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Football Travels to No. 8 LSU
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 09/04/2006
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Opponent: Louisiana State

Kickoff: 5:30 p.m. (3:30 p.m. Tucson)

Site: Tiger Stadium  (Cap. - 92,400) - Baton Rouge, La.

TV: ESPN2 (Ron Franklin, Ed Cunningham, Dave Lamont)

Radio: 1290 AM (Brian Jeffries, Lamont Lovett)

 

LSU and Arizona Historical Fast Facts

First Meeting: 1984 (LSU 27 - Arizona 26)

Last Meeting: 2003 (LSU 59 - Arizona 13)

All-Time Series Record: LSU leads 2-0

Current Streak: LSU has won both meetings between the two

Notes on the Series: 2006 will mark just the second trip for Arizona to Baton Rouge (1984) ... The Wildcats dropped a one-point decision (27-26) to the No. 13-ranked Tigers the last time the two schools met in Louisiana. Trailing by one, Arizona drove the ball to the LSU 43 yard-line with 18 seconds left in the game, but QB Alfred Jenkins lost the handle on a 4th and 4 attempt for a fumble to hand the Tigers the ball and eventually the game ... The last time Arizona played LSU (2003), the Tigers earned a share of the national title with USC. That year, Arizona and Auburn were the only two schools to face both eventual national champions during the regular season ... Arizona’s game against LSU is just the seventh all-time for the Wildcats against a school from the SEC. UA is 1-4-1 all-time against SEC schools, with the lone victory coming against Auburn in 1976 in Tucson (31-19).

 

Some Game Themes...

After the nice appeal of a full crowd at home, the Cats get an introduction to SEC hospitality as demonstrated in the ambience of Tiger Stadium, one of the nation’s largest college football venues, also known as “Death Valley”... Arizona’s coaches and players spent an offseason pointing at one game ?- last week’s -- but no one would argue that this one in Baton Rouge didn’t perk up the glands mightily...  If Arizona held anything back in its opener, it may well have to open up more of its playbook against the 8th-ranked Tigers. Sophomore quarterback Willie Tuitama will take a crack in leading his mates against a team that gave up only 63 passing yards and 176 total yards in its opener... UA tries its hand at breaking the Tigers’ streak of 10 consecutive quarters without allowing a touchdown ... UA’s secondary, considered a team strength with headliners Michael Johnson, Antoine Cason and Wilrey Fontenot, will contend with a passing game that netted a phenomenal 13 yards per attempt last week in LSU’s opener. JaMarcus Russell hit 13 of 17 throws for 253 yards and 3 TDs for an outrageous 259.72 pass efficiency rating... UA sophomore linebacker and special teams player James Alford gets a visit to his home state, where he prepped at Metarie...

 

Last Week

The kicking game dominated, and Arizona’s Nick Folk was the dominant force, knocking home a 48-yard field goal with one second remaining to snap a late fourth-quarter tie and lift the Wildcats to a 16-13 victory over BYU and give Arizona a good start to its season. The ninth-largest crowd in Arizona history, 58,450 strong, watched a tightly fought contest marked by good defense on both sides. But Arizona mounted three notable drives ?- a 10-play, 70-yard march leading to Folk’s second field goal in the second quarter, an 80-yard drive in nine plays to retake the lead at 13-10 in the third quarter, and the final clock-eating 13-play drive of 44 yards to put the senior kicker in position for the game winner. Folk did more, kicking off five times with three touchbacks and the time expunging squib kick at game’s end, plus he showcased his punting skill with three kicks for an average of 60 yards including a career-best 75-yarder. He more than countered BYU kicker Jared McLaughlin’s two field goals. UA junior running back Chris Henry led all rushers with 63 net yards, most of those coming on a 54-yard scamper that helped set up the lone Wildcat touchdown. Sophomore quarterback Willie Tuitama had a modest 186 yards throwing (19 for 39, 1 interception), but connected with Anthony Johnson for the two-yard scoring strike and found Syndric Steptoe (93 yards) and Johnson (40 yards) six times apiece in an outing that was not illustrative of the Cats’ playbook. UA’s defense, spearheaded by 12 tackles from linebacker Spencer Larsen, two sacks by Louis Holmes and ball-nosing play by safety Michael Johnson (nine hits, fumble recovery), limited BYU to 24 net rushing yards and keeping BYU receivers ?- nine of them ?- to underneath catches and one lone scoring catch from QB John Beck, who had a good night with 28-for-37 passing and 289 yards. The bottom line for Arizona was it maintained poise and pressure, did enough of the right things at the right times and found a way to win a close game at the end. After a string of close-enough-but-not-quite skirmishes in the past two years, it was a resounding success.

 

Taking It to the End

Nick Folk’s game-winning field goal with one second left in the fourth quarter in the season opener against BYU on Sept. 2 was the latest in a game the Wildcats have rallied for a victory in regulation since Bobby Wade caught a 42-yard pass from Keith Smith with no time remaining on the clock at Washington State on Sept. 25, 1999 (Arizona won a three-overtime game against WSU in Dick Tomey’s final season as head coach in 2000).

 

BYU Quick Hits

Senior Nick Folk’s 30-yard field goal in the first quarter not only handed Arizona an early 3-0 lead, but also marked the fourth straight game that the Wildcats have scored on their opening possession dating back to last season (TD vs. UCLA on 11/5/05, TD vs. Washington on 11/12/05, FG at Arizona State on 11/25/05, FG vs. BYU on 9/2/06) ... Folk, who booted the game-winning FG from 48 yards out with one second left, tallied a career-best three scoring kicks in the game (30, 22, 48) ... Chris Henry’s 54-yard run in the third quarter was the longest in his career and his 63 yards rushing in the game were most in single game in his career ... Senior WR Syndric Steptoe (6 rec., 93 yards vs. BYU) extended his streak of consecutive games with at least one catch to 18 straight contests ... Steptoe’s 93 yards receiving were the second-most in a single game in his career and his six receptions were one away from his career single-game high (7 vs. Arizona State, Nov. 28, 2003) ... Junior  LB Spencer Larsen recorded his second-most tackles in a single game with 12 total stops (career best 17 TT at Oregon State in 2005) ... CB Wilrey Fontenot had a career-best with two PBU ... The 24 yards rushing surrendered to the Cougars were the fewest in a contest since giving up only 10 yards on the ground to USC in a 35-15 win over the Trojans in 2000. The previous low in the two-year Mike Stoops Era was 28 rushing yards by Washington State on Sept. 25, 2004.

 

Getting a Taste

Including three starters, 13 Wildcats saw their first career action against BYU on Sept. 2. On offense, redshirt freshmen Blake Kerley, Daniel Borg and Eben Britton all earned starting roles in the trenches along the offensive line, while running backs Chris Jennings (Jr.) and Xavier Smith (RS-F) both filled in behind starter Chris Henry. True freshman H-back Earl Mitchell also participated in his first contest for the Cats. On the other side of the ball, junior Louis Holmes made his presence felt on the D-line along with RS frosh Donald Horton. Horton’s classmates Xavier Kelly and Corey Hall both saw the field for the first time, while Devin Ross and Cam Nelson showed enough moxie as true freshmen to appear in the game for UA.

 

“We’re Going to the Boot”

That’s how UA junior LB and New Orleans native James Alford put it, and the Cats are indeed headed for Louisiana. The trip to bayou country will be Arizona’s first roadie of the season and its last until the beginning of October. After meeting up with the Tigers this Saturday, Arizona will then host Stephen F. Austin, USC and Washington in Tucson over the final three weekends of September. After LSU, the Wildcats’ next road game is at UCLA on Oct. 7.

 

A Quick Look at LSU

The Bayou Bengals enter the contest with Arizona 1-0 at whipping in-state for Louisiana-Lafayette 44-3 in their season opener last weekend. ... LSU returns 39 letterwinners (17 off./20 def.), including 13 starters (6 off./5 def./2 spec.), from last season’s 11-2, Peach Bowl championship team ... Highlighting the returners on offense is Sr. QB JaMarcus Russell who torched ULL for 253 yards and three TDs on 13 completions in the season opener ... Senior receivers Dwayne Bowe (88 yards, TD) and Craig Davis (82 yards) hauled in four passes each for a combined 170 yards against ULL ... Junior RBs Alley Broussard (46 yds, 8 att.) and Matt Flynn (36 yds, 4 att.) teamed up for 6.8 YPC average after rushing for a combined 82 yards on 12 attempts ... The LSU defense limited ULL to 176 yards of total offense (3.4 yards per play) and picked off two passes in the season-opening win ... Senior strong safety Jessie Daniels paced the Tigers with eight tackles and tallied a sack ... Junior cornerback Jonathan Zenon picked off two passes against ULL, and returned one 20 yards for a TD ... LSU head coach Les Miles is in his second season in Baton Rouge and has posted a 12-2 overall record with the Tigers.

 

Familiar Foes

Saturday’s confrontation in Baton Rouge might the first meeting between Arizona’s Mike Stoops and LSU’s Les Miles as head coaches, but the two are more than a little familiar with each other. Miles spent four seasons (2001-04) as the head coach at Oklahoma State, the in-state rival of Stoops’ previous stop, Oklahoma, where he served as defensive coordinator. The two matched wits on field three times (2001-03) in the Sooner State before Stoops left for Arizona. The Cowboys won the first two meetings (16-13 in 2001 and 38-28 in 2002), but the Sooners rallied to snap OSU’s seven-game winning streak with a 52-9 win in 2003. In an odd twist of fate, OU went on to play for the national championship that season against a Nick Saben-coached LSU squad.

 

Let’s Hear It For the D

Sure the Wildcats surrendered 313 total yards to BYU in their season opener on Sept. 2. However when taking into consideration that the Cougars returned eight offensive starters, including All-Mountain West selections John Beck (QB), Curtis Brown (RB) and Jonny Harline (TE), from a squad that averaged 462 yards per game last season, and that UA limited BYU to 24 yards rushing and did not allow a play over 25 yards, suddenly that 313 doesn’t look so imposing. Additionally, the potent Cougar offense - the one that averaged 33 points per game last season and nearly 43 points per game over the final five contests of 2005 - managed just 13 points in the loss to the Wildcats.

 

Spencer For Hire

Junior LB Spencer Larsen served notice against BYU on Sept. 2 that he is a man to be reckoned with. Tallying a game-high 12 total tackles, he also forced a fumble and was credited with 1 1/2 sacks. Dating back to last season, Larsen is averaging 10 tackles per contest over his last five games played.

 

Thanks, I’ll Take That

Michael Johnson’s fumble recovery in the first quarter against BYU on Sept. 2 was his fifth takeaway in Arizona’s last five games. The senior strong safety has picked off four passes, including one for a 40-yard TD at Oregon State last year, and scooped up the fumble caused by Spencer Larsen on the first offensive play of the game against BYU.

 

It’s Elementary My Dear Watson

It seems that junior Louis Holmes was worth the wait. The top-rated junior college transfer from Scottsdale Community College signed a National Letter of Intent to play for the Wildcats last December, but was not admitted to the university until the third day of fall camp at the beginning of August. The nearly seven month-long wait for the 6-6, 270-lb defensive end paid off in UA’s season-opening victory over BYU on Sept. 9, as Holmes racked up two sacks, broke up a pass and forced a fumble by Cougars’ QB John Beck late in the second quarter to thwart a BYU drive that had probed into Arizona territory.

 

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 2,942 career all-purpose yards on 202 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 757 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 1-6 6-93 2-44 0-0 9-143
Totals 13-112 82-1,109 66-1,392 41-329 202-2,942

 

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 three punts for a net average of 60 yards per kick. His 75-yard punt against the Cougars was a career-long and pinned BYU on its own 5 yard-line. Due to a statistical error (since corrected), Folk was not credited with his first punt of the game, a 44-yarder in the second quarter that ended up at the BYU 1 yard-line. With the correction, Folk qualifies for the national leaders in punts and his 56-yard per kick average is the tops in Division I.

        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.

Kick Folk By The Numbers

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 3-4 (75.0%) 0-0 1-1 1-1 1-2 0-0 48
Totals 18-31 (58.0%) 1-1 3-6 8-11 4-9 2-4 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 64.0 3,390 38 72%
2006 1-1 5 56.0 280 3 60%
Totals 58-60 131 60.5 7,930 55 42%
Folk’s Punting Numbers
Year No. Yds Avg. Long I20
2005 22 983 44.7 61 8
2006 4 224 56.0 75 2
Totals 26 1,207 46.5 75 10

 

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 Arizona Football
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