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October 7, 2008

Stoops looks ahead to Stanford

With Arizona's convincing win over Washington, UA head coach Mike Stoops took the podium on Monday and was happy to talk about Saturday's game.

"I am really pleased with what we saw on tape yesterday and how our kids played, so that was exciting to see," Stoops said. "I don't know if we could have done that in year's past, to come out and play that efficiently throughout 60 minutes and really play such a clean game on both sides of the ball and special teams, so obviously we very pleased with our preparation.

"I thought our coaches did an excellent job preparing our kids. We had a good idea of what we would see defensively and practiced about everything, so our foresight was very good defensively."

As far as the offense goes, Stoops was happy with the overall unit, especially the offensive line.

"Offensively everything worked pretty well," he said. "I thought Willie (Tuitama) was excellent and probably played one of his best games. Robbie (Gronkowski) played an excellent game but I thought we had a lot of guys really play well.

"I thought playing three new starters on the offensive line for a big part of the game was exciting to see. Mike Diaz, Colin Baxter and James Tretheway all stepped in and played very, very well, which was good to see. You can see how depth really helps you as you move through the season."

Speaking of the offensive line, Stoops believes that the experience the unit has is finally starting to pay off.

"We are more experienced up front," he said. "I think we are bigger than we have been. It is hard to run the football without good blocking tight ends, it is just difficult to do. Your tight ends have to give you that edge blocking that you need, so that is very important to your success as well.

"It also sets up the play action pass and that is why if they want to make sure they can protect themselves with Robbie and Mike (Thomas), then they have to play more guys in coverage, so it opens up running lanes."

In terms of being able to come out prepared for each game, Stoops says that the team has learned its lesson from past seasons.

"I think our players are smarter and have learned that the past prepares for the future," he said. "Hopefully with some of the deficiencies from the past, we can learn from those mistakes and help us move forward and not go down those paths again.

"We are not a team that can just go out there and not play at our best and show up. When you are excited to play and focused on playing, it makes up for a lot of the mistakes."

Now that Arizona is 4-1, the more difficult part of its schedule begins, starting with Stanford.

"We are ready to move on to Stanford, which will be a much more contested game across the board," Stoops said. "They are very talented and physical in the way they like to run the football. Defensively they are going to make you work hard and attempt to stop the run. We are going to have to be smart in our preparation and how we attack them throughout this game."

The main concern for the UA's defense will likely be Stanford running back Toby Gerhart.

"He brings that physical presence to their offense," Stoops said. "He is a power running back and likes to run downhill and break tackles. That's his strength. He has good balance and understands their offense very well.

"He understands who he is and does not try to be anything but that. We are going to have to make sure our tackling becomes very important when you play Stanford because they like to run the football."

In addition, the Wildcats will have to be cautious, as Stoops feels that Stanford does not make many mistakes.

"They just don't beat themselves," he said. "It is just the style they play. They try to get explosive plays, but they are difficult to get sometimes, so they are methodical in their approach. They are going to be very particular in how they attack you."

Towards the end of the press conference, Stoops' attention turned to the possibility of receiving some sort of upgrade to Arizona Stadium.

"We have outgrown this building," he said. "This has been a very efficient building but we are cramped with our players and our locker room space becomes very difficult. It would help out tremendously just our ability to recruit, but also our ability to work more efficiently to what we have. It would be a great benefit for our whole program and to our fans to add something to the stadium like a new design."

While he understands the economics are not simple, he still believes some sort of addition or a new stadium is beneficial in building a program.

"I think this program wants to grow regardless of whom is the head coach and I think this is the right time," he said. "I understand the economic part is very difficult, but you have to invest in a program. It takes everything and everybody. You need the commitment from all sides to win and it helps."

Notes:

  • Stoops said that freshman linebacker Zander Fabbri has left the team due to complications with a concussion but should be back after the semester.

  • Jowyn Ward missed the Washington game due to a foot injury. There's no timetable on his return.

    Jason Scheer


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