By Craig Sanders
Arizona Daily Wildcat October 17, 1996
Two weeks ago the Arizona football team entered the bye week hoping to get tougher. This week head coach Dick Tomey may just be hoping his players get up at all.
UA starting quarterback Keith Smith and wide receiver Richard Dice were knocked out of last week's 14-7 loss to Southern Cal. Dice, a senior, went out with a knee injury that may keep him sidelined for the season, and thus for the rest of his collegiate career. Tomey said he is treating the injury just that way.
"He's going to have surgery ... in 10 days to two weeks they're going to appraise it and we'll go from there," Tomey said. "It could be an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament). We don't know. The biggest concern I have is his health, his recovery. As much as we would like to have him, that would take a back seat to his personal recovery."
As for Smith, his shoulder is still tender because of a deep bruise, but he is probable for Arizona's next game, against Oregon State next week. He practiced in yesterday's scrimmage and Tomey said if the Wildcats were to play today, Smith would go.
"Smith is our starting quarterback," Tomey said. "If he is ready to start, he will."
Smith may play, but it is still uncertain if he will be 100 percent. With his condition uncertain and Dice likely out, the team will need to make adjustments. Also, defensive lineman Mike Szlauko and tailback Leon Callen are continuing to play hurt.
If Smith and Dice don't come back at full speed, offensive coordinator Homer Smith may have a lot of work to do. The UA running game has been anemic of late, especially if you take away the contributions of Keith Smith.
"We are working on getting our execution down," Tomey said. "Sometimes it is just a matter of doing what you need to."
Smith is Arizona's leading rusher this season with 403 yards. He has also scored all five of the Wildcat's rushing touchdowns this season. Arizona's running backs, in comparison, have rushed for a combined 625 yards, most of those coming in the early season wins over Illinois and Texas-El Paso.
The Wildcats have taken a new approach to getting to the quarterback - and so far it's paying off. In the past Arizona relied primarily on its defensive line to get pressure on the quarterback. Lately the Wildcats have been blitzing with both their linebackers and cornerbacks.
The Wildcats recorded seven sacks in the USC game and most of those still came from the defensive linemen. That doesn't mean the blitzes didn't help; they were often responsible for the single-teaming of some of the Wildcat front line.
"It is a combination of the way we attack and a simple matter of people playing better," Tomey said. "We had several defensive linemen back (from injuries) and that has made a big difference. But the teams coming up are probably better offensive teams so we will have to prove ourselves then."
Arizona moved to second in the Pac-10 in sacks with 24, trailing Cal by one. The Wildcats have recorded 13 in the last two games. Senior defensive lineman Joe Salave'a leads the team with five. Van Tuinei is second with 4 1/2.
The defense also allowed only 77 yards rushing against Southern Cal, which moved them back up to No. 21 in the nation at 97.8 rushing yards per game.
Tomey has often emphasized penalties and turnovers as keys to winning football games. The Wildcats had led the league in penalties until the USC game, when they were hit 10 times, bringing their season total to 37. Stanford is the least penalized team in the league with 27.
"We were just too aggressive," Tomey said. "We were filled with youthful exuberance. I think that that is not a problem, though. That is under control."
As for turnovers, the Wildcats have barely broken par this season, but Tomey is still relatively pleased. The Wildcats have intercepted 10 balls and recovered four fumbles. They have given away six fumbles and six interceptions of their own.
Defensive back Chris McAlister leads the team with four interceptions.
"Of course there is always room for improvement," Tomey said, "but we have done a good job causing turnovers this season, and I think we will continue to do well."