|Freshman Antolin sparks Arizona ground game|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 20 October 2008 12:12|
Sophomore Nic Grigsby remains the No. 1 tailback despite being benched after fumbling on his first carry last week.
That may be the best sign of the Wildcats' improved depth under coach Mike Stoops as they prepare to face No. 6 Southern California on Saturday night in Arizona Stadium.
Midway through the Pac-10 season, the Wildcats (5-2, 3-1 Pac-10) find themselves in a four-way tie for first place with USC, Oregon and Oregon State.
``It's a big game, for first place in the Pac-10,'' Stoops said Monday at his weekly campus news conference. ``I don't think any more really has to be said. Our kids know we haven't accomplished anything yet.''
hree such victories since 2000 - and it set up the biggest game in his five-year tenure.
The Wildcats will face the mighty Trojans (5-1, 3-1) with a better running game than they had a week ago, thanks to the unexpected emergence of Antolin, a true freshman from Las Vegas.
At 5-foot-8 and 180 pounds, Antolin is relatively small. But he prefers banging in the middle of the line, unlike the silky Grigsby, who is adept at slicing through holes.
``I think we needed that, a little bit of power and pop in the inside run game,'' Stoop said. ``That's not really what Nic does. Nic is a slasher.
``Nic gives you a lot of excitement back there,'' Stoops said. ``Keola's a little bit more of a downhill, inside-the-tackle runner.''
Grigsby remains the starter, although he'll be on a short leash after incurring the wrath of the coaching staff early in last week's 42-27 victory over the Golden Bears. Grigsby fumbled on his first carry, and the Bears recovered and converted the blunder into a quick 7-0 lead.
Grigsby also lost fumbles in a 36-28 loss at New Mexico and in a 31-10 victory at UCLA. Against the Bruins, his fumble deep in Arizona territory was returned for a touchdown.
Stoops said he's still confident in Grigsby, who averages 89.5 yards, fourth in the Pac-10.
He'll bounce back. He's just got to protect the football better than he has.''
If Grigsby doesn't, Stoops won't hesitate to call on Antolin again.
Antolin had rushed for 66 yards in the first six games. He had 61 at halftime against the Golden Bears, who couldn't seem to tackle him.
Arizona trailed 7-0 when Antolin took over late in the first quarter.
He scored on a 20-yard burst up the middle to tie it at 7 early in the second quarter. Less than two minutes later, Antolin scored on a bruising 11-yard run that put Arizona ahead 14-7. ``His run down at the goal line was very powerful against some very physical linebackers,'' Stoops said.
USC coach Pete Carroll said his defense expects to see both running backs on Saturday.
``Both guys are like lightning in a bottle,'' Carroll said. ``They're terrific open-field runners, great speed. I can't imagine them being more excited than they are about what happened last weekend, seeing the production they got out of that new guy. They've got a great 1-2 punch, however they want to do it.''