By Arlie Rahn
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Arizona football coach Dick Tomey has always said he feels the biggest improvement in teams comes between the first and second games. But when the 17th-ranked Wildcats (1-0) square off against Georgia Tech (1-0) tonight, both teams will be going on only four days' rest. With that in mind, is Tomey still expecting a big turnaround in the amount of effort from his team?
"I think so," Tomey said. "The main reason for the improvement is not the additional practice, but it is because the players get a chance to see themselves on tape in actual game situations."
A better effort will be needed when the Wildcats face a team that has made numerous improvements over its 1-10 squad of a year ago Ÿ one that Arizona barely defeated 19-14. With the hiring of former San Diego Charger defensive coordinator George O'Leary, the Yellow Jackets now have a defense not unlike the one that helped them to a share of the national championship in 1990.
"The line is where a team establishes their defense, and that's where their stamp will first be felt," Tomey said. "We studied the film of Georgia Tech and some of the Chargers, and it hasn't been too hard to notice the consistencies. But that does not mean that it will be easy to play against (them)."
The Georgia Tech defense will be spearheaded by sophomore inside linebacker Ron Rogers, who led the team with 60 tackles in '94, and junior cornerback Nathan Perryman, who broke up seven passes and intercepted two last season.
On offense, the Yellow Jackets are moving back to the option, which should play to the strengths of senior quarterback Donnie Davis. He completed all six of his passes for 125 yards in Tech's 51-7 win over Furman last Saturday.
"In order for us to be successful running the football," O'Leary said, "we are going to have to throw the ball accurately and effectively."
Sophomore tailback C.J. Williams is also coming off a solid performance. He ran for 151 yards against Furman, averaging 8.9 yards per carry while scoring three touchdowns.
Junior wide receiver Derrick Steagall, who averaged 30 yards on kickoff returns last season, was the leading receiver in last year's contest, catching four passes for 74 yards while scoring a touchdown. He missed the Yellow Jackets' first game with a hamstring injury, but is expected to play tonight. Williams, who will be paired with an offensive line led by All-America candidate Michael Cheever, should give the Arizona "Desert Swarm" defense its first test.
"Now that they are returning to the option, it will be a lot tougher for our linebackers to defend them," Tomey said. "They will be watching for the run and might be (susceptible) to a big passing play."
The Arizona defensive front, however, is primed and ready after holding Pacific's 1,000-yard rusher Joe Abdullah to just 2.9 yards a carry last Saturday night. But the Yellow Jackets' offensive line should make this contest a closer one.
"They have a more physical team than Pacific did," Tomey said. "Their offensive line is outstanding and has a great center in Cheever."
But an improved Wildcat secondary should make Georgia Tech's questionable air attack suffer. The newest member of this group is junior college transfer Rashee Johnson, who broke up three passes on Saturday and has established himself as a quality starter.
While the offense will probably not repeat its 475-yard performance, it should give Georgia Tech some fits on defense. Senior quarterback Dan White's 198.1 rating against Pacific ranked first in the Pacific 10 Conference for the weekend. But White was not satisfied with his ability to avoid the sack against Pacific.
"There were some times when I could have thrown it away," White said. "I think that our whole team is going to have to step it up a lot to play with Georgia Tech."
Junior running back Gary Taylor's 182 total yards, along with junior Richard Dice's average of 37.8 yards every time he touches the ball (he had two catches for 98 yards and two punt returns for 53), should give White at least two big-play performers for tonight's action.
"I think that as we continue to play, that we will begin to polish some things up on offense," Taylor said.
"We're pretty much prepared for the game," Tomey said. "We just have to make sure everybody gets enough rest before Thursday."
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