By Connor Doyle
KEVIN KLAUS/Arizona Daily Wildcat
UA senior quarterback Jason Johnson looks to get back on track tomorrow at home against North Texas. Johnson will face one of the nation's top 5 defenses in the Mean Green. Kickoff is at 6:07 p.m.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday September 27, 2002
If You Go...
Who: North Texas against UA
Where: Arizona Stadium
When: Tomorrow at 6:07 p.m.
TV: None, so go to the game
Tickets: Individual tickets can be puchased for $7
Utah Player to watch: Redshirt freshman safety, Jonas Buckles
UA Player to watch: Senior quarterback, Jason Johnson
Arizona takes on North Texas tomorrow, but the Wildcats shouldn't be blamed if they're looking ahead just a little.
The Mean Green (1-3) represent the final non-conference opponent for UA before welcoming öö in a sense of the word öö Oregon next weekend to kick off conference play.
Arizona (2-1) is reeling after being routed by Wisconsin on the road last Saturday 31-10 and losing the team's best cornerback, junior Michael Jolivette, to a knee injury for at least the next two months.
This opponent might just be what the doctor ordered for the Wildcat offense, which sputtered last weekend.
Going into Madison, the Arizona passing attack was one of the most prolific in the country, averaging over 400 yards per game in the air. But against the Badgers, senior quarterback Jason Johnson threw for only 129 yards before being yanked in the third quarter.
UA head coach John Mackovic said he was "angry" with his team's performance against Wisconsin, and expects his team to get back to what worked against Northern Arizona and Utah.
"This becomes a very important game for us. All of the games are important. We have to play better and make some improvement this week. I thought we were moving ahead, but we didn't make the kind of improvement that we should have last week," said Mackovic, who took on UNT when he was coach at Texas. "We had too many breakdowns last week, and we weren't connected as a team. We have to make sure that we get that connection this week."
The Mean Green will give Johnson an opportunity to redeem himself against the fourth-best passing defense in the country. So far this season, UNT hasn't allowed an opponent to pass for more than 200 yards, including Chris Simms, Texas' standout quarterback and Heisman hopeful.
"Defensively, they come right at you, and they are just like Utah in terms of their scheme," UA head coach John Mackovic said. "They are after you all of the time, and they have a great zone-blitz concept and are very movement oriented."
Surprisingly enough for the Wildcats, the team's worst passing performance came in the same game junior running back Clarence Farmer finally broke out of his slump and rushed for 131 yards. But Farmer, who battled a foot injury this week in practice, can look forward to an uphill battle tomorrow, as the UNT defense allowed Texas' standout back Cedric Benson only 49 yards on 18 carries.
The Mean Green shouldn't present quite the problem for Arizona offensively, however. UNT is playing without quarterback Scott Hall, who went down with a strained pectoral muscle in the Texas game. In his place, Andrew Smith has averaged only 63.2 yards per game, and the offense as a whole is only putting together 195 yards per game in total offense.
The lack of a passing threat will take the pressure off the two UA cornerbacks starting in Michael Jolivette's absence, freshman Darrell Brooks and senior David Hinton.
"It's important to start right from the top," senior linebacker Lance Briggs said. "We need to get back on track and get ready for Oregon."
It will also give a defense that struggled against Wisconsin a chance to regroup and work on forcing turnovers, the area of play Mackovic said his team is focusing on this week.
"I am surprised that we haven't forced more turnovers. We are -0.67 (in turnover margin), which is where we finished last year," Mackovic said. "We have had two games in a row where we've not had a single takeaway, and that's just not good defense. If the defense doesn't take the ball away, then they are not playing well enough."