November 6, 2006

Five Players of the Game: Washington State

The Arizona Wildcats played their best all-around game of the season Saturday afternoon, securing the fourth win of the season and bowl game hopes are still alive.

Although most of the season the defense has had to ask the offense to put up some points to help the Wildcats win, the complete opposite was the case against the Cougars. Arizona's offense played its best game of the season allowing the defense to maintain Arizona's lead, and the reason the offense played so well all started with the offensive line.

1. Arizona's Offensive Line: It is too tough to single out one player on the offensive line because the unit played so well across the board for Arizona. Tackles Peter Graniello and Eben Britton played perhaps their best games of the season, holding the best pass rushing team in the conference to no sacks.

Before the game, it was said that Arizona's offensive line would have to contain the immensely talented Cougars defensive line if the Wildcats were to even have a shot in this game. The UA line responded with its best game of the season and the unit is the reason that Arizona beat a Top 25 team.

Adam Hawes started the game at left guard, but went out early after getting a little banged up and Daniel Borg came in and the Wildcats didn't miss a beat. Blake Kerley and Joseph Longacre also played well for Arizona, mainly opening holes on the inside.

Arizona's offensive line has been slowly improving throughout the season and while growing pains were inevitable, it is starting to seem as if the unit is over the first hump. The line played with three freshmen and one sophomore against the Cougars and so it is easy to see the potential of the group in years to come.

However, with the way the line executed on Saturday, Arizona fans may not have to wait on potential much longer.

2. Chris Henry: One of the recipients of the great offensive line play was junior running back Chris Henry. The second place spot could very well have gone to Henry and Earl Mitchell together in the I-formation because it completely changed the way Arizona ran up the middle.

Henry has had a rough year thus far, but has been very optimistic about the running game when the young offensive line matures. He was right in that their first really good game of the year was also a good game for the running backs. Henry did not only get help from the offensive line, but also displayed a ton of speed in his runs to the outside and one time turned a five-yard play into almost twenty.

Henry carried the ball 35 times, which completely ate away the clock at the end of the game, for a net 94 yards and two touchdowns. When looking carefully over the entire game, Henry was flat out exceptional in the fourth quarter leading Arizona to three first downs in the final six minutes.

Earlier in the year Arizona would have gone three-and-out given the opponent and opportunity to score, but Henry didn't let that happen and the tough yardage he gained at the end of the game can't go unnoticed.

3. Antoine Cason: Sometimes Cason goes unnoticed in games because he is shied away from by the opposing quarterback. Last week's Pac-10 Conference Player of the Week and arguably the second best quarterback in the conference in Alex Brink didn't seem scared of Cason.

He probably should have been as every time he threw Cason's way the Arizona cornerback made a play on the ball. Brink was accurate enough not to throw an interception, but Cason had four pass break-ups on the day and six total tackles. Although Cason did not cause a turnover in the air he did cause one on the ground, forcing one fumble.

4. Nick Folk: Although it was tough not to recognize other guys that typically don't make the top five, we just couldn't keep Folk off the list after his tremendous play in the punting and place kicking game. Folk's extra points were extremely important because they kept Arizona in the lead and a miss could have shifted the momentum towards the Cougars.

He was two-for-two on the day, hitting from 48 yards and from 37 yards to end the first half. His punting game was also on mark as he had seven punts for a short average of 39 yards, however, that is mainly due to the precision of his kicks landing three deep inside the twenty. On the season Folk is 11-16 on field goal attempts including connecting on his last five.

5. Ronnie Palmer: The entire linebacking corps played great against the Cougars, and although Spencer Larsen made some critical stops, Ronnie Palmer deserves a ton of praise. He started out the season a little slow, but has since become a force in the middle for the Wildcats. He led Arizona in tackles with seven and also forced two fumbles against Washington State, displaying his hitting ability.

Honorable Mention: Entire Arizona Defensive Line

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