defense may not be what it was in past seasons, but it still has a number of big-time players. Linebacker James Darling leads the team in tackles with 56 and defensive back Duane Stewart has two interceptions.

The defensive line combination of Jonathan Nance, who has 6 sacks for minus-44 yards, and Dorian Boose, who has 3 1/2 tackles for losses for minus-35 yards and two touchdowns, has shown it can dominate an offensive line.

Tomey has been trying to get the same production from his defensive line. He has used Arizona's bye week to remind his team what it takes to win in the Pac-10.

"We need to be tougher, hit harder and play more aggressively," Tomey said. "A lot of our problems stem from a failure in those areas."

The Wildcats allowed 477 total yards of offense to Washington two weeks ago, but hope that with a few players returning from injury and a tougher mentality, they will be able to get back to the defensive presence that dominated in past seasons.

Arizona's defensive line should get a boost when Joe Salave'a, Steve Tafua and Mike Szlauko return after injuries slowed them against Washington. They will also be looking to tighten a secondary that has often been burned. However, Tomey has emphasized the problems are originating up front rather than in the secondary.

"We need to get pressure on the quarterback," he said. "I don't care how good you are back there, if they have all day to throw they're going to take advantage of you."