By Charles Renning
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, September 19, 2005
For the second year in a row, the Arizona football team hung in with a nationally ranked Big Ten opponent.
For the second year in a row, the Wildcats lost.
In front of a sellout crowd of 56,400, the Wildcats (1-2) fell to No. 11 Purdue (2-0) 31-24 Saturday night, after hurting themselves with penalties and other costly mistakes.
“It’s the same little things that keep holding us back, and against a team like this, it’s hard to have those mistakes,” said senior safety Darrell Brooks. “We have to get over the hump.”
Arizona, which sported its new red jerseys for the first time this season, had a couple of chances to pull off the upset, but could never take the lead from the Boilermakers.
Near the end of the third quarter, trailing 21-17, the Wildcats had a chance to get the ball inside Purdue territory. But junior receiver Syndric Steptoe fumbled a punt at the 38-yard line, and the Boilermakers recovered.
“We had the fans into the game, and we were going to have great field position,” said Arizona head coach Mike Stoops. “We just mishandled the punt.”
Purdue scored on the ensuing drive on a 3-yard touchdown run by Jerod Void that was set up by a 46-yard pass from quarterback Brandon Kirsch to receiver Kyle Ingraham on the previous play.
“A lot of people are really down right now because we thought we should have won this game,” said senior running back Mike Bell. “We played good football, we just hurt ourselves a lot of times.
“It’s pretty frustrating, but you can’t let it hang on your shoulders all year because it will kill you,” he said. “We’re a good football team. We just have to fix the mental mistakes.”
The Wildcats had 12 penalties for 75 yards, the vast majority of which were false starts, illegal formations and delays of game.
“We’ve got to just stop beating ourselves,” said senior linebacker Sean Jones. “If we stop that we can play with anybody.”
One bright spot for Arizona was its effective passing game. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Richard Kovalcheck racked up a career-high 287 yards with three touchdowns.
What hurt the Wildcats was their inability to run the ball. The team managed just 9 total rushing yards, with 30 yards lost on sacks.
“If they get 31 (points), we better score 32,” said offensive coordinator Mike Canales. “This is the same team that got beat two years ago by Purdue 59-7.
“These are the same kids that are playing, and they are battling,” he said. “I think we battled all night, but to accept a moral victory is not acceptable.”
Late in the third quarter, Arizona failed to convert a fake punt attempt when sophomore cornerback Wilrey Fontenot lost yards on a reverse handoff from punter Danny Baugher. Stoops said he felt Purdue would try and put pressure on the punt and the Wildcats could catch them over-pursuing.
The play resulted in a 3-yard loss, and despite the defensive effort preventing Purdue from getting a drive going, the Boilermakers cashed in with a 47-yard field goal four plays later to extend the lead to 31-17.
Arizona responded with a 9-yard touchdown reception by junior receiver Anthony Johnson with 11 minutes left in the game to cut the Purdue lead to 31-24, but the score never got closer.
The Wildcats played the Boilermakers back and forth in the first half and used Wood’s second touchdown catch of the half to pull within four points, 21-17, going into the locker room.
Wood scored his third and fourth touchdowns of the year and hauled in five catches for 96 yards.
Freshman receiver Michael Thomas continued his quality production adding six catches for 84 yards. However, while running free down the sideline, he dropped a pass on the Wildcats’ final drive that would have put the team in scoring position.
On the defensive side, junior safety Marcus Hollingsworth picked off the Wildcats’ first pass of the year and recorded the team’s only sack of the night.
Arizona has a bye this Saturday
before heading to Berkeley, Calif., on Oct. 1 for its Pacific 10 Conference opener against California, winners of a tight Pac-10 vs. Big Ten matchup of their own, rallying to defeat Illinois 35-20.
“Once we get over the hump I’m sure we’ll keep rolling,” Brooks said.
Senior Danny Baugher had a career-long, 76-yard punt in the first quarter that rolled out of the end zone for a touchback. He averaged 57.6 yards per punt in the game … Purdue running back Jerod Void ran for 107 yards on 18 carries and scored three touchdowns, moving him into second on the Boilermakers all-time rushing touchdowns list … The 12 penalties were the most by the Wildcats in Stoops’ two years as head coach … Junior place kicker Nick Folk hit a 51-yard field goal in the first half, the second longest of his career ... Purdue climbed one spot in the AP poll rankings to No. 11 with the victory.