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Football notes: Shorter, more intense practices paying off

Darrell Brooks
By Kyle Kensing
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, November 9, 2005
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With an emphasis on quality over quantity, the Arizona football team retooled its practice schedule last week before its 52-14 romp over No. 14 UCLA.

The changes have remained this week as the Wildcats prepare to host Washington on Saturday.

"We're healthy now, so we're looking more to getting better quality of reps," Stoops said Monday.

Last week, the Arizona coaching staff pitted first-string players against other first-stringers rather than the scout team, he said.

"It helped our speed, and it helped us prepare better for the game," he said.

Arizona continued its shorter practice schedule yesterday at Jimenez Practice Facility, focusing on potential key matchups.

"(The system) was great because we were moving a lot faster (Saturday)," said sophomore linebacker Spencer Larsen, who made seven tackles in the win. "We were getting more guys to the ball. We were talking about that all week (in practice)."

Larsen said Arizona's defensive goal throughout last week was to swarm UCLA running back Maurice Drew, and the Wildcats came through, suffocating the Heisman Trophy-candidate for a season-low 41 yards on 12 carries.

The UCLA win was Arizona's second straight win following an Oct. 29 victory at Oregon State, and marked the first time a Wildcat team has put together back-to-back Pacific 10 Conference wins in five years.

"It's been a steady progression," Stoops said. "After the (Oct. 22) Oregon game (players) started to believe, 'We can't turn the ball over and win. This is keeping us from winning.'"

Arizona committed 21 turnovers in its first seven games prior to its matchup with OSU, including successive five- and four-turnover games against Stanford and Oregon, respectively.

Since then, the Wildcat offense has turned it over just once in two outings.

"(The players) have made a conscious effort to start doing the little things right," Stoops said. "We're on the verge of doing some unbelievable things."

"You're seeing a faster, more focused football team," he said.

The team's revamped attitude, and the recent installation of freshman Willie Tuitama at starting quarterback, has Arizona riding high before meeting the Pac-10's last-place squad.

Still, Wildcat players and coaches said they're not letting their recent winning ways, nor Washington's season-long struggles, allow them to get complacent.

"Washington's a lot like us," said senior running back Gilbert Harris. "They're also trying to find an identity on the field.

"We know we're going to get their best effort," he said. "They're definitely going to be ready to play against us, so we've got to be ready for their energy."

Brooks named semifinalist for Thorpe Award

Senior safety Darrell Brooks was included yesterday on a list of 12 players as semifinalists for the Thorpe Award, given to the nation's top collegiate defensive back.

Brooks leads the Wildcats with 74 tackles this season, and has two interceptions.

"I think he's a fabulous player," Stoops said. "As a safety, he can play the run and the pass and that's what makes him special. He has great awareness on the field."

Brooks joins Southern California's Darnell Bing as the only Pac-10 players on the award list. The winner will be announced on live television Dec. 8 on ESPN's College Football Awards Show in Orlando, Fla.

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