Pressure the key against Tuitama

Times Staff Writer

The buzz around Tucson this week remains the performance of Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama, who threw for a team-record 510 yards Saturday in a 48-41 overtime victory over Washington.

Tuitama presents UCLA with the nearly the same challenge two weeks in a row. The Bruins were overwhelmed by Washington State’s version of the spread offense in a 27-7 loss Saturday.

“The one Arizona runs is a little different,” defensive end Bruce Davis said.


But . . .

“If they run out three or four wide receivers, that’s fine with us,” Davis said. “We got great cover guys back there, bar none.”

UCLA players are well aware of Tuitama’s abilities.

Two years ago, the Bruins waltzed into Tucson with an 8-0 record and a No. 7 ranking, and Tuitama led the Wildcats to a 52-14 victory.

Tuitama threw for 204 yards and had two touchdown passes in a 21-point first quarter that buried the Bruins.

“This guy spreads the ball around and makes good decisions,” cornerback Trey Brown said. “We’ve got to get after him and his receivers.”

Tuitama and the Wildcats are familiar with the Bruins as well. Tuitama was knocked out of last season’s game when he was leveled by Davis. It was a hit that Wildcats players still grumble about, saying it was late. The resulting concussion was one of three head injuries Tuitama suffered last season, which limited his playing time.

This season, Tuitama has thrown for 2,084 yards, highlighted by his performance against Washington. He had five touchdown passes in that game.

The Bruins will try to pressure Tuitama as much as possible.

“The less time [our defensive backs] have to cover, the easier their job,” Davis said. “The only way to stop an offense like this is to get in a quarterback’s head. . . . If he holds the ball for more than two seconds, he’s going to be hit.”

Senior defensive tackle Brigham Harwell was made available to the media for the first time since injuring a knee against Brigham Young. He went through most of practice Wednesday and said, “We have four games ahead us, four games we’re trying to win. I want to help this team so bad.

“I’ve been trying come back since the Notre Dame game. I thought for sure it would be the Cal game. It’s weird how it feels. You think you can do it, then come out here and say, ‘Oh I can’t.’ I’m not sure about this week, but I’m making progress.”

Harwell says he has not thought about whether he will redshirt if he cannot return this season.

Linebacker John Hale suffered a hamstring injury in Tuesday’s practice and was held out of Wednesday’s practice. Coach Karl Dorrell said he was unsure whether Hale would play. . . . Defensive end Jeff Miller will undergo hernia surgery.