October 16, 2006

Five Players of the Game: Stanford

This week the top five players of the game were a lot easier to determine because the Wildcats came out with a win. Arizona played perhaps its best defensive game of the season holding Stanford to a total of 52 yards, the worst offensive performance in the school's history.

The Wildcats were also fortunate to have the running game show up and carry the team to consistent positive yardage. The impressive defensive effort could be directly correlated to the production from the running game keeping the defense rested.

In no surprise the members of this week's top five players are Arizona's top two running backs and three well deserving defenders.

1. Chris Jennings - Arizona's best all-around running back had his second best game of the year against the Stanford Cardinal. Although his best games have only come against inferior opponents, it was comforting to see Jennings run over a D1 level team.

Jennings carried the ball 17 times for 89 yards for a 5.2 yard per carry average and one touchdown. During the game, Jennings displayed his ability to make defenders miss as well as a mixture of power and speed.

Again, Stanford has statistically the worst run defense in the country, but the fact that Arizona took advantage is the reason Arizona won the football game. What remains to be seen is if Jennings and the running game made adjustments which showed in their game, or if Arizona just completely ran over an inferior opponent.

How Chris Jennings and the running game perform against Oregon State will answer all those questions.

2. Chris Henry - Henry has had a rough year thus far but seemed to put everything together this past Saturday against Stanford. Although he was demoted from the starting position earlier this season, he looked like every bit of a starter in this game.

Henry rushed the ball extremely well to the outside, displaying his speed against a much slower Pac-10 team. For the game, Henry rushed the ball 16 times for 91 yards and one touchdown. For the first time this season, Arizona's weak point looked to be a strength and that was largely due to the play of Chris Henry.

For Arizona's sake, hopefully that play continues because if another negative yardage running game shows up against Oregon State then another loss will accompany it.

3. Spencer Larsen - A regular in the top five players of the game, Larsen could make a case for the top spot overall this week. The Arizona linebacker played all over the field and seemed to be in the face of every stopped play.

Larsen led Arizona with six tackles on the game and what was perhaps the hit of the game in a big time sack against Stanford quarterback T.C. Ostrander for a loss of four yards. Larsen was the leader of the defense that played its best game of the season.

4. Nick Folk - Credit has to be given where credit its due and Nick Folk stepped up big at Stanford's new stadium. Handling all special team duties, Folk stood out in the punting and place kicking game.

Folk led the Wildcats in scoring with eight points including hitting both extra points and hitting both of his attempted field goals. His two field goals included a chip shot from 24 yards and a long kick from 45 yards he sent sailing through the uprights with a ways to go.

What could be the most valuable aspect of Folk's game that often goes unmentioned is his ability to send every kickoff out of the end zone, taking away the ability of an opposing team to return the ball.

5. Marcus Smith - Smith again displayed his versatility playing throughout the entire defensive line, even though he has been largely absent the majority of the season. He stepped up big against the Cardinal, however, consistently getting pressure on the quarterback and stopping the run early.

Smith had two sacks to himself in the game for a loss of 16 yards, including one in which he athletically chased down T.C. Ostrander for the play. Arizona is in desperate need of everyone on the defensive line to play at the top of their game and with a guy like Marcus Smith playing at this caliber elevates the level of play across the board on defense.

Honorable Mention: Antoine Cason, Jason Parker, Yaniv Barnett, Mike Thomas and Kris Heavner

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