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Well-Rested Gridders Head To Washington State
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 10/30/2006
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Opponent: Washington State

Kickoff: 2 p.m. (3 p.m. MST)

Site: Martin Stadium (37,600) - Pullman, Wash.

TV: None

Radio: 1290 AM (Brian Jeffries, Lamont Lovett)

 

Washington State and Arizona Historical Fast Facts

First Meeting: 1963 (Washington State 7 - Arizona 2)

Last Meeting: 2004 (Washington State 20 - Arizona 19)

All-Time Series Record: Arizona leads 20-13

Current Streak: Washington State has won four straight

Notes on the Series: Arizona and Washington State will be meeting for the 34th time this weekend ... This Pac-10 series resumes after a one-year hiatus ... UA heads to Pullman for the first time since 2003 and just the second time since 1999 ... The Wildcats are 7-4 all time in Pullman and lead the series 9-6 in games played in the state of Washington (2-2 against the Cougs in Spokane) ... Arizona’s longest winning streak in the all-time series is four straight, accomplished twice from 1982-1986 and again from 1993-96 ... Washington State is looking to extend its longest winning streak of four straight (2001-2004) with a victory on Saturday ... UA’s largest margin of victory against WSU was a 39-point win in 1983 (45-6) ... WSU’s largest margin of victory over Arizona is 27 points, accomplished in 2001 (48-21) ... The average margin of victory in the all-time series is 12.8 points, however in nine of the last 13 meetings between the two schools, the game has been decided by 10 or fewer points, including two by six points, three by three points and two by a single point ... Two of those 13 contests have gone into OT, including a three-overtime game in 2000.

 

Some Game Themes...

Arizona likely will feature its top signal caller, Willie Tuitama, under center in a possible return after missing two full games and most of two others this year... Arizona works to put some momentum to work in the final third of the season. There's plenty of football to go to make the season meaningful. Just ask the Cougs, who head down the home stretch toward a potential rewarding year after opening at Auburn and facing three ranked teams at home in the middle of the season... The Cats face a team they missed in 2005, no longer an operable possibility under the new Pac-10 round-robin scheduling... Arizona's games after bye weeks under Mike Stoops have been decided by one, three and seven points other than a 28-0 match at Cal a year ago.

 

Last Week

Arizona had a bye the final week in October after dropping a 17-10 decision to Oregon State in Tucson on Oct. 21 before a Family Weekend crowd of 57,113... Arizona played to its strengths -- defense and kicking -- but couldn't find the offensive groove to take advantage of several key scoring opportunities, notably after OSU turnovers. In the first quarter, UA nickel back Marcus Hollingsworth intercepted a Matt Moore pass in UA territory, and UA rushed twice for 24 yards -- then lost the ball on a bad C-Q exchange to give OSU a 45-yard field for a quick score. In the second quarter, UA linebacker Dane Krogstad returned his first career interception 29 yards to the OSU 13 yard-line. UA moved the ball to the 2 yard-line, but was stymied on four plays and got nothing. With the game in the balance, 14-7, in the fourth quarter, UA linebacker Spencer Larsen returned a fumble six yards to the OSU 41 yard-line -- but Arizona gained only three yards in three plays and had to punt.  Arizona showed some spunk early in the second half when familiar weapon Syndric Steptoe took a punt back 67 yards down the sideline for a touchdown. Overall, the Beavers played as advertised with a strong defense and some play-makers on offense, holding Arizona to 183 net yards in total offense and using Moore's passing and 107 rushing yards by Yvenson Bernard to take advantage of field-position opportunities for its two scores. Receiver Sammie Stroughter had 91 yards on five catches, none bigger than his 34-yard catch to open the scoring. Nick Folk's 30-yard field goal and career-best 78-yard all-flight punt helped UA enjoy some field position; running back Chris Henry showed some spark with 87 yards on a career-best eight pass receptions. Quarterback Kris Heavner hit 65% of his throws. UA gained only 22 net yards rushing, and the Cats generally couldn't get the right play at the right time. UA dropped to 3-5 overall and 1-4 in league play.

 

Oregon State Quick Hits

Arizona started its third different QB of the season as WR Anthony Johnson took UA’s opening snaps from center ...  Sr Syndric Steptoe scored his second career TD on a punt reutrn, racing a career-long 67 yards for a quick six ... LB Dane Krogstad picked off his first career pass and returned it 29 yards ... RB Chris Henry caught a career-best eight passes for a career-high total of 87 yards ... PK/P Nick Folk booted a career-long 78-yard punt and finished the contest with a 49-yard average on six punts ... He also added a 30-yard field goal and pushed his streak to 21 straight successful PAT conversions dating back to last season ... After surrendering 171 yards of total offense and 10 first downs in the first quarter, the Arizona defense buckled down and gave up just 161 yards and nine first downs over the final 45 minutes of play ... FS Dominic Patrick record personal highs for tackles (9) and solo stops (8) ... DT Lionel Dotson finished with the most solo stops in his career (5) ... The two interceptions by Krogstad and Marcus Hollingsworth marked a season-high for the Cats.

 

A Quick Look at Washington State

With just three games remaining, the Cougars (6-3, 4-2) welcome the Wildcats to Pullman as a bowl-eligible team having accumulated the necessary six wins for the year ... WSU has won two straight games and three of its last four ... The Cougs most recently went on the road and defeated UCLA, 37-15 ... Offensively, the Cougars enter the week of play ranked 17th in the nation in total yards (.413.89), gaining 262.11 yards per game through the air and 151.78 on the ground. WSU is 16th in the nation in passing offense ... QB Alex Brink averages 240.22 yards of total offense per game and has the third-best passer efficiency in the Pac-10 (138.85) ... Michael Bumpus and Jason Hill are the preferred targets for Brink, averaging 6.11 and 4.33 receptions per game ... The Cougs share the work load on rushing with Dwight Tardy (55.22 yards per game), Derrell Hutsona (41.22) and DeMaundray Woolridge (38.88) splitting the duties ... Defensively, WSU gets after the opposing QB averaging 3.22 sacks per game - a figure that ranks 12th nationally and third in the conference ... For the year, Wazzu is allowing an average of 341.0 yards per game (105.33 on the ground and 235.67 through the air) ... Individually, DE Mkristo Bruce is a force along the line, averaging better than a sack per game (1.11), a figure that places him fifth in the nation and second in the Pac-10 ... Head coach Bill Doba is in fourth season as the main man in Pullman and has put together a 25-19 record heading into the weekend.

 

Sharing the Duties

The week prior to Arizona’s game with Stanford, head coach Mike Stoops promoted TE coach Dana Dimel to co-offensive coordinator, a duty he will share with Mike Canales. Dimel will handle the running responsibilities for the Cats for the remainder of the season, while QB coach Canales is in charge of the Wildcats’ passing attack.

 

Fumblitis???

The knock on UA’s running game by many of the pundits heading into the season was their proclivity to fumble the ball. RB coach Kasey Dunn focused on holding onto the rock during preseason camp, and his charges have taken heed. On 199 total touches this season (176 rushes, 23 receptions) not a single Arizona running back has lost a fumble. In fact, the Wildcats as a team have lost only four fumbles all season (tied for 10th in the nation), while the defense has recovered an opposition fumble a total of eight times.

 

The Last 10 Years, Through Eight Games

Arizona’s 2006 defense can hold its head high. The Wildcat 11 currently have numbers that are better than or close to the best numbers put up in Tucson over the last 10 years. A look at how UA’s current defense stacks up over the last decade through eight games played.

Year Scoring D Total D Rush D Pass D TDs Allowed
1997 29.6 337 104.2 232.8 31
1998 17.6 315.5 116.5 199 19
1999 31.8 384 159 225 31
2000 17.4 314.6 76.8 237.9 17
2001 35.1 406.6 130 276.6 37
2002 20 364.6 160.4 204.2 17
2003 35.2 446.4 194 252.4 36
2004 23.2 348.4 119.6 228.8 25
2005 26.9 413.8 185 228.8 27
2006 20.0 (17.4) 309.2 113.4 195.9 19 (16)

- Numbers in () are minus the three TDs the opposition has scored on interception returns.

- Only the 1997 (3) , 2002 (2) and 2006 (2) teams played at least two games in their first eight vs. Top 10 opponents.

 

It’s Better Then It Looks

Arizona enters the Washington State game with a scoring defense that ranks 48th among Division IA teams and fifth in the conference, allowing an average of 20 points per game. However, if you subtract the 21 points scored by the opposition on interception returns this season (LSU, UCLA Stanford), that average gets cut to 17.4 which would place the Wildcats in a tie for 29th in the country and FIRST in the Pac-10 ahead of current conference leader USC which has allowed 17.6 points per game thus far.

 

Holding Them Down

Arizona has limited two of the most potent offenses in the nation to their fewest points in a game this season. Brigham Young, which scored a season-low 13 points against Arizona in the season-opener, is 12th in the nation with an average of 35.75 points per game heading into the final month of regular season play. USC, which is 23rd nationally with an average 30.14 points per game, managed a season-low 20 points against the Wildcats, including a gift seven points after UA turned the ball over deep in its own territory late in the September contest. For the year, the Wildcats have held six of their eight opponents below their season average for points (BYU, Stephen F. Austin, USC, Washington, Stanford and Oregon State).

 

Pac-10 Odds and Ends

The 52 yards of total offense allowed to Stanford on Oct. 14 marked the fewest yards surrendered, the fewest yards per play by an opponent (1.6) and the fewest first downs allowed (4) by a Pac-10 school this season ... The Cardinal’s 19 rushing attempts, 13 passes attempted and eight passes completed are tied for the second-fewest by a Pac-10 team ... The Wildcats also own the best punting average in a game this season when Nick Folk and Kyle McQuown teamed up for a 52.0 average against BYU in the season-opener ... Individually, Chris Jennings’ 201 yards rushing against Stephen F. Austin is the second-most yards on the ground by a Pac-10 running back in a game this year, and his two rushing TDs against the Lumberjacks is tied for the second-most by a conference rusher ... Nick Folk’s four FG tries against BYU in the season opener is tied for the second-most by a Pac-10 PK this season ... His 52-yard FG against Washington is the third-longest in the conference this year ... Folk’s nine punts and his 408 yards punted against Washington are atop the conference charts and his 56.0 average against BYU is the best for any Pac-10 punter.

 

A Dominant Defensive Effort

The Arizona defense limited Stanford to just 32 offensive plays on Oct. 14 (14 in the first half, 18 in the second half) and four first downs (2 in the first half, 2 in the second) ... The four first downs allowed narrowly missed the Arizona school record of three which has happened three times ... The 52 yards gained by Stanford in the entire contest were the fewest for the Cardinal in school history ... It was also the fewest yards surrendered by a UA defense to a Pac-10 opponent in school history, surpassing the 79 yards given up to Oregon State in 1981 ... The Cardinal’s minus six yards rushing marked the first time UA has held an opponent to negative rushing yards since limiting UCLA to -31 yards in 1999 ... Stanford’s longest drive in the game, time-wise, consisted of six plays for nine yards over 3:24. The Wildcats had six drives the lasted at least that long. Stanford’s longest drive, yards-wise, was three plays for 13 yards in the first quarter that ended with a fumble ... The UA defense held Stanford to a 3:23 time of possession in the second quarter. The Cardinal ran three plays for -7 yards in the frame ... Aside from the interception return for a TD, Stanford did not possess the ball inside of Arizona’s territory all game long. The Cardinal’s best effort brought it out to its own 43 yard-line once in the third quarter.

 

25 and Counting

Senior WR Syndric Steptoe extended his streak to 25 straight games with at least one catch with two receptions for 24 yards against Oregon State on Oct. 21. His streak is second only to USC junior Dwyane Jarrett (32 straight games) among active Pac-10 players. Dating back to the Washington State game on Sept. 25, 2004, Steptoe has hauled in at least one pass in all 25 games he has played in (he missed an Oregon State game twice during his streak due to injury). Step has caught 98 passes for 1,228 yards and five TDs over the 25 games. He is averaging nearly four catches per game, and 12.5 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 at Arizona for consecutive games with a reception with 42-straight.

 

Among the Best at Arizona

Sr WR Syndric Steptoe’s two receptions against Oregon State  on Oct. 21 pushed him further into the top 10 all-time at Arizona. The four-year letterwinner caught nine passes his freshman season, 30 as a sophomore, 37 as a junior last season and has a team-high 37 this year for a career total of 113. His eight-catch effort against UCLA on Oct. 7 moved him past former Wildcats Vance Johnson (Now No. 11, 104 career receptions) and Andrae Thurman (Now No. 10, 105 career receptions) on the all-time list for the ninth-most career catches. His five-catch game against Stanford pushed him past TV (Terry Vaughn 1990-93, 109 career receptions) at the No. 8 spot, and his two-reception game against the Beavers shot him past Rodney Williams’ (1995-97) and Derek Hill’s (1985-88) shared No. 7 slot at 112. Up next for the senior co-captain is the No. 6 spot at 119 held by the Dice Man, Richard Dice. Step, who is averaging 4.6 receptions per game this year, is on pace for 132 catches in his Wildcat career, which put him just behind Jon Horton (4th, 136 rec., 1983-86) for fifth all-time at UA.

 

A Spring in his Step

Senior team captain Syndric Steptoe has proven to be a pain for the opposition throughout his career in his role as wide receiver/kick returner. His 107 all-purpose yards against Oregon State marked the 17th time in his career he has racked up 100 or more all-purpose yards in a contest. With 3,666 career all-purpose yards on 257 total plays (14.2/play), Step is now No. 11 all-time at UA, surpassing Hubie Oliver’s 3,404 all-purpose yards that he racked up from 1977-80. To crack the all-time top 10, Step needs just 33 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 5-26 37-406 12-304 10-131 50-867
Totals               17-132     113-1,422 76-1,652 51-460 257-3,666

 

Top Stoppers

Linebackers Spencer Larsen (62) and Ronnie Palmer (47) are UA’s top two leaders on the tackles chart, a nice trend compared to a year ago when safety Darrell Brooks had 69 tackles after eight games. Add in linebacker Dane Krogstad’s 30 hits and the trio has a total of 139 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 eighth in the Pac-10 with an average of 7.8 tackles per game, while Palmer comes in tied for 19th in the conference (5.9). An Arizona linebacker has not led the team in tackles since current Chicago Bear Lance Briggs did so his senior season (98 TT) in 2002.

 

Living Up to the Name

Special teams coach Joe Robinson has turned UA into a unit that truly has become special. The Wildcats enter the weekend of play ranked fourth nationally in the fewest yards allowed per kickoff return (15.5), 23rd in kickoff returns (23.5 ypk) and net punting average (37.5 ypp) and 27th in punt returns (11.8 ypp). Individually, Robinson has coached punter/place kicker Nick Folk to the top spot in the Pac-10 and No. 6 nationally in punting average (45.2 ypp), and he also averages better than one field goal per game (1.13). Senior return specialist Syndric Steptoe is 15th nationally in punt return average (13.10) and 25th nationally in kickoff return average (25.33).

 

Now How About on Kickoffs?

Senior Syndric Steptoe returned a punt a career-best 67 yards for a score against Oregon State on Oct. 21. The TD was the second punt return score of Steptoe’s career, having previously brought back a punt for six points against UCLA last year. The do-it-all Steptoe has come close (including a number called back on penalties), but he still hasn’t found the endzone on a kickoff return yet to help push UA’s eight-year drought to 100 straight games without a kickoff return score (Aug 28, 1998 vs. Hawaii).

 

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. He most recently posted a career-long 78-yard punt against Oregon State on Oct. 21.

        Known for having a big leg on field goals (career-long 53 yards) and kickoffs (74 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 over the last season and a half, all Folk has done is average 45.0 yards per kick (Baugher, a finalist for the 2005 Ray Guy Award, average 47.5 net yards per punt), hit a career-high 78-yarder and place 20 of his 67 kicks inside the opposition’s 20 yard-line. Not too shabby for a guy that rarely practices punting.

 

No Return Policy

Senior PK Nick Folk has taken the words “kickoff return” completely out of the opposition’s vocabulary. On 27 kickoffs this season, Folk has seen just five of them returned, and one was a squib kick at the end of the BYU game on Sept. 4. Since ending the 16-13 win over the Cougars, Folk has kicked off 22 times over UA’s last seven games, and has seen 19 of the 22 go through the end zone as unreturnable.

 

One of the Few

Senior Nick Folk is one of seven 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 9-14 10-10 45-45.2 27-22TB
John Deraney, NC State 5-7 17-18 51-38.6 32-11TB
Chris Gould, Virginia 11-17 16-16 48-39.0 36-18TB
Greg Johnson, Texas 3-6 42-43 28-41.5 34-10TB
Matt Lasher, Ohio 8-13 22-23 52-39.6 41-11TB
Ryan Succop, S. Carolina 10-11 20-20 21-44.5 40-15TB
Sam Swank, Wake Forest 12-16 21-21 36-42.1 41-15TB
 

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

Senior Nick Folk was named the Sept. 4 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 on Sept. 2. 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

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