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Online Exclusive: Arizona defense gives Wildcat football chance to win

By Charles Renning
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, September 29, 2003

Before last Saturday, Arizona's defense had given up 55 points a contest in its last three games. That suggests the defense has trouble stopping its opponents.

In those same three games, the offense has only scored 30 points and has lost the time of possession battle by almost 30 minutes.

The defense has been on the field nearly ten more minutes a game than the offense.

Saturday night, in the Wildcats' 13-10 overtime loss to Texas Christian University, Arizona's defense showed how successful it can be when its offense gains first downs and sustains drives.

"(The offense) kept us off the field," senior linebacker Matt Molina said. "Any time the offense can get a couple first downs, it's going to help us tremendously."

Molina said he was proud of the way 19-year-old freshman quarterback Kris Heavner performed in his first college start.

"I feel confident that each quarterback can get in there and get the job done. Tonight, Kris got the job and I thought he did all right," he said.

Junior wide receiver Ricky Williams, who caught five passes for 131 yards, said it felt good to keep the defense off the field more than in recent games.

"We were able to give (the defense) a rest and come in fresh and take it to the TCU offense," Williams said. "Our defense played a lot fresher because our offense was able to move the ball."

Although the defense gave up 452 yards of total offense to the Horned Frogs and only came away with one turnover, the team found a way to come up with big plays when they needed them, holding TCU to ten points in regulation.

Senior safety Clay Hardt led the defense with 13 tackles, including 10 solo stops, two tackles for a loss, and a sack.

Senior linebacker Joe Siofele also played his best game of the season, recording 11 tackles and a sack.

However, it would be unfair to single out just a couple players since so many UA defenders came up with drive-stopping plays.

Sophomore defensive lineman Copeland Bryan recovered a fumble off a muffed punt. Freshman defensive lineman Paul Philipp and junior linebacker Andre Torrey each had a sack. Molina added two sacks. The Wildcats sacked TCU quarterback Brandon Hassell five times total.

The Wildcats also got help from guys who didn't make the stat sheet.

Sophomore linebacker Kirk Johnson broke up a key third down pass and ended two other drives with third down tackles. Sophomore safety Lamon Means also came through with several important stops.

"I feel like we've grown a lot (as a defense) and tonight (we) kind of showed it," Hardt said.

The only real blemish on the defense came with 2:44 left in the first half, when TCU threw a 98-yard touchdown pass - the longest play against the Wildcats in history - to put the Horned Frogs up 7-0 late in the second quarter.

However, the Wildcat defense allowed just two field goals the rest of the game, including overtime.

"We played competitive football," Hardt said. "We didn't win and that hurts, but I'm proud we were competitive and we have a lot to look forward to this week."

"It gave us tremendous confidence being out there and knowing we could compete with those guys," Molina said. "We talked about it all week, just sustaining and finishing, and we came out and did that."

The task for the defense doesn't get any easier next week when the Wildcats travel to Pullman to play Washington State. The Cougars are averaging more than 35 points a contest, and knocked off tenth-ranked Oregon 55-16 in Eugene on Saturday.

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