Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
Arizona Football Notes - at No. 1 USC
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: November 08, 2004
Photo Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Some Game Themes
Arizona visits USC and the Coliseum this weekend, a most severe test against the No. 1 team in the land... The Cats' relief after notching a victory at Washington to earn Mike Stoops' first league victory will be challenged with a reality check against a national juggernaut... Arizona hopes to avoid the lopsided defeat it received from the second-ranked Trojans a year ago in Tucson, and will have to put up points against arguably the nation's top defensive package: USC is No. 3 in rushing defense, No. 5 in pass efficiency defense, No. 6 in total defense and No. 3 in scoring defense... Meantime, UA's improved defensive mentality faces a scoring machine that puts up an average of 36 points per game... Southern California will attempt to win 10 games (at least) for the third consecutive season... UA's young secondary faces a group of receivers catching balls thrown by Heisman Trophy candidate Matt Leinart.

Last Week
Arizona came up with some big plays that gave it early momentum, and then took advantage of someone else's misfortune for a change in snapping a seven-game losing streak with a 23-13 victory at Washington. The Cats came out of the gate in a lather, forcing a three-and-out by the Huskies. Mike Bell started a drive with a 13-yard run, Richard Kovalcheck hit Syndric Steptoe for 50 yards to the Washington 1 yard-line, and Bell dove in for the quick lead. After holding the Huskies again in three plays, Copeland Bryan blocked UW's punt through the back of the end zone for a safety and UA led 9-0 less than four minutes into the game. Five minutes later, UA's defense held again, but a roughing-the-kicker penalty on a field-gal attempt gave UW the ball at the UA five yard-line and the Huskies took the gift and scored to pull closer at 9-7. UA fumbled on its next possession and gave Washington the ball near midfield and the Huskies summoned enough offense -- and took advantage of a roughing-the-punter penalty by UA -- to move close enough for the go-ahead field goal. Steptoe fumbled again on a kickoff return and gave the Huskies the ball at the UA 35 yard-line. Again, UW drove close enough for another field goal. Late in the third quarter, Washington fumbled in their own territory and UA cornerback Wilrey Fontenot scooped the ball and raced 33 yards for a touchdown to regain the lead at 16-13. Moments later, linebacker Kirk Johnson caught a tipped ball for an interception at the UW 40 yard-line and Kovalcheck found Ricky Williams for a 27-yard gain and Mike Bell followed with a 13-yard touchdown run to complete the scoring. The fourth quarter was marked by some defensive plays to thwart UW drives. Carlos Williams' sack of Isaiah Stanback caused a fumble recovered by Marcus Smith when Washington had driven to the UA 12 yard-line, and cornerback Antoine Cason intercepted a Stanback pass after UW ventured to the Cats 29 yard-line. The score should have been more heavily in Arizona's favor. UA managed to overcome a pair of potentially disastrous holding calls -- penalties that negated a 98-yard kickoff return for a score and a 87-yard punt return for a score, both by Steptoe in the second quarter. The Cats had five sacks, 10 tackles for loss and broke up a season-high 13 pass attempts led by defensive end Smith and tackle Carlos Williams with three apiece. Bell finished with 82 rushing yards, 32 percent of UA's modest 251 yards in total offense.

The Cats and the Trojans - The Series
Arizona and USC meet up for the 28th time in history this weekend ... USC leads the all-time series 21-6 and has won the last two straight and five of the last seven ... The Wildcats are 3-10 all-time at the LA Memorial Coliseum, but won their latest game there in 2000 .... In five of Arizona’s six wins against USC, the Wildcats have scored 30 or more points, a daunting task when one considers that last weekend’s 23-point total marked a season-high for Arizona ... Last season’s 45-0 win for USC marked the fourth shutout victory for the Men of Troy in the all-time series, but their first blanking of UA since 1925 ... The shutout loss was Arizona’s first to any opponent in 12 seasons.

Noting the Trojans
The top-ranked Trojans enter the game undefeated at 9-0 and ranked No. 1 after taking what has most likely been each opponent’s best shot this season ... In fact, the Men of Troy have not lost a game since falling in triple overtime to California last year, a string of 18 straight wins ... USC is averaging almost 36 points per game this season, a figure that ranks 11th nationally and is second in the nation in turnover margin at 1.56 ... Offensively, SC has the 28th-ranked total offense in the country with an average of 418.11 yards (37th rushing 175.44, 33rd passing 242.67) ... Individually, Heisman Trophy candidate Matt Leinart has the 16th-best passer effciency ranting (148.07) in all of Division IA and ranks No. 39 in total offense (227.22). He has thrown for 2,068 yards and 20 touchdowns while completing 64 percent of his passes ... Dwayne Jarrett leads a deep receiving corps that has five players with 20 or more catches this season. Jarrett paces all Trojan wideouts with 33 catches, 444 yards and eight TDs ... USC features a tailback by committee on the ground with LenDale White and Reggie Bush teaming up to average 144.4 yards per game rushing. White has scored a team-best 10 TDs this season ... On the other side of the ball, USC boasts the No. 6 total defensive unit in the nation (3rd rushing 66.89, 44th passing 200.78) and the third-best scoring defense as well ... USC has given up just 140 points in nine games thus far, an average of 15.6 per contest ... Junior linebacker Lofa Tatupu paces the Trojan defense with 63 total tackles, including 31 solo stops and 10 for losses ... Senior defensive end Shaun Cody is third in the Pac-10 with eight sacks this year ... Head coach Pete Carroll is in his fourth year at USC and owns a 38-9 career record heading into play this weekend.

USC and Arizona - The Last Time Out
The eventual co-national champion Trojans had their way early and often in Tucson last season ... USC scored five touchdowns in the first half, including four on passes by Matt Leinart, while limiting Arizona to 114 yards and eight first downs in the first 30 minutes of play ... For the game, Arizona was forced into seven three-and-outs and nine punts, while USC scored on seven of its 15 possessions in the game, including five TDs on its first seven touches ... Arizona did manage a pair of drives inside the USC 20-yard line, but came up short on an interception and a turnover on downs in the two penetrations ... Individually, Leinart hooked up with former Trojan Mike Williams 11 times for 157 yards and three touchdowns ... Leinart ended his day 22 of 30 for 296 yards and the four TDs ... On the ground, LenDale White added 90 yards and two scores and Reggie Bush chipped in 64 more yards on 11 carries ... Arizona fullback-turned-linebacker Sean Jones led the Wildcat ground attack with 25 yards rushing on six carries ... UA QB Kris Heavner went just 11 for 30 for 129 yards in the game and also threw three interceptions.

Arizona vs. No. 1
The Wildcats have played the No. 1 team six times in school history and won two of those games -- a 13-10 victory over USC in the Coliseum under Larry Smith in 1981 and a 16-3 victory over Washington under Dick Tomey in Tucson in 1992. A close loss at Miami (field goal attempt as clock runs out, wide right) dropped the Hurricanes from No. 1 in 1992, then the Cats came back and topped No. 1 UW a few weeks later. In 1980 the Cats beat No. 2 UCLA in Tucson 23-17 after word that top-ranked Alabama had lost earlier, thus spoiling the Bruins' perceived ascension to the top of the heap. On another matter, Arizona's 45-0 loss to the No. 2 Trojans last season helped USC solidify its stretch drive toward a split national title. Arizona has not played the top-ranked team in the past 11 seasons.
UA vs. No. 1
November 1992:                                  Arizona 16, No. 1 Washington 3 in Tucson
September 1992:                                 No. 1 Miami 7, Arizona 6 at Miami
October 1988:                                     No. 1 UCLA 24, Arizona 3 in Tucson
October 1984:                                     No. 1 Washington 28, Arizona 12 in Seattle
September 1982:                                 No. 1 Washington 23, Arizona 13 in Tucson
October 1981:                                     Arizona 13, No. 1 USC 10 in Los Angeles

Losing Streak Comes To An End
Arizona’s victory over Washington last weekend marked the second straight year that the Huskies have been the cure to the Wildcats’ ills, as UW has helped put the kaibosh on Arizona’s last two extended losing streaks. This season’s 23-13 win against the Huskies ended a seven-game streak, while last year’s 27-22 victory over UW snapped a school record eight-game winless streak.

Offense Needs A Spark
Arizona needs to make some strides in the last few games to avoid finishing with the lowest per-game total offense figure in its Pac-10 history. The 6-5-1 Wildcats of 1992 averaged 286 yards per game. Arizona has to average a modest 316 yards per game against USC and ASU to avoid that one. The Cats' current average of 281 yards in total offense is the lowest in 37 seasons, since the Wildcats of 1967 posted a figure of 242 yards per contest. UA has finished below the 300 mark only twice since then -- by the 1992 team that beat No. 1 Washington and spawned the Desert Swarm years, and by the 1971 club that finished 5-6.

On The Defensive
Through nine games a season ago the Wildcat defense was in disarray. Opponents were averaging 37.1 points, 444.1 total yards and a staggering 24 first downs per game against the UA defenders. While the 2-7 record this season might not reflect a difference, the 2004 stats certainly do. Opponent scoring is down 15 points per game, total yards have been cut down by over 100 per contest and UA is allowing five less first downs per game this season to its opposition. In addition, the Wildcat pass defense has already matched last season’s 12-game interception total of seven in nine games this year and has broken up 45 passes this season to last year’s 44 total in all 12 games.

Wilrey Finally Hits Paydirt
After three thwarted attempts at a TD, cornerback Wilrey Fontenot finally found the endzone. His 33-yard fumble return against Washington on Nov.7 put an end to a string that saw him trip himself up on an interception return against NAU, an official’s reversal of what would have been a 96-yard fumble return against Oregon and an apparent fumble return for a score against Cal that was nullified after the pass was ruled incomplete. Fontenot’s six points against the Huskies was the first defensive touchdown of the season for UA and the first time a Wildcat player returned a fumble for a TD since Zeonte Sherman scored against LSU on Sept. 6 last season.

Picking Them Off
After recording three interceptions in the last three games, newcomer Antoine Cason is on pace to equal former Wildcat Michael Jolivette’s Arizona freshman record of five set in 2000. Cason picked off a pass in his collegiate debut against NAU on Sept. 4, two against Cal on Oct. 23 and one against Washington last weekend. He is currently second in the Pac-10 and 15th nationally in interceptions per game with an average of .44. Cason has amassed 88 yards on interception returns, an average of 22 yards per pick.

Knocking Them Down
The Arizona defense recorded a season-high five sacks in the 23-13 win over Washington last weekend. Defensive end Andre Torrey finished with a career-high two QB sacks, tackles Carlos Williams and Lionel Dotson each recorded one apiece and DE Copeland Bryan and linebacker Patrick Howard teamed up for one to garner a half-sack each. The five sacks recorded on Saturday were the most in a game for UA since Sept. 27, 2003 (16 games) when UA knocked down TCU’s QBs five times as well.

Torrey Gets Some Pressure
Defensive end Andre Torrey tallied a career-high two sacks against Washington last weekend to give him four for the season. That mark equals the season-high posted by four different Wildcats in 12 games last year (Marcus Smith, Joe Siofele, Torrey, Matt Molina).

Hands Up
The Arizona defensive line had a field day against Washington’s passing attack last weekend. Combined the Arizona front four knocked down seven of UW’s 47 pass attempts at the line of scrimmage. Carlos Williams and Marcus Smith tallied three each and Copeland Bryan chipped in with another. Arizona’s secondary added six more PBU’s in the contest for a season-high total of 13 on the afternoon.

Pulling Out The Blocks
Arizona saw its 22-game stretch without blocking a punt come to an end on Saturday with not one, but two blocked kicks against the Huskies. Copeland Bryan ended the string with a first quarter stuff on the UW’s first offensive series of the game. Bryan broke through the Husky line and caused the punt attempt to sail backwards and out of the endzone for a safety. Marcus Hollingsworth added a partial block in the third quarter, resulting in a 20-yard team punt from the Huskies. Bryan’s block and the resulting two points for UA marked the first safety of the season for Arizona and the first since Nov. 1, 2003 against Oregon State.

OH So Close
Two of the longest standing "The Last Time Arizona..." UA has in its record book came very close to changing last weekend at Washington. Entering the contest at UW, Arizona had gone 78 straight games without returning a kickoff for a touchdown. A holding call on Syndric Steptoe’s apparent 98-yarder in the second quarter against the Huskies continued the streak to make its 79 and counting. Chris McAlister’s season-opening kickoff return for six points at Hawaii on September 3, 1998 was the last time a UA player returned a kickoff for a TD.

Steptoe also appeared to have ended Arizona’s streak of 45 consecutive games without a punt return for a TD at UW, but alas another yellow hanky for holding preserved the punt return streak for at least a week longer. Bobby Wade was the last player to return a punt for a TD when he went 60 yards against Washington on Nov. 4, 2000.

First Half Scoring
Arizona’s TD with 12:34 remaining in the first quarter against Washington last weekend snapped a string of 135 minutes and four seconds without scoring a touchdown in the first half. Previous to last Saturday, the Wildcats had failed to score a TD in the opening 30 minutes of their last four games (at UCLA, at Oregon, Cal and Oregon State) and had managed just one field goal (at UCLA) during that stretch. Arizona’s last first half touchdown prior to Saturday came at the 12:38 mark in the second quarter against Washington State on Sept. 25.

Opening Drive
UA’s four-play, 64-yard TD drive to start the game against the Huskies marked the first time since NAU on Sept. 4 that Arizona posted points on its first possession of the game.

Second Half Scoring
Arizona’s 14 points in the second half against Washington last weekend marked the fourth time in the last five games (at UCLA, at Oregon, Oregon State, at Washington) that UA has posted two touchdowns in the second half of play. Entering play this weekend, Arizona is outscoring its opponents 82-80 in the final 30 minutes of play this year, a sure sign of a team that hasn’t/won’t quit.

Scoring Drought Ends
Richard Kovalcheck’s fourth-down 27-yard TD pass to Biren Ealy in the third quarter of the Oct. 30 game against Oregon State ended a string of 103 minutes and 43 seconds of scoreless play for Arizona.

Strength of Schedule
The Wildcats’ schedule is a tough one. Combined, the nine opponents Arizona has faced this season check in with a 48-32 record (.600) and includes No. 4 Wisconsin (9-0), No. 5 Cal (7-1) and No. 7 Utah (9-0). The Utes, Badgers and upcoming opponent USC are three of the five remaining undefeated teams in Division I-A. UA’s final two opponents, top-ranked USC and two-loss ASU, are a combined 16-2 this season

Going For a Grand
Junior Mike Bell has been one of the more consistent threats on offense this season, in fact he needs just 183 more yards this season (91.5 yds/game) to surpass his career-high of 920 yard set last season. However, the second-year starter at running back will need to get it in gear if he wants to become the first 1,000-yard runner for Arizona since Clarence Farmer rushed for 1,229 yards in 2001. Bell, who is fifth in the Pac-10 with 80.9 yards per game average this season, enters this weekend’s game at USC with 737 yards. He’ll need to average 131.5 yards on the ground over the final two games in order to eclipse the mark.

Looking Into the Top 10
Junior running back Mike Bell has a crack at UA's all-time career Top 10 rushing chart this year. Last week, his 82-yard effort against Washington moved him 25 yards away from Eddie Wolgast’s 2022 yards and No. 10 all-time ranking at Arizona. Bell needs just 76 more yards this season to vault all the way up to eighth on the career list.

The Four Nearest Mike: Att.-Yards
No. 7 Jim Upchurch (1972-74) 488-2389
No. 8 Bob McCall (1970-72) 473-2074
No. 9 Ken Cardella (1951-53) 336-2060
No. 10 Eddie Wolgast (1945-50) 387-2022
No. 11 Mike Bell (2002- ) 440-1998

Too Grand
Currently sitting at 1,998 yards in his first two-plus years and averaging 4.4 yards per carry this season, junior Mike Bell will mostly like become just the 11th player in school history to record over 2,000 yards rushing in a career on his first attempt at USC this weekend.

Schedule Quirk
After opening the season with the same three non-conference opponents as the 2002 schedule (NAU, Utah and Wisconsin), the Wildcats are wrapping up the 2004 slate against the same three teams it ended last season against (Washington, USC, Arizona State).

Kovalcheck To Fleming
Since Richard Kovalcheck took over at quarterback in the fourth quarter at Oregon on Oct. 16, tight end Steve Fleming has become a favored target of the redshirt freshman. After snagging six balls for 52 yards in Arizona’s first five games this year, Fleming has become more involved in UA’s offense to the tune of 10 catches for 175 yards over the last three and half games.

Drought Breaker
Cornerback Antoine Cason quenched Arizona’s thirst for an interception. The freshman picked off a pair of Aaron Rodgers passes against Cal on Oct. 23 to end a streak of 151 opposition pass attempts without an interception. Cason made good after picking off the passes, racking up 61 return yards. Had Rodgers actually been throwing to Cason, his return yards would have made him the second-leading receiver for California in the game.

Doing the Streak
Receiver Ricky Williams extended his streak of consecutive games with a reception to 17 straight with three catches for 38 yards at Washington. Williams is the lone Wildcat to come up with at least one reception in all nine games for Arizona this season.

Consider This
While Arizona’s 38-0 defeat to Cal on Oct. 23 certainly stung and was the largest losing margin for UA this season, it would have only tied for the fourth-worst defeat last year. Arizona, which lost its 10 games by an average of 28.8 points last year, lost by 52 points at Purdue, 45 to USC, 46 to LSU and 38 to Oregon.

Captain Cats
The Wildcat players voted on their team captains at the beginning of the year and selected offensive players Mike Bell, Steve Fleming and Keoki Fraser, as well as defenders Andre Torrey, Carlos Williams and Darrell Brooks.

Starting Line
The offensive line at Arizona has strung together a pretty impressive list of starts. Center Keoki Fraser leads all Wildcat players on both sides of the ball with 38 career starts, including 32 straight. Joining him along the front five are tackle Chris Johnson (29 starts), guard Kili Lefotu (27 starts) and tackle Brandon Phillips (19 starts). Add in tight end Steve Fleming’s 20 starts, tackle Tanner Bell’s seven and guard John Abramo’s nine and the group has combined for 149 career games started.

Feeling Blue
Fans catching the Wildcats for the first time in 2004 might not recognize the team when they take the field. The reason? Arizona has changed the color of its helmets from primarily all white to a solid blue. The "Academic A" remains on the side, but it has no other markings or stripes and a blue face mask. The change marks the first time since 1980 that UA will be wearing a helmet that is a different primary color than white.
The solid blue helmet is the first time in school history that Arizona will take the field with head gear so colored. In looking back through photos in Arizona’s Heritage Hall, it has been found that former Wildcat great Art Lippino, UA’s "Cactus Comet", and his 1955 Wildcat teammates took the field in a helmet that featured blue around the sides with a red top. All other color photos over the years have shown that the Wildcat gridders have donned either primarily red or white bonnets.

Who’s Up and Who’s Down
The following coaches will be on the sidelines during the game - head coach Mike Stoops, defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, tightends coach Steve Spurrier Jr., defensive ends/special teams coach Joe Robinson, receivers coach Charlie Williams, defensive tackles coach Mike Tuiasosopo and offensive line coach Eric Wolford. Offensive coordinator Mike Canales, linebackers coach Tim Kish and running backs coach Kasey Dunn are all up in the press box along with GAs Travis Ochs and Kevin Patullo.

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