Mike Stoops and his Arizona Wildcats will be focused on stopping the run Thursday against their in state rival Arizona State Sun Devils.
“They’re not going to change what they do,” Stoops told Sports 620 KTAR’s Gambo and Ash Wednesday. “They’ve done this all year and Brock’s been a part of this transition they made, and they made it well. They’re committed to running the football. Cameron Marshall is a big physical guy so that’s going to be key for us.”
The Wildcats, who got off to an impressive 7-1 start, have lost their last three games. Stoops acknowledged that his team has struggled defensively in recent weeks and will have to improve if they hope to win their final game of the season.
“We have to be better up front,” the coach said. “We have to tackle better. We have to be more aggressive at the line of scrimmage and get more push and that’s going to be important to us and this is a much improved offensive football team that we face.
“I thought we played awfully well a year ago in Tempe defensively and really shut them down all game up until really late in the fourth quarter. They came up with some huge plays late in the game but I thought we learned a lot about ourselves. They did some things a little different last year then they had shown.
So, we’re going to have to play good defense and learn from some of our past mistakes. Hopefully over the last couple of weeks and play a more complete game defensively. ”
The Wildcats have given up a combined 811 rushing yards in their last three games against Stanford, USC and Oregon. A fact that Stoops and his team have found to be frustrating.
“It’s frustrating,” he told the hosts. “It doesn’t matter who you play, losses are losses and they can mount. I think we’re frustrated, probably angry. We got exposed in some areas. You go through a season and some things creep up and we just got to get better at them. I think we’ve been exposed in some areas defensively that we need to play better. I think our players will.”
The game will have a national audience this season as it will be on ESPN. Regardless of the platform, Stoops views it as a big game.
“I think it’s a great showcase at the end of the season for our two programs,” he said. “Certainly there has been a lot on the line over the past 5 or 6 years. So, nothing really changed, it’s a big game, even looking beyond the records, the bragging rights, and supremacy in Phoenix is always big, so this is a huge game for both teams.”
With a win and a BCS invitation for Stanford, the Wildcats will head to the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio. According to reports, ASU has petitioned the NCAA to be allowed to go to a bowl if they earn their sixth victory on Thursday evening.
Kickoff for the 2010 edition of the Territorial Cup is at 6:00 p.m. at Arizona Stadium in Tucson and can be heard on News Talk 92.3 KTAR.