Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
Football Opens Pac-10 Slate against No. 3 USC
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: September 18, 2006
Photo Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Opponent: USC

Kickoff: 5:14 p.m.

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

TV: ABC (Dan Fouts, Tim Brant, Jack Arute)

Radio: 1290 AM (Brian Jeffries, Lamont Lovett)


USC and Arizona Historical Fast Facts

First Meeting: 1916 (USC 20 - Arizona 7)

Last Meeting: 2005 (USC 42 - Arizona 21)

All-Time Series Record: USC leads 23-6

Current Streak: USC has won four straight dating back to 2001

Notes on the Series: This year will mark USC’s first trip to Tucson since 2003. The Wildcats and Trojans have squared off against each other the last two years in LA ... Arizona’s longest winning streak in the all-time series is two straight, accomplished twice (1990-91 and 1999-2000) .... USC’s longest winning streak in the series is six straight from 1982-1989 (USC and UA did not play in 1983 and 1985) ... Since joining the Pac-10 in 1978, Arizona is 6-16 against the Trojans ... The last time Arizona defeated USC at home was 1999 (31-24) ... Arizona’s largest margin of victory in the all-time series with USC was a 31-point win in 1993 (38-7) ... USC’s largest margin of victory against UA was a 71-point win over the Wildcats in 1928 (78-7) ... Including this year, USC has been ranked in the top three in the AP Poll a total of eight times when taking on Arizona ... Prior to last season’s loss to Texas in the national championship game in the Rose Bowl, Arizona was the last school to knock off USC when it was the No. 1 team in the nation (1981, UA 13-10)


Some Game Themes...

Arizona, off to its first 2-1 start since 2002, takes on its second Top 10 club in three weeks. This time the Cats’ humility is a known factor, and this game is at home before a capacity crowd. Few expect anyone in red and blue to say ?'uncle’... Arizona will test its recent rushing success against a defense that rates 22nd nationally and allowed only 99 rushing yards per game against the likes of two Top 25 rushing units... UA’s defense gets a taste of tailback-by-committee after three years of facing a go-to guy (LenDale White) who rushed for nine scores vs. the Cats in that span, and a blend of about 60-40 rush-pass against the near 50-50 mix of the Leinhart years... USC’s defense gets its first view of UA quarterback Willie Tuitama, who emerged two weeks after the matchup a year ago... Arizona is the first conference squad to get a shake at Troy’s Pac-10 record 23-game league winning streak... While UA recruits the Southland with as much zeal as any Pac-10 school, 20 players from Texas on the Wildcat depth chart find other reasons to get their spines erect for a USC game.


Last Week

Arizona put the running game first and foremost in its priorities, and mostly untested junior halfback Chris Jennings took the charge in stride as he rushed for 201 yards and pair of scores to help lead the Wildcats to a 28-10 victory over Stephen F. Austin. Senior quarterback Adam Austin’s poise in his first start ?- subbing for a recovering Willie Tuitama -- led the Cats to a pair of scoring drives averaging 76 yards and 11 plays in the first half. Tuitama came on in the fourth quarter to infuse some spark and regain some momentum after being knocked from the LSU game with a concussion. He led UA to two scores in his two possessions with 6-for-9 passing and solid stewardship of the attack. On the night UA gained 263 rushing yards paced by Jennings’ debut as the starter, plus 144 yards through the air for a total of 407 and a pace of 6.2 yards per play. The Lumberjacks were resilient and, in fact, took a brief 10-7 lead in the second quarter before Austin plunged in for his first career score with two minutes left in the half to regain the lead. In the second half, Arizona’s defense held SFA to 76 total yards and kept the Jacks on their half of the field except for a turnover possession (Austin interception) that resulted in a missed field goal. Jennings, a recruited walk-on who is expected to get his scholarship papers this week, averaged 7.7 yards per rush including long gains of 41 and 30 yards and five other totes of more than nine yards. The win pushed UA to 2-1 entering league play, its best non-conference slate in three years.


SFA Quick Hits

Led by a 201-yard effort by junior Chris Jennings, the Wildcats rushed for a season-high 263 yards on 41 attempts against the Lumberjacks (6.4 YPC) ... Jennings, who finished the game with 201 yards and two TDs on 26 carries, became the first Arizona RB to post 200 or more yards on the ground in a single game since current Denver Bronco Mike Bell rumbled for 222 yards and three TDs in a 2003 homecoming win over Washington ... Senior Adam Austin started his first game at QB and led Arizona on a pair of scoring drives. His 1-yard rush for a TD in the second quarter was the first of his career ... Austin finished the night 11 for 16 for 83 yards ... Sophomore Willie Tuitama, who did not start due to a concussion suffered against LSU on Sept. 9, entered for Austin at the 14:47 mark in the fourth quarter and led Arizona on a pair of scoring drives. Tui finished the contest 6 for 9 for 61 yards, including a three-yard TD strike to Anthony Johnson ... The Wildcats set early season-highs in rushes (41), yards rushing (263), YPR (6.4), rushing TDs (3), total offensive plays (66), total offense (407 yards), yards per play (6.2), points (28) and first downs (20) ... Arizona, which went 4-for-4 on third-down conversions on its first drive of the game, moved the chains a season-high eight times on 13 third-down chances ... The Wildcats also remained perfect for the year on fourth-down (3-for-3), converting its lone attempt in the game.


Opening a Pac

Saturday marks the opening of the Pac-10 schedule for both Arizona and USC ... The Wildcats are 16-12 all-time in their first conference contest since joining the Pac-10 in 1978, and 9-7 when opening Pac-10 play at home ... UA begins conference play at home for the fifth time in the six seasons (at Cal in 2005) ... The Wildcats have begun conference play against USC only once in school history, a 31-10 loss at home in 1995.


A Quick Look at USC

The three-time defending Pac-10 champs head to Tucson for their conference opener with a 2-0 record after defeating Arkansas and No. 29 Nebraska to open the season ... The Trojans enter the week ranked No. 3 in the latest AP Poll, up one spot from the previous week ... When in possession of the ball, USC boasts the No. 7 scoring offense (39 ppg) in the nation early on and the No.15-ranked total offense (435.5 ypg) ... Replacing 2004 Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart at QB, junior John David Booty enters the game against the Cats with a No. 19 nationally ranked passing efficiency ranking ... Replacing the two-headed monster of 2005 Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush and LenDale White in the backfield are a trio of rushers in Emmanuel Moody, Chancey Washington and C.J. Gable. The three RBs combine to average 154 yards on the ground per game ... WR Dwayne Jerrett ranks fifth among DI pass catchers with an average of eight per game and he is 24th in the nation in receiving yards per game with 85.5 per contest ... Defensively, the Trojans are 22nd nationally in total defense (249 ypg) and 18th in scoring defense (12 ppg) ... LB Rey Maualuga leads the Men of Troy with 17 total tackles on the year ... Head coach Pete Carroll is in his sixth season at USC and has put together an impressive 56-10 record.


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 last Saturday, 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 6.5 yards per carry after rushing for team-high 261 yards on 40 attempts in three 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.


Limited Opportunities

Whether it’s the new clock rules or a good defensive effort, last week’s 50 plays run by Stephen F. Austin were the fewest by an opponent in 117 games, dating to the season opener in 1996 against UTEP when the Miners took 49 cracks at it (26 rushes, 23 passes, 166 yards in total offense). UA held the Lumberjacks to 196 total yards on 50 plays on Saturday. That range of plays has not been commonplace, although Stanford ran only 58 last year, Northern Arizona had 53 plays in 2002 and UTEP ran 52 in 2000 against Arizona.


The Final 15

Through three games this year, the Wildcats are already nearing their 2005 season total for fourth quarter points. With a pair of field goals, including Nick Folks game-winning 48-yarder against BYU in the season opener, and two TDs (with PATs), Arizona has posted 20 points in the final 15 minutes of play, just three away from the 11-game total of 23 from last year.


Keeping It Clean

The Wildcats have been penalized less often then their opposition in all three games thus far. Flags are being thrown at Arizona an average of 5.3 times per game for an average of 36.3 yards per contest thus far. The opposition is averaging seven penalties per game for an average of 53.3 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 2-0 start at home for the first time since 2002, The Wildcats have five remaining contests in Arizona Stadium this season, including the next two weekends to close out the first month of play.


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.


20 and Counting

Senior WR Syndric Steptoe extended his streak to 20 straight games with at least one catch with a first quarter grab against Stephen F. Austin last Saturday. Dating back to the Washington State game on Sept. 25, 2004, Steptoe has hauled in at least one pass in all 20 games he has played in (he missed an Oregon State game twice during his streak due to injury). Step has caught 75 passes for 967 yards and four TDs over the 20 games. He is averaging nearly four catches per game, and 12.8 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.


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 last weekend. Through three 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 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 3,098 career all-purpose yards on 214 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 601 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 14-145           6-148                           0-0                      21-299
Totals               13-112     90-1,161 70-1,496 41-329               214-3,098


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 4-6 5-5 12-47.3 12-10TB
John Deraney, NC State 2-2 7-7 20-38.5 11-5TB
Chris Gould, Virginia 5-8 3-3 17.43.3 10-5TB
Greg Johnson, Texas 1-2 16-16 10-43.7 18-7TB
Matt Lasher, Ohio 2-3 9-9 17-40.9 14-1TB
Ryan Succop, S. Carolina 5-6 3-3 11-45-5 13-7TB
Sam Swank, Wake Forest 3-6 7-7 17-42.8 13-4TB
Andrew Wellock, E. Michigan 6-6 4-4 5-36.2 11-0TB


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 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 (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.

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 4-6 (80.0%) 0-0 2-2 1-2 1-2 0-0 48
Totals 19-33 (58%) 1-1 4-7 8-12 4-9 4-9 53
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