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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Short passing game comes through in clutch

    Senior wide receiver Syndric Steptoe runs away from Brigham Young defenders after reversing field and gaining 10 yards to set up Nick Folks game-winning field goal in Arizonas 16-13 win at Arizona Stadium Saturday. The elusive Steptoe stepped up with a team-leading 93 receiving yards on six receptions.
    Senior wide receiver Syndric Steptoe runs away from Brigham Young defenders after reversing field and gaining 10 yards to set up Nick Folk’s game-winning field goal in Arizona’s 16-13 win at Arizona Stadium Saturday. The elusive Steptoe stepped up with a team-leading 93 receiving yards on six receptions.

    Willie Tuitama was far from masterful in his jitters-ridden, 19-of-39 passing performance Saturday in the Arizona football team’s slim win over BYU.

    The sophomore quarterback overthrew some passes, fired a few toward the Arizona Stadium seats and even went temporarily colorblind in throwing an interception right into the hands of Cougars linebacker Cameron Jensen.

    But Tuitama seemed to finally collect himself on the game’s final drive, thanks mostly to the continued diligence of wide receivers Syndric Steptoe and Anthony Johnson.

    The senior Steptoe had a direct role in the offense’s two biggest plays of the game: a 48-yard rainbow in the first quarter and a 10-yard scamper off a screen pass on second-and-nine that helped put the Wildcats in position for Nick Folk’s eventual game-winning kick.

    “”Those were plays we haven’t made over the course of (my) time here,”” UA head coach Mike Stoops said. “”It was impressive to see our kids show their toughness. Those were toughness plays.””

    Johnson, meanwhile, demonstrated the consistency that elevated him to a starting spot in fall camp.

    The junior matched Steptoe with a team-high six receptions, including a two-yard touchdown haul in the third quarter that gave Arizona the lead back after nearly a half of trailing.

    Both wideouts shined on a night when the Wildcats’ highly touted T’n’T connection of Tuitama and Thomas apparently had a bum fuse.

    “”That says a lot,”” Steptoe said. “”Now people know that we have other weapons, other than me and Mike Thomas.

    “”Coming out here, we just decided we got No. 9 (Johnson), No. 4 (B.J. Dennard), No. 84 (Terrell Turner) and No. 11 (Terrell Reese), knowing that anyone can come out for 100 yards every game.””

    None of the receivers was that prolific Saturday, though Steptoe was close with 93 yards.

    The senior said many of Tuitama’s and Thomas’ struggles resulted from changes in BYU’s coverage as the game went on.

    With the Wildcats’ run game doing next to nothing for much of the night, linebackers expecting the pass started to retreat back into the middle of the field.

    Steptoe and Johnson responded with guile and fancy footwork.

    “”That was the whole game plan going in: give the ball to the receivers quick and see what we can do after the catch,”” Steptoe said.

    Like counterpart John Beck, who sliced and diced Arizona’s zone coverage for 28 completions and 289 yards, Tuitama found his greatest success with short tosses.

    Screen passes and the like have been staples of offensive coordinator Mike Canales’ scheme since he joined the Wildcats alongside Stoops, yet only this year does it seem the team finally has the talent and determination to make them work.

    On the drive that culminated with Johnson’s touchdown, running back Chris Henry’s 54-yard, end-around gallop preceded his quick curl route in the flats that resulted in a critical first down at the BYU 2-yard line.

    Henry finished with a career-high four catches for 25 yards, as the 233-pound junior proved to be a powerful complement to the lithe Steptoe (5-foot-9, 182 pounds).

    “”That’s something that was lacking, that we didn’t have the last couple years, when guys can make plays like that,”” Canales said. “”That’s how big plays happen. It was working for us.””

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