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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    UA in for Cat fight

    Quarterback Willie Tuitama looks for an open receiver in Arizonas 16-13 win over Brigham Young Saturday at Arizona Stadium. After completing just 19-of-39 passes in the season opener, Tuitama will try to lead the Wildcats to an upset at No. 8 Louisiana State tomorrow.
    Quarterback Willie Tuitama looks for an open receiver in Arizona’s 16-13 win over Brigham Young Saturday at Arizona Stadium. After completing just 19-of-39 passes in the season opener, Tuitama will try to lead the Wildcats to an upset at No. 8 Louisiana State tomorrow.

    The Arizona football team will experience the dark side of home-field advantage Saturday at No. 8 Louisiana State.

    Where the Wildcats mustered a last-second win over Brigham Young on Saturday bolstered by a fanbase more than 58,000 strong at Arizona Stadium, the team now faces one of the most intimidating road venues in college football: the 92,400-capacity Tiger Stadium, endearingly known as Death Valley.

    The crowd in Baton Rouge aims to be in peak form with a legitimate competitor to host – the stadium still sold out for LSU’s 45-3 season-opening destruction of Louisiana-Lafayette – meaning the Wildcats (1-0) should expect a daunting reception starting at 3:30 p.m. in a game televised nationally on ESPN2.

    “”Everyone makes a big deal of the noise, but what can they do to you?”” UA head coach Mike Stoops said. “”They can’t eat you, can they? They make a bunch of noise and they throw stuff at you and they flip you off and all that stuff.

    “”To me, that’s football, and it’s what happens when you go on the road. We’re going to have to play great defense and find ways to move the football, try to keep it close and give ourselves opportunities to win.””

    For Arizona to pull off its biggest road upset since 1992, when it defeated then-No. 8 Stanford 21-6, the Wildcats will have to battle intangibles as much as anything on the field.

    Arizona is 2-8 against national top-25 opponents under Stoops, including 0-3 on the road, and both wins came against fellow Pacific 10 Conference teams (ASU in 2004 and UCLA in 2005).

    LSU (1-0) has also had the Wildcats’ number. Arizona is 0-2 all-time against the Tigers, and the teams’ most recent meeting was a 59-13 drubbing at home in 2003.

    “”It’s much more difficult,”” defensive tackle Yaniv Barnett said. “”They’re a powerhouse football team. They’re much more physical than BYU was. You have to come out ready to play today, come out to the practice field ready to practice today, because they’re a really good football team.””

    LSU
    The Matchups
    UA
    X
    Quaterbacks
    X
    Running Backs
    Wide Receivers
    X
    X
    Offensive Line
    X
    Defensive Line
    Linebackers
    X
    Defensive Backs
    X
    Specialists
    X
    X
    Intangibles
    X
    Bottom Line


    Death Valley isn’t called Death Valley for nothing. Where else can you have 92,000 people screaming “”Tiger Balt”” and cussing in unison? Home field advantage? That’s a bit of an understatement.
    Prediction: 31-21, LSU

    Another difference the Wildcats must deal with is a plethora of speed and athleticism in LSU’s offense, led by 6-foot-6 quarterback JaMarcus Russell.

    The cannon-armed Russell completed 13-of-17 passes for 253 and three touchdowns against the Ragin’ Cajuns, as the lack of defensive pressure gave him ample time to find speedy wide receivers Dwayne Bowe (four catches, 88 yards, touchdown) and Early Doucet (three catches, 33 yards, touchdown).

    Perhaps where the Wildcats can even the playing field is in their suddenly stellar run defense.

    Arizona held BYU and 2005 first-team Mountain West Conference running back Curtis Brown to minus 17 yards rushing Saturday after ranking next-to-last in the Pac-10 in run defense last season.

    The Tigers plan to go with a committee at running back, splitting carries among Justin Vincent, Jacob Hester and Alley Broussard, who each finished with eight carries against Louisiana-Lafayette.

    “”If we make them one-dimensional, it’s going to be a lot easier to beat,”” linebacker Spencer Larsen said. “”But if they’re pounding at you, they can throw play-action (passes). If they’re successful running the football, they can do a lot of things. We’ve got to stop them early.””

    Great success against the run could be irrelevant if the Wildcats can’t improve their own ground production.

    While running back Chris Henry had 63 yards on 13 carries Saturday, most of his damage was done on a single play, a career-high 54-yarder.

    Without a consistent running attack to sway defenders from dropping back into coverage, quarterback Willie Tuitama put together his worst game as a starter (19-of-39, 186 yards, touchdown, interception), a performance Arizona can’t afford to watch him repeat in front of a hostile crowd.

    “”I think it’s got to play a part in the game, just to control the clock – we have to be able to run,”” Stoops said. “”Quarterbacks play a lot better when they have a solid running game, and that’s something we need to improve, our ability to run the football.””

    Other storylines permeate this matchup, including the showcasing of two of the nation’s top secondaries.

    One issue for LSU is whether it might be looking ahead to its Southeastern Conference opener at No. 4 Auburn Sept.16.

    Tigers head coach Les Miles sought to dispel that notion during his weekly teleconference.

    “”I haven’t seen that (attitude) in this team,”” he said. “”I know that Arizona, if you look at the film, you will be tested and you will want to compete against that team. We’re not showing any other film in that meeting room except for Arizona’s, I promise you.””

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