The Arizona Wildcats' defense spent all week looking for angles.
The right angles - rather, the correct ones - can stop a streaking receiver as he runs down the sideline, cut a running back at the knees or sack a quarterback. They neutralize speed and negate size disadvantages.
"Football," said UA linebacker Paul Vassallo, "is a game of angles."
The 15th-ranked Wildcats must major in geometry tonight when they host Washington for homecoming at Arizona Stadium.
It's the only way to stop Jake Locker.
Washington's 6-foot-3-inch, 230-pound quarterback seems genetically engineered to make big plays. Blessed with a strong arm and quick feet, Locker - an early-season Heisman Trophy candidate - may be the Pac-10's most dangerous player.
The senior has led the Huskies (3-3 overall, 2-1 Pac-10) to victories over USC and Oregon State in the last month, stepping up when many of the nation's quarterbacks would fold. A win over the Wildcats - and their own speedy quarterback, Matt Scott - would only solidify his place as a giant-killer.
"He's going to make plays. That's part of his DNA," UA coach Mike Stoops said. "He's a tough guy to corral for four quarters. We have to make our fair share of plays, contain him and make sure we have good coverage."
Locker's ability to tuck the football and run - he gained 157 yards against the UA in 2007 and 92 a year ago - makes him doubly dangerous. The Wildcats (5-1, 2-1) will have to pick their spots defensively, as a poorly executed blitz could open up yards of running room.
"When it's third-and-15 or second-and-extra-long, maybe you can rush him," defensive end Ricky Elmore said. "If it's third-and-three and third-and-four, you have to slow yourself down."
The UA will counter Locker's speed with some running of its own. Tailbacks Keola Antolin and Nicolas Grigsby combined for 158 yards and three touchdowns against Washington State a week ago, the team's best rushing performance since a Week 2 trouncing of The Citadel.
Don't be surprised if the Wildcats run even more against a Huskies defense that allows 197.5 rushing yards per game.
Scott will make his first start in more than a year while Nick Foles recovers from a dislocated right kneecap.
While Scott, a junior from Corona, Calif., has shown a greater grasp of the UA's spread offense this season, it's speed that makes him special. Coaches tweaked the Wildcats' offensive playbook this week to emphasize Scott's strengths and limit the high-risk, high-reward throws that Foles thrived on.
Scott will be given enough freedom to make his own decisions tonight - in three quarters of play a week, coaches said, he missed just one check-down at the line of scrimmage. Although he's hardly a natural in the UA system - it's not in his DNA yet - Scott is improving.
Tonight, he's Arizona's best hope.
"I'm real excited for the opportunity," Scott said.
"I'm going to take advantage of it."
On StarNet: Catch quarter-by-quarter Washington-UA updates from Arizona Stadium and read the game story after it ends at: azstarnet.com
• What: Washington (3-3 overall, 2-1 Pac-10) at Arizona (5-1, 2-1)
• When: 7:15 p.m.
• TV: ESPN
• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Spanish)
Call it even
No two programs have played each other closer in recent years than Arizona and Washington. The Wildcats and Huskies have split their last six meetings; during that time, Arizona has scored just 13 more points. Here's a look:
2009: Washington 36, Arizona 33
2008: Arizona 48, Washington 14
2007: Arizona 48, Washington 41
2006: Washington 21, Arizona 10
2005: Washington 38, Arizona 14
2004: Arizona 23, Washington 13
Total: Arizona 176, Washington 163