September 3, 2006

Defense steps up in Arizona win

The ninth largest crowd in Arizona history was on hand Saturday night to see the Wildcats take on Brigham Young University. It was close, but Arizona pulled out a victory against a solid BYU team.

Arizona struggled a bit on offense, but it still executed on key plays and it was enough to get the win.

Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama completed 19 of his 39 pass attempts, which is just under 50%. Tuitama also threw for 186 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Tuitama's longest completion came on a fade route of 48 yards to senior wide receiver Syndric Steptoe. Steptoe gave a stutter step which threw the defender off balance, and there wasn't a BYU player within five yards of him when he caught the ball.

Steptoe, who ended the game with six receptions for 93 yards, was the Wildcats' leading receiver on the day.

Tuitama found Anthony Johnson in the end zone for Arizona's only touchdown of the night. It was a two yards completion over the middle. When Johnson caught the ball he quickly wrapped it up and took the hit. Johnson was Arizona's second leading receiver, finishing the game with six receptions for 40 yards and a touchdown.

On the ground Arizona struggled, but still managed to break a big run when it was needed the most.

Chris Henry rushed 13 times for a net gain of 63 yards. His highlight came on a game high 54 yards run. Henry took the carry to the right side of the line, and upon realizing that there was no hole, took the ball to the left side of the field and broke free for a huge gain. Henry also had success on screen passes. He caught four balls for 25 more yards.

Chris Jennings, the junior college transfer from Arizona Western, couldn't seem to find way up the field, and ran for 7 yards on 6 carries.

The Wildcats' scoring began and ended with field goal kicker Nick Folk. A case could have been named for Folk to be the games most valuable player, as he scored nine of Arizona's 13 points.

Folk kicked the game winning 48 yard field goal with one second left on the clock. Saturday night he punted for an average of 60.0 yards, and kicked three kickoffs for touchbacks. Folk also knocked in field goals from 30 and 22 yards.

Arizona's defense played solid, never allowing a pass longer than 25 yards. Spencer Larsen played phenomenal from beginning to end Saturday night. He ended the game with 12 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss for 9 yards, 1 fumble recovery, and one sack for a 7 yard loss. Arizona's linebackers combined for 24 tackles and 15 lost yards.

The Wildcats front four was headlined by JUCO transfer Louis Holmes. Holmes also could have made a run for MVP, totaling three solo tackles, two tackles for loss, one pass break-up, one forced fumble, and two sacks for minus fifteen yards in his debut.

Arizona's front seven held the Cougars to a mere 24 yards on the ground, including a negative rushing total for the first half.

Arizona's secondary allowed 289 yards through the air, but despite the individual efforts of the defensive backs. Antoine Cason and Wilrey Fontenot combined for nine tackles, one for a loss of seven yards, and two pass break ups. Safeties Michael Johnson and Dominic Patrick combined for 15 tackles and one pass break up.

It was a close game but Arizona's defense rose to the occasion. It was necessary that Arizona come out strong, and open their season with a win. Now that that is accomplished, the Wildcats look ahead to Baton Rouge, where they take on Louisiana State University on September 8th.

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