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Cats and Dawgs Set To Rumble on Gridiron
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 09/25/2006
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Opponent: Washington

Kickoff: 7:07 p.m.

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

TV: None

Radio: 1290 AM (Brian Jeffries, Lamont Lovett)

 

Washington and Arizona Historical Fast Facts

First Meeting: 1978 (Washington 31 - Arizona 21)

Last Meeting: 2005 (Washington 38 - Arizona 14)

All-Time Series Record: Washington leads 15-6-1

Current Streak: Washington won the last meeting after dropping two straight to Arizona

Notes on the Series: 2006 marks UW’s second consecutive trip to Arizona after hosting the Wildcats in Seattle four of the last five times (2000, 2001, 2002, 2004) ... The Huskies scored 31 unanswered points over the final three quarters last season to snap a school-best two-game winning streak for the Wildcats ... UA has won two straight over the Huskies twice in school history (1988-89 and 2003-04) ... Washington’s longest winning streak in the all-time series is five straight from 1978-84 (UW and UA did not play each other in 1979 and 1981) ... Arizona’s largest margin of victory against Huskies of 13 points came in 1992 when the Wildcats upset the No. 1-ranked Huskies 16-3 on homecoming weekend ... Washington’s largest margin of victory over Arizona came in 1991 when the No. 3 Huskies whitewashed the Cats 54-0 in Seattle ...Four of Arizona’s six wins over Washington have been in Arizona Stadium, but the Huskies still hold a 6-4-1 lead over UA when playing in Tucson ... Prior to Washington’s 24-point win last season, the previous  five meetings between the two schools, from 2000-2004, were decided by 10 points or less, including two by three points, one by four and one by five.

 

Some Game Themes...

Two teams that have been tested by quality opponents get a chance to test what they’ve learned in a critical early-season league match up... Arizona works to show that holding the third-ranked team in the country to 20 points for the first time in nearly four years means that something is going on in Tucson... Washington looks to solidify its piece of the league’s upper division after a rousing 29-19 victory over UCLA got things started last week... UA looks for a bit of redemption for its last outing vs. U-Dub, probably its worst game of the year in 2005, all things considered... The Cats work to avoid a sixth consecutive 0-2 start in league play... There is a lot of game left in 2006, but Arizona’s hopes to snap its holidays-at-home status since ’98 come into play with this contest. To be honest, both teams’ preseason ledgering doubtless had this one listed as winnable, and now the proof’s in the pudding... One sub-plot could be special teams. A match-up of the nation’s top punter in Sean Douglas against an Arizona team with a threat on the opposite end of the field in Syndric Steptoe and a 26.0 yard per return average for Huskies’ opponents...

 

Last Week

Arizona showed it had improved as a program but still had some susceptibility to the yips, as lack of execution helped thwart what might have been, in a 20-3 loss to No. 3 Southern California. Some 58,801 fans saw a blocked field goal end UA’s chance at the first lead after Wildcat cornerback Antoine Cason’s interception in SC territory. They watched a sack, a penalty and a tackle behind the line force a 3rd-and-28 when UA had a whiff of the end zone but settled for its three-pointer. They saw a personal foul wreck a chance at another drive to the USC 39 yard-line. They groaned as the backup UA punt returner showed why in fumbling a fair catch to give USC the ball at Arizona’s 9 yard-line for a late, gratuitous touchdown while the game’s complexion was yet in the balance. To its huge credit, USC stuffed Arizona’s running game, restricting the Cats to a four-year low of -16 yards, and ran and passed the ball effectively in taking advantage of most of its opportunities (4-for-5 in the red zone). But, Troy needed eight points from its kicker and the gift TD to get the job done ?- a credit to UA’s defense in holding USC to its lowest scoring total in 54 games. One team got 3.5 yards per play (UA) and one got 4.5, but USC had phenomenal third-down success (12-for-16) to earn 37 more plays. That alone was the difference. UA’s strongest weapon for the evening, the defense, spent too much time on the field. The Cats mixed up the playbook and sophomore QB Willie Tuitama matched his opponent yard for yard in passing, but the lack of a ground attack made it predictable. The Trojans garnered five sacks to erase the positive rushing gains. UA dropped to 2-2 overall and USC improved to 3-0.

 

USC Quick Hits

Junior CB Antoine Cason picked off his ninth career pass in the first quarter. It was the second interception of the season for Cason and the first thrown by SC quarterback John David Booty ... Cason, who finished with 12 total tackles against the Trojans, fell one stop short of his game-high of 13 set in his first collegiate contest against NAU in 2004 ... Sophomore WR Mike Thomas stepped up his game, snatching a season-high seven passes for 78 yards. The seven receptions fell one shy of his career high of eight set twice last year ... Syndric Steptoe’s seven yard punt return in the first half was the first punt return of the season for the Cats ... Steptoe’s 41-yard kickoff return to open the game was the longest of the season for the Cats ... Combined there was only seven penalties committed by the two teams in the game. Arizona’s four flags marked the first time in four games this season that UA has been penalized more than its opponent ... With the absence of Jr. Yaniv Barrnett, Sr. Marcus Smith moved inside for his frist start at DT, and So. DE Michael Shelton saw his first game action of the year.

 

A Quick Look at Washington

The revitalized Huskies come back to Tucson for the second straight season with a 3-1 record in tow ... Helped by 15 fourth-quarter points, UW bested UCLA 29-19 in Seattle last weekend in its Pac-10 opener ... Washington’s two other victories this year are over San Jose State and Fresno State ... UW played a tough first half against then-No. 10 Oklahoma in Norman during the second week of the season, but  24-7 Sooner advantage in the final 30 minutes doomed the Huskies to a 37-20 loss ... The good news for the Huskies is that they’re averaging 26.25 points per game this season. The bad news is that they’re also allowing 26.25 points per game. Through four games UW has scored 105 points and surrendered 105 points ... When possessing the ball, UW is averaging 345 yards of total offense per game this season ... Helped by a 300-yard game against SJSU in the season opener and a 200-yard game against OU a week later, UW is averaging 170.2 rushing yards per game this season ... Senior QB Isaiah Stanback is a duel threat guy, passing for an average of 164.5 yards per game and running for an additional 64.8. Stanback is second on the team in rushing yards this season ... WR Sonny Shackleford is the lead receiver for UW, averaging four catches per game and 52.5 yards. He has caught four TD passes this season ... Defensively, UW is allowing its opposition an average of 350.25 yards per game this season ... The Huskies are surrendering and average of 132.75 yards rushing and 217.50 yards passing ... Senior safety C.J. Wallace paces the Huskies with 40 total tackles through four game this season ... Sophomore safety Mesphin Forrester has picked off two passes this season ... Washington head coach Tyrone Willinghame is in his second season with the Huskies and has posted a 5-10 overall record heading into the weekend.

 

A Family Reunion

There will be some familiar faces looking at each other across the field this weekend. On the Arizona sidelines - D-line coach Mike Tuiasosopo and freshman TE Conan Amituanai, on the Washington sideline - sophomore LB Treton Tuiasosopo. UW’s Tui is the nephew of UA’s Tui and he is the cousin of Amituanai.

 

Through the First Four

With a quarter of the season already complete, the Arizona defense has stepped up its game through the first four contests compared with last season. The Wildcats have given up 10 less points, 257 less yards on ground and 79 less yards of total offense through the same number of games a year ago. The Wildcats have improved their red-zone scoring (73% in ?'06 to 69% in ?'05), while cutting down on the opposition’s numbers (80% in ?'06, 100% in ?'05), including just a 40% success rate for red-zone TDs by the other team.

Stat 2005 2006 Difference
Opponent Scoring 98 88 -10
Opponent Rushing 800 543 .-257
Opponent Total O 1430 1351 -79
UA Red Zone 69% 73% 4%
Opponent Red Zone 100% 80% -20%
Opponent Red Zone TDs 88% 40% -48%

 

The Final 15

Through four games this year, the Wildcats have already matched their 2005 season total for fourth quarter points. With a three field goals, including Nick Folk’s 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. In fact, Arizona has almost scored as many points in the fourth quarter as it has in the three quarters leading up to it (23 in the 4th, 27 in the 1st-3rd).

 

Keeping It Clean

The Wildcats have been penalized less often then their opposition in three of their four games thus far. Flags are being thrown at Arizona an average of five times per game for an average of 34.8 yards per contest thus far. The opposition is averaging six penalties per game for an average of 45..8 yards. Compared with the first four games from last season, the Wildcats have been penalized 18 fewer times in 2006 for 131 less yards.

 

Homeland Security

With an eye for postseason play and seven home games slated for 2006, Arizona understands the importance of protecting its turf. Off to a 2-1 start at home, the Wildcats have four remaining contests in Arizona Stadium this season.

 

SRO

A BIG part of UA’s home success this season has been the support of the Arizona fans. The UA faithful have come, stayed and been extremely loud in UA’s three home games this season. With a pair of sellouts (BYU and USC), UA home games are averaging a near-capacity 54,884 fans per contest. 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). At the time, the attendance figure for the game against the Cougars was the ninth-largest crowd in school history and the fifth-largest non-Arizona State/rivalry crowd. It was 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. Three weeks later, 58,801 fans packed Arizona Stadium to see the Wildcats and the No. 3 USC Trojans. The attendance for Sept. 23 game was the fourth-largest in school history, trailing only the 1996 game against Arizona State (59,920, No. 1), and a pair of games from 1994 (UCLA, 58,817, No. 2 and ASU, 58,810, No. 3). The last time Arizona Stadium was filled to capcity twice in a single season was UA’s 12-1 year of 1998. Another sellout in 2006 would make it the first time since 1994 with three games of 56,002 or more

 

Top Stoppers

Linebackers Spencer Larsen (32) and Ronnie Palmer (27) are atop UA’s tackles chart, a nice trend compared to a year ago when safety Darrell Brooks had 34 tackles after four games. Add in linebacker Dane Krogstad’s 22 hits and the trio has a total of 81 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 sixth in the Pac-10 with an average of eight tackles per game, Palmer comes in at No. 13 in the conference (6.75) and Krogstad at No. 24 (5.5).

 

It’s Starting to Feel Like Holmes

Junior college All-American end Louis Holmes is starting to get into more of a groove, and it could help this week in facing a risky QB to flush from the pocket, UW’s Isaiah Stanback. The guy has 259 yards rushing and Holmes has speed to play sideline to sideline. He leads the club with three sacks, is tied for 38th in the nation  and is fourth in the Pac-10 in sacks per game, has broken up two passes, and has forced and recovered fumbles this season. His improving play helped coaches decide to use senior end Marcus Smith inside at times against USC.

 

21 and Counting

Senior WR Syndric Steptoe  extended his streak to 21 straight games with at least one catch with three receptions for 61 yards last Saturday against USC. Dating back to the Washington State game on Sept. 25, 2004, Steptoe has hauled in at least one pass in all 21 games he has played in (he missed an Oregon State game twice during his streak due to injury). Step has caught 78 passes for 1,028 yards and four TDs over the 21 games. He is averaging nearly four catches per game, and 13.2 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.

 

Please Sign Here

Junior college transfer RB Chris Jennings has made such an impression on the Arizona coaching staff that Ashland, Ky., native has been awarded a scholarship. The news of his new status came in the days leading up to the Wildcats taking the field against Stephen F. Austin on Sept. 16, and he rewarded the wise decision with 201 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries in the Wildcats’ 28-10 victory over the Lumberjacks. Jennings, who is averaging 5.8 yards per carry after rushing for team-high 284 yards on 49 attempts in four games this season, somehow flew under the radar of recruiters after two years at Arizona Western College in Yuma, Ariz., and joined UA as a walk-on in August for fall camp.

 

An Impressive Start

Chris Jennings 201 yards rushing in his first career start against Stephen F. Austin on Sept. 16 not only helped him crack the all-time top 10 single game performances by a UA running back (No. 10), but it was among the top running efforts by a first-time starter. A look at some recent UA rushers starting debuts.

Player  Date Opponent Numbers
Mike Bell 10/5/2002 Oregon 21-54 yards
Clarence Farmer  10/7/2000 at USC 22-134 yards, TD
Leo Mills 11/4/2000 at Washington 29-185 yards, 2 TD
Trung Canidate  10/31/1998 Oregon 17-73 yards
Gary Taylor  9/11/1993 Pacific 29-174 yards 
Ontiwaun Carter  9/28/1991 Long Beach St. 10-118 yards
David Adams  9/1/1984 Fresno State 15-76 yards

Notes: Bell (No. 4), Farmer (No. 7), Canidate (No. 1), Carter (No. 2) and Adams (No. 6) are all among the career rushers leaders in school history ... Although records don’t indicate starts, Art Luppino’s season debut in his sophomore year of 1954 against New Mexico State was one for the history books. The “Cactus Comet”, the No. 3 all-time rusher at Arizona, ran for 228 yards on just six carries and had scoring runs of 37, 48, 78 and 47 yards in the 58-0 Wildcat win. Press clippings from the time indicate Luppino was a second-team RB behind senior Ken Cardella during his freshman season of 1953.

 

But What About Me?

Overshadowed by the outstanding performance by Chris Jennings, redshirt freshman Xavier Smith turned in a fine effort on his own last weekend against Stephen F. Austin. Receiving his first career touches on handoffs, X rushed for a 57 yards on just 10 carries for a 5.7 yard per carry average. He finished the contest with three first-down runs and had a long rush of 17 yards for Cats.

 

Now That’s The Willie We All Know

Sophomore QB Willie Tuitama entered the Stephen F. Austin game at the beginning of the fourth quarter last weekend, and showed the 47,000 fans at Arizona Stadium just why he’s the man in Tucson. In just under 15 minutes of work, Tui led the Cats on a pair of 50-plus yard scoring drives, completed 6-of-9 passing attempts, threw for 61 yards and hit Anthony Johnson on a fourth-down pass for a three-yard score. After mustering just a 78.79 passer efficiency rating in his first two games of the season, he finished the contest against the Lumberjacks on Saturday with a more Tui-like 160.27 rating.

 

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.

 

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 has added a pair of 30-yard runs and a career-best 41-yarder against Stephen F. Austin on Sept. 16. Through four games this season, Henry and Jennings have posted four runs of 20 or more yards which is already a quarter of the way to last season’s final total. Added up, the Wildcats finished with 12 running plays over 20 yards in 2005, 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 137 all-purpose yards against USC last weekend marked the 14th time in his career he has racked up 100 or more all-purpose yards in a contest. With 3,235 career all-purpose yards on 222 total plays (14.6/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 464 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 9-1 28-480 15-69 53-629
2004 3-30 30-446 17-384 6-39 56-899
2005 8-1 37-493 19-484 20-221 84-1,271
2006 3-16 17-206           8-207                         1-7 29-436
Totals           15-122       93-1,222 72-1,555 42-336             214-3,098

 

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 (64 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.

 

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”.

Player FGM-FGA PATs Punts KO
Nick Folk, Arizona 5-8 5-5 19-45.8 14-12TB
John Deraney, NC State 3-3 9-9 28-37.5 15-6TB
Chris Gould, Virginia 5-8 3-3 25-42.1 12-6TB
Greg Johnson, Texas 1-2 21-21 14-43.2 24-8TB
Matt Lasher, Ohio 2-5 9-10 25-41.2 16-1TB
Ryan Succop, S. Carolina 6-7 8-8 14-45.6 21-8TB
Sam Swank, Wake Forest 5-8 10-10 20-41.9
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