Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
Football Heads To UCLA
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: October 02, 2006
Photo Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Opponent: UCLA

Kickoff: 4 p.m.

Site: The Rose Bowl (91,136) - Pasadena, Calif.

TV: FSN Arizona (Bill MacDonald, Mike Sherrard, Dale Hellestrae)

Radio: 1290 AM (Brian Jeffries, Lamont Lovett)


UCLA and Arizona Historical Fast Facts

First Meeting: 1927 (Arizona 16 - UCLA 13)

Last Meeting: 2005 (Arizona 52 - UCLA 14)

All-Time Series Record: UCLA leads 18-10-1

Current Streak: Arizona won the last meeting between the two, snapping a four-game losing streak to the Bruins

Notes on the Series: Arizona will head to Pasadena for the second time in the last three years ... The Wildcats have hosted UCLA in Tucson in four of the last five meetings between the two ... Arizona snapped a  four-game losing streak to the Bruins when it upset undefeated and No. 7-ranked UCLA 52-14 in Tucson last season ... Arizona’s longest winning streak in the all-time series is two straight (1989-90) .. UCLA’s longest winning streak is four in a row, accomplished three times (1971-78, 1985-88 and most recently 2000-04) ... From 1990 to 1997 UCLA and Arizona traded wins each successive season ... Arizona’s largest margin of victory in the all-time series was last season’s 38-point win ... The Bruins largest margin of victory over the Cats, a 40-point win, came in a 54-14 win in Pasadena in 1991 ... Arizona is 2-7-1 all-time against UCLA at the Rose Bowl and last won there in 1999 (33-7) ...


Some Game Themes

The Wildcats turn to the road for a couple of weeks, starting in Pasadena... The Cats’ offense works to get in gear against the nation’s No. 3 rated total defensive unit, a group that has given up 221 yards per game... Arizona’s victory over UCLA a year ago stemmed from success running the ball  for 315 yards, well more than the Bruins have given up in four games this year... Arizona will have to pass protect against a club that rates 11th nationally with 3.5 sacks per game... The Cats would be okay with a game that hinged on a field goal or two after Nick Folk’s 52-yarder a week ago re-stated his leg strength and accuracy. But, UCLA’s Justin Medlock is the nation’s leader with 2.5 per game on a superb 10-for-11 slate... Folk’s punting, sixth nationally at 45.6, comes into play against UCLA return man Terrence Austin, whose 21.3 yards per return is No. 2 in the country... UCLA needs this one to keep the glossy season going, with Oregon and Notre Dame on the horizon... Arizona needs this one to prove its late-season victories a year ago (including the big one over UCLA) meant the Cats can find resilience after adversity...


Last Week

Six minutes do not a game make, but a second-quarter flurry taking that long proved all important as Arizona fell, 21-10, to Washington before a crowd of 55,409 in Arizona Stadium. After the teams traded three-and-outs in the first quarter, UA moved to the Washington 34 yard-line, but the first of six UW sacks and a rushing loss made it 3rd-and-23 and Willie Tuitama’s 13-yard pass only moved UA close enough for Nick Folk to kick a 52-yard field goal five minutes into the second stanza. On the strength of Isaiah Stanback’s passing, UW marched 80 yards in seven plays for the go-ahead score. Then after UA stalled, Stanback hit a 44-yard pass to set up a Kenny James’ TD run four minutes later. The Cats got to midfield on the next possession but another sack forced a punt and in a two-minute drill ?- actually with 54 seconds left ?- Stanback tossed a 25-yard throw to Sonny Shackelford and a 55-yard bomb to Quintin Daniels for the Huskies’ final points. That flurry saw Stanback hit seven of seven throws for 199 yards, two thirds of his game total. In the second half Arizona did a much better job of handling the UW offense. The Cats came out of the locker room and moved to the UW 4 yard-line, but a rushing loss, another sack and an incomplete pass forced a 41-yard field goal try that went left. On its next drive, UA marched 60 yards in seven plays keyed by Tuitama’s passing and he hit Syndric Steptoe for the score to cut the lead to 21-10. After that, however, UA ran 19 more plays but gained only 34 yards, and suffered three more sacks, two holding penalties and an interception. Tuitama finished with his second-highest passing total, 308 yards and posted highs in attempts (41) and completions (24) in finding a career-best nine different receivers. Only one of them got in the end zone and the sacks cut UA’s rushing total to -7 overall. For the second consecutive week, the Cats did not fare well on third down, making 1 of 14, plus 1 of 2 on fourth-down.


Washington Quick Hits

So. QB Willie Tuitama’s 308 yards passing were the second-most in his young career (335 at Oregon State, 2005) and his 41 attempts tied his career high  ... Tuitama spread the wealth, completing at least one pass to nine different receivers against the Huskies. His previous best for pass distribution was eight different players in his first career game against Oregon last season ... Nick Folk’s 52-yard field goal in the second quarter was the second longest in his career (53 yards vs. Arizona State, 2004). It was also the second-longest by a Pac-10 place kicker this season (Alexis Serna 58 yards vs. Cal) ... Folk also had three punts of 50 or more yards, including a 61-yarder ... Sr. SS Michael Johnson picked off his first pass of the year and the fifth in his two-year career at Arizona ... Sr. WR/KR Syndric Steptoe posted his third 100 all-purpose yard game of the season with 85 yards receiving, 11 punt return yards and 34 yards on two kickoffs (130 all-purpose yards) ... Steptoe caught his first TD pass of the season on fourth-down in the third quarter to mark the first scoring catch by a UA WR other than Anthony Johnson ... Mike Thomas continued his pass-catching ways, hauling in five passes for a team-best 91 yards ... Although the two teams combined to fumble five times in the game, not one of them resulted in a turnover ...


A Quick Look at UCLA

The Bruins welcome the Wildcats to the Rose Bowl with a 3-1 overall record and a 1-1 mark in the Pac-10 ... UCLA regrouped after allowing 15 fourth-quarter points in a loss to Washington in Pac-10 opener on Sept. 23 to shut out Stanford 31-0 last Saturday in the Rose Bowl .... The strength of the Bruins’ team this season appears to be its defense, an Achilles heel last year ... Collectively, UCLA ranks third in the nation in total D (221.50), and is ninth nationally in rushing defense (65.75) and 18th in passing (.155.75) ... Led by a team-high 5.5 sacks by Justin Hickman, UCLA is getting to the opposing QB an average of 3.5 times per game, 11th-best among all D-IA schools ... Offensively, UCLA is averaging 200 yards per game through the air and 173.2 yards per game on the ground for a total average of 373.2 yards per game ... The Bruins are averaging 26.8 points per game, while allowing 13.8 ... Individually, RB Chris Markey is 13th nationally in rushing and second in the Pac-10, averaging 113 yards per contest ... QB Ben Olson has thrown for 796 yards in four games this season and has tossed five TDs passes and five interceptions ... PK Justin Medlock is 10-for-11 on FG attempts this season, and he leads the nation with 2.5 FG/game ... Head coach Karl Dorrell is in fourth season in charge of the Bruin program and has put together a 25-16 overall record heading into the weekend.


Explosion Imminent

T’N’T appears primed and ready to explode. The combination of So. QB Willie Tuitama and WR classmate Mike Thomas has gotten back on track after a slow start to the year. Hampered by an ankle sprain, Thomas collected just nine passes for 80 yards in Arizona’s first three games of 2006. Those numbers have changed over the course of the last two, as Thomas and Tui have heated up by connecting 12 times for 169 yards, an average of 84.5 per contest.


The Final 15

Through five games this year, the Wildcats have already matched their 2005 season total for fourth quarter points. With a three field goals, including Nick Folks game-winning 48-yarder against BYU in the season opener, and two TDs (with PATs), Arizona has posted 23 points in the final 15 minutes of play, tying the 11-game total from last year.


Earning It

While Arizona hasn’t exactly scored in bunches this season, it has shown that when the offense clicks, it can move the ball. The Wildcats have not been handed any gimmie TDs in 2006 with the shortest scoring drive of the year being a 58-yarder against Stephen F. Austin on Sept. 16 and the longest 80 yards against BYU on Sept. 2. For the season, UA is averaging 70 yards, 9.5 plays and a TOP of 4:12 on its touchdown drives.


Top Stoppers

Linebackers Spencer Larsen (40) and Ronnie Palmer (33) are atop UA’s tackles chart, a nice trend compared to a year ago when safety Darrell Brooks had 48 tackles after five games. Add in linebacker Dane Krogstad’s 23 hits and the trio has a total of 96 tackles. Their combined good health was a hoped-for steady factor this year after they combined to miss 14 contests in 2005. Larsen enters the week of play fourth in the Pac-10 with an average of eight tackles per game, Palmer comes in tied for 11th in the conference (6.6) and Krogstad at No. 41 (4.6).


It’s Starting to Feel Like Holmes

It took him a couple of games to acclimated, but junior college transfer Louis Holmes is beginning to show why he was one of the most sought-after JC prospects in the country. In UA’s first three games this season, Holmes posted eight total tackles, an average of 2.6 stops per game. Over the last two, Holmes has recorded 11 tackles (5.5 TPG), including eight solo stops, a sack and a PBU. His emergence has allowed the UA coaching staff to move Sr. Marcus Smith inside to help offset some injuries among the defensive tackles. 


22 and Counting

Senior WR Syndric Steptoe extended his streak to 22 straight games with at least one catch with five receptions for 85 yards and a TD last Saturday against Washington. Dating back to the Washington State game on Sept. 25, 2004, Steptoe has hauled in at least one pass in all 22 games he has played in (he missed an Oregon State game twice during his streak due to injury). Step has caught 83 passes for 1,113 yards and five TDs over the 22 games. He is averaging nearly four catches per game, and 13.4 yards per reception. Steptoe’s last game played without a catch was Sept. 18, 2004 against Wisconsin. Former Wildcat Dennis Northcutt is the all-time leader for consecutive games with a reception with 42- straight.


Two More For 100

Sr WR Syndric Steptoe is two receptions away from 100 for his career. The four-year letterwinner caught nine passes his freshman season, 30 as a sophomore, 37 as a junior last season and has a team-high 22 this year for a career total of 98. Step appears to be a lock for the all-time top 10 at UA, as he needs just six more catches this season to equal Vance Johnson’s No. 10 all-time ranking of 104 receptions (1981-84). Steptoe, who is averaging 4.4 receptions per game this year, is on pace for 129 catches in his Wildcat career, which would place him fifth all-time at UA.


A Spring in his Step

Senior team captain Syndric Steptoe has proven to be a pain for the opposition throughout his career in his role as wide receiver/kick returner. His 130 all-purpose yards against Washington last weekend marked the 15th time in his career he has racked up 100 or more all-purpose yards in a contest. With 3,365 career all-purpose yards on 229 total plays (14.7/play), Step is closing in on Hubie Oliver’s No. 11 spot all-time at UA. A bruising power fullback who played from 1977-80, Oliver racked 3,404 all purpose yards on 699 plays. To crack the all-time top 10, Step needs 334 more yards this season to displace No. 10 Eddie Wolgast (1945-48, 3,698 APY). Dennis Northcutt (1996-99) is UA’s all-time leader with 5,392 all-purpose yards.

Step’s All-Purpose Yards

Year Rushing Receiving Kickoff Returns Punt Returns Totals
2003 1-3 9-77 28-480 15-69 53-629
2004 3-30 30-446 17-384 6-39 56-899
2005 8-73 37-493 19-484 20-221 84-1,271
2006 3-16 22-291 10-241 2-18 29-436
Totals             15-122    98-1,307 74-1,589 43-347 229-3,365

Long Plays

Syndric Steptoe leads the team with seven of the Wildcats’ 15 plays of 20 yards or longer ?- all pass receptions from Willie Tuitama. His longest is a 48-yard catch against BYU, while Chris Henry has the longest play of the year, a 54-yard run also against BYU. Chris Jennings had runs of 41, 30 and 30 yards to his credit (the first two vs. SFA, the last vs. LSU). None of the 15 plays were scores. The longest rushing touchdown is a 10-yarder by Jennings against SFA and the longest passing score was a 13-yard throw-catch by Tuitama and Steptoe against Washington. Steptoe has six kick returns of 20 yards or more, against four of the five opponents.


Third Down Blues

There is no question - the Cats need to get better on third down, and a little yardage on first and second down would certainly help. Arizona has faced 3rd-and-6 or longer 56 times this year. The Cats have had losses or gains of fewer than three yards on 128 first- and second-down plays. That can make it tough on third down and Arizona has converted 25 percent ?- 17 of 68. Willie Tuitama, a 66% passer on second down (28-42), fares at 40% on third down when opponents know it’s coming (17-42).


Kick Folk

Well actually it’s Nick, but with the way the senior kicker has boomed the ball in the past, maybe a name change is in order. The multi-talented kicker is headed for a season of double duty as the place kicker and punter for the Wildcats. His season debut against BYU certainly showcased his talents as he connected for a career-best three field goals (30, 22, 48), including the game-winner with one second remaining, while also booting four punts for a net average of 56 yards per kick. His 75-yard punt against the Cougars was a career-long and pinned BYU on its own 5 yard-line.

        Known for having a big leg on field goals (career-long 53 yards) and kickoffs (67 career touchbacks), his punting prowess came out of necessity for the Wildcats. After punter Danny Baugher went down with a season-ending knee injury in the Wildcats’ seventh game last year, Folk took over the punting duties to go along with his normal place kicking chores. As the “fill in” punter, all Folk did was post a net average of 44.7 yards per kick (Baugher, a finalist for the 2005 Ray Guy Award, average 47.5 net yards per punt), hit a season-high 61-yarder and place eight of his 22 kicks inside the opposition’s 20 yard-line.

Year FGM-FGA 1-19 20-29 30-39 40-49 50+ Long
2003 0-3 (00.0) 0-0 0-2 0-1 0-0 0-0 -
2004 8-13 (61.5%) 0-0 2-2 3-4 2-5 1-2 53
2005 7-11 (63.6%) 1-1 0-1 4-5 1-2 1-2 51
2006 6-10 (60.0%) 0-0 2-2 1-2 2-5 1-1 52
Totals 21-37 (57%) 1-1 4-7 8-12 5-12 3-5 53
PAT Kick Off Numbers
Year Att-Made No. Avg. Yds. TB Pct TB
2003 8-8 35 61.1 2.139 0 0
2004 18-18 38 55.8 2,121 14 37%
2005 31-33 53 64 3,390 38 72%
2006 6-6 17 62.4 1,060 15 88%
Totals 63-65 143 60.9 8,710 67 47%


Folk’s Punting Numbers
Year No. Yds Avg. Long I20
2005 22 983 44.7 61 8
2006 28 1,278 45.6 75 7
Totals 50 2,261 45.2 75 15


No Return Policy

Senior PK Nick Folk has taken the words “kickoff return” completely out of the opposition’s vocabulary. On 17 kickoffs this season, Folk has seen just two of them returned, and one was a squib kick at the end of the BYU game on Sept. 4. Since ending the 16-13 win over the Cougars, Folk has kicked off 12 times over UA’s last four games, and has seen all 12 of them go through the end zone as unreturnable.


One of the Few

Senior Nick Folk is one of eight players on the Division I-A level that handles all of the kicking duties - kickoffs, field goals, PATs and punting - for his team. A  look at how Nick stands up against his “brethren”.

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