Pair of sacks eases pain of tough season

By Patrick Klein

Arizona Daily Wildcat

It's been that kind of season for Jim Hoffman.

With Cal facing a fourth-and-23 deep in Arizona territory with just under two minutes to go in a 13-6 game, Hoffman broke through the Cal line and set his sights on Golden Bears' quarterback Pat Barnes all the time thinking he was offsides.

"I was in there so fast I thought I was offsides," Hoffman said of his sack of Barnes that sealed Arizona's win Saturday and kept the Wildcats' Rose Bowl hopes alive for another week. "I didn't do anything different, they just missed a block. They had seven in to block four, I don't know how they missed one."

It's tough for Hoffman to get excited about anything these days. One of the cover boys on Arizona's now famous (infamous?) Sports Illustrated issue, the 6-foot-4, 275-pound defensive tackle has seen his production fall off (seven sacks and 31 total tackles last year and five sacks and 14 total tackles this year) while enduring injuries and losing his starting spot, which he has since regained, for the Colorado State and Oregon games to Joe Salave'a.

"I've been having problems, been sick (surgery on his left leg)," said Hoffman, a senior. "Those are excuses, but I have proof. Joe's good, they won't be missing me when I'm gone."

On top of the physical ailments, Hoffman, like all the other Wildcats, has had to deal with the mental pressure of expectations.

"I didn't want to be on the cover," he said. "Everyone's against us now. We're the team to beat, everyone gives us their best."

Surprisingly, it took Cal's final drive to take the pressure off Hoffman.

"We were very relaxed," Hoffman said. "We've been in the same defense for the last three years, so we've been there before. But anything can happen, they could have gotten a touchdown against us like Oregon did."

But they didn't. The Golden Bears drove from their own 28 with 3:39 remaining to the Arizona 25 with 2:07 left. Facing a third-and-15, Barnes was smothered by Hoffman and Tedy Bruschi for an eight-yard loss, and on fourth down, Hoffman was in the backfield seemingly with the snap of the ball and extinguished Cal's hopes by sacking Barnes.

"Jim Hoffman can rush the passer and stop the run," said linebacker Sean Harris. "This week he just seemed more relaxed, he took the pressure off his shoulders and just went out and played his game. He was just more relaxed and happy."

"Jim did a great job," said UA coach Dick Tomey. "He made plays, and the team that wins is the one that makes plays."

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