Stoops thinks rebuilding program is working

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Saddled with a four-game losing streak, Arizona continues to seek playmakers.

"We need guys to step up and make plays in critical situations," coach Mike Stoops said Monday. "That is probably what we're lacking at this point. Our toughness and character have been solid throughout the year. We just need to play smarter."

Over the past month, the Wildcats (1-4, 0-2 Pac-10) have found different ways to lose.

Arizona missed a field-goal attempt against Wisconsin late in a 9-7 loss and then fumbled late during a 20-19 loss to Washington State.

Dropped passes hurt the Wildcats in a 37-17 blowout loss at UCLA on Saturday.

Stoops, hired away from Oklahoma last winter, isn't used to seeing victories slip away. But he believes his rebuilding project is gaining momentum and is hoping for the best from Saturday's game at Oregon.

"I think our kids are excited about some of the things they are doing," Stoops said. "They see the progress they are making. You can't worry about the wins. The wins will come."

Although the record is the same, the numbers reflect a stronger Arizona team this year than last, when the Wildcats went 2-10 and ended up last in the conference for the first time ever.

The Wildcats are allowing 19 fewer points and 151 fewer total yards per game in spite of allowing UCLA's Drew Olson to throw four touchdown passes last week, three to tight end Marcedes Lewis.

Arizona emerged from the game with a potential crisis along the defensive line -- with Carlos Williams and Brad Brittain the only healthy defensive tackles. To give them a breather and cover for other true tackles who are injured, Stoops moved defensive end
Lionel Dotson, a 6-3, 255-pound redshirt freshman, inside against the Bruins.

"We will just have to make do with the players that we have," Stoops said.

Arizona's offensive woes have been consistent as well.

The Wildcats ran well against the Bruins, gaining a season-high 258 yards. But the passing game let down. Three of the drops by Arizona receivers could have led to scores.

"We are not good enough to overcome mistakes," Stoops said. "Those are tough things to accept. It really frustrates you, but you have to accept it and try to learn from it."