The new desert swarm buzzes around nearly every play, driving the ballcarrier backward, teetering and - eventually - down.

"We all have to show up," UA cornerback Trevin Wade said. "We need to bring at least eight to the ball, every time."

Gang-tackling is Football 101, a guaranteed way to stop bigger, stronger opponents from moving the ball.

It's been a key to the Arizona Wildcats' 2-0 start; tonight, it'll be crucial.

The 24th-ranked Wildcats will take on No. 9 Iowa at Arizona Stadium with a chance to repair a national reputation still smarting from last December's Holiday Bowl loss to Nebraska.

Tonight's nationally televised game will serve as both a showcase for the Wildcats' improved defense and a showdown with one of the nation's most prestigious programs.

Tucson has crackled all week with an excitement rarely seen in September.

"We prepare for everybody the same, but everybody knows this team's no joke," defensive end Brooks Reed said. "They're a top-10 team, a top-five team, possibly, so we're really going to have to have our heads in it."

The Hawkeyes are bigger at the skill positions and boast a tough-to-tackle quarterback in Ricky Stanzi and a star tailback in Adam Robinson.

The UA (2-0) will try to counter Iowa's strength with numbers. The Wildcats have practiced running to the ball, Wade said, knowing that one tackler probably won't be enough to take an Iowa back or receiver down.

The Hawkeyes (2-0) have averaged 227 rushing yards per game this season, most of them coming after contact.

Stopping Iowa requires both toughness and teamwork.

"They're big and fast," co-defensive coordinator Greg Brown said. "They're threats - serious threats.

"If you look at the big plays that occurred over the last few years with these guys, you'd know. It's going to be a tough week."

Offensively, the Wildcats are more than just scrappy - they're skilled.

Quarterback Nick Foles has thrown for 574 yards and three touchdowns in Arizona's first two games, victories over Toledo and The Citadel. Tailback Nicolas Grigsby has been a scoring machine, registering five touchdowns on just 19 carries.

Juron Criner is developing into a prototypical No. 1 receiver; he leads the team in both receptions (12) and receiving yards (236) despite missing the second half of last week's win over The Citadel with a sprained shoulder.

All three will have to play well tonight for the Wildcats to have a shot.

Luckily for Arizona, this year's team is as deep and athletic as any in recent memory.

Coach Mike Stoops said his team could employ some different "wrinkles" on offense to keep Iowa's stellar defensive line from taking over the game.

Don't be surprised if the Wildcats use their speed to keep defensive end Adrian Clayborn, a projected top-five pick in next spring's NFL draft, away from Foles and Grigsby.

"They're bigger. They're strong. We have to match that with our team speed," Grigsby said.

"If we execute team speed, speed should kill 'em."

Foles said: "I think the key will be keeping our tempo."

A win wouldn't affect Arizona's stated goal of making the Rose Bowl, or affect the way it's viewed heading into a grueling Pac-10 schedule. But it would give the surging program a jolt of confidence - and some desired recognition.

The Wildcats could prove, once and for all, that they're better than the team that lost to both Iowa and Nebraska a year ago. They could prove, in front of a sold-out stadium, that they're capable of more than just beating up on Toledo and The Citadel.

"We're known for being big, fast and strong. They're just big," tailback Taimi Tutogi said. "I think they'll come out and do their job.

"If we come out and do our jobs, it'll be a tough match.

"Who's to say who will win?"

On StarNet: Read more about the Wildcats on Star reporter Ryan Finley's blog at


Arizona's trio of talented skill players will need to keep their hot starts going if they want to upend No. 9 Iowa tonight at Arizona Stadium:

574, 3, 83.1

Passing yards, touchdowns and completion percentage through two games for QB Nick Foles

5, 19, 8.4

Rushing touchdowns, carries and yards gained per carry for RB Nicolas Grigsby so far in 2010

12, 236, 1

Receptions, yards and touchdowns for No. 1 WR Juron Criner - and he played only one half last week


• What: Iowa at Arizona

• When: 7:30 p.m.


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