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Football notes: Win equals awards for Johnson, Tuitama

Jacob Konst/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Junior safety Michael Johnson garnered both conference and national honors for his efforts in Saturday's 29-27 win over Oregon State. Johnson and the Wildcats will host undefeated UCLA on Saturday at Arizona Stadium.
By Charles Renning
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, November 2, 2005
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With wins usually comes personal recognition, and following the Arizona football team's first conference win of the season, the awards keep coming.

A day after being named the Pacific 10 Conference's defensive player of the week, junior safety Michael Johnson received Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week honors yesterday for his performance in the Wildcats' 29-27 win over Oregon State on Saturday.

"I feel happy that I got the award," Johnson said. "It's a good accomplishment. I'm just trying to stay humble."

In his first career start, the junior college transfer from Tyler, Texas, had three of Arizona's six interceptions, including one returned for a 40-yard touchdown.

Johnson also recorded a career-high nine tackles.

"It feels good to have a good game my first start," he said. "I'm just trying not to get complacent."

Tuitama perfect after one start

Touted as Arizona football's savior when he committed to play in Tucson, quarterback Willie Tuitama excelled in his first start as a Wildcat, thanks to a downsized game plan.

Arizona head coach Mike Stoops said the team tried to limit the things it did offensively to let the true freshman, who finished 13-of-22 for 335 yards and two touchdowns, just play.

"We wanted him to be comfortable and go out there and not worry too much at the line," Stoops said.

Tuitama, who became the first Arizona quarterback to throw for more than 300 yards since Jason Johnson in 2002, was often able to convert on long plays and get the Wildcats down the field, an aspect they lacked under redshirt sophomore Richard Kovalcheck.

Arizona completed passes of 31, 36, 39, 68 and 75 yards against the Beavers.

The 75-yarder went to wideout Mike Thomas, who as a freshman leads the team in both catches and receiving yards.

"Him and Willie have a lot of similar characteristics," said Stoops of Thomas. "They're gamers. They love the competition. They have great confidence in their abilities."

Stoops said the play of Tuitama, who was named the Pac-10's player of the week by yesterday, has given new life to his team and sparked more interest among Wildcat fans.

"Willie has a unique ability, an air about him, a lot of confidence," Stoops said. "That's something that we lacked offensively. Willie gives you big-play capability at any time."

Sophomore receiver B.J. Dennard said he was not at all surprised by Tuitama's performance in his first start, even playing in rain-soaked Reser Stadium in Corvallis, Ore.

"When he got his chance, he stepped onto the field and made plays. That's what he does," Dennard said. "He has a lot to bring to the table, and it's showing right now."

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