Keola Antolin has 104 touches in the Arizona Wildcats' first eight games.
That's 104 opportunities for the water-bug-sized tailback to get banged up, concussed, dislocated or sprained. One hundred and four opportunities to get his head taken off by large, angry defenders.
Yet Antolin says he feels fresh heading into Saturday's game against No. 10 Stanford. The 5-foot-8-inch, 186-pound junior has suffered just one injury - if you can call it that - all season.
"Bruise on my shin," he said. "I feel great. Knock on wood, man."
A healthy Antolin has sparked the Wildcats' once-dormant running attack over the last month. In four games, the Las Vegas resident has 66 carries for 387 yards and six touchdowns and caught seven passes for 72 yards and a score. Antolin cracked the Wildcats' starting lineup against Washington State three weeks ago and has held on to the job, pushing senior Nicolas Grigsby into a supporting role.
Antolin will start at tailback when the 13th-ranked Wildcats take on the Cardinal in the most important game of their season.
Arizona (7-1, 4-1 Pac-10) can stay in the Rose Bowl hunt with a win.
"No matter what role I play, every day I'm coming out and practicing hard," he said. "You practice hard, and it shows on the field. I have to give it up to my offensive linemen. They make it possible for me."
Antolin showed flashes of greatness during his first two years as a Wildcat only to be derailed by injuries. Three stand out:
Turf toe. Antolin suffered the toe injury in his second-ever college game in 2008, an injury that cost him carries in a loss to New Mexico and a win over UCLA.
Separated shoulder. Antolin returned healthy midway through the 2008 season and even carved out a niche as the Wildcats' change-of-pace back, before getting drilled by USC safety Taylor Mays. The Trojans' Mack truck in shoulder pads dropped Antolin following a run, knocking him out for the game.
Ankle sprains. Antolin suffered his first ankle sprain late in his freshman season, rendering him ineffective against Arizona State (9 carries, 13 yards) and keeping him out of the Cats' Las Vegas Bowl win over BYU. He suffered a second sprain in Week4 of the 2009 season, an injury that took nearly three games to overcome. He rushed for a combined 216 yards in wins over UCLA and Washington State and a loss to Cal, but suffered a stinger in the Wildcats' double-overtime loss to Oregon.
The time away forced Antolin to focus on his role in the offense. Though he's never been Arizona's featured back, even as a starter, Antolin has found ways to get touches.
This year, he's doing it without getting touched.
"You've just got to be patient," he said. "Things will come your way eventually."
On StarNet: See Ryan Finley's latest Wildcat Insider video at azstarnet.com/video
• What: Arizona at Stanford
• When: 5 p.m. Saturday
• TV: Channel 9
• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM
UA running back Keola Antolin - as UCLA defenders found out Saturday - was stellar in October. Here's a look at his month, game-by-game:
Oct. 9 Oregon State 29, Arizona 27
8 carries, 70 yards, TD; 4 receptions, 40 yards, TD
Oct. 16 Arizona 24, Wash. St. 7
21 carries, 92 yards, 2 TDs; 1 reception, 16 yards
Oct. 23 Arizona 44, Washington 14
14 carries, 114 yards, 2 TDs; 1 reception, 11 yards
Oct.30 Arizona 29, UCLA 21
23 carries, 111 yards, TD;
1 reception, 5 yards
66 carries, 387 yards, 6 TDs
7 receptions, 72 yards, TD