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Wildcats keep pace but fall in L.A.

By Kyle Kensing
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, October 9, 2005

LOS ANGELES - Despite an unexpected push that lasted three-and-a-half quarters, the Arizona football team fell 42-21 against No. 1 Southern California yesterday at Memorial Coliseum. 

Arizona head coach Mike Stoops said his team showed plenty of positives against a USC squad that "has no weaknesses."

The afternoon looked like it would be a bleak one for the Wildcats early.

After Arizona (1-4, 0-2 Pacific 10 Conference) went three-and-out on its opening possession, the Trojans drove 96 yards on 13 plays, culminating with a one-yard LenDale White touchdown run.

USC (5-0, 3-0 Pac-10) went on the offensive a second time after a second consecutive 54-yard Danny Baugher punt, only to have Wildcat senior safety Darrell Brooks force a fumble from Trojan tailback Desmond Reed near midfield.

Brooks' tackle help Arizona get on the board with 12 seconds remaining in the first period.

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Richard Kovalcheck connected with freshman wideout Michael Thomas for 38 yards, setting up a four-yard touchdown strike from Kovalcheck to junior tight end Brad Wood.

Wood remained Arizona's top scoring receiver, hauling in his fifth touchdown, and finished with four catches for 59 yards.

"They're a very physical team, but we thought we could compete with them," Brooks said. "Playing the No. 1 team in the nation, this is the biggest stage there is."

USC senior quarterback Matt Leinart broke a second-quarter stalemate with just over a minute left in the first half, connecting with receiver Dwayne Jarrett on a 22-yard touchdown pass to put the Trojans ahead 14-7.

Shortly after White scored his second touchdown in the third quarter, senior defensive end Copeland Bryan picked up where he left off from last weekend's three-sack performance at Cal, taking down Leinart for a four-yard loss en route to USC's first three-and-out of the game.

The Arizona offense capitalized, with Kovalcheck completing three consecutive passes, the final a season-best 42-yard connection to Thomas that brought the Wildcats within a touchdown, 21-14.

"We got some things going offensively. That was very positive to see,"  Stoops said. "I thought we executed some things against a very talented team."

Leinart answered moments later when receiver Steve Smith beat Arizona cornerback Wilrey Fontenot downfield for a 56-yard gain. The play set up a third White touchdown, who went two yards to the end zone four plays later.

Junior receiver Syndric Steptoe answered with a career-best 76-yard kickoff return to bring the Wildcats to the USC 22, and Kovalcheck capped the ensuing drive with a one-yard touchdown toss to a falling Gilbert Harris.

Steptoe finished the day with 159 yards on five returns. 

"Our special teams have been solid all year," Stoops said. "Step did some great things returning the ball."

Baugher, the nation's top punter with a 49.1-yard average entering yesterday's game, booted four punts within the USC 20-yard line and finished with a net average of 46 yards per punt.

Leinart put the Trojans ahead 35-21 on the first possession of the fourth quarter with a 29-yard touchdown pass to Jarrett, completing an eight-play, 80-yard drive.

Arizona sophomore linebacker Dane Krogstad went down during the possession and was taken off the field. His condition was unknown as of press time.

Trailing by two touchdowns, the Wildcats engineered another drive into the red zone, courtesy of Kovalcheck's 43 passing yards and a 17-yard Mike Bell run.

But on fourth-and-two on the Southern California six-yard-line, Kovalcheck fired a pass to Wood that was deflected and intercepted by Trojan safety Ryan Ting.

On the subsequent drive, White, who finished with 179 yards on 24 carries, complemented a 65-yard Bush run with his fourth score of the afternoon, placing the final stamp on Arizona's upset hopes. 

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