Senior center Fraser leads UA against Ducks
Perhaps the only encouragement for the Arizona football team last weekend in its 37-17 loss to UCLA came from the combined efforts of running backs Mike Bell, Gilbert Harris and Chris Henry. The trio rushed for 258 yards and were the only reasons why the Wildcats matched the Bruins on the scoreboard in the second half.
This, after a career performance from Bruins quarterback Drew Olson (17-25, 235 yards, 4 touchdowns), amid nine first-half penalties and a 20-point halftime deficit for the Wildcats.
When the Wildcats take the field in Eugene tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. against Oregon and another familiar uber-QB, it won't be as simple as merely hanging in there.
"It's just all got to come together in both phases of the game, running and passing," said UA senior center Keoki Fraser said. "If we run the ball good, we should have some opportunities to throw downfield on play-action and open up some big plays."
By many accounts, the deep ball has been conspicuously absent for the Wildcats this season. Against UCLA, quarterback Kris Heavner completed just 13 passes for 93 yards through the air. Heavner threw downfield three times, only to see the ball dropped or overthrown.
"In the end, you're still feeling to get the 'w,'" Fraser said. "Maybe if we had ran for another 100 yards, we would have got that."
"But the bottom line is, we didn't win."
In his fifth official year with Arizona, Fraser is a rare commodity - an elder statesman on a roster filled with underclassmen. A veteran of three coaches and numerous offensive schemes, Fraser has started 28 straight games, the highest such streak among active players.
It's an achievement he counts both awe-inspiring and encouraging.
"I've played a lot of football games," he said. "Playing in college football has been one of my dreams since I was a kid, so I'll be proud of that. But we still have a lot of work to do, and I'm looking forward to doing what I can do with my experience and help this offense get on the same page and score some more points."
Fraser and the rest of the Wildcat offense may find willing partners in the Ducks. Thanks to their come-from-behind, 41-38 win over Washington State last weekend, Oregon is allowing more than 27 points per game.
But on the other side of the ball, quarterback Kellen Clemons is more than compensating. He accounted for six total touchdowns against the Cougars, helping put up just seven fewer points than did the rest of the team in its Pac-10 opener with the Wildcats in 2003.
Clemons proves to be yet another obstacle in a so-far frustrating start for Arizona.
"It's been tough, according to the record book," Fraser said. "But I think the way we've been playing has been a lot more encouraging. It's not like we've been going out and getting blown out every game, like we did in the past. Coach (Mike) Stoops promised us, 'We'll be in every game at the end and we'll have a chance to win' and that's been the case."
Part of that has been the work of Fraser. Anointed a team captain at season's start, Fraser continues to impress his coaches and teammates with a dedication to the finer points of the game.
"He's a guy that I consider another coach out there on the football field," said offensive line coach Eric Wolford. "He'll speak up when need be, but he knows there's a fine line there, too. He doesn't want to be a big guy who screams and yells."
That role is saved at times for Stoops, whose ferocity in and out of games has nonetheless made things comfortable for the more low-key Fraser.
"It's a great relationship," he said. "As us being captains, he told us that we have a lot of responsibility. We kind of look forward to that every day and go out there and try and work with him, make sure everyone is staying upbeat, staying positive and staying focused."
Amid the din at Autzen Stadium, against a formidable foe, a little encouragement will be needed.
"It'll be a challenging game, not only because of the noise factor but because they're a good team," he said. "We're looking forward to getting up there and getting the job done."