By Charles Renning
Jacob Konst/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Arizona freshman quarterback Willie Tuitama hands off to senior running back Mike Bell against Oregon on Saturday. Tuitama's performance last week earned him the start tomorrow at 1 p.m. against Oregon State at Reser Stadium.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, October 28, 2005
Freshman quarterback to start tomorrow against Oregon State
With 8:14 left in the first quarter of the Arizona football team's 28-21 loss to Oregon on Saturday, freshman quarterback Willie Tuitama entered the game and sparked not only the crowd but also the Wildcats.
Tuitama brought Arizona back from a 21-0 deficit to tie the game at 21 and finished the night 18-of-34 for 182 yards, two scores and an interception.
The performance earned Tuitama the start tomorrow at 1 p.m. against Oregon State (4-3, 2-2 Pacific 10 Conference) at Reser Stadium.
"I feel good about the direction Willie can take us," said Arizona head coach Mike Stoops. "Whatever that 'it' factor is, he seems to possess it. He's a tremendous competitor, and that's hard to coach. I feel a lot better about the situation than I did a week ago."
Tuitama threw for more yards and more touchdowns last week than any other Arizona freshman quarterback in a debut.
"He's natural at what he does," said senior tight end Brad Brittain. "A lot of us are excited to see what else he's got. I think we've all seen it coming. We've known since he's got here that he knows what he's doing."
Tuitama said he didn't take this week of practice any differently than he has in the past and said he would continue to prepare by watching film.
Both Stoops and Tuitama said they expect the Beavers to blitz the young signal-caller and try to rattle him in his first action on the road.
"I'm sure they're going to have an extensive blitz package to come after our quarterback," Stoops said.
Plenty of blitzes could help the Wildcats (1-6, 0-4), because the Beavers' secondary is one of the youngest and worst in the nation.
Oregon State began the season with four first-time starters in its defensive backfield, but Stoops said they all have made big strides in the team's seven games and a lot of their lackluster stats are a result of the amount of man coverage they use.
"They put a lot of pressure on their corners to play a lot of man coverage or corners across," he said.
While the Beavers' defense ranks last in the Pac-10 in total defense and pass defense, Oregon State has two of the biggest offensive playmakers in the conference.
OSU senior receiver Mike Hass is the first receiver in Pac-10 history to have three 1,000-plus-yard seasons and is the national leader in yards per game (149.6) and third in catches per game (8.3).
"Our secondary will get a great test. Hass is a tremendous player. He catches everything and really has a knack for making big plays," Stoops said.
Sophomore cornerback Antoine Cason said he looks forward to the matchup with Hass, adding that the defense will just have to keep a tab on where Hass is on every play.
Couple that with the conference's No. 3 rusher in sophomore Yvenson Bernard, and the Beavers will present some challenges for the Wildcats as they seek their first conference win of the year.
"Winning will happen when we do a bunch of little things right. That's easy to say but football is a collection of a lot of little things," Stoops said. "We don't do a lot of little things that it takes to win consistently. At times we do, but you have to be consistent, and that's a direct correlation to everything you do in life."