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Dynamite Duo: Tuitama-to-Thomas combination
True freshmen are big part of Arizona's improving offense
The T-'N'-T pass-catching combination of quarterback Willie Tuitama to receiver Mike Thomas has become an explosive combination for the Arizona Wildcats.
And they are true freshmen.
"(Thomas) and Willie have a lot of similar characteristics," UA coach Mike Stoops said. "They are both gamers. They love to practice, and they love the competition. They have great confidence in their ability."
They also apparently have plenty of confidence in each other.
Although Tuitama has played in only 7› quarters, he has found Thomas 10 times for 233 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a 75-yard score in a 29-27 victory at Oregon State last week.
Half of the catches have come when the Wildcats have needed to convert a third down.
"We have a lot of belief in Willie and what he is going to do," Thomas said after catching four passes for 162 yards against the Beavers. "You know if you get open, the ball is going to be there."
Tuitama, from St. Mary's High School in Stockton, Calif., has completed 31 of 56 passes for 517 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. He is getting plenty of credit for the recent turnaround in UA's offensive production, and rightly so.
He came off the bench to lead UA to 21 straight points in a 28-21 loss to Oregon, then led the Wildcats to their highest point production of the year against a Division I-A program last week at Oregon State.
Previous starter Richard Kovalcheck directed the Wildcats to a 31-12 victory over I-AA NAU on Sept. 10.
"He has re-energized our whole program and re-energized our fans," Stoops said of Tuitama. "Willie has a very unique ability. He has an air about him and confidence, something we lacked, especially offensively. We had to work hard to get points. Willie gives you big-play capabilities at any time with his arm and his legs."
Thomas has brought an overpowering feeling at times to the passing game as he is breaking nearly every freshman school receiving record that exists.
The 5-foot-8, 173-pound standout from DeSoto (Texas) High is the fourth-leading freshman receiver nationally, and the 46th best wide receiver overall with his 78 yards per game average.
His 43 catches for 622 yards are already UA school records for a freshman.
"Mike Thomas looks like he is shattering the freshman record of some great receivers that have played here," Stoops said. "He is distancing himself from all those records."
Bobby Wade held the previous standard with 30 catches for 454 yards in 1999.
At Thomas' current rate, he could finish the year No. 3 on the overall single-season chart with 67 catches, behind Bobby Wade's 93, Dennis Northcutt's 88 and Jim Greth's 76.
"Mike has never lost confidence in his ability," Stoops said. "He has made some fundamental mistakes in drops, but those are young, correctable mistakes. Mike has tremendous speed and really understands the game, and that is what makes him special."
UCLA (8-0, 5-0) at Arizona (2-6, 1-4)
Where: Arizona Stadium
When: 4:15 p.m. Saturday
Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 1210-AM (Spanish)
The Willie Tuitama-to-Mike Thomas combination has come up big the last two games:
Qtr. Down Yards Result
1st 2nd-11 4 3rd down
2nd 2nd-6 2 3rd down
2nd 3rd-10 15 1st down
3rd 3rd-8 17 TD
4th 3rd-8 13 1st down
4th 1st-10 20 1st down
VS. OREGON ST.
Qtr. Down Yards Result
1st 1st-10 39 1st down
1st 3rd-14 12 4th down
2nd 3rd-5 75 TD
3rd 2nd-9 36 1st down
Top UA frosh wide receivers
Player Rec. Yds. Year
Mike Thomas 43 622 2005
Bobby Wade 30 454 1999
Jon Horton 26 484 1983
Terry Vaughn 22 431 1990
Theo Bell 22 408 1972
"Oh, uh, there won't be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness." So I got that goin' for me, which is nice"
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