|With season winding down, Wildcats, Cardinal need victories|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 18 October 2007 12:54|
They're tied for seventh in the Pac-10, but both flashed their potential against Southern California. The Cardinal stunned then-No. 2 USC on Oct. 6, and one week later the Wildcats led the Trojans heading into the fourth quarter.
Now they both need a victory to keep their flickering bowl hopes alive. The Wildcats (2-5, 1-3 Pac-10) need at least a 4-1 finish to qualify for a bowl berth, and even that might not be enough. Stanford (2-4, 1-3) needs to win four of its last six to have a shot.
It figures to add a little drama when they meet on Saturday afternoon in Arizona Stadium.
``We have nothing to lose,'' Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama said. ``That is exactly how it is. We are playing with our backs to the wall. That is the bottom line.''
There is one distinct difference between the teams. The Wildcats came into this year brimming with optimism that they would end the Pac-10's longest bowl drought at eight seasons. The Cardinal were merely hoping to achieve respectability after a 1-11 season that ended with the firing of coach Walt Harris.
Although Stanford absorbed humiliating losses to UCLA (45-17) and Arizona State (41-3), the Cardinal have improved under new coach Jim Harbaugh, in his first season as a major-college head coach.
``I think they have done an unbelievable job,'' Arizona coach Mike Stoops said. ``When you look at the grand scheme of things, they are so different (from last year). You have seen Jim's influence.''
Arizona, meanwhile, needs a fast finish to earn a bowl berth in Stoops' fourth season.
Early in the year, Arizona's struggles could be blamed on the transition to a spread offense, the brainchild of new offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes. The Wildcats thought their troubled attack had turned a corner in a 48-20 victory over Washington State on Sept. 29. But they've mustered only 29 points the last two weeks, both losses.
Against USC, the Wildcats gained only 13 first downs and 255 yards, wasting a superb effort by their defense, which limited the Trojans to 19 first downs and 276 yards.
Tuitama is the Pac-10's No. 2 passer, averaging 293.6 yards per game. But the running game has been nonexistent for most of the season. The Wildcats average a Pac-10-low 76.9 yards per game on the ground, and they gained only 22 yards in 16 carries at USC.
``They throw the ball all over the place,'' Harbaugh said. ``I like their scheme and I like their quarterback.''
The Cardinal, by contrast, have struggled on defense. Stanford gave up seven plays of 20 or more yards in a 38-36 home loss to Texas Christian last week.
``The big plays are something that have haunted us this year, giving up the big play,'' Harbaugh said. ``Missed tackles are the other things that we are working very hard on to shore up.
``Those two things are hurting our defense right now,'' Harbaugh said.
Stanford's defensive woes should present an opportunity for the Wildcats. The Cardinal are the weakest remaining opponent on Arizona's schedule, which includes trips to Washington and Arizona State and home games against UCLA and Oregon.
``We have to go 5-0 in the next five games,'' offensive tackle Eben Britton said. ``That's our goal, and make a bowl game and squeeze as much juice out of this as we can.''