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Home at last


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Arizona Daily Wildcat

Junior quarterback Ortege Jenkins finds some running room around Arizona State's defense in last year's 50-42 win over the Sun Devils. The Wildcats return home for the first time since that win as they take on Middle Tennessee State tomorrow night under the lights of Arizona Stadium at 7 p.m.

By Chris Jackson
Arizona Daily Wildcat, September 10, 1999

ome openers are nice.

Being the visiting team during another school's opener is not.

Just ask the Arizona football team, which was the visiting team for both Penn State and Texas Christian's home openers.

Now it's Middle Tennessee State's turn to be the visitor for the No. 19-ranked Wildcats' (1-1) home opener tomorrow night at 7 p.m. at Arizona Stadium.

Should anyone think the Wildcats are going to have a hard time getting fired up against a team most of them had never heard of before, after two tough road games it shouldn't be a problem.

"For us I think this game is one you can't really look over, cause it's not like we're not coming out and killing people," UA junior tight end Brandon Manumaleuna said. "We've got to come out to this game really focused. This last game we had like seven or eight turnovers, the first game we got blown out. So it's not like we're in a position to overlook anybody."

UA junior quarterback Ortege Jenkins said that simply a chance to get out on the field is enough to get him fired up.

"It's a game. That's how I get motivated," he said. "Any game I get motivated for the chance to play, the chance to compete. You don't have to tell me much more for me to get up and play the game."

Jenkins said the fact that it's the Blue Raiders instead of the Horned Frogs or Nittany Lions means nothing.

"Even though it's a team we're supposedly better than, you've gotta' come out and play each week," he said. "That's just the main goal about everything, we're just trying to put together a lot of wins and get better as a team, because as a team we're not very good right now. That's how you get motivated."

The Blue Raiders, despite coming off a rough 40-7 loss to Mississippi State and despite the fact that it's their first season in Division I-A, are looking forward to the game.

"They're excited," MTSU head coach Andy McCollum said of his players. "They've been good all summer. It's an opportunity for them to play against one of the best teams in America. They know it's a very tough challenge."

UA senior quarterback Keith Smith said Arizona isn't overlooking the Blue Raiders, especially not their defense.

"(Their) defense is basic... they play a lot of what TCU was playing," he said. "Obviously, from seeing the tape from this past game, they're going to double coverage Dennis (Northcutt) and stuff. I think we need to be able to run the ball for sure. That's the key to our offense. It helps play action a lot better."

Getting Arizona's running game going, after seeing it sputter for only 14 yards against TCU, is especially important after looking at the tape of MTSU's pass rush.

"Middle Tennessee is going to bring it," Smith said. "They are going to blitz a lot from anywhere on the field. Usually a team blitzes when you're on the hash, but they come from all over. They do some things no other team we've seen do, but that's good for us.

"They're a lot quicker, they've got a lot of speed, they're not all that big. We've just got to get our eyes right and get our minds right."

UA running backs coach Jeff Woodruff said the Wildcats haven't been doing anything different in practice this week.

"The coordination of all the people involved is the key," he said. "It's not fixing one little thing, it's a lot of things. It's pressing blocks longer, scheming things to get good angles and numbers. It's running plays enough times so the rhythm is down pat."

And being home after two tough road games will help the Wildcats get ready to put together a winning streak going into Pacific 10 Conference play next week against Stanford.

"I hope we get a good crowd out there," Smith said. "Now it's time to roll. We got these two games out of the way. Now it's time to focus on Pac-10 play, and this game right here. You play here; you get extra excited."

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