Bear Down Blitz: Cats' epic task: besting No. 1 Trojans

By Charles Renning
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, October 7, 2005

Two-time defending national champions. No. 1 team in the nation. Winner of 26 straight games.

Trying to find a lead descriptive phrase for the Southern California football team isn't hard. Deciding which one to use is.

But as the Arizona football team heads to Los Angeles to take on the Trojans tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. on Fox Sports Net, Wildcats head coach Mike Stoops has decided to use a different, more simple title - Pacific 10 Conference opponent.

"Every week's a big challenge," he said. "It's another game just like the rest of them on our schedule. We go in, like we do every week, and try to get some things executed."

Arizona sophomore cornerback Antoine Cason said he's taking a similar approach.

"We just have to focus on how we play and don't worry about who they are," he said. "They're our opponent. We just have to go out and beat them like they're anyone else in this league."

While the Wildcats (1-3, 0-1 Pac-10) said they're approaching this game like any other conference contest, they still recognize the talent and recent success of the top-ranked Trojans (4-0, 2-0).

"They're a terrific football team, and they have no weakness," Stoops said. "It's a tremendous challenge."

USC is coming off a pair of come-from-behind road victories, including a 38-28 win last week in Tempe over ASU after trailing 21-3 at half time.

Stoops said a big reason for USC's late-game heroics is the team's depth and its ability to wear down opponents.

Another reason might be the loads of top-tier talent on the Trojans' roster.

Led by 2004 Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart, USC is in the top 10 nationally in every major offensive category, including total offense (first, 619.5 yards per game), scoring offense (first, 54 points per game), rushing offense (third, 279.8 yards per game) and pass efficiency (third, 171.67).

Leinart has a stable of capable offensive companions in junior tailbacks Reggie Bush and LenDale White, receivers junior Steve Smith and sophomore Dwayne Jarrett, and senior tight end Dominique Byrd.

"They're all good players," Cason said. "They come out and expect to win. That's how we have to come out and play, like we're not going to lose, no matter what."

Besides wanting to win, Cason has another motivation to stop the Trojan offensive attack - the song the USC band plays after the team makes a first down.

"That is an annoying song. I'll try to play hard so I won't have to hear that song," Cason said jokingly. "When that song goes, I just put the mute on. When I hear it, I want to go out and play a little harder."

With everything that's stacked against Arizona, the Wildcats do have a couple things going for them.

Last season, they made the same trip to Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum against another top-ranked Trojans team and led 3-0 after the first quarter before USC took over and handed Arizona its worst loss of 2004, 49-9.

Trojan head coach Pete Carroll said this week in a teleconference with Tucson media that Arizona was able to keep his team off-balance and present some problems early on.

"They've shown they can be effective. They just haven't been able to keep it up for the whole game," Carroll said. "They continue to play good defense, and they play real aggressive. We're expecting a challenge. We respect the heck out of them."

Arizona also has some history on its side. The last time a No. 1-ranked USC team lost was in October 1981 to the Wildcats 13-10 in Los Angeles.

"Everybody is beatable. You just have to play a near-perfect game," Cason said. "If you play as hard as you can and never give up, things can happen."