[Wildcat Online: Sports] [ad info]





'A tough couple of days'


Ian C. Mayer
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Backup running backs Leo Mills (top) and Larry Croom square off in a blocking drill at practice. The coaching staff says Mills, who scored the only touchdown for the Wildcats on Saturday, is coming along nicely but still has a long way to go.

By Chris Jackson
Arizona Daily Wildcat, September 1, 1999

Three days after the debacle at Penn State, the Arizona football team has had some time to digest its 41-7 defeat and look over what went wrong.

It didn't get any prettier in the 72 hours since leaving State College, Penn.

Many players have been watching the tape of the game, and none of them are very pleased.

"It was hard (to watch)," junior center Bruce Wiggins said. "I didn't even want to watch it when I got home, and that's usually the first thing I want to do after I get back is watch the tape of the game on ABC or ESPN."

His linemate, senior right tackle Manuia Savea, agreed.

"It was hard sitting in the film room for an hour and a half," Savea said. "I just feel like I wanted to tell the coach just turn the film off and let's just move on. It's good to look at what Penn State did to us, but it was kind of hard to watch it."

UA head coach Dick Tomey said the problem with both of Arizona's lines was in terms of toughness.

"We played terrible on the offensive line and on the defensive line," he said. "We weren't physical, and we got whipped. We need to use that game as a measuring stick of where we are."

Wiggins echoed Tomey's comments on the offensive line's fate.

"We got whupped up front," Wiggins said. "They just physically beat us in every aspect of the offensive line, running backs, wide receivers."

Tomey said it's up to the veterans on the team to turn things around.

"Our more experienced players need to play better," he said. "Too many individuals did not play hard. Leadership is guys making plays and making plays at the right time. We're still looking for guys to make big plays."

For veterans like Wiggins, even admitting how bad they performed in Happy Valley is crucial to moving on to face Texas Christian this Sunday in Fort Worth, Texas.

"It is hard to admit but if I can't admit it we're not going to get any better," he said. "I can't say that our offensive line played physical because we weren't."

Junior linebacker Antonio Pierce, who was one of the few UA defenders to have a good game (11 tackles, 2 passes broken up), said the coaches have been after the players since they got back.

"He (linebackers coach Bob Wagner) got on us pretty bad," Pierce said. "It was disappointing for all of us going in there and not accomplish what we needed to accomplish."

Now it's up to the Wildcats to concentrate on what promises to be a rough week of practice.

"It's going to be real hard, real physical," senior cornerback Leland Gayles said. "It's gonna' be a long week."

It'll be an especially long week for the players on the scout team, who must endure the starters venting their frustration.

"We're just going to scrimmage against our scout team all day and get tough," Wiggins said. "I would not want to be a middle linebacker on the scout team right now. It's going to be Matt Molina (and) he's going to have a tough couple of days."

One player who put up some decent numbers in the loss to Penn State was redshirt freshman running back Leo Mills. After sitting out last year to concentrate on academics, the Parade High School All-American got to see his first game action returning kicks and being the Wildcats' primary tailback in the second half.

"It felt good, it felt good to be in competition, to get hit," Mills said of his first actual game since 1997.

Still, Tomey said Mills has a long ways to go, often playing just like a first-time player. A good example of that was when he fumbled the ball on a drive late in the fourth quarter.

"I was disappointed, I really didn't know it was going to be a fumble," Mills said. "I think they called it a lateral, (but) I still should have caught the ball."

All told, Mills rushed for a team-high 54 yards on nine carries, including Arizona's only touchdown of the game. Still, he, like his teammates, is more concerned with the team as a whole than his own performance.

"(We're) trying to shrug it off, look ahead," Mills said. "We can't wait till the next game to see how well we've improved in practice."

[end content]
[ad info]