By Arlie Rahn
Arizona Daily Wildcat
When senior Tedy Bruschi walks on the field at Arizona Stadium tomorrow night, he will be entering the final season opener of his illustrious college career. And he wants it to be one to remember.
"This is going to be my last opener here, and I want it to be the best," Bruschi said. "I want everyone in Arizona Stadium to get up when the game is over and say, 'That was a hell of a football game.'"
But trying to rain on Bruschi's parade will be a University of Pacific team that has given Arizona fits in the past. The 1993 meeting between these teams ended in a hard-fought, 16-13 Arizona victory. The Tigers were also one of the NCAA's most improved teams last season, as they bettered their 3-8 mark of 1993 to 6-5 last season.
"Pacific is a gritty team; they never give up. Therefore, they play a lot of very close games," said UA coach Dick Tomey. "We can't overlook them; we have to play hard and take care of the ball."
Leading this Pacific team will be all-Big West Conference tailback Joe Abdullah.
"Teams cannot ignore the run when we have Joe in the backfield," said Pacific coach Chuck Shelton. "He's our big-play guy and has consistently come through for us."
Abdullah gained 1,166 yards last season and had four straight games in which he rushed for over 100 yards. He is recovering from a toe injury and might not be at 100 percent, but his ability still makes him a formidable opponent.
"They have a pretty good running back in Abdullah," Bruschi said. "He's got good speed, so we're going to have to shut him down to be successful."
Senior quarterback Nick Sellars took over the quarterback duties last November and never looked back. He finished the season on a good note, throwing for 403 yards against San Jose State. But junior college transfer Chad Fotheringham should put pressure on Sellars for time.
"Sellars is an outstanding quarterback, but we got Chad for insurance," Shelton said. "At 6-foot-6, Chad also has a height factor over Nick."
But for Bruschi and company, it doesn't matter who Pacific throws out against them.
"We've been watching a lot of tape and it seems they do a lot of misdirection and boot stuff," Bruschi said. "We've prepared more for this game than we will for Georgia Tech and USC. We've been focused on it since (Camp) Cochise."
One of the players that had a high amount of success in Arizona's last meeting with Pacific was starting tailback Gary Taylor. Taylor, a freshman at the time, ran for 175 yards and was the difference in the game. It is a little ironic that Taylor now will get the call as a senior against the team that launched his career.
"Gary had a terrific camp and is ready to have a fabulous year," Tomey said.
But even when this game is over, Pacific will not be out of the woods. The Wildcats are just one of three top 30 teams this school of 4,000 people has scheduled. Two of them are defending national champion Nebraska and Rose Bowl runner-up Oregon. So why would such a small school schedule such big-time teams?
"M-o-n-e-y," said Fresno State coach Jim Sweeney. "Pacific has to do that so it can maintain its program. It's that simple."
Pacific will receive $800,000 from the nonconference teams it visits, including $400,000 from Nebraska, $250,000 from Arizona, and $150,000 from Oregon. That money pays for travel expenses and helps fund $20,000-a-year scholarships.
And while the Tigers will probably begin the year 0-3, some things cannot be measured by wins and losses.
"It's a diffucult thing to have to face," Shelton said. "But the financial returns are too great to turn down."
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