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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    USC’s balance toughest test yet for young Arizona defense

    Arizona has yet to prove its lofty defensive stats are accurate, but it has the perfect opportunity when No. 6 Southern California comes to town on Saturday.

    The Wildcats are rated No. 19 in total defense (284.86 yards allowed per game), and boast the No. 6 pass defense (151.57 ypg) coming into a game that will decide which team will be in first place in the Pacific 10 Conference.

    But it won’t be easy for Arizona to slow down an offense as dynamic as the Trojans. They’re ranked No. 12 in total offense at just more than 470 yards per game, 274 through the air (No. 16) and another 197.5 yards on the ground (No. 22).

    “”It’s a typical SC team, to tell you the truth,”” said UA senior linebacker Ronnie Palmer. “”They’re great just about all around, all phases of their team. We’re definitely going to have to be on our P’s and Q’s in the defensive backfield.””

    And the Wildcats’ secondary need to cross their T’s and dot their I’s. Six different Trojans have caught a touchdown pass this year and three different players have five scoring grabs: Damian Williams, Ronald Johnson and Patrick Turner.

    USC’s quarterback Mark Sanchez is in his first full year as a starter but it doesn’t seem that way. On a bum knee, Sanchez tossed five first-half scores against Washington State and the redshirt junior has completed 65 percent of his passes this season.

    “”(Sanchez) throws the ball great. He throws the deep ball real good and that’s something that you can see on film when they’re playing other teams,”” UA quarterback Willie Tuitama said. “”He can definitely get the ball downfield and be accurate doing it.””

    USC has already let eight different tailbacks tote the ball and four of them have scored. “”They probably have like three or four, six or seven backs we ain’t even seen yet,”” Palmer said. “”They definitely have a powerful running game.””

    But perhaps the scariest thing about the Trojan offense this year is that sophomore running back Joe McKnight has only scored once as an offensive player and that came on a reception in a season-opening 52-7 beat down of Virginia.

    For a player averaging nearly eight yards per carry this season to not yet find the end zone, he’s due for a breakout game. Add to that the fact that he had a good game against Arizona last year, and McKnight certainly poses a threat the Wildcats must keep a tab on.

    McKnight gained 128 all-purpose yards, including a 45-yard punt return and 59-yard runs late in the game that essentially assured a USC win.

    “”He’s a great player. You’ve just go to have good position on the football and that’s not one particular guy, that’s everyone,”” said UA head coach Mike Stoops. “”Everyone has to do their job and has a responsibility to do. Joe’s going to make some plays just because he has some great ability.””

    But if Arizona can limit mental lapses and each player can perform their assigned task, maybe they can slow down USC enough to get the job done.

    “”It’s a great challenge and we’re already up for it,”” Palmer said. “”Every time we play SC it’s one of our better games.””

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