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Confident Cats gunning for third straight win


Photo
Jake Lacey/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Junior wide receiver Syndric Steptoe jettisons a UCLA defender on his way to a 63-yard punt return for a touchdown. Steptoe and the Wildcats host Washington (1-8, 0-6 Pac-10) on Saturday at Arizona Stadium.
By Charles Renning
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, November 10, 2005
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Rebuilding Huskies winless in conference

After asking Arizona football head coach Mike Stoops to evaluate Washington, the Wildcats' opponent Saturday, local media might have been confused about his terminology.

Stoops used the same phrases he has continued to use about his own team over the past two years - "young," "aggressive," "searching for themselves."

Don't forget "learning how to win."

"They play extremely hard," Stoops said. "They're searching for an identity. They're just trying to find their way."

The Huskies (1-8, 0-6 Pacific 10 Conference) visit Arizona Stadium on Saturday at 4 p.m. having dropped 18 of their last 20 games, but still look to avoid finishing last in the Pac-10 for the second straight year.

While the Huskies have been heading south, the Wildcats come into the contest with a two-game winning streak.

Arizona pounded then-No. 7 UCLA 52-14 on Saturday and prevailed 29-27 at Oregon State on Oct. 29.

"We just have to keep playing and hopefully get used to (winning)," said sophomore linebacker Spencer Larsen of the team's first consecutive conference wins since 2000. "The confidence is there that, yeah, we can do it. We can play with the best and we can beat the best and not just play them tough. That's what we're looking for."

Stoops said confidence has been a real key for the Wildcats in the last two games, helping the team pull out wins it might have let slip away in the past.

"Our mental-belief factor has gotten stronger, and our confidence has gotten much better," Stoops said. "Confidence is a big thing in football, and you can't have false confidence. You have to truly believe in what you're doing and trust what's happening, and now I think all of our players believe in what we're telling them."

Arizona has also gotten a confidence boost out of freshman quarterback Willie Tuitama, who has won both the games he started while going 45-of-80 for 721 yards, six touchdowns and one interception in fewer than three games of action.

Stoops said Tuitama has continued to improve while providing Arizona a spark.

"Now having practically three games under his belt, he knows what to expect. I look for him to continue to get better," Stoops said.

Across the field could be one of two quarterbacks playing for the Huskies.

Junior Isaiah Stanback has played in all nine games for Washington, completing 55 percent of his passes and throwing for seven touchdowns and five picks.

Sophomore transfer Johnny Durocher came in and played the entire second half of the Huskies' 18-10 loss to Oregon State on Saturday, finishing the game 11-of-30 for 103 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

Durocher came to Washington from Oregon and was deemed eligible after the Huskies' game against Notre Dame.

Stoops said no matter which quarterback plays the Wildcats, the defense will have to keep a tab on the guy behind center.

"It's not going to change our game plan. We'll prepare for both quarterbacks," Stoops said.

Stanback is known around the conference as more of a mobile quarterback, rushing for 353 yards not including those lost from sacks.

"We've seen all season that quarterbacks that can run can hurt us, and we're going to have to game plan for that," said Larsen, who added that the team would try to make Stanback stay in the pocket.



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