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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Russell leads balanced Tiger offensive attack

    Balance.

    If UA head coach Mike Stoops was looking for one word to describe his team’s upcoming opponent, the No. 8 Tigers of Louisiana State, he found it.

    “”They’re a very explosive football team, and with that quarterback and those receivers, they’re pretty dangerous,”” Stoops said. “”Any team that has balance like they do, and the skill they have across the board – they make it tough, because they run the ball effectively and they throw it well.

    “”We’ve got to mix it up,”” he added of his

    Sometimes, (the cornerbacks) are going to have to play (the wideouts) straight up, and that’s tough to do.

    – Mike Stoops,
    UA head coach

    defensive game plan. “”It’s tough preparation. It’s not so much what they do; it’s how they do it and who they do it with.””

    Arizona’s main concern is quarterback JaMarcus Russell, arguably the Tigers’ most talented player on either side of the ball.

    Only a junior, the reining Southeastern Conference Player of the Year has already become just the third quarterback in LSU history to lead his team to 10 regular-season wins in a single season after he threw for 2,443 and 15 touchdowns last season before injuring his shoulder in the SEC Championship game against Georgia.

    “”It creates some opportunity to make statements about our secondary and uphold our reputation,”” Arizona senior safety Michael Johnson said of the looming challenge.

    Added cornerback Antoine Cason of

    We have to come out this week and forget BYU. It’s LSU now. It’s time to win.

    – Antoine Cason,
    junior cornerback

    Russell: “”He’s big and physical … and he can throw it into spots where only his guys can get it.””

    Though not a big threat on the ground, Russell also possesses the ability to sneak out of the pocket should the Wildcat defensive line allow it.

    “”We’re going to really try to just box him in and not give him too many outlets,”” linebacker Spencer Larsen said.

    This season, Russell picked up right where he left off pre-injury, shredding the Louisiana-Lafayette defense for 253 yards on 13-of-17 passing Saturday, including a career-high three touchdown passes in the 45-3 win.

    “”You’ve got to mix up your coverages and try and get some pressure on him,”” Stoops said. “”You don’t want to single cover (his receivers) all night.””

    Case in point: In the second quarter last weekend, Russell hit wideout Early Doucet on a 16-yard fade route to the right side of the end zone. Doucet easily beat ULL cornerback Torres Kingsby to the ball in single coverage.

    But Russell can also pick apart a zone – something Brigham Young quarterback John Beck was very successful at against Arizona last weekend, going 28-of-37 for 289 yards. Less than six minutes after the Doucet score, Russell hit Dwayne Bowe in the back of the end zone on a 28-yard strike, threading a zone in which the ULL corner got no help deep.

    Because of that, one of Arizona’s focuses will be “”to try and get (the cornerbacks) some help,”” Stoops said, but he also acknowledged that they won’t be able to play a zone the entire game.

    “”Sometimes, (the cornerbacks) are going to have to play (the wideouts) straight up,”” Stoops said, “”and that’s tough to do.””

    Even if the Arizona secondary succeeds in slowing Russell, the defensive line and linebacking corps has to worry about LSU’s run-first type of offense.

    The increased focus on stopping the run this week (LSU threw on 38 percent of their plays compared to BYU’s 70 percent last week) means linebacker Dane Krogstad will see an increased role in the defense.

    Krogstad, who patrols the strong side, saw action mostly on the kickoff unit last weekend because of an added nickelback to Arizona’s defense.

    “”I love it when they go with the (run) personnel,”” said Krogstad, who still managed two tackles against BYU, “”because that means I get to play, so I get all stoked about it.””

    Though junior running back Alley Broussard – who had 47 yards and a score last week – spearheads the LSU rushing attack, a number of Tigers will see carries tomorrow. Against ULL, five backs had at least four carries, with three of them gaining at least 30 yards and two of them finding the end zone.

    So it comes as no surprise that the balance of the Tiger offense remains a focus for Stoops.

    “”The problem is, you can commit a lot of people to the run to stop the run, but with (Russell), that’s a dangerous task,”” he said. “”They won’t beat their head against the wall (if the running game is stopped), because they can throw it down the field as well as any team in America.

    “”There are certain things that they do – obviously – very, very well. They stress everybody on the defense, and that’s why they’re good.””

    But even if Arizona’s defense turns in a second straight solid outing, the game will be decided by what Arizona’s offense can do, specifically its running game.

    “”One of the big things is going to be getting the running game going,”” quarterback Willie Tuitama said, “”because that will just open up a whole lot with play action and (bootlegs) and all that. … If we establish the run game, then I think it will be a real good night.””

    A night that could become all the better should that running game lead to a win in Baton Rouge.

    “”That’s a powerhouse football team in a different conference,”” defensive tackle Yaniv Barnett said. “”You beat them, and you put yourself on the map, and that’s what we’ve got to come out and do.””

    Added Cason: “”We have to come out this week and forget BYU. It’s LSU now. It’s time to win.””

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