Wildcats ready to keep running - East Valley Tribune: Sports

Wildcats ready to keep running

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Posted: Wednesday, October 26, 2011 2:10 pm | Updated: 9:12 pm, Thu Oct 27, 2011.

(AP) — For at least one game, Arizona fixed one of its problems.

In their first game since coach Mike Stoops was fired, the Wildcats used an added emphasis on running the ball, using more running backs than usual and improved play from their offensive line to roll over UCLA last week.

Arizona (2-5, 1-4 Pac-12) entered the game as the nation's second-worst rushing team at 71.8 yards per game, but had no trouble grinding out yards on the ground against the Bruins, piling up a season-high 254 yards in a 48-12 win.

"Establishing that run was a huge part of our game plan," interim coach Tim Kish said. "It worked basically to perfection that game. We're hoping to continue to improve in that area."

Five running backs carried the ball, led by senior Keola Antolin's 77 yards on eight carries. Taimi Tutogi, a halfback, scored two touchdowns and carried the ball a season-high seven times for 32 yards.

Arizona used a three-back set and also turned to Daniel Jenkins, who had 43 yards on a season-high 10 carries after being limited by a sprained ankle early in the season.

Running backs coach Garret Chachere said he has wanted the Wildcats to use more running backs to keep top backs Antolin and Ka'Deem Carey fresh. As a result, they produced bigger plays; Antolin averaged 9.6 yards per carry, and Carey 7.4 yards with an 18-yard touchdown run.

The surest sign of Arizona's emphasis on running the ball? Quarterback Nick Foles scripted 13 plays during Arizona's first two drives, calling for a mix of passing and throwing plays.

"It was one of those things, as a running back coach, I was glad to see because I've been trying to get more guys to carry the ball because it takes the toll, the beating off of Keola and off of Ka'Deem," Chachere said. "I've always been pulling for Taimi to carry the ball because he adds something those others don't. They're quick and tough, and they'll break tackles, but he's a big back, a punishing runner."

The Wildcats have a variety of running backs to test opponents.

Tutogi, at 6-foot-1 and 250 pounds, is often used in short-yardage situations and can catch the ball. A small back at 5 feet, 8 inches and hard runner, Antolin leads the team with 372 yards rushing. Carey, a freshman, is a hard runner with breakaway speed. He is second on the team with 260 yards.

"When you can throw four guys in there with different skill sets, it gives the defense something to look at too," Chachere said. "Who's getting the ball this time?"

After its best rushing performance of the season, the Wildcats rank 111th nationally and 11th in the Pac-12 at 97.9 yards per game heading into Saturday's game against Washington (5-2, 3-1) in Seattle.

Arizona's previous season high for yards rushing was 129 in a 48-41 loss to USC. In Stoops' final game as the Wildcats' coach, Arizona rushed for 53 yards in a 37-27 loss to Oregon State.

"We just came out positive, came out swinging," Antolin said. "We were playing for each other. We came out playing hard, (with) teamwork, all that stuff."

An improved offensive line was also a factor in the better running game.

Arizona began the season with just one lineman who had started a game, center Kyle Quinn, and the line also has dealt with injuries. The projected starters include two freshmen and a sophomore, but the group seems to be coming around.

"They came out with an attitude, 'No one's going to stop us,'" Antolin said. "From the beginning, our O-line was really young," he added. "We've progressed, and they became more confident in each other."

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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