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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “No Heisman, no problem”

    John David Booty is no Matt Leinart – at least not yet. Nor is he Carson Palmer.

    No, Southern California’s junior quarterback has yet to make his mark on a school that’s seen its last two starting quarterbacks win the Heisman Trophy.

    But Booty’s also no scrub, as he saw plenty of action in mop-up duty over the course of two seasons as Leinart’s backup and entered the season with three touchdowns in 56 career pass attempts.

    “”He’s going to get better and better,”” UA head coach Mike Stoops said of the Shreveport, La., native. “”It’s just getting the game experience, and he’s getting it. Each game, he’ll feel more comfortable, and he’ll get better and better. His upside is very, very high.””

    Added safety Michael Johnson: “”I heard a lot about the quarterback, that new guy from Louisiana. He’s stepped up a notch, played the role that Matt Leinart played. I guess he’s a big-time quarterback.””

    And even though he’s performed well this season in the only two starts of his career to date (49-of-71, 518 yards, six TDs), it’s Booty’s rawness as a starting quarterback that Arizona hopes to exploit tomorrow night.

    “”As a defense, with an inexperienced quarterback,”” Johnson said, “”you want to get in his head, get a lot of pressure, knock him down a lot – hopefully throw him off his game, don’t let him sit back there and be comfortable.””

    Added defensive tackle Paul Phillip: “”We’ve got to get to the quarterback, disrupt his throwing motion. We’ve just got to go for him.””

    A talented receiving corps of wideouts in Dwayne Jarrett (16 catches, 171 yards, two TDs), Steve Smith (120 yards on 11 receptions, one TD), Chris McFoy (5 grabs, 46 yards) and Patrick Turner (2 catches, 15 yards) has smoothed Booty’s transition to primary signal caller this season.

    It’s that group that the Wildcats will look to shut down in order to reduce Booty’s effectiveness.

    “”The strength of their offense, obviously, are their receivers,”” Stoops said. “”They have four guys that can really get down the field and catch the football.””

    Not to be overlooked is the trio of tailbacks who seek to replace 3,693 yards of total offense – 48 percent of the Trojans’ total last year – and 44 touchdowns – 53 percent of last season’s total – that departed along with juniors Reggie Bush and LenDale White, who found greener pastures in the NFL.

    Trojan backs Emmanuel Moody, Chauncey Washington and C.J. Gable have essentially split carries this season, and though each back has a score, Moody appears to be the most explosive on paper at 8.0 yards per carry (16 attempts, 128 yards).

    “”You can see them getting better each time,”” Stoops said of the trio. “”They’re starting to see … where those creases are in the defense.””

    Even with all the departures (USC lost 11 players, including five juniors, to the NFL Draft last season) the Trojan talent level remains strong, as evidenced by USC’s early wins this season, 50-14 over Arkansas on Sept. 2 and 28-10 over then-No. 19 Nebraska last week. The team still has yet to score fewer than 20 points in its past 54 games.

    “”I think a lot of people underestimated how good USC was going to be this year,”” Stoops said. “”USC is still a very, very talented football team. They have as much talent as an LSU or an Auburn. They’re good across the board.””

    But Arizona, facing it’s second top-10 team in two weeks, cannot look at it as another powerhouse opponent, or as Stoops put it, “”one of the heavyweights of football.””

    The most important thing Arizona can do in preparing for the Trojans doesn’t have anything to do with the team that has won 47 of its past 49 games. The Wildcats will look to take the lessons they learned in Baton Rouge, La., a few weeks ago in their 45-3 loss to then-No. 8 Louisiana State and apply them tomorrow night.

    “”We learned a lot from that game, and I’m not glad that we went through that,”” Phillip said, “”but it’s definitely an experience that we don’t want to feel again.””

    It’s an experience that led to lessons in confidence.

    “”They’re a man just like we are,”” cornerback Wilrey Fontenot. “”You put your pants on the same way, and basically (the lesson is) don’t just get awestruck, no matter who you’re playing. If you’re playing a D-1 AA team, or anybody else, go in with that same mindset that anyone can be beat.””

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