Maybe the Wildcats had to walk before they could run.

The UA football team began its Saturday by filing through campus as a team, a boisterous "Wildcat Walk" that drew more than 2,000 fans to sun-soaked Cherry Avenue.

Then the Wildcats ran, chasing The Citadel from Arizona Stadium behind 214 rushing yards and a half-dozen spectacular rushing plays. The result - a 52-6 shellacking of a Division I-AA opponent before 54,814 fans - won't cause much of a stir in the college football world or vault Arizona into anybody's Top 25.

But it sure beats the alternative.

Arizona succeeded Saturday where Virginia Tech and Minnesota failed. The Wildcats defeated a small college team, on their home turf, when others couldn't.

"We've never let that happen," UA coach Mike Stoops said. "We're not good enough not to respect opponents. That's what I talked about this week - just respect the preparation and what you do.

"You don't have to be jumping up and down on your head. Just play well."

Nobody played better Saturday than Nicolas Grigsby. The starting tailback rushed for 107 yards and three touchdowns on 11 carries against a slower, smaller Citadel defense.

How impressive was his performance? Grigsby gained 43 fewer yards than the Bulldogs' 11 ball-carriers - combined.

Grigsby scored from 3 yards out, his first of the game, in the first quarter with an assist from wide receiver Juron Criner. The Wildcats' top receiver caught a 44-yard pass from quarterback Nick Foles to put the Wildcats on The Citadel's 3, setting up the score.

Criner caught two passes for 60 yards before being sent to the sidelines with a minor shoulder injury. He's expected to play next week against Iowa, Stoops said.

Grigsby added a 1-yard dive in the second quarter, but saved his best for last.

Arizona was leading 24-0 on its first drive of the second half when Grigsby took a handoff, sprinted down the middle of the field, cut to the sideline and went 62 yards to score. It marked the end of the night for most of the UA regulars; the second-, third- and fourth-stringers finished out the game.

"Give him a crease, and he can close out runs," Stoops said. "We just need to create a little bit of space for him because he can make a guy miss better than anybody."

Grigsby said big runs are inevitable when the Wildcats make an effort to run the ball. The UA threw nearly twice as often as it ran in last week's season-opening win over Toledo; Saturday, the Wildcats ran 36 times and threw just 33 times.

"Once we start running," Grigsby said, "we start gashing."

Grigsby wasn't the only one. Third-stringer Greg Nwoko scored two third-quarter touchdowns, and finished with 72 yards on seven carries. Eight other players carried the ball during mop-up time.

Defensively, Arizona continued to impress. Linebackers Derek Earls and Paul Vassallo both recovered fumbles that led to scores, and defensive tackle Justin Washington turned his first start of the season into yet another sack.

Sam Keeler had field goals of 39 and 23 for The Citadel's only points. Arizona's retooled defense has allowed just six points in two games.

The hot streak may not matter with Iowa coming to town.

The UA will have to play alpha-male football, running the ball and stopping the run, Stoops said, to knock off its Big Ten opponent at Arizona Stadium on Saturday.

Whether Saturday's smack-down was a sign of things to come or merely the result of playing an outclassed opponent won't be known for seven days.

But this much is certain: The Wildcats are now running rather than hiding.

"We don't want to become a soft football team," Stoops said. "We don't want to rely on the pass. We want to be able to win games running the football. Sometimes, you have to do that."

Up next

• What: Iowa at Arizona

• When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday


• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Spanish)