Offensive, defensive lines anchor standout win
Since the day he arrived in Tucson, Arizona football head coach Mike Stoops has emphasized the importance of quality line play.
He has said the team needs depth and consistency out of both the offensive and defensive units for the Wildcats to get where he wants them.
So it's no surprise that in Arizona's biggest win of the Stoops era, Saturday's 52-14 win over then-No. 7 UCLA, it was both lines that keyed the victory.
"Once we got up and really got them on their heels, we controlled both lines of scrimmage," Stoops said. "If you can do that you usually control the tempo of the game, and that was a big factor."
The Wildcats racked up 315 rushing yards, a six-year high, and scored on seven of their first eight drives.
Senior running back Mike Bell led the team with 153 yards on the ground, moving into fifth on the school's all-time rushing list and breaking the century mark for the 10th time in his career.
"We really played well up front," Stoops said. "We're much more consistent."
Classmate Gilbert Harris added a career-high 113 yards of his own behind an offensive line that continued to open holes.
With the 100-plus-yards game, his first of the season, Harris showed his ability to be a successful back.
"Gilbert's a big, physical running back. Maybe could be a tailback, maybe could be a fullback. He's kind of a hybrid guy," Stoops said. "He has tremendous hands out of the backfield and has great vision to run inside."
Sophomore linebacker Spencer Larsen said that the effort Harris brings every day in practice rubs off on other players.
"He's good at everything," Larsen said. "He always come to play and that makes you do the same."
While the running game benefited from the huge openings provided by the offensive line, freshman quarterback Willie Tuitama had his third straight productive game, winning for the second time in as many starts with quality protection in the pocket.
The Wildcats gave up no sacks for just the second time this season.
Stoops said Arizona ran the ball more against UCLA because Bell and Harris were so effective but believes Tuitama can be successful in a pass-heavy offense.
"There was no need to do more than what we did," Stoops said. "Willie is capable of doing more."
Tuitama finished the day 14-of-24 for 204 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
"Willie's a very unique person," Stoops said. "He's an unbelievable competitor. He doesn't know anything but winning, and that's a very strong quality to have. The kids really take to him."
Along with the offensive line's quality play, the Arizona defensive front dictated much of the Bruins' attack.
Arizona held running back Maurice Drew to just 66 total yards while recording four sacks.
Coming into Saturday's contest, Drew ranked fourth in the nation with 184.3 all-purpose yards per game.
Stoops said both the depth and consistency of the defensive line has been beneficial for the Wildcats, pointing out the play of sophomore defensive tackles Lionel Dotson and Yaniv Barnett.
Coupled with the play of defensive ends Johnathan Turner and Copeland Bryan, who notched two sacks to bring his season total to seven, Arizona controlled a UCLA offense that had averaged almost 43 points per game.