UA prepared to face first real challenge

By Eric Wein

Arizona Daily Wildcat

When the questions have turned to his dominating defense or his veteran offensive line during the past few weeks, Dick Tomey has toned down on that talk, instead directing his attention toward Arizona's first opponent.

As the UA football coach knows, the Wildcats truly have something to prove in their first-ever meeting with Georgia Tech tonight (5 p.m., ESPN) at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta.

"Their guys are tired of hearing about us," Tomey has lamented, also adding that "people are going to turn on the TV and either say, 'Boy, they have another good team,' or, 'All those guys must have graduated.'"

Both teams will be searching for a part of what the other already has.

With its suddenly lofty reputation intact since it temporarily dethroned Miami from football's hierarchy last January, Arizona looks to begin building toward what Georgia Tech has already achieved a winning tradition.

The Yellow Jackets are already deeply rooted in their history with the memories of a celebrated former coach John Heisman, for whom the award was named, and four national championships, the most recent of which they earned in 1990. The Yellow Jackets are looking to rebound from back-to-back 5-6 seasons.

Tomey doesn't want his players to dwell on the past.

"I don't think the players know about their tradition nor do they need to," Tomey said. "None of that's going to matter."

Similar to Arizona of seasons past, Georgia Tech is going into the game as the underdog, looking to turn around its status with an early-season upset.

"They're just looking for someone to put their claws on," UA safety Brandon Sanders said. "I understand how they feel because we were the same way."

Tommy Luginbill, a junior college transfer, takes over at quarterback after beating out last year's starter Donnie Davis. Luginbill, like Dan White last year, enters the game having never taken a snap in a Division I college football game.

"We want him to play within the structure of our offense," Georgia Tech coach Bill Lewis said. "Tommy's not going out there all by himself. He's only one of 11 people."

Doubt and uncertainty weigh heavily on the minds of both coaches because it is the season opener. Because they acquired coaches from the San Diego Chargers and Boston College during the offseason, Tomey and his staff have had to watch more game film.

"I expect they'll give us a ton of problems and hopefully we can adjust to them," Tomey said. "Usually, the team that wins the first game is the team that adjusts (to) the surprises best."

Arizona, which hasn't hit the road for its season opener since 1991, breezed through its last two openers. But this year, the Wildcats understand they're playing a better caliber adversary than Utah State or UTEP.

"We know we can't go in thinking this is an easy game," linebacker Akil Jackson said. "It doesn't matter what the records or rankings are."

Venturing out on the road is an element the Wildcats hope they'll be able to thrive on.

"Sometimes when you're on the road, it's you against the world. That's the way we approach it," Tomey said. "Sometimes that can do good things for you."

The Wildcats are ranked seventh in the Associated Press poll entering tonight's game. Arizona will not only be expected to win, but to win convincingly. A small margin of victory will be considered somewhat of a letdown to everyone but the Wildcats. The team will be satisfied with a win no matter what the scoreboard reads.

After several months of waiting, no one is more eager to start the season than the Wildcats.

"The thing that makes this team unique is that they like to play football, they don't care who they're playing," Tomey said. "That, to me, is their trademark. They just spill their guts no matter who it is."

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