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September 20, 2006This Saturday's game against USC is sure to be a good one. And, if nothing else, it will show just how good Arizona's highly touted secondary really is.
Arizona star free safety Michael Johnson believes that a win against 3rd ranked USC would be huge for the Arizona football program.
"I know that it will make a big statement if we beat them," Johnson said. "We are lucky enough to get the opportunity to play against two top ten teams, so we'll try and make a statement by beating them."
Last season when unranked Arizona beat then 6th ranked UCLA, it put Mike Stoops' football program on the map. Beating USC this weekend would be just as big, if not bigger, and possibly be enough to boost Arizona into the Top 25 and with it the national spotlight.
However, that task is easier said than done. USC has flaunted one of the most potent offenses in the country over the past few years, but with several major departures last season, there have been many questions about how USC will overcome the losses. One of the answers so far has been quarterback John David Booty.
"He stepped up and played the role that Matt Leinart played, so I guess he's a big time quarterback," Johnson said of Booty. "It's a good challenge for our defensive backs and linebackers to see how good we can play."
Booty has started only two games as a Trojan and Johnson knows that it is critical that they disrupt the Trojan's passing attack.
"We want to get in his head," Johnson said. "Get a lot of pressure and knock him down a lot. Hopefully we'll throw him off his game and we don't let him get comfortable."
USC has one of the best receiver tandems in the country in Steve Smith and Dwayne Jarrett, and shutting them down will be a challenge.
"They're both good returning receivers," Johnson said. "They had a good performance last year. Jarrett scored two touchdowns against us last year so we'll try to stop him this year."
Arizona lost to USC last year 42-21, but the Wildcats kept it close for most of the game, as they were only down by one score at the end of the third quarter.
"Until the fourth quarter we were in it," Johnson said. "A few things broke down mechanically and they came out with the win last year. One of our goals is to win the fourth quarter in every game, and obviously we didn't get it in that game."
Arizona is coming of it second win of the season and will look to improve on certain aspects of the game in which they struggled against Stephen F. Austin.
"We didn't play up to the best of our ability. I feel like we should've won the game bigger than that," Johnson said. "We had too many penalties, mental mistakes and blown assignments. As long as we can work on those then we can get a lot better."
Michael Johnson and the rest of Arizona's secondary will have plenty of opportunities to halt the Southern Cal offense. USC has thrown the ball 75 times for six touchdowns over their first two games. If Arizona wants to win on Saturday, it will need a lot of solid play from the defense.