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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Cats’ lesson: Don’t invade Tigers’ home

    BATON ROUGE, La. – It was billed as a game that could put Arizona on the map.

    But if that map ever existed, No. 8 Louisiana State took it and threw it in a fire somewhere near Death Valley.

    Put simply, nothing worked for Arizona on Saturday evening. Offense, defense, coaching – LSU seemingly had an edge the Wildcats couldn’t match all night long.

    “”I’m just disappointed and frustrated with our overall play tonight,”” UA head coach Mike Stoops said. “”I don’t think we did anything particularly well.””

    The Wildcat offense managed just 152 yards, and as has been the case in the young season, Arizona’s running game failed to get on track, gaining just 35 yards.

    Arizona’s quarterbacks didn’t fare any better in the face of nonstop LSU blitzing, going a combined 16-of-36 with three interceptions and only 117 yards.

    “”If we can’t block, if we can’t catch, if we can’t throw, then it doesn’t matter what you do,”” said UA offensive coordinator Mike Canales. “”That’s the bottom line. It’s all about fundamentals right now, and we need to be fundamentally better.””

    With the offense sputtering, the defense struggled to defend the short field left for them, missing tackles right and left.

    As a result, the Tigers jumped all over Arizona early, scoring 17 points within the game’s first 10 minutes.

    A week after allowing just 24 yards rushing to Brigham Young, the Wildcats surrendered 231 to the slew of talented Tiger backs, four of whom gained more than 35 yards.

    3 Fast 3 Furiours
    The Arizona football team saw its hopes for an upset against No. 8 Louisiana State on Saturday dissipate in the span of three minutes in the first quarter, as the Tigers used aggressive play to create an early, insurmountable 17-0 lead.

    When:9:17
    How it happened: LSU drove 47 yards after beginning their first drive at midfield.
    Result: field goal

    When: 7:31
    How it happened: LSU cornerback Jonathan Zenon intercepted a Willie Tuitama pass and returned it 41 yards.
    Result: touchdown

    When: 6:17
    How it happened: The Tigers’ Jacob Cutrera recovered B.J. Dennard’s fumble on a kickoff and three plays later, LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell found fullback Jacob Hester for a 5-yard score.
    Result: touchdown

    “”They kept us off balance all night, and that’s what being able to run the football does for you, and they do it very effectively,”” Stoops said. “”They have great balance across the board. There’s no weakness when you play LSU.””

    The Arizona defense gave the offense a few shots to get back into the game, forcing three turnovers, but the Wildcats just couldn’t move the ball, thanks in large part to the constant blitzing scheme employed by LSU head coach Les Miles.

    Whereas LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell was allowed to roam free and hit his receivers at will, Arizona’s sophomore signal-caller, Willie Tuitama, was dealt pressure all night long – and, in all likelihood, a concussion.

    “”They make you start grasping for things and make you feel desperate for things in certain situations, and they know that, and they know how to counter that very, very well,”” Stoops said. “”That’s the thing that impressed me the most.””

    When the dust had settled, a few Arizona players stumbled out of the locker room and took the loss for what it was: A wake-up call.

    “”We learned that all that hype about how good we were and how good we were doing, we still have to work every day to get better,”” linebacker Spencer Larsen said. “”We haven’t arrived yet.””

    Said wideout Syndric Steptoe: “”You just got to take it as it is. This is a very physical team. This is what we’re trying to be.””

    It wasn’t Arizona’s 59-13 loss to LSU of three years ago, but it was close. The mistakes were still there.

    “”It was tough that we brought it upon ourselves,”” Larsen said. “”It wasn’t that they were doing it with amazing plays, it was stuff that we were doing to ourselves to beat ourselves.””

    The biggest mistake of the evening came before the game even started. And Arizona didn’t even know it at the time.

    Finishing their usual pre-game routine, Steptoe stood at midfield awaiting a punt from Nick Folk. After the kick, the rest of Arizona’s team surrounded Steptoe at midfield and began jumping up and down to get pumped up for the game – right on the “”Eye of the Tiger”” painted at midfield.

    Oops. The Tigers and their fans didn’t realize that Arizona does that before every game, whether at home or on the road, and they took it as a sign of disrespect.

    “”You guys can make whatever you want out of it,”” Stoops said. “”Every team does that when they punt – you know, we punt out of the end zone and go to the half field. We do that (at Southern California), we do it in Oregon – maybe I guess we should move five yards closer to our end zone. You can make a big deal out of that if you want, but to me it’s very trivial.””

    Though the incident fueled the crowd of 92,000 strong, Stoops felt their impact wasn’t as big as advertised – at least not compared to who LSU had lined up for a given play.

    “”Those 11 guys had more of an effect than the 90,000, that’s for sure,”” he said.

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