Huskies visit Wildcats

Washington visits the desert in Tucson to take on the Arizona Wildcats in a Pac-10 conference clash. The game will kick off at 7PM PST. Here is a game preview from the insiders to both programs on this network.

LAST WEEK: The 3rd ranked Trojans went into Tucson and left with an extremely hard fought and well earned win. The Cat defense played very well and held USC to 20 points and under 400 yards of total offense. A serious lack of execution on offense didn't help matters as the defense was on the field for 81 plays. Junior cornerback Antoine Cason nabbed his 2nd pick of the season and added 12 tackles as he held Dwayne Jarrett to just 4 catches. LAST WEEK: Washington won perhaps their biggest victory in a decade, a stunning come-from-behind 29-19 win against nemesis UCLA. The Bruins raced out to a 16-0 lead before the Huskies came roaring back with a 92-yard drive just before halftime, and then after giving up just three points to the Bruins in the second half, the Huskies finished the deal with 21 unanswered points. The barrage came on two Isaiah Stanback touchdown passes, one to Sonny Shackelford and the other to Johnie Kirton, and that was followed by a 33-yard interception return for a touchdown by linebacker Daniel Howell.
KEY INJURIES: DT Paul Philipp (knee, out for season), WR Mike Thomas (ankle, will start), QB Willie Tuitama (bruised calf, will start), NG Yaniv Barnett (elbow, out), WR Syndric Steptoe (bruised quad, probable) KEY INJURIES: TE Rob Lewis (out).
WHEN ARIZONA IS ON OFFENSE: The young offensive line is the key to the Wildcats offense. Now that they have the athletes up front the Cats went to a zone scheme and the transition has been slow and frustrating. RB Chris Jennings has been a very bright spot as he has showed his pure running back abilities. QB Willie Tuitama is a little dinged up and has had a slow start to the year. WR/KR/PR Syndric Steptoe has been solid all year but WRs Mike Thomas and Anthony Johnson have been inconsistent. Look for the pocket to roll and for Tuitama to throw short and often. With some struggles in the secondary this season, look for the Cats to exploit that and throw the pill around to loosen things up for the running game. WHEN WASHINGTON IS ON OFFENSE: Quarterback Isaiah Stanback has been the show the past two weeks, resulting in exciting wins over Fresno State and UCLA. Stanback averages 64 yards per game on the ground, but it's when those yards are coming that has been crucial. He has been converting key third downs and moving the chains. With 4.4 speed, he is always a threat to hurt defenses. TB Louis Rankin leads the team in rushing, averaging 69 yards per game off of the bench, making a nice one-two punch with fellow TB Kenny James. Stanback has averaged 165 yards through the air per contest on just 56% accuracy, but the key statistic is that while throwing for six touchdowns, he has only been intercepted just twice. That has been the main improvement in Stanback's game. When he throws, his favorite targets have been Sonny Shackelford, who has 16 grabs for 210 yards and four touchdowns. Anthony Russo has 14 receptions for 176 yards. TE Johnie Kirton has seven receptions, two have gone for touchdowns. The offensive line never substitutes, all five starters playing every snap.
WHEN WASHINGTON HAS THE BALL: The Cats have struggled against athletic quarterbacks in the past but have improved in that area of late. Arizona has trouble putting pressure on the quarterback so far which has helped in containing more athletic QBs so far. LB Spencer Larsen has been a terror all year and CB Antoine Cason has been equally as impressive. The Cover-2 zone scheme has been slightly altered due to the increase in overall talent and the Cats are blitzing less so far this year and playing basic defenses and it has worked thus far. Safeties Dominic Patrick and Michael Johnson are solid and are both huge hitters. LBs Ronnie Palmer and Dane Krogstad have yet to live up to the lofty expectations so far, although Krogstad played very well against USC last week. The Dl is a little dinged up and they should be without Paul Philipp and Yaniv Barnett on the inside. DE Marcus Smith moved inside to DT and looked pretty good at the position against USC so he should stay on the inside. WHEN ARIZONA HAS THE BALL: Washington's defense has been making things happen from the outside in. DE Grayson Gunheim has 2.5 tackles for loss, 11 total stops, while opposite end Daniel Te'o-Nesheim also has 2.5 tackles for loss. Brandon Ala rotates with them and has had two sacks. Inside it's a rotation of senior Donny Mateaki (9 tackles), Wilson Afoa (8 tackles), and Jordan Reffett (5 tackles). The linebackers are fast and active, with Dan Howell and Tahj Bomar inside and Scott White outside. White has three sacks to lead Washington, and also has an interception. Chris Stevens rotates in and has had 2 sacks from his outside linebacking position, while Trenton Tuiasosopo also sees time inside. Behind them are safeties C.J. Wallace, who has a team-leading 40 tackles, and Jason Wells, who has 21 stops. Backup safety Mesphin Forrester has two interceptions to lead the Huskies in that department. The corners are Matt Fountaine and Roy Lewis. CB Dashon Goldson has been resting a high ankle sprain and is probable for this game.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Arizona may have the most talented all around kicker in the league in senior Nick Folk. He has consistently kicked 90 plus percent of his kickoffs out of the end zone during his career. He can hit from 60 on his field goals but his accuracy isn't great beyond 45. Even though he is a place kicker and not a punter, Folk has showed his powerful leg since being forced to assume punting duties full time. He is 9th nationally averaging just under 46 yards per boot. The Cat coverage teams are very good on both kick offs and punts. SPECIAL TEAMS: Washington's Sean Douglas has perhaps the biggest leg in the country, having boomed two punts of over 80 yards this year. His average of 48.8 yards per boot is amazing, but he has outkicked his coverage due to his leg strength, and has had six downed inside the 20. Michael Braunstein handles both kickoffs and place kicks. He has been perfect on both of his field goal attempts so far and has had five touchbacks. The punt returner is sprinter Marlon Wood and the main kickoff returner is Roy Lewis. Neither has broken a long return to date, but Wood is dangerous.
ARIZONA CAN WIN IF: The Offensive Line plays to their abilities. It takes a while to learn the zone blocking scheme and things have been slow to start the year but if they can gain confidence and come along quicker the Arizona offense can beat any defense. If Tuitama has time and something resembling a running game then the offense will score on Washington. The defense will be there for Arizona and it will keep the Cats in games, but if the Wildcats' young offensive line grows up then UW could be in trouble. WASHINGTON CAN WIN IF: Isaiah Stanback has another big game. #4 has been the most difficult player to defend for the Huskies. His ability to tuck it and run with this 4.4 speed makes him a difficult guy to take down if he gets an open lane. Stanback also appears better and timing his runs this year, and has stayed away from throwing crucial interceptions so far this year. If he can keep making good decisions with the ball and not turn it over, Washington will be tough. The rest of the rushing attack has gone stagnant the past two weeks, however. The Huskies would like to get Louis Rankin and Kenny James established a bit to offset the heavy attention that Stanback will receive from the Wildcats.
ARIZONA WILL LOSE IF: They cannot run the ball and cannot contain Stanback. Stanback is a freak of an athlete and can beat you in a number of ways. With the Wildcat defensive back seven, UW will need to run the ball and Stanback's legs are key. QB draws and his scrambling ability can really make it a long night for the Cats again. If the Cats cannot run the ball effectively and cannot contain Stanback then Sunday won't come quick enough for the Cats. WASHINGTON WILL LOSE IF: Stanback gets rattled. This is a big Pac-10 road game in hostile territory. Under the lights with a lot riding on the outcome, the Husky quarterback cannot let nerves get to him. He needs to stay cool and not be fooled by Stoops' attacking defense. The return game has hurt Washington in the UCLA and Oklahoma games. That area needs shoring up as does the deep snapping. If Washington doesn't get good quarterback play and makes mistakes in the kicking game, they may not have enough firepower to overcome Willy Tuitama and the Wildcats.
ARIZONA ROSTER:
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WASHINGTON 2-DEEPS and ARIZONA WEEK BLOG:
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Chris Bonney is the Football Editor of WildcatInsider.com and Wildcat Sports Report Magazine and has covered Arizona Football for over three years. David Samek is the publisher of Dawgman.com and the Editor in Chief of Sports Washington Magazine. He has been covering UW football and basketball since 1996.

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