Saturday, November 11, 2006

Tucson Citizen: California has Focus on Wildcats

Playing on grass, crowd noise, warm weather, being careful of a letdown, and oh, yeah, the University of Arizona football team.  No. 8 California has enough to pay attention to this week, so it is not looking ahead for the possible Pac-10 title game against seventh-ranked USC next week. Without a victory over the Wildcats at 1:30 p.m. today at Arizona Stadium, next week's showdown with the Trojans is not as significant. "To go to Pullman and beat a good Washington State team, like (Arizona) did is very impressive," California coach Jeff Tedford said. "From watching games from last year, I think UCLA was undefeated, went down there and got beat 52-14. Those are reminders of what can happen if you're not ready to play. "I know they'll be fired up after a big win. I know the fans will be fired up. It will be a hostile environment, no question. Coach (Mike) Stoops has them always playing hard, physical football. There's no question that we're going to get their best effort.

Haunting feeling

It took the Bears staff a while to realize the talents of Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama, offering the northern California star from Stockton a scholarship a week before the signing date. That was about six months too late. Cal understands what a healthy Tuitama brings to the field. "He's got a very strong arm, very good pocket presence and a very tough guy in the pocket," Tedford said. "Having him back there now really makes their offense a lot more potent. They have very good receivers that he can get the ball to. He really brings an added dimension to their team."

Give and take away California is 113th nationally in pass defense, giving up 256 yards per game.  That's good news for Arizona. The Bears have intercepted 20 passes. That's the bad news. UA's defense has only five picks. Nine different Cal players have interceptions. The Bears are hoping the Wildcats, who did not turn the ball over on offense in a win over Washington State, go back to mistake-prone ways.  "In previous games (Arizona) turned the football over and really made it hard on themselves because of all the turnovers," Tedford said. "I think the key was that they stayed away from turning the football over."

Drink water

While many folks in Tucson are glad the temperatures are dropping around here, the Bears are still paying close attention to the weather conditions.

"It could be fairly warm," Tedford said. "We definitely will focus on hydration this week."  

Crowd noise

The Bears know what it is like to play in loud stadiums - the crowd was a big factor in a season-opening 35-18 loss at Tennessee - but the noise at Arizona Stadium has caught the staff's attention. “I noticed that Oregon State's offensive line started the game in a regular formation (against UA), but they were holding hands by the end of the game," Tedford said. "Noise must have been a factor."  UA may have a sellout today.

Grass stains

California will be playing on a grass surface for the first time since losing at Tennessee.  "We've been playing on grass since Pop Warner. We're used to it," California safety Bernard Hicks told the San Francisco Chronicle. "I think we're fast on any surface."  The Bears play on a Sportexe surface, a synthetic artificial turf, on their home field.  Cal players expect some folks to be affected by the grass turf at Arizona Stadium.  "It creates more work for our laundry people," Cal left tackle Andrew Cameron told the Chronicle. "Getting grass stains out can be tough."

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