Football notes: Cats' Pac-10 home opener a family affair

By Kyle Kensing and Charles Renning
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Arizona football team returns home for the first time in nearly a month Saturday for the 2005 Family Weekend game against Stanford at 4 p.m.

The Wildcats last played in Tucson Sept. 17 in a 34-27 loss to then-No. 11 Purdue, a game that marked the first sell out of Arizona Stadium since 1999.

"Playing at home, it will be a great atmosphere," said Arizona head coach Mike Stoops. "I like what our kids are doing. They've practiced well, and we've had a couple great days of preparation."

Arizona's first two Pacific 10 Conference endeavors were on the road, with the team coming up short Oct. 1 at California (28-0) and Saturday at Southern California (42-21).

Senior safety Darrell Brooks said he's looking forward to the return home.

"In the Pac-10, it's always good to play at home," he said. "When you have the crowd behind your back, and your confidence level rises, and the environment changes for once.

"It's a lot of fun to come out (to Arizona Stadium), and we're trying to play well in front of our home crowd," he said.

Linebacker injury woes continue

Arizona's linebacker corps continues to resemble a MASH unit days before its matchup with the Cardinal.

Sophomore Dane Krogstad was relegated to street clothes and sported a knee brace at practice this week after suffering a knee injury in Saturday's loss to USC.

Krogstad ranks second on the team in tackles (38), hits for a loss (four) and sacks (two).

Krogstad's stint on the sidelines comes at a time when Arizona welcomes back another linebacker in senior Spencer Larsen.

A pulled hamstring downed Larsen Sept. 17 in his first game back from an anterior cruciate ligament tear suffered in March.

In all, linebackers Krogstad (shoulder and knee), Larsen (knee and hamstring), senior Randy Sims (ankle) and redshirt freshman Ronnie Palmer (foot) have missed a combined 14 games.

Transfer Johnson working into a bigger role on defense

After arriving on campus for spring practices, junior college transfer safety Michael Johnson has continued to work into the Wildcats' defense.

Johnson has seen both his playing time and statistics increase as the year has gone on. The Austin, Texas, native was second on the team with nine tackles, one for a loss, in Arizona's 42-21 defeat Saturday to USC.

Johnson also broke up a pass and recovered a fumble against the No. 1 Trojans.

"He's a really athletic and fast player. He's an explosive player," said Stoops in a press conference Monday. "He's a special talent and gives us even more speed in the secondary."

Johnson is just another weapon in Arizona's loaded defensive backfield that includes Jim Thorpe Award candidate Darrell Brooks and sophomore cornerbacks Antoine Cason and Wilrey Fontenot.

He should prove even more valuable when Brooks and senior safety Lamon Means run out of eligibility after this season.

Wildcats can relate to Cardinal struggles

This year's Stanford program is going through some of the same problems the 2004 Wildcats encountered with a new coach.

The Cardinal stumbled in its second game, Sept. 17, losing 20-17 to Division I-AA UC-Davis in Palo Alto, Calif.

Following the loss, first-year Stanford coach Walt Harris said in his weekly press conference that he hoped his team would take something positive from the loss.

"The sign of a good man and a winner is someone that takes something negative and turns it into a positive. That's what we have to do," he said.

Stanford responded three weeks later with a road win over Washington State.

Stoops said the biggest challenge as a coach beginning with a new team is getting your system and personnel integrated.

"It takes a while to build a team," said redshirt senior linebacker Sean Jones, who's experienced three head coaches in his five years. "(The Cardinal) just have to bring it together like we have to."