Running Is Back

September 17, 2006

(at UA 28, Stephen F. Austin 10)

At least there's no quarterback controversy.

Adam Austin led the Wildcats against Stephen "Don't Call Me Stone Cold" Austin in a game that featured a lot of running plays and not a ton of points for the home team. It wasn't the type of performance that's going to wow Joe Fan but you know I'll take it.

Surprise starter Chris Jennings was obviously the star of the game with 26 manly carries and the first 2 TD's of his career. The biggest achievement for the new Cat however was his recent promotion from walk-on status to scholarship athlete. If paying your own way motivates you to rush for 201 yards, I say we take away everyone's full ride. Now that's a big carrot on a stick.

Jennings just looks comfortable out there. He doesn't waste time making decisions and he doesn't waste steps on his cuts. His style is simple: find the hole fast, hit the hole hard, and keep moving forward.

Chris showed it all with a cutback, juke, spin, hurdle, and stiff-arm. And that was on a single run in the first quarter.

One note for improvement: I noticed on the replay that Jennings gave a Michaelbellian #1 sign right before scoring his first touchdown. He then got popped and the ball came loose after barely crossing the goal line. Mr. Jennings, you may want to hold onto the ball a little tighter and hold off on that move for a while.

A nod of respect to the two rows of SFA fans in their section. No, I'm not being sarcastic. I didn't expect any Lumberjack fans and it shows true dedication to travel all the way from East Texas to watch a game you're not going to win. Your team did you proud by avoiding the big mistakes and winning the turnover battle.

Another proud moment for the folks from Nacogdoches was when the SFA cheerleaders dominated us in the flamingo-standing contest I mentioned two weeks ago. We outgirled them 7 to 3 and they still beat us with a cheerleader to spare. They had one young lady actually taunting our crowd and she looked like she could have balanced up there until we completed a pass for more than ten yards. Yeah, that long.

The uncomfortable feeling for the UA faithful continued when Nick Folk missed a 33-yard field goal putting a serious dent in his campaign to become the first kicker to win the Heisman.

After the miss, SFA drove the full 80 yards on 12 plays for the game-tying touchdown. We went three and out on our next possession, followed by the 14-yard punt (back to your holding duties, Mr. McQuown), and the Jacks cashed it in for a field goal and a 10-7 lead. Who's your daddy? The Father of Texas.

We finally got the lead for good on Adam F. Austin's one-yard sneak with two minutes left in the second quarter. The most exciting moment of the first half may have been when the world's largest moth invaded the Red Zone and attacked the guy in front of me.

Another big negative had to be our continuing tendency to miss tackles. One curiosity the last couple weeks has been the lack of visual enthusiasm from the defense. Spenser Larson bowls someone over and gets a soft tap on the helmet. Dominic Patrick knocks a guy back three yards and gets nothing more than a handshake. Where's the fire? You can say it was because we were playing a 1-AA team but it wasn't there against LSU either. I'm not looking for taunting penalties but I'd sure like to see a little more hollerin' this week.

Coach Lute Olson livened things up as a halftime guest on the telecast to promote his new book. Fox Sports had him set up right in front of the south end zone and everyone was leaning over the rail with their camera phones. For Cat fans, seeing Lute in person is like…. You know, there isn't a valid comparison. A more accurate quote would be something along the lines of, "Holding my long-lost child for the first time in two years was like seeing Lute Olson in person."

Back to the sport at hand. The third quarter was actually worse for Arizona with no points going on the scoreboard. We were a holding penalty and a missed field goal away from a one-point game against Stephen F'n Austin. As the final period began, when all our players held up four fingers, they were showing how big our lead was. Big sigh.

So in comes Willie Tuitama off the bench. Nah, we weren't scared.

At the time I wasn't happy about the concussed one taking the field, but in hindsight Stoops really had no choice. One more tipped Austin pass and we could've fallen behind and ultimately lost which would've been the disaster to end all disasters.

Willie threw the ball well, but we gotta get #7 to look off a safety now and again. He was still staring down his receivers and even though SFA couldn't take advantage of it, the D's of the Pac-10 most certainly will.

Thanks to some 4th-and-goal plastic surgery we were able to post that final touchdown and pretty up the score a bit. It also gave us a tidy excuse (If Willie would've played the whole game we would've won by 72!) as well as a philosophical question: Is it worse to only win by 18 against a 1-AA school, or to only win by 18 against a team that lost to a 1-AA school?

I turned on the Mike Stoops show last Tuesday expecting to hear about LSU but found they were re-running the post-BYU show. Not a bad programming suggestion for all of us.

We should not underestimate how important that BYU win was. Coupled with this week's victory it now means Mike Stoops has already tied his career high for home wins in a season. This is our first year with a winning non-conference record since 2002. A 2-1 record right now is a big deal.

Speaking of big deals, if the sky around Tucson seemed a little darker today, it's probably because of the shadow cast by the giant from Southern California as it prepares to move east.

Here come the Trojans.

My fan goal for the USC game: Do better than the LSU game. That's it. Don't let your quarterback get hit in head a half dozen times. Don't try and tackle people with three fingers. Score a touchdown.

If we want to rattle their rookie QB or force their young running backs to fumble and make things interesting, so be it. But if we walk off our home field with more pride than we did in Baton Rouge, I'm a happy Cat.

I'm not giving up on the USC game, I'm just trying to stay realistic. How ragged is the UA offense right now? If LSU would've let us use all our points for our first three games, we still only beat them by 2.

Much was made last week of our alleged logo-stomping at LSU. The AP's recap of the Miami/Louisville game opens with a story of the Hurricane players doing the same thing before getting dealt a beating of their own. Perhaps we should get some of our burly students to dress up as USC players and have them stomp on our own logo this Saturday.

Hey, you never know. We've got the best team in the west coming into our building. We'll be on network TV. We are deservedly large underdogs, but that just makes the opportunity all the greater.

Let the stomping begin.

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