Wildcats looking to punish NMSU

By Eric Wein

Arizona Daily Wildcat

A few minutes before kickoff, the Arizona football team will gather in the northwest corner of the Arizona Stadium field. It will then sprint toward its sideline below the stadium's eastern tiers as a loud roar from the crowd and fanfare from the UA marching band greet the Wildcats.

That scene will mark Arizona's entrance for its first home game of the season when the Wildcats face New Mexico State tomorrow night at 7:07.

"I can't wait," linebacker Akil Jackson said. "It's always great to come out and play in front of your home crowd. They're going to be pretty pumped up and that just gets us going a little more too."

The ninth-ranked Wildcats (1-0) normally would enter tomorrow night's game in what would appear to be a no-win situation they would need to win by a large margin in order for the game to be considered a success.

But two elements give the UA a little more to shoot for when they take on the Aggies (0-1).

For one, Arizona hopes to improve on its lackluster season opener. The Wildcats dominated almost every phase of their 19-14 victory, but some costly turnovers made it closer than it should have been.

They are particularly hoping to get better play out of their defense, specifically on pass coverage.

"We need to play with a more intense effort," cornerback Claudius Wright said. "If we give them a little room to breathe, they're going to take it."

Secondly, the Wildcats are playing a team that is coming off a respectable showing against No. 2 Florida. Even though the Aggies fell to the Gators 70-21, New Mexico State made it a close game early on, which caused Florida to fall a notch in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.

Whether they like it or not, how the Wildcats handle the Aggies will be compared and contrasted to how Florida took care of that same team the week before.

New Mexico State, which finished 5-6 last season, added six junior college linemen from last season.

Quarterback Cody Ledbetter (14 completions, 31 attempts, two interceptions) threw three touchdowns against the Gators, all of them to wide receiver Lucious Davis (five receptions, 127 yards).

"When you play a team like Florida, you get your pants dirty," New Mexico State coach Jim Hess said. "When you play Arizona, you get blood, snot, dirt, everything all over you. It's totally different."

The difference in prestige between the two programs is a factor the Wildcats plan to ignore.

"They probably think we're going to come out and think they're soft or something like that," Jackson said. "But we're going to play hard like we do against everyone."

UA coach Dick Tomey compared the Aggies current status to that of Pacific last year.

Pacific had come off a similarly lopsided defeat before taking on the Wildcats in both teams' second games last season. The Tigers stayed close, leaving the field with Arizona barely ahead, 16-13.

Tomey doesn't want to see something like that happen tomorrow. He plans for his team to turn around from last week.

"I think our guys looked at our tape and our guys will be very motivated," Tomey said. "We have to eliminate the discipline errors we made on offense and defense."

Hess talked like his team doesn't have a prayer of beating the Wildcats tomorrow.

"Arizona's big offensive line will clobber you around and their defense can mess you up good," Hess said. "Our players might line up with Florida, but I don't think they'll understand Arizona."

Tomey didn't buy it.

"He's going to come over here with a plan and a belief that they're going to win," Tomey said.

Last season, Arizona swept through its six-game home schedule unbeaten.

The team intends to continue that streak tomorrow.

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