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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Folk’s kick vanquishes Cougars

    Sophomore quarterback Willie Tuitama hands off to junior running back Chris Henry in the second half of Arizonas 16-13 win over Brigham Young Saturday at Arizona Stadium. Henry carried 13 times for 63 yards, most of which came on a 54-yard scamper in the third quarter.
    Sophomore quarterback Willie Tuitama hands off to junior running back Chris Henry in the second half of Arizona’s 16-13 win over Brigham Young Saturday at Arizona Stadium. Henry carried 13 times for 63 yards, most of which came on a 54-yard scamper in the third quarter.

    With six seconds left, Nick Folk trotted out to the 38-yard-line, where holder Kyle McQuown was kneeling seven yards behind the line of scrimmage, waiting for the snap that could send a sold-out Arizona Stadium into pandemonium.

    The kicker had been there nearly two years before against Wisconsin in the driving rain. Only this time, there was one major difference.

    He was the hero.

    Folk’s 48-yard field goal, his third of the game, lifted Arizona (1-0) over Brigham Young (0-1) 16-13 in front of the ninth-largest crowd in Arizona history Saturday night.

    “”It was no big deal, I just went out there and kicked,”” a nonchalant Folk said after the game. “”It stayed right and I kind of leaned with it, and it kinda snuck in there, so I was playing with a little bit of fire, but it went in.””

    Added UA head coach Mike Stoops: “”Nick Folk, I believe he’s the best kicker in America. … The distance wasn’t going to be a factor.””

    After BYU kicker Jared McLaughlin’s 31-yard boot knotted the game at 13 with just more than five minutes to play, sophomore quarterback Willie Tuitama went to work, completing four of his five passes for 32 yards in leading a 13-play, 44-yard drive down to the BYU 31 to set up Folk’s kick.

    Though he struggled early, Tuitama finished the game with 186 yards on 19-of-39 passing, including a touchdown to receiver Anthony Johnson with 6:52 to play in the third quarter that gave Arizona a 13-10 lead.

    The score was keyed by a highlight-reel run off a broken play by running back Chris Henry.

    Taking a handoff to the right side, Henry spun off a tackler to his left, cut toward the middle where he found some room – as well as a few blockers – and dashed a career-high 54 yards down the right sideline before he was finally tripped up by the last man between him and the end zone, BYU defensive back Ben Criddle.

    “”There was nothing on the front side, and everything broke down, so I just cut it back,”” Henry said. “”As I was doing it, I was like, ‘Oh, I hope this works, I hope this works,’ and it ended up working out.””

    Said offensive coordinator Mike Canales: “”That’s something that we didn’t have the last couple of years. When guys could make plays like that, that’s how big plays happen.””

    Four plays later, Henry laid out for a fingertip grab on third-and-four to keep the drive alive and give Arizona the ball on BYU’s 2-yard-line.

    “”Willie threw a perfect ball, it couldn’t have been any better,”” Henry said. “”If he had put it any closer – the (defensive back) sat on me. It just ended up perfect.””

    The Wildcats punched it in three plays later, when Tuitama hit Johnson on a slant route over the middle.

    But that touchdown was it for offensive output in the second half until the teams exchanged field goals late in the fourth quarter.

    Though BYU quarterback John Beck finished 28-of-37 for 289 yards and a score, the Wildcat defense kept the high-powered Cougar offense at bay for much of the game, starting in the first half when BYU gained 149 total yards and the lone touchdown.

    And that Wildcat defense, which forced two turnovers – both fumbles – in the game, got started early.

    On BYU’s first play from scrimmage, Beck hit tight end Jonny Harline on a 13-yard strike, but UA linebacker Spencer Larsen was there to meet him on one of his game-high 12 tackles, causing the ball to pop loose. Larsen fell on it, giving Arizona the ball on the Cougar 33.

    “”He was playing against his homeboys tonight,”” Stoops quipped of Larsen – who is Mormon – going against the Cougars, known for having a roster made up mostly of Latter Day Saints players. “”They (BYU) didn’t want him, so he wanted to make a statement. … That’s the real Spencer Larsen that you saw tonight. He showed what a great player he is.””

    As an elated Stoops walked off the field after the win, wearing his trademark visor upside-down and backwards, he turned around and waited, congratulating players as they passed. Then he saw Larsen and put his arm around his team captain.

    “”He was so happy – happy for us,”” Larsen said of the exchange. “”He even told us in (the locker room) that he wanted it for us.””

    Larsen’s fumble recovery in the first quarter led to Folk’s first field goal of the season, a 33-yarder, to give the Wildcats their first lead of the game at 3-0. BYU answered later in the quarter, with Beck floating a 5-yard pass to tight end Daniel Coats in the corner of the end zone for a 7-3 lead.

    Folk’s second kick of the game came from 22 yards out a drive later, after the Arizona offense marched 70 yards down the field on 10 plays.

    The win marked a stark change for the Wildcats, who lost five games by a touchdown or less last season.

    “”It sucks if you’re on the losing end (of a close game), and I know how they feel,”” cornerback Antoine Cason said. “”But this year, we’ve been working on getting over that hump of losing the close games and this was the first one.””

    Added Stoops: “”We couldn’t have done this two years ago. … We finally came up on the upside of a three-point game.””

    Late hits

    Safety Michael Johnson finished the game with nine tackles. … Henry finished with 76 yards on 13 carries. … Folk averaged 60 yards per punt after taking over punting duties midway through the game because Stoops was displeased with McQuown’s hang time. … Said BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall of Folk’s game winner: “”That kick was not a gimme. To their kicker’s credit, when the game was on the line, he made the play.””

    ð-Mike Ritter
    contributed to this report

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