TUCSON - It was only one game against an overmatched opponent. But Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama has the Wildcats feeling better about their new spread offense after throwing for five touchdowns in a 45-24 victory over Northern Arizona last weekend, one shy of the school record.
“I thought Willie’s precision and accuracy is really encouraging,” Arizona coach Mike Stoops said Monday at his weekly campus news conference. “His ability to throw some unique balls is his greatest strength right now.”
Tuitama, who missed nearly half the 2006 season because of concussion-related symptoms, appears comfortable standing in the pocket and slinging the ball to multiple receivers. Tuitama’s play is important with the Wildcats adopting a pass-oriented attack under new coordinator Sonny Dykes.
There is still plenty of room for improvement, but Tuitama has completed 61 percent of his passes for 499 yards and has six touchdowns, and he has been intercepted only once.
“His decision making continues to get better and his awareness is better,” Stoops said. “He is just scratching the surface of what he needs to do. He is seeing things a lot better.”
It helps that Tuitama is healthy. He suffered a concussion against LSU last season on the second play of the second game. Later in the season, he was also hit in the head against UCLA.
With Tuitama unable to get comfortable in the pocket, Arizona’s offense sputtered. The Wildcats ranked 115th nationally at 253.5 yards per game.
Tuitama found five different receivers for touchdowns against NAU, a member of the Football Championship Subdivision. He has averaged 40 passes per game in the first two weeks.
“I’m feeling good in there, and I’m getting a lot of time to throw,” Tuitama said. “The coaches opened things up and we were able to get the ball thrown around.”
The Wildcats will need even more production from Tuitama until they can find a primary tailback. They are still auditioning Chris Jennings, Xavier Smith and Nick Grigsby.
Arizona plays host to New Mexico on Saturday.