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September 9, 2007

Wildcats take it to NAU in home opener

Arizona rode the shoulders of junior quarterback Willie Tuitama, en route to a career-high five-touchdown night, as the Wildcats beat NAU 45-24 at Arizona Stadium.

The Arizona offense opened up more than it had in the previous outing against BYU - a 20-7 loss - and came up with 490 total yards.

The UA came out looking sharp on both sides of the ball with the defense stifling NAU's first drive of the game and forcing the Lumberjacks to go four-and-out.

On the subsequent Wildcat drive, Tuitama found senior receiver Anthony Johnson 25 yards downfield for a completion on third down to set up a 21-yard touchdown pass to junior wide out Mike Thomas for Arizona's first score of the game.

It was apparent on the first drive that the UA would be opening things up and looking downfield much more than it did in its season opener.

The defense kept the pressure on Lumberjack quarterback Lance Kriesien and defensive end Johnathan Turner came up with a sack with 7:02 remaining in the quarter.

Arizona marched downfield again on the next drive, led by good rushing gains by Thomas and true freshman running back Nick Grigsby, but stalled short of the goal line, and kicker Jason Bondzio missed a 37-yard field goal attempt.

The Wildcats came out in style in the second quarter, and at the 10:08 mark, senior cornerback Antoine Cason returned a Robbie DeHaze punt 70 yards for the UA's second touchdown of the game.

NAU found some success moving the ball on its next drive, but just enough to get within field goal range as DeHaze was successful on a 43-yard attempt to give the Lumberjacks their first points of the game.

As the quarter ran down, Arizona put itself in position to score some more points before going into the locker room but had a hard time finding room inside the five yard-line. The offense went for it on fourth down and one yard to go with 36 seconds left on the clock and was not able to get enough for the first down, much less enough to get into the end zone.

After the half, the Wildcats wasted little time coming out came out with a purpose.

With only 52 seconds gone in the half, after a great 45-yard kickoff return by Thomas, Tuitama found sophomore receiver Terrell Turner in the end zone for a 34-yard touchdown pass.

The defense followed suit and Turner and senior end Louis Holmes came up with another sack with 10:25 remaining in the quarter.

Tuitama found yet another one of his weapons on offense, this time for 39 yards down the sideline to true freshman tight end Rob Gronkowski. That reception eventually set the stage for a 4-yard Tuitama touchdown pass to Johnson.

The defense forced another NAU four-and-out but on the ensuing Wildcat drive Lumberjack cornerback K.J. Gerard picked off a Tuitama pass that went through the receivers' hands and returned it 37 yards to the Arizona five.

Kriesien wasted no time in running the ball into the end zone for the first NAU touchdown of the game.

Thomas started off Arizona's next drive with 27 yards on the ground on a successful revers play, but the drive stalled soon after and Bondzio connected on a 36-yard field goal.

One drive later, Tuitama found Gronkowski again for a big 26-yard gain, but this time in the end zone for his fourth touchdown pass of the game with 3:10 left in the third quarter.

It was at this point that Arizona seemed to feel that the game was won and looked to have let up a bit, allowing the Lumberjacks to conduct a big drive all the way down the field from their 21 yard-line for another rushing touchdown by Kriesien only four seconds into the fourth quarter.

The lackluster play continued on the kickoff as Thomas fumbled the ball and allowed NAU to recover it on the Arizona 22.

NAU running back Lionel Scott punched it into the end zone from 13 yards out to push the score within 14 points at 24-38 with only 53 seconds gone from the fourth quarter.

Tuitama put Arizona back on track on the next drive with a 27-yard touchdown pass to redshirt freshman receiver Delashaun Dean to put the game away for good.

Tuitama finished the evening completing 23 of 44 passes for 284 yards with five touchdowns, one shy of a school record, and an interception.

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