September 22, 2006

USC Preview: Are Wildcats up for the challenge?

On Saturday, Sept. 23, 3rd ranked Southern California comes to Tucson. This is considered by many to be the most difficult task that the Wildcats will have all season. Arizona hasn't beaten USC since Oct. 7, 2000.

In last week's win against Stephen F. Austin, Arizona coaches, players, and fans learned a lot about their team. Running back Chris Henry was suspended for undisclosed reasons, and transfer Chris Jennings capitalized on the situation.

At the end of the game, no one on the Stephen F. Austin team could find an answer for Jennings as he ran for a career-high 201 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. However, Jennings wasn't the only one who had a career day. Redshirt freshman Xavier Smith ran for 57 yards on ten carries.

While sophomore quarterback Willie Tuitama was resting because of a concussion suffered against LSU, senior Adam Austin took his place. Austin managed the game, completing 11 of 16 pass attempts for 83 yards, while throwing one interception.

Sophomore receiver Mike Thomas also seemed to be closer to full strength as he caught five balls for 47 yards. Junior receiver Anthony Johnson also caught two passes for 21 yards and one touchdown. It is his second touchdown grab of the season. During last season's loss to USC, Thomas caught a 42-yard touchdown pass from Richard Kovalcheck during the third quarter.

Arizona will need to be running on all cylinders to beat a USC program which hasn't lost to a Pac-10 opponent since Sept. 27, 2003 against Cal.

Arizona's first task will be to shut down USC's deadly passing attack, which is led by senior quarterback John David Booty. In his first two games this season, Booty has completed 60 percent of his passes, thrown for 518 yards and six touchdowns, without throwing an interception.

Shutting down Booty might seem like a daunting task, but the defenses that USC has faced so far are not considered upper echelon. The Trojans' previous opponents, Nebraska and Arkansas, are ranked 48th and 84th in the nation in total defense.

Tuitama will be back as Arizona's starting quarterback on Saturday and will look to continue on his solid performance against Stephen F. Austin, where he completed six of nine pass attempts for 61 yards and a touchdown.

Tuitama will need as much time to throw as humanly possible. That will have to come from a solid performance from the Arizona's offensive line. The O-Line may have some trouble with Lawrence Jackson, who is a formidable presence on USC's defensive line.

The offensive line will also need to create enough holes for Arizona running backs to break through. If Arizona can control the ground game, their chances of taking down USC will drastically increase.

Arizona will need to accomplish numerous things in order to beat USC on Saturday. However, if the players can carry out what the coaches have been drilling into them during the week, the Wildcats have a chance to upset USC. Here are five things that the Cats will need to do to win the game.

Arizona's 5 Keys to
1. Put Pressure on QB:
The less time that Booty has to throw, the less dangerous he can be. If Arizona can limit USC's passing attack, it will make winning a lot easier.
2. Shut down the Run:
Arizona needs to stop the running game and not let the Trojans pick up first downs.
3. Offensive Line:
If Tuitama doesn't have enough time to throw the ball, and Jennings and Henry can't find any holes, it will be a long day for the Cats.
4. Secondary:
Getting even one interception off of Booty will do a lot to mess with his psyche. It will make him think twice about his throws.
5. Running Game: It goes with the offensive line, but Arizona will need to have a consistent running game over all four quarters in order to defeat USC.

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