Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
A Trip To Top-Ranked USC Up Next For Football
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: October 04, 2005
Photo Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Arizona On The Air

Radio: Wildcat Sports Properties/Host Communications (Flagship - KCUB, 1290 AM, Tucson, Ariz.) ?- Brian Jeffries (Play-By-Play), Lamont Lovett (Color), Sean Mooney (Sidelines), Ryan Radtke (pregame/halftime/postgame) ?- Spanish Language Broadcast - Home Games Only  (KQTL 1210 AM in Tucson) ?- Francisco Romero (Play-By-Play), Luis Hernandez, Alberto Augusto


Television: Fox Sports Net - Barry Tompkins, Petros Papadakis


Some Game Themes

Arizona gets in line for an uphill quest for any team -- facing the No. 1 team in the land on its home field... The Trojans, fresh off a pair of consequential road victories at Oregon and ASU, return home to Troy -- and not the ancient ruins in Turkey, but the L.A. Coliseum where USC has won a school-record 23 consecutive home games... Arizona pits its top-50 defense (357 ypg) against USC's offensive juggernaut, the country's leading club at nearly twice that (619 ypg)... UA tries to handle a trio of 100-yard threats -- running backs Reggie Bush (122.8) and LenDale White (109.3) and receiver Steve Smith (110.0) and the Heisman winner who makes it go, quarterback Matt Leinart (329.5 yards total offense per game)... The Wildcats work to avoid being back-to-back victims in USC's Pac-10-record home league-games winning streak, which the Trojans set against Arizona last November at 15... Arizona's modest fourth-quarter success -- the Cats have outscored opponents 21-7 in the frame -- gets a taste of a come-back powerhouse that has put up 63 points in that quarter alone...


Last Time Out

California scored a touchdown in each quarter and held Arizona without a tally to take an unsuspensful victory over the Wildcats in Berkeley, 28-0. The shutout was Cal's second consecutive over Arizona. UA held one of the nation's better rushing teams to only 43 net yards of its forte in the second half, but the damage was done with a variety of big plays and a defense that held the Wildcats to its lowest offensive output of the season to date (206 yards). Included in the list was a goal-line stand that turned UA back after it had 1st-and-goal at the Cal 2 yard-line with three minutes left in the third period. That was one of two red-zone opportunities Arizona failed to cash in on. The other was a penetration to the Bears' 19 yard-line (3rd-and-6), but an intentional grounding penalty lost 14 yards and forced a 50-yard field goal attempt that was blocked. The Cats lost the turnover battle, 3-1, with three inteceptions of UA's Richard Kovalcheck leading to 14 of California's points. UA was flagged for 11 penalties totaling 60 yards, and one of them negated a 79-yard punt return by Syndric Steptoe to the Bears' 5 yard-line that likely would have led to the first score in the game and possibly changed its complexion entirely. Arizona's running game never got untracked, with 28 carries to 37 yards, despite Mike Bell's 60 markers on 19 totes. Cal, meantime, used Marshawn Lynch (20-107) and Justin Forsett (13-74) to gain 194 rushing yards. Kovalcheck had a three-game 250-yard passing streak snapped, but receiver Mike Jefferson re-introduced himself to the rotation with three catches for 48 yards to complement Anthony Johnson's four grabs for 49.  Steptoe had 146 all-purpose yards without the lost big return. Defensive end Copeland Bryan, in his first game back since the opener, put some oomph back in UA's pass rush with three solo sacks to help the Cats garner five total. Sophomore cornerback Antoine Cason notched his sixth career interception. It was a total team loss: UA had a season-low 13 first downs, some special teams play was ordinary, and the defense let a second-consecutive good opponent run the ball down the pike.


Quick Hits From Cal

- The Wildcats tied the Mike Stoops Era high for sacks in a game with five against the Golden Bears.

- Senior receiver Mike Jefferson gave notice against California that he's back in the rotation. After opening the year with one catch in three games, he had three grabs for 48 yards against the Bears. Another option in the passing game will help


Hey It’s Why You Play ?'Em

Early October, undefeated at 4-0, a future Heisman Trophy winner on the roster, ranked No. 1 in the nation - Sound familiar? Well time warp back 24 years and what you have got is the lead up to an Oct. 10, 1981 USC-Arizona match up in Los Angeles. Boasting the future Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Allen in the back field, the top ranking in all of the land and an unblemished record, the USC gridders were set to take on a 2-2 UA team that had beaten Cal State Fullerton and Stanford and lost to UCLA and Cal. Laying in wait that day? A 293-yard passing day by UA’s “Terrific” Tom Tunnicliffe, a 13-yard TD score by Vance Johnson, two Brett Weber field goals and a 13-10 UA upset over No. 1 USC. The Wildcats outlasted the Trojans that day despite falling behind 10-0 in the first eight minutes of the game and 211 yards rushing by Allen in the contest.


All-Time vs. No. 1

The Wildcats have enjoyed some success against the top-ranked team in the nation over the years. Three times UA has knocked a school off of its lofty perch despite winning just twice. As noted above, UA beat No. 1 USC 13-10 in Los Angeles on Oct. 10, 1981, and also downed No. 1-ranked Washington 16-3 on Nov. 7, 1992. The same year they toppled the Huskies in Tucson, the Wildcats muscled Miami (Fla.) from the top spot in the polls on Sept. 26 although they lost a tough 8-7 decision at the Orange Bowl on a missed field goal at the end of the game. All totaled, UA is 2-5 (.286) all-time against No. 1.

Arizona vs. No. 1

Beat No. 1 USC in Los Angeles, 13-10, under Larry Smith on Oct. 10, 1981

Lost to No. 1 Washington, 23-13, in Tucson under Smith on Sept. 18, 1982

Lost to No. 1 Washington, 28-12, in Seattle under Smith on Oct. 27, 1984

Lost to No. 1 UCLA, 24-3, in Tucson under Dick Tomey on Nov. 22, 1988

Lost to No. 1 Miami, 8-7, in Miami under Tomey on Sept. 26, 1992

Beat No. 1 Washington, 16-3, in Tucson under Tomey on Nov. 7, 1992

Lost to No. 1 USC, 49-9, in Los Angeles under Mike Stoops on Nov. 13, 2004


Anyone Wanna Guess Who Last Beat A No. 1 Trojan Team?

It’s been nearly 24 years that a top-ranked USC team has suffered a defeat, but it is indeed the Arizona Wildcats who were the last opponent to beat a top-ranked Trojan squad. After falling as the No. 1 team in the nation to UA on Oct. 10, 1981, the Men of Troy had to endure a 22-year climb back to the top spot in the AP Poll. However, since reassuming the top slot on Dec. 7, 2003, USC has not lost a single contest to hand UA the distinction of being the last school to upend a No. 1 SC team. However, one victory alone does not make the series, USC is 13-5 against UA since that 1981 contest and has won the last three straight.


Knowing No. 1

Arizona head coach Mike Stoops can certainly appreciate the daily grind of being the No. 1 team in the nation. It’s been a while since any other team but USC has held the top spot in the rankings, only 24 straight AP polls in all, but UA’s head man is one of few that surely can remember what it’s like. Stoops was the defensive coordinator for the last AP No. 1-ranked team not named USC, the 2003 Oklahoma Sooners. OU handed over the top spot in the nation to USC in Stoops’ final game with the Sooners after falling to Kansas State in the Big 12 Championship game on Dec. 6, 2003, a spot the Trojans have not relinquished.


USC and Arizona - The All-Time Series

Saturday will mark the 29th meeting between USC and Arizona in a series that dates back 1916 ... The Trojans lead the all-time series 22-6 and have won the last three straight meetings ... Arizona is just 3-11 all-time at the LA Memorial Coliseum and has not won there since 2000, UA’s last road victory over a ranked team.


It’s Gonna Take a Bunch

Five of Arizona’s six victories over the Trojans have seen the Wildcats score 30 or more points. This year should be no exception as USC enters the game second in the nation with an average of 54 points per game. UA’s lone victory against USC with less than 30 points was the 13-10 upset in 1981.


USC and Arizona - The Last Time Out

The Wildcats held tough for two and half quarters before finally succumbing to the eventual national champions 49-9 in LA last season ... UA struck first on a Nick Folk 48-yard FG in the first and trailed USC just 14-3 at half. However, 21 third quarter points and a pair of TDs in the final frame proved to be too much for the Wildcats against the No. 1 team in the land ... The Wildcats held the uber dangerous Reggie Bush mostly in check (45 rushing yards, 19 receiving yards), but could only watch as LenDale White rolled for 118 yards rushing on 16 carries and three scores ... Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart passed for 280 yards and three TDs in the USC victory ... Dwayne Jarrett was a favored target, snatching six passes for 144 yards and two scores ... UA’s Mike Bell rushed for 74 yards on 15 carries and QB Richard Kovalcheck connected with former TE Steve Fleming for a TD and passed for 165 yards ... Final team totals: USC 585 yards of total offense, Arizona just 255


Noting the Trojans

No. 1, and for good reason. USC enters the contest with Arizona ranked in the top 10 nationally in every offensive category: Rushing Off. - 3rd at 279.8, Passing Off. - T-7th at 339.8, Total Off. - 1st at 619.5, Scoring Off. - 1st at 54, Passing Efficiency - 3rd at 171.7 ... Individually, RB Reggie Bush is an all-around threat, ranking eighth in the NCAA in rushing (122.8) and second in all-purpose yards 207.3 ... If it’s not Bush it’s LenDale White who has rushed for 437 yards (7.7 per tote) and six scores this year ... All QB Matt Leinart has done as a follow up to his Heisman season last year is pass for 1,286 yards, complete 65 percent of his passes and toss 10 TDs in five game this season ... With an offense like that, it seems hardly fair to have a defense allowing just over 18 points to the opposition this season.


The Only Stat that Counts

Arizona has improved its scoring to 20 points per game, up a touchdown from a year ago, despite the whitewash last week. USC has played four teams that have averaged (combined) 32 per game this year -- and held them to an average of 19 points in their games against the Trojans. On the other side, the Wildcats face a club that puts up double the UA's scoring defense (24.5) -- the Trojans are No. 2 in Division I scoring at 54 points per game.


You Make a Guess

Arizona's defense is the Pac-10 leader in allowing only 157.5 passing yards per game. So, teams have run the ball, averaging 200 yards on the ground to spot UA at last in the league in rushing defense. What will USC do? It's the No. 3 club in D-I at 279.75 yards rushing, and the No. 3 team nationally in passing efficiency. Arizona's task this week will be to make it predictable -- and then execute correctly.


Fourth What?

USC appears to average only five 4th downs per game. It has 11 punts, eight fourth-down conversions attempts and three field goal attempts in 2005. The machine that is Troy is driven by a 51 percent success on third down.


Offensive Improvements Abound

Although the overall record might not reflect it, Arizona has improved many parts of its offensive game over the one-plus years Mike Stoops has been the head coach. A look at UA’s first four games last year vs. the first four this year.

Stat 2004 2005 Difference
Scoring 53 79 +26
First Downs 62 83 +21
Rushing Yards 426 341 -85
Passing Yards 655 994 +339
Total Offense 1081 1335




Punting Down

A year removed from averaging nearly seven punts per game, the Wildcats have cut that number down to just a smidge over five per contest through four games this year


Punting Up

Opponents meanwhile have had to kick the ball away more consistently this season. The opposition has eight more punts through four games this year then it did in the same number of contests in 2004.


Opponents on Third Down

One reason for the more opposition punts has been UA’s defensive efforts on third down. Opponents are converting for a fresh set of downs on just 29 percent (16 of 55) of their third down chances this year. That percentage has been cut by 11 percent over the first four games of last season.


Four or Less

As is often the case, Arizona’s chances of successfully converting on third down depends largely on how far it has to go. With 3rd and 4 or less this season, the Wildcats are converting for a fresh set of downs 73 percent of the time (16 of 22). With five or more yards to go on third down, the success rate drops to just 14 percent (5 of 35).


Loose, But No Cigar

Arizona has seen opponents fumble the ball eight times, but only has recovered three of those. Still, in Mike Stoops' one-plus seasons, Arizona's defense has helped force opponents to put the ball on the ground 33 times, and recovered 22 of the fumbles. The Cats have shown the ability to get the ball out. A year ago the UA led the nation in fumbles recovered and was 18th in turnovers gained.


If you build it, they will come

A program with promise, that is. In two games, Arizona has drawn average crowds of 55,564 -- 99 percent of the seating capacity of 56,002. Should similar crowds assemble for UA's final four home games the Cats would check in with the No. 2 season average in UA history. The 1994 club drew crowds averaging 56,562 (including sizeable media/service contingents on hand).  Since Arizona Stadium was expanded from 32,000 capacity for the 1976 season, annual attendance has topped the 50,000 average 10 times -- including Mike Stoops' first year in 2004 when UA drew 50,111 per game.


The Life of Bryan

Fifth-year defensive end Copeland Bryan's three sacks against California brought some life back to Arizona's pass rush. It was a remarkable outing after missing all the action since the first series of the season opener with an ankle sprain. The trio of stops was the most by a Wildcat since then senior linebacker Lance Briggs had three against Arizona State in the 2001 season finale. Earlier this year, true freshman DE Michael Shelton had two against NAU and those two have nearly half of the Cats' total of 11 sacks this year. Bryan has a career total of 9.5 QB snares.


Wood Could

Even after getting blanked at Cal last weekend, junior tight end Brad Wood has still gotten off to a spectacular start this season, catching 12 balls for 180 yards in UA’s first four games. The first-year starter is averaging a team-high 15 yards per catch and leads all receivers with four TD grabs, including a pair against No. 12 Purdue on Sept. 17. With five career scores on just 19 all-time receptions, Wood is averaging a TD once every fourth catch. Despite playing in just 15 career games (11 in 2004, 4 in 2005) he is already approaching the numbers of some of the top tight ends in school history.


Bootin’ Danny Baugher

Senior Danny Baugher enters the week of play against USC as the nation’s top punter with a 49.1 yards per kick average. The career punts leader at Arizona has already broken a pair of Pac-10 and school records this season while repeatedly upping his career-long kick. On Sept. 10 against Northern Arizona, he averaged 59.7 yards per punt, snapping the previous conference and school records for a single game. A week later, on Sept. 17, Baugher had a career day against Purdue, launching seven punts for 403 yards including a career-long kick of 76 yards and other punts of 68, 63, 61 and 51 yards. The effort against the Boilermakers ended up producing a 57.6 team average, the highest team single game mark in Pac-10 history (min. 5 kicks).


Through the Endzone

Place kicker Nick Folk has not been kind to the opposing kick returners this season. The sophomore has kicked off 18 times this year, 13 of which have been unreturnable touchbacks. The special teams coverage of his returnable kicks has been impressive as well with the opposition’s average starting spot after kick off coming at their own 18.


“Toe”ing the Line

WR Syndric Steptoe has proven to be a threat on special teams when the opposition bothers to kick to him. The speedy Steptoe is sixth in the Pac-10 in punt returns with an average 7.9 per kick and is 10th in the conference on kickoffs, averaging 20.4 yards per return. Syndric leads Arizona with 111 all purpose yards per game, a figure that ranks him 14th in the Pac-10 this season. Steptoe’s KO returnmate BJ Dennard made good use of his one returnable kick, ripping off 32 yards against Purdue on Sept. 17.


Nick Can Kick

Junior place kicker Nick Folk has righted Arizona’s once down-trodden kicking game. Already 3 for 5 on FG attempts this season, including a 51-yarder against Purdue, Folk has converted 11 of his 21 career tries for the Wildcats. And while the 52 percent success rate is not quite as high as what special teams coach Joe Robinson would hope for, one must remember that Arizona was just 3 for 11 on FG attempts in the 2003 season after missing its final six attempts of the year. Additionally after starting the 2004 season 2 for 5, Folk converted six of his final nine attempts last season and has been true on nine of his last 14 tries, including three from 48 or more yards away.


Putting on the Hits

Senior safety Darrell Brooks is moving closer to UA's top 20 chart for career tackles making a team-high 34 stops in UA’s first four games this year. Brooks has 241 total tackles in his four-year career. No. 20 on the list is nose guard John Sanguinetti (1974-77) with 270. Two defensive backs are on the chart -- safeties Chuck Cecil (7th with 392) and Jeff Hammerschmidt (19th with 279). The leader is former middle linebacker Ricky Hunley with 566 -- an average of 12.9 per game over his four year career from 1980-83. Brooks has averaged 75 tackles in his last two seasons and with that production this year he would surpass former linebacker Chris Singleton with 282 for the 17th-best career total in UA history.


In The Second Year

Mike Stoops is looking to join predecessors Larry Smith and Dick Tomey as the two Arizona head coaches in the Pac-10 era to enjoy a winning season in their second year of tenure in the Old Pueblo. Smith took over at UA in 1980 and went 5-6 his first season. A year later, he had improved the win total by one in both the overall standings (6-5) and in the conference (4-4). Tomey, who replaced Smith in the fall of 1987, went 4-4-3 overall and 2-3-3 in the Pac-10 his first season, but turned it around to go 7-4 overall and 5-3 in the conference just 12 months later.

Arizona’s Second-Year Head Coaches (Pac-10 Era 1978-Present)

Tony Mason Larry Smith Dick Tomey John Mackovic Mike Stoops
1977* - 5-7, 3-4 1980 - 5-6, 3-4 1987 - 4-4-3, 2-3-3 2001 - 5-6, 2-6 2004 - 3-8, 2-6
1978 - 5-6, 3-4 1981 - 6-5, 4-4 1988 - 7-4, 5-3 2002 - 4-8, 1-7

2005 - 1-3, 0-1

* Arizona was a member of the WAC during tony Mason's first year.


Start Me Up

The Wildcats have a number of players on both sides of the ball with considerable starting experience on the resumes. Led by senior free safety Darrell Brooks’ 34 starts, the UA defense has six different players with 14 or more career starts (SS Lamon Means 30, DE Copeland Bryan 15, DT Paul Philipp 15, CB Antoine Cason 15 and CB Wilrey Fontenot 15). On offense, lineman Kili Lefotu paces the Cats with 33 career starts, including 10 in 2004. Others with significant starting experience include RB Mike Bell (29), OL Peter Graniello (14), WR Syndric Steptoe (14) and OL John Abramo (12).


Replay Comes Into Play

Beginning this season the Pac-10, along with nine other Division I conferences, will have instant replay on questionable plays on the field. The head coaches in the Pac-10 will have no say on whether a play should be reviewed or not, instead the conference will assign an observer in the press box that will make the calls. “Indisputable video evidence” must be present in order for a call to be overturned by the replay official in the booth. There is no limit on the number of plays that can be reviewed by the observer during the course of a contest.

Reviewable plays are as follows:

- A runner breaking the plane of the goal line.

- Pass complete/incomplete.

- Runner/receivers/interceptor in or out of bounds.

- Recovery of a fumble.

- Touching of a pass by an ineligible receiver.

- Touching of a pass by a defensive player.

- Ruling on forward pass/fumble.

- Forward or backward pass thrown from behind the line of scrimmage.

- Runner not ruled down.

- Forward progress in relation to first-down marker.

- Touching of a kick.

- Number of players on a field.

- Resetting of the game clock after a reversal.

Non-reviewable plays are: Holding, offsides, illegal blocks, illegal formations, encroachment, pass interference, personal fouls, facemask, taunting/excessive celebration, false starts, roughing the passer/kicker, fighting participants.

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