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‘Amazing’ defense stifles UCLA

Claire C. Laurence/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Junior safety Marcus Hollingsworth celebrates after recovering a UCLA fumble in the end zone for a touchdown. The Wildcat defense held UCLA to 328 total yards, more than 100 fewer than the Bruins’ season average.
By Ryan Casey
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, November 7, 2005
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Practice keys stellar game-day performance for Arizona ‘D’

With 4:09 to play in Saturday’s third quarter, junior safety Marcus Hollingsworth was celebrating in the end zone after UCLA quarterback Drew Olson threw what at first appeared to be an incomplete pass, bringing up fourth down.

In midcelebration however, Hollingsworth turned around and saw teammate Wilrey Fontenot screaming at him.

“I was like, ‘What is he pointing for?’ but then he was just like …” Hollingsworth said, pausing as the elation from reliving the moment overwhelmed him, “… he was like, ‘Jump on it!’ so I just fell on (the ball).”

Touchdown. 52-7 Arizona. Hollingsworth recovered Olson’s failed screen pass in the Bruins’ end zone, providing the exclamation point to the Wildcats’ stunning 52-14 upset over No. 14 UCLA, a game keyed by stellar defensive play.

“Our defense played amazing today,” said freshman quarterback Willie Tuitama. “Just great.”

The first-rate defensive effort — Arizona held the Bruins to 328 total yards, 104 yards under their season average — started with the first whistle of practice last week, and continued late into long nights in the film room.

“We just watched a lot of film this week and studied (UCLA), their screen — that was one of their top plays from last week how they beat Stanford,” Hollingsworth said.

“We had a lot of time to look at film. A lot of good stuff was on film, a lot of keys,” said senior defensive end Copeland Bryan, who finished with two sacks and three tackles for loss. “We were really prepared for this game.”

During practice, Arizona coaches matched the first-team offense with the first-team defense, something the players felt gave them a definite advantage come game time.

“All week, we’d been working real hard, a lot harder than we had been all season,” said sophomore cornerback Antoine Cason.

“I think everybody came out a lot harder (on Saturday night),” Bryan said. “I think that had a lot to do with the kind of work we did all week … getting that real physical look, shorter practices. Shorter, but more intense.

“You definitely get a better feel for how a first-team (offense) is going to move, the quickness, everything,” he said.

With the Wildcats’ offense clicking at a record rate, Bryan said the defense had extra motivation.

“It just makes us want to get the ball back to them as quick as possible, give them as many chances,” he said. “We really wanted to go for the throat in this game.”

The coaching staff said they were confident that their game plan would be successful in stopping the run.

“I thought it was a good matchup for us, I really did,” said Arizona head coach Mike Stoops. “If we could play well up front on defense, I thought the game matched up level.”

The Wildcats held Heisman Trophy-candidate Maurice Drew to 41 yards on 12 carries, making it the second year in a row they’d held him to less than 50 yards rushing.

“Our D-line, they did a tremendous job — redirecting, playing the screen, watching the back flare,” Hollingsworth said.

Even with Saturday night’s blowout win, members of the defense said they still saw room for improvement.

“You’re never going to play a perfect game,” said senior safety Darrell Brooks. “We did play as close (to perfect) as we could. (The) defensive line played well, linebackers played well. (The) secondary, we covered.”

For Arizona, it was the first time it has won this season when holding a team to under 100 yards rushing, giving up 85 yards on the ground to the Bruins.

“The pass rush is getting better all the time, the pressure on the QB, the coverage, our (defensive) run game is picking up — aside from some of the stuff last week,” Bryan said. “We fixed all that and came out and played a great defensive running game (and) defensive passing game.”

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