September 8, 2006

LSU Preview: Can UA pull off the upset?

On Sept. 2, The University of Arizona pulled out a victory over a talented Brigham Young team on a last second field goal by kicker Nick Folk. On Saturday, Sept. 9, the Wildcats will take on Louisiana State University, who is currently ranked 8th in the nation.

Here is a quick rundown of what Arizona did right last week, and what it will need to do right on Saturday in order to stay in contention with national football powerhouse LSU.

One of the keys to last week's game was Arizona's inability to convert on third down. The Wildcats won after only completing three of fourteen third down attempts. Arizona's defense came out strong, and held BYU to three conversions on twelve attempts.

Arizona rushed for a total of 67 yards and 2.8 yards per carry against a BYU defense that is not particularly strong against the run. Had it not been for Arizona tailback Chris Henry's 54-yard burst through the defense, the Wildcats would have averaged somewhere around the range of 0.5 yards per carry. Henry ran for a game-high 4.8 yards per carry.

Something that's intriguing for Arizona's offense is that in LSU's 45-3 win over a weaker Louisiana Lafayette, the Tigers only allowed 113 yards on the ground.

As reported in the review of the LSU defense, the Tigers lost three of its starting defensive linemen from last season. The only returning starter is defensive end Chase Pittman, however, it seems as if defensive end Tyson Jackson could cause the Wildcats the most problems.

At 6-foot-5 and 290 pounds, Jackson accounted for six tackles and two sacks in his first game as a starter. It is a must that Arizona's offensive line gives UA quarterback Willie Tuitama enough time to throw the ball, otherwise, it could be a long day for the Wildcats.

Last week, Tuitama completed 19-39 pass attempts and threw for one touchdown and one interception on the way to a 16-13 victory. One thing that Wildcats fans have to be excited about is that Tuitama led the Wildcats down the field for the first game winning drive of his sophomore season.

It is that type of poise that Tuitama must have this Saturday, as he takes on an LSU secondary that is one of the best in the country. The Tiger secondary contains stars at nearly every position.

Cornerback Jonathan Zenon poses the biggest threat to Tuitama this weekend. Zenon walked away from the game against Louisiana-Lafayette with two picks, including one score.

LSU's secondary also likes to play physical, and come up to help stop the run. Last week its starting secondary alone accounted for 19 tackles and one sack, and allowed a mere 63 yards through the air.

As impressive as LSU's effort was accounting for 19 tackles, Arizona's secondary accounted for 24 against BYU. And while the UA defense didn't collect any interceptions last week, they still have that big play ability to intercept a pass on any given play.

Quarterback Jamarcus Russell is to LSU what Tuitama is to Arizona: everything. Russell has one of the strongest arms in the country, and looks for the deep pass in almost every situation. This bodes well for an Arizona secondary who refuses to allow the deep catch, and who didn't allow a completion of more than 25 yards against BYU.

In LSU's win over Louisiana-Lafayette, Russell threw touchdowns to three different receivers. Russell completed 13-17 passing (76.5%), and threw for 253 yards and zero interceptions. Accuracy like that is hard to come by.

It is likely that Arizona standout Antoine Cason will match up against LSU standout receiver Dwayne Bowe, who caught four passes for 88 yards and a touchdown in the season opener.

Arizona's other starting cornerback, Wilrey Fontenot, will likely line up against Tiger receiver Craig Davis, who had similar numbers to Bowe, ending up with four catches for 82 yards.

Against BYU, Arizona's linebackers were spectacular. Junior Spencer Larsen accounted for 12 tackles (1.5 for loss), one sack, one forced fumble and accounted for 16 yards lost for the opposing team. Wildcats linebacker Ronnie Palmer also played well, collecting six tackles and one pass break-up.

Not to be outdone, Arizona's defensive line came up huge against BYU. Coming off of the bench, Louis Holmes was the most forceful presence on the field. Holmes ended the game with three tackles, two sacks, one pass break-up and one forced fumble. To say the least, he has not been a disappointment for Wildcats fans thus far.

LSU rushed for 170 yards and two touchdowns against Louisiana Lafayette. However, it didn't have a legitimate number one back, as three different players carried the ball eight times, and two other backs rushed seven times.

Arizona's defensive tackles will have to fill up gaps that LSU's offensive line creates, as well as put pressure on Russell.

It will be a tough game in Baton Rouge, with both teams looking to advance their record to 2-0. With every aspect of Saturday's game covered, here are the five keys that will lead to an Arizona victory.

Arizona's 5 Keys to Victory
1. Offensive line:
Arizona's offensive line must create holes for Chris Henry to exploit. But more importantly, they must give Tuitama time to find a receiver.
2. 3rd Down Conversions:
The longer Arizona keeps Jamarcus Russell off of the field, the better the Wildcats' chances are to win.
3. Shut Down Receivers:
Both Wilrey Fontenot and Antoine Cason must come up huge against the LSU's receivers, and not allow the deep pass.
4. Defensive Line:
Every member of the defensive line must step up on Saturday. They simply can't allow Russell to have time to throw.
5. Willie Tuitama: He must have time in the pocket to find a receiver, must throw the ball away instead of take the sack, must avoid the pressure, move out of the pocket and look up field.

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