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Friday September 1, 2000

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Putting the past behind them

Headline Photo

file photo

UA sophomore Bobby Wade dives for a ball against Washington last season at Arizona Stadium. The Wildcats open their 2000 season tomorrow at Utah.

By Maxx Wolfson

Arizona Daily Wildcat

The Wildcats hope to overcome subpar 1999 season at Utah

Arizona football team hopes to overcome a disappointing 1999 season when they head to Salt Lake City tomorrow to take on the University of Utah in a non-conference game. The game, which will be shown on ESPN2, starts at 6 p.m.

According to UA head coach Dick Tomey, the game comes at just the right time.

"We have been preparing for this game for six months on tape," Tomey said. "Utah is a good game for us."

The Utes, inaugural champions of the Mountain West Conference last season, finished 1999 with a Las Vegas Bowl victory against Fresno State and a three game winning streak.

Conversely, the Wildcats enter the game having lost three straight games to close out the 1999 season.

For the first time in four seasons, the Wildcats will open the year using a one-quarterback system. Simply, the job is Ortege Jenkins' to lose.

"I have seen OJ make some big time plays," Utah head coach Ron McBride said. "I have gotten a chance to watch him quite a bit. He can run, throw and is very athletic and gained ground working out with Homer Smith over the summer."

Utah, on the other hand, will turn to a two-quarterback system - T.D. Croshaw and Darnell Arceneaux will each vie for playing time early in the season.

While McBride and his coaches will not decide on who will start at quarterback until just Saturday's game, Tomey believes the 10th-year coach has made up his mind.

"I think that Croshaw will start," Tomey said at a press conference earlier this week. "We expect them to start with him."

The Wildcats still have some question marks surrounding some position battles which remain unsolved despite a grueling preseason camp .

The toughest battle will emerge at the running back position, where sophomores Leo Mills and Larry Croom continue to fight for the starting job.

"It looks like we are going to start Larry since he has gotten more carries in practice," Tomey said. "Leo should get in after a couple series."

Redshirt freshman David Hinton and junior Jermaine Chatman will also fight for one of the starting cornerback jobs.

According to Tomey, "Hinton and Chatman will switch off" in tomorrow's game.

If either Hinton or Chatman is in the game, they will have to keep a very close eye on Utah wide receiver Steve Smith.

Smith, a 5-foot-8 senior, is a leading candidate for the MWC Player of the Year.

Wildcat sophomore linebacker Lance Briggs said the defense needs to come out early and make a statement.

"We've had a good look at Utah and it will be important for us to go out and make a statement defensively," he said.

Utah's other star comes on the defensive side of the football. Cornerback Andre Dyson, a preseason All-America candidate, leads the Ute defense against UA.

Dyson will likely match up against sophomore wide receiver Bobby Wade. With the loss of All-American Dennis Northcutt to the NFL, Wade should be Jenkins' prime target this season

"Wade is a big-time player who can make some big-time plays," McBride said.

After a strong preseason camp, Tomey feels that the Wildcats are ready to put the past behind them.

"We are as ready as you can be," Tomey said. "We just need to play because we have done everything we can do. Now we just need to see where we are."

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