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Football notes: Stats deceptive in Wildcats' loss to No. 1 USC

Chris Coduto/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Arizona's junior wide receiver Syndric Steptoe can't catch a fourth down pass during the second half of Southern California's 42-21 win over Arizona on Saturday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles.
By Charles Renning
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
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Special teams carried Arizona against Trojans

Much has been said about the school-record 724 yards the Arizona football team gave up against No.1 Southern California Saturday, not to mention the Wildcats being out-gained by nearly 500 total yards.

Arizona head coach Mike Stoops said what most people don't look at in terms of offensive production are special teams yards, which are often impossible to see by merely looking at a box score.

The Wildcats outgained the Trojans 172-17 in return yards, shutting down USC return specialist Reggie Bush and dominating the field-possession game in Los Angeles.

"I thought our special teams were outstanding and really gave us a chance," Stoops said in his weekly press conference yesterday. "Those were the underlying yards that gave us an opportunity late in the game."

Arizona junior receiver Syndric Steptoe had all of the Wildcat return yards, outshining Bush in that respect.

Steptoe finished the contest averaging 31.8 yards per kick return and had a career-long 76-yard effort that might have been a touchdown had he not tripped while trying to make a cut near the 20-yard line.

A big reason for the lack of production out of Bush was the Wildcats' ability to kick and cover.

The Trojans had no punt return yardage off six Danny Baugher boots and got off only one kick return because junior Nick Folk blasted every other kickoff out of the end zone.

"Our cover teams have been really solid," Stoops said. "Our kickers have been great, and Step has been fantastic running the balls back.

"That has really been the strength for us and the most consistent part of our team," Stoops said.

USC's offense started with the ball at or inside its own 20-yard line on nine of 11 drives. The bad news for Arizona was that all six Trojan touchdown drives went for 80 yards or more.

"At least we made them go 80 yards and didn't give them 40-yard fields," Stoops said. "That keeps us in the game."

Krogstad to miss at least one week

The only significant injury the Wildcats suffered in their 42-21 loss this weekend was that by sophomore linebacker Dane Krogstad.

Krogstad hurt his knee, and Stoops said he is still being evaluated.

"It'll be a week or two," Stoops said of when Krogstad could return. "They're still trying to diagnose what they are going to do with his knee."

Krogstad's is just one in a long line of injuries the Wildcat linebacker corps has suffered this year. The team has spent time without senior Randy Sims, freshman Ronnie Palmer, junior John McKinney and sophomore Spencer Larsen.

"That's college football for you," said senior linebacker Sean Jones. "The next man has to step up and help us out."

Arizona gets a little bit of help when Palmer returns to practice this week. Stoops said he expects him to be at full strength.

Pac-10 in the polls

There was a lot of movement among members of the Pacific 10 Conference in this week's Associated Press national top-25 poll after four of the league's top five teams competed against one another.

For the 36th straight week, USC held the top spot, while Los Angeles neighbor UCLA moved up eight spots to No. 12 with its 47-40 win Saturday over then-No. 10 California.

The Golden Bears dropped to No. 18.

Arizona State found itself out of the top 25 after its 31-17 loss in Tempe to Oregon. The Ducks moved up five spots to No. 20 with the win.

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