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Football Preps For Stephen F. Austin
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 09/16/2006
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Opponent: Stephen F. Austin

Kickoff: 7 p.m.

Site: Arizona Stadium (56,002) - Tucson, Ariz.

TV: FSN Arizona (Dave Sitton, Dale Hellestrae, Todd Walsh)

Radio: 1290 AM (Brian Jeffries, Lamont Lovett)

 

All-Access Note: Due to TV contract restrictions, the delayed video webcast of the game will not be available online until after FSN Arizona's rebroadcast on Tuesday, September 19.

 

Stephen F. Austin and Arizona Historical Fast Facts

First Meeting: 2006

Last Meeting: 2006

All-Time Series Record: Have not played prior to this year

Current Streak: N/A

Notes on the Series: 2006 will mark the first meeting between Arizona and Stephen F. Austin.

 

Some Game Themes...

The Wildcats look inward to find a suitable response to the opening weeks of the season, and above all need a game in which overall play is at a high level... Arizona concludes its non-conference slate with a chance to record its best mark in that category since 2002... The Lumberjacks, too, look to change the complexion of their season after an 0-2 start... UA proved against LSU that its depth at quarterback was fact, but enters this game with some questions about the availability of the top guy... SFA brings an offense that thus far has geared 60 percent of its plays toward the rushing attack, where UA checks in at No. 66 in Division I-A with 127 yards per game allowed. SFA’s top back, Jerome Brooks, zipped for 79 yards on 13 rushes last weekend against Delta State. He (20.5 KOR) and Nick Rhodes (11.8 punt return) also give SFA credible numbers in the return game, where UA kicker Nick Folk shines in disallowing such occurrences... The UA will trot out its 15 student-athletes who won NCAA individual 2005 titles at halftime, plus introduce the members of its Pac-10 champion women’s swimming team

 

Last Week

Arizona played before the fourth-largest crowd in its history, plus a national television audience, and came away with no doubts that its road on the way back to respectability wasn’t an overnight tour of the Bayou. No. 8-ranked Louisiana State enjoyed its reputation and overall solid play in putting together a game that took UA down, 45-3. Early on, the Wildcats handed LSU some superb field position and then played tough goal-line defense to hold LSU to a field goal, but then unraveled some when Willie Tuitama was intercepted and returned 41 yards by Jonathan Zenon for a 10-0 lead 90 seconds later. Moments later LSU recovered a UA fumble on the kickoff and cruised in for a one-minute, 18-yard drive to make it 17-0. All that came with six minutes left in the opening period. A minute into the second stanza, Alley Broussard capped an 8-play, 57-yard drive with 17 of LSU’s eventual 231 rushing yards to hit the endzone again. Arizona’s Dane Krogstad forced a fumble and Antoine Cason intercepted a JaMarcus Russell pass to thwart the next two LSU possessions, but LSU kept UA on the ropes with a defensive effort that left UA with 28 yards in total offense at the break. The second half was much the same story, with three Tiger scores to make it 45-0 at the 7:16 mark in the fourth period. Backup senior quarterback Adam Austin, in the game for the last 20 minutes of game clock, then led Arizona on a solid 15-play, 75-yard drive that resulted in a Nick Folk 22-yard field goal in the final minutes. UA had 1st-and-goal at the LSU 3 yard-line, but was turned back on a running play and two Austin passes. Running back Chris Jennings, a walk-on junior college transfer who took over the No. 2 slot in camp, set up the score with a 30-yard run to the 3. UA starting QB Willie Tuitama was removed by coaches in the third period because of apparent grogginess. Most of the numbers besides those on the scoreboard favored the home team ?- the 231 rushing to 35 net for Arizona, 461 net yards to 152 for UA, 9-for-12 third-down conversion rate to 3-for-15, and a 7.6 yard per play mark to 2.7 for UA. UA did force three turnovers, but lost four on two Tuitama interceptions, one by Austin in the LSU red zone and the fumble by kick returner B.J. Dennard.

 

Homeland Security

After making the 1,200-mile trip to Baton Rouge last weekend, the Wildcats get to enjoy the comforts of home for the rest of the month. Arizona will host Stephen F. Austin, USC and Washington over the next three weekends to close out the month of September. UA’s next road contest doesn’t come until Oct. 7 when it heads to Pasadena, Calif., for a meeting with UCLA at the Rose Bowl.  

 

LSU Quick Hits

The 92,221 fans on hand to see the game in the Baton Rouge marked the fourth-largest crowd ever that Arizona has played in front of, trailing only a 1978 game at Michigan (104,913), a 1999 game at Penn State (97,168) and a 1991 game at Ohio State (92,743) ... Helped by a career-best 30-yard rush, RB Chris Jennings averaged 6.6 yards per carry on eight rushes ... Junior CB Antoine Cason picked off his first pass of the season in the second quarter. It marked the eighth interception in Cason’s career and his first since the Oregon State game last year ... Cason’s fumble recovery on LSU’s first drive in the third quarter was the first of his career ... Earl Mitchell (2 for 26 yards), Xavier Smith (1 for 7) and Brandyn McCall (1 for 9) all recorded their first career receptions in the game ... Mitchell was given credit for a blocked punt when he tipped LSU’s only attempt in the game in the third quarter. It was UA’s first blocked punt since Copeland Bryan and Marcus Hollingsworth each came up with a block at Washington in 2004 ... QB Adam Austin saw the first extended action in his career and led UA to its lone scoring drive ... DE Jason Parker recorded a career-best two TFL ... Nick Folk’s 22-yard field goal in the fourth quarter marked his third straight game with a successful kick and the fifth game with a scoring kick in which he’s attempted one (at Oregon State, vs. UCLA, at Arizona State, vs. BYU, at LSU - he did not attempt a FG against Washington last year).

 

A Quick Look at Stephen F. Austin

The Division I-AA Lumberjacks (0-2) head to Tucson coming off a last-second, 17-14 loss to Delta State in Nacogdoches, Texas, last weekend ... After coming back to tie the game at 14-14 with a fourth quarter TD, SFA couldn’t hold a late Delta State rally and saw the go-ahead 22-yard field goal pierce the uprights with just 16 seconds remaining to extend SFA’s winless streak to four straight games dating back to last year ... SFA lost its season opener 45-7 at Tulsa on August 31 ... SFA returns 36 letterwinners, including 15 starters, from last season’s 5-6 team ... QB Danny Southall returns to lead the Lumberjack offense after missing the majority of the 2005 season with an injury ... Southall has completed 22 for 40 passes this season wit 189 yards and has also rushed 19 times for 38 yards and one TD ... In addition to the mobile Southall, SFA also has senior RB Jerome Brooks, a 2005 transfer from Purdue, who has racked up 129 yards rushing on just 16 carries for an 8.1 average this season ... Junior WR Tyrell Williams is SFA’s pass-catching threat with nine receptions for 57 yards thus far ... Defensively, the Lumberjacks run a multiple 3-4 base defense ... Senior DB Corey Campbell paces SFA with 20 total tackles for the year, while classmate Keldrick Holman has a team-best three TFL ... Head coach Robert McFarland is in his second season with SFA and has posted a 5-7 record with the Lumberjacks.

 

A Somewhat Familiar Face

A lot has changed since SFA running back Jerome Brooks last saw the Arizona Wildcats. UA has a whole new coaching staff, basically a completely different roster and  Brooks no longer carries the ball for Purdue. Still the second-year Lumberjack running back probably remembers the 2003 game between Purdue and Arizona, as Brooks rushed for a career-best 122 yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns in the 59-7 Boilermaker victory.

 

Hey, Watch Me

The early season “watch lists” continue to stream forth and a number of Wildcats have garnered recognition ... Junior CB Antoine Cason is listed as a player to watch for the Jim Thorpe Award, presented to the nation’s top DB ... Senior PK/P Nick Folk has been placed on the watch list for both the Lou Groza Award, presented to the nation’s top place kicker, and the Ray Guy Award, presented to the top punter ... Sophomore WR Mike Thomas was recently named to the Fred Biletninikoff Award watch lists presented to the top receiver.

 

19 and Counting

Senior WR Syndric Steptoe got it out of the way early against LSU, his 12-yard reception on Arizona’s first play from scrimmage at LSU last weekend extended his streak to 19 straight games with at least one catch. Dating back to the Washington State game on Sept. 25, 2004, Steptoe has hauled in at least one pass in all 19 games he has played in (he missed an Oregon State game twice during his streak due to injury). Step has caught 71 passes for 941 yards and four TDs over the 19 games. He is averaging nearly four catches per game, and 13.3 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.

 

Hit Men

The trio of Ronnie Palmer, Spencer Larsen and Dane Krogstad are working hard towards bringing the punch back to the linebacking corps. In the first two games of the season, and even with Krogstad’s limited duty due to nickel defense employed by the Cats  in the BYU game, the three have combined for 42 of Arizona’s 135 total tackles. Larsen leads all defenders with 18 stops on the year, while Palmer  is tied with strong safety Michael Johnson for second on the team with 15. The three backers led the Wildcat with a combined 22 total tackles against LSU last weekend. Palmer posted a game-high nine tackles against the Tigers, with Krogstad chipping in with seven stops and Larsen with six. One of the three is trying to become the first Wildcat LB to lead the team in tackles for a season since current Chicago Bear Lance Briggs posted 98 total tackles in 2002.

 

The Big Rush

The rushing duo of Chris (Henry) and Chris (Jennings) has seen each back scamper for 20-plus yards on a rush this season, something it took the Wildcats seven games to accomplish last year. Henry’s career-high, broken-play dash of 54 yards against BYU is the longest play from scrimmage this season, and Jennings added a 30-yarder against LSU in Baton Rouge last weekend. All totaled, the Wildcats finished with 12 running plays over 20 yards last season, with the first not coming until the Oregon game on Oct. 22.

 

A Spring in his Step

Senior Syndric Steptoe has proven to be a pain for the opposition throughout his career in his role as wide receiver/kick returner. His 143 all-purpose yards against BYU in the season opener marked the 13th time in his career, and the fourth straight contest, he has racked up 100 or more all-purpose yards in a contest. With 3,001 career all-purpose yards on 207 total plays (14.5/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 698 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 14397 56-899
2005 8-73 37-493 19-484 20-221 84-1,271
2006 1-6 10-119           16103 0-0              13-202
Totals             13-112    86-1,135       67-1,425 41-329  207-3,001

 

One of the Few

Senior Nick Folk is one of eight players on the Division I 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”.

Player FGM-FGA PATs Punts KO
Nick Folk, Arizona 4-5 1-1 10-48.1 7-5TB
John Deraney, NC State 1-1 5-5 15-37.6 8-5TB
Chris Gould, Virginia 4-6 2-2 12-41.8 7-3TB
Greg Johnson, Texas 0-1 9-9 8-42-5 9-4TB
Matt Lasher, Ohio 2-2 8-8 11-43.2 12-1TB
Ryan Succop, S. Carolina 3-4 0-0 10-46.0 7-2TB
Sam Swank, Wake Forest 2-5 4-4 10-42.8 8-3TB
Andrew Wellock, E. Michigan 4-4 4-4 5-36.2 8-0TB

 

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 appears 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 (55 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.

 

Nick Folk Named Pac-10 Special Teams Player of the Week

Senior Nick Folk was named the Pac-10 ST POW after booting a career-best three field goals, including the game-winner from 48 yards out in the waning moments, in Arizona’s 16-13 win over visiting BYU in front of a capacity 58,450 fans at Arizona Stadium last weekend. The senior accounted for 10 of UA’s 16 points in the contest, connecting on field goals of 22, 30 and 48 yards on the night and adding one PAT. Folk handed the Wildcats their sixth-straight home-opening win when he capped off the night with his game-winning kick with one second remaining in the fourth quarter. The last second 48-yard game-winner tied for the third-longest FG in Folk’s four-year career at UA. In addition to his game-changing place-kicking duties, Folk replaced an ineffective Kyle McQuown as the team’s punter in the first half, and averaged a very impressive 56 yards per punt on four kicks, including a fourth quarter career-long 75-yard boot that placed the Cougars at their own five yard-line. On kickoffs, three of Folk’s five kicks went into the endzone for touchbacks, and BYU averaged just 12.5 yards per return on the two kicks they attempted to bring out.

 

Sophomore Signal Callers

Including heralded Willie Tuitama, UA has had a host of second-year QBs stand under center over the years. However, one would have to go back to Keith Smith in 1996 to find a sophomore QB that was “the guy” entering the season and played that way throughout. The list of sophomore QBs to make an impact at Arizona over the last 25 years is somewhat exclusive. Here’s a look at the few that jump out:

Name Year Team Record Final Stats (Att-Comp-Int)
Tom Tunnicliffe 1981 6-5 11 GP, 328-176-14, 2,520 yds, 18 TD
Alfred Jenkins 1984 7-4 11 GP, 312-156-17, 2,202 yds, 11 TD
Ronnie Veal 1988 7-4 10 GP, 105-40-3, 669 yds, 4 TD
Dan White 1993 10-2 11 GP, 231-115-9, 1,548 yds, 13 TD*
Keith Smith 1996 5-6 11 GP, 193-117-6, 1,450 yds, 11 TD 
Willie Tuitama 2006 1-1 2 GP, 56-27-3, 236 yards, 1 TD

* Includes White’s stats from the 1994 Fiesta Bowl

 

SRO

The Arizona faithful came, stayed and were extremely loud in UA’s home-opening 16-13 win over BYU on Sept. 2. A crowd of 58,450 fans packed Arizona Stadium on Sept. 9, to mark UA’s first sellout since the 2000 season (Sept. 9 vs. Ohio State). The attendance figure was the ninth-largest crowd in school history, the fifth-largest non-Arizona State/rivalry crowd, the biggest opening day group ever and the most for a Wildcat game since 58,738 fans crammed into an Oct. 10, 1998 contest against UCLA. The all-time attendance record for the Wildcats at Arizona Stadium is 59, 920 set at 1996’s rivalry game against the Sun Devils on Nov. 23.

 

Zoo-tastic

A large part of UA’s attendance boost was the support of the Wildcats’ student section - The ZonaZoo. Numbering 10,000-plus and stretching from the north endzone well into the south stands, the student section, a general admission/first-come, first-served endeavor, was a jam-packed sea of red that was bursting capacity well before kickoff and vocal throughout the game. Kudos to the ZonaZoo.

 

Crystal Gazing

The Pac-10 media predicted that the Wildcats will finish sixth in the conference this season. While it’s no where near where the Wildcats aspire to end the year, at least - as head coach Mike Stoops put it - “It’s better than being picked last”. In fact, UA’s predicted sixth-place finish is the highest the Wildcats have been picked to finish in the preseason poll since 1999 when they were selected to win the Pac-10 after finishing the previous season 12-1 ... Three-time defending conference champ USC was named the team to beat for the fourth straight season ... Arizona will have first crack at ending the Trojans’ Pac-10 record 23-game conference contest winning streak when the two schools meet up on Sept. 23 in Tucson.

 

Closing the Gap

If UA’s season-opening three-point win over BYU is any indicator, maybe UA’s hard luck ways are in for change. In 2003, the season prior to Mike Stoops tenure as the head coach, Arizona went 2-10 and lost all but two games by 21 points or more. In fact, the Wildcats lost their 10 games by a margin of over four touchdowns (28.8 points) per contest that year. Playing with basically the same roster the next year, the 2004 team shaved over 10 points off that number (18.3) in Stoops’ first season at the helm. Last year, the Wildcats continued to lay a foundation for success, and dropped five of their eight losses by an agonizingly close seven points or less, including three contests by four points or less. With an emphasis on playing fundamentally sound and mistake-free football this season, UA has learned its lessons from 2005 and will look to turn those close defeats into wins this year.

 

Depth Perception

As noted below, the Arizona coaching staff has begun to amass depth throughout the program. Armed with back-to-back top 20 ranked recruiting classes, third-year head coach Mike Stoops and his staff have more “game-ready” players in the starting lineup and on the depth chart then in recent seasons. Notably the D-line, O-line, linebackers and receiving corps are among the deepest the Wildcats have had in a number of years.

 

Down in the Trenches

The Wildcats are building some quality depth along the front lines of the offense. Returning this season are five players (Peter Graniello, Tanner Bell, Erick Levitre, Joe Longacre and Adam Hawes) with a combined 63 career starts between them. Add in redshirt freshmen Daniel Borg, Eben Britton, Blake Kerley, who all earned their first career starts against BYU, as well as sophomore Bill Wacholz, and the Wildcats have a number of capable players ready to protect the offensive punch this season.

 

D-Line Depth

The depth continues along the D-line with four solid defensive ends (Sr. Marcus Smith, So. Johnathan Turner, So. Jason Parker and Jr. Louis Holmes) and a host of big bodies (Jr. Yaniv Barnett, Jr. Lionel Dotson, Sr. Paul Philipp, RS-F. Donald Horton Jr.) in the interior. At DE Smith, Turner and possible redshirt candidate Michael Shelton have teamed up to start 32 total games, and Holmes showed off his credentials as one of the most sought-after JC transfers in the nation against BYU with two sacks, a forced fumble and a PBU. Inside Barnett, Dotson and Philipp have combined for 41 career starts, while Bertrand has caught the eye of the coaching staff as a helpful inside threat and Horton Jr is expected to make an impact after redshirting in 2005.

 

Second To None

The Arizona defensive backfield has served notice that they are a group not to be trifled with. The group has been named by numerous publications as not only one of the top secondaries in the Pac-10, but in the nation as well. Junior corners Antoine Cason (Career - 7 Int, 11 PBU, 3 FF, 122 TT) and Wilrey Fontenot (Career - 4 Int, 12 PBU, 3 FR, 1 FF, 104 TT) have been rock solid after playing every defensive snap for the past two seasons. Cason already has one interception and a fumble recovery and Fontenot has chipped in with two PBUs and a tackle for loss. The duo appear to have a pair of nice backups in true freshmen Mike Turner and Devin Ross.

        Senior strong safety Michael Johnson turned heads last season with not only with his three-interception game (including one for a TD) against Oregon State, but also when he caught future Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush from behind in UA’s contest with USC in Los Angeles. Despite making only four starts last year, Johnson finished second on the team in total tackles, ending the season with 60 stops. He has continued his play stopping ways early this season with 15 total tackles, which is tied for second on the team.

        The one question mark for the secondary entering the year was who would step up and replace departed team captain and defensive leader Darrell Brooks as the starting free safety? The hard-hitting Dominic Patrick has claimed the role and has posted a solid 11 total tackles in UA’s first two games this season.

 

Coach O Told You So

When Arizona hired Mike Stoops as its head football coach at the end of the 2003 season, UA basketball coach Lute Olson warned the Wildcat fans early on not to delay, and get their season tickets now or they’d be left out. It seems that Coach O is not only a pretty darn good hoops coach, but a fairly decent seer as well. Season ticket sales in the Old Pueblo have reached near-record levels. Arizona has sold over 26,000 season tickets for the 2006 campaign, the third mosted for a single year ever at UA. The all-time record for season ticket sales is 27,779 for the 1994 season. BTW, the top two seasons for season ticket sales (1994 and 1999) came following 10-2 and 12-1 seasons - a fact that shows, despite back-to-back 3-8 seasons, that the Wildcat football program in the minds of the Tucson community has begun to change under Stoops, the coaches and the players.

 

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