Arizona's Jonathan McKnight sees a lot of himself in Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant.
Both grew up in the shadow of accomplished older brothers. Both have overcome adversity, whether it's a lack of size or injury, to crack the starting lineup.
And both can flat-out play.
Tonight's game between Arizona and Washington will pit two of the Pac-12's better cornerbacks against each other. McKnight has been the Wildcats' top defensive playmaker over the first six games, and Trufant has developed such a reputation that few teams dare throw his way.
"Trufant, he's a corner that can play at the next level, too," McKnight said. "He's a very nice cornerback at his size, and how he plays."
"He's probably the best cornerback in the Pac-12 - other than myself," he said.
• Height, weight: 5-11, 175
• Year: Sophomore
• Hometown (high school): River Ridge, La. (John Curtis)
• Before Arizona: The Scout.com recruiting class listed McKnight as a three-star recruit and the nation's 24th-best cornerback as a high school senior. He chose Arizona over offers from Arkansas and Texas Tech.
• 2012 stats: In six starts, McKnight has 25 tackles and a team-high three interceptions. McKnight returned a pick for a touchdown in Arizona's Week 2 upset win over Oklahoma State.
• Famous family: McKnight's older brother, Joe, was a star running back at USC who's now in his third year with the New York Jets.
• Height, weight: 6-0, 186
• Year: Senior
• Hometown (high school): Tacoma, Wash. (Wilson)
• Before Washington: The Scout.com recruiting service listed Trufant as a three-star recruit and the nation's 70th-best cornerback out of high school. He chose Washington over Colorado, Idaho and Washington State; the UA showed interest in Trufant, but never offered a scholarship.
• 2012 stats: In six games, Trufant - a three-year starter - has registered 18 tackles, 3 1/2 of them for loss. Trufant's lone interception was a big one: It sealed an upset win over Stanford.
• Famous family: Trufant is the younger brother of Seattle Seahawks cornerback Marcus Trufant, a former Washington State star. Another brother, Isaiah, currently plays for the New York Jets. Isaiah scored his first NFL touchdown last season, after a blocked punt by Joe McKnight bounced into his hands.
The last time
Cats couldn't stop Polk, who totaled 244 yards, had 2 TDs in 4th period
Date: Oct. 29, 2011
What went down: Running back Chris Polk posted 244 total yards scored five touchdowns as Washington edged the UA 42-31 in Seattle. The Wildcats played without cornerback Shaquille Richardson and nickel back Jourdon Grandon, both of whom were suspended for their roles in a fight on the field a week earlier. Defensive backs Mark Watley and Lyle Brown missed the first half.
How it read: Star columnist Greg Hansen wrote that Arizona's loss to Washington "was neither unexpected nor unpleasant." He wrote:
"Come on, who really expected the Wildcats to win the late, late, late show against a 6-2 team on a night they periodically deployed a secondary that included a wide receiver (redshirt freshman Tyler Slavin) and true freshmen Cortez Johnson and Tra'Mayne Bondurant? It was not an instant classic. Both defenses were as soft as a jelly Danish."
Turning point: Polk thundered in two fourth- quarter touchdowns to put the game away in the fourth quarter. His 5-yard score gave the Huskies a 35-31 lead with 8 minutes 21 seconds remaining; his 2-yard run put the game away with 3:59 left.
Stats that matter: The teams combined to post 913 yards of total offense and score 73 points. UW quarterback Keith Price threw for 277 yards and a touchdown, but was intercepted three times - Arizona's Robert Golden returned his pick 91 yards for a touchdown. Arizona's Nick Foles threw for 388 yards, and Juron Criner caught 11 passes for 118 yards and two scores.
It's history: Arizona fell to 2-6 overall and 1-5 in the Pac-12; the team lost the following week's game to Utah and fell at Colorado, then rallied to defeat Arizona State and Louisiana-Lafayette. Washington lost three of its final four regular-season games, but earned an Alamo Bowl bid. Baylor beat the Huskies 67-56.
Three players imitated Huskies QB for defense
Arizona's ability to stop one quarterback tonight may hinge on how well they stopped three others earlier in the week.
UA backups Nick Isham and Jack Nykaza posed as Washington's Keith Price during practices this week with hopes of giving the Wildcats defense a taste of what to expect from the dual-threat quarterback.
When Arizona went "good-on-good," coaches called on second-stringer B.J. Denker to play Price.
Even then, it was a tough scout. Price extends plays with his legs, though he's been running less and less as his career's progressed. In six games, Price has thrown for 1,080 yards and seven touchdowns. He's been intercepted six times.
"He's playing too timid, probably," UA linebacker Sir Thomas Jackson said.
The Wildcats should be familiar with Washington's spread offense, in part because they defend UA quarterback Matt Scott in practice every day. But there's a difference in the two offenses, coach Rich Rodriguez said. Scott typically either throws or runs; Price tends to scramble, then throw.
"It's a little different style," Rodriguez said. "That's the thing … you can't say, 'I'm going to go get the quarterback and then let (receivers) run downfield."
LB faces hometown team
Cats' Jackson takes snub by UW in stride
Sir Thomas Jackson grew up in Seattle, worshipping Washington stars Steve Emtman and Marques Tuiasosopo.
When he became a standout at O'Dea High School, practically a U-Dub prep school, Jackson figured the Huskies would come calling.
"I was upset," the Arizona linebacker said, "but I can't do anything about it now."
Jackson will try to wreck his former favorite team tonight, when the Wildcats face UW at Arizona Stadium. Jackson, a redshirt freshman walk-on has been one of the team's most pleasant surprises this season. In six games, the Washington native has registered 37 tackles and one sack, and has broken up three passes.
Here's what Jackson had to say about facing his hometown team:
On his familiarity with Washington's roster: "I know most of their team, the majority of their team. I grew up with most of the Seattle kids: (wide receiver) Kasen Williams, (tackle) Ben Riva, and guys like that. (Running back) Bishop Sankey and (tight end) Austin Seferian-Jenkins - I went to camps with all them."
On why Washington wasn't interested: "Maybe my size? They didn't think I'd play linebacker at that stage."
On whether he thought of walking on at UW: "Nah. When you get burned, you don't … And, well, I didn't have the grades to go to U-Dub anyway. They turned down a couple people from my school. They turned our valedictorian down that year."
On whether he has extra motivation for this weekend: "I'd be lying if I didn't say I do, but I've got to show it on the field. Let's get this W. That's all I care about right now. It's in the past. I forgive 'em."
Strength of schedule
On paper, road is easier for UA, UW in 2nd half
It's unclear whether Arizona and Washington are, in the big picture, any good.
But neither 3-3 team is probably as bad as its looked through the first six weeks.
Consider these numbers:
• Arizona's first six opponents are a combined 18-3 in their non-UA games this season, an .857 opponents' winning percentage that's the second-best in the nation. Washington's foes have posted a 19-5 mark, the fourth-best in the nation. California (seventh), Stanford (eighth) and Utah (16th) have all played tough schedules. Arizona State, by comparison, entered this week with a 6-17 opponents' record.
• Arizona's remaining opponents are a combined 18-16, a .529 winning percentage that's, so far, well below the records of the teams they've played. Washington's future foes are just 12-21.
• Just three of Arizona's six remaining opponents - Arizona State (5-2), USC (5-1) and UCLA (5-2) - currently have winning records. After playing the UA tonight, the Huskies will face Oregon State and four teams - Cal, Utah, Colorado and Washington State - with losing marks.
UA coach Rich Rodriguez said the Wildcats "have to treat (Washington) as a team that is going to be ranked by the end of the season."
"They have some of the best skilled players in the league. They have a very athletic defense," he said. "Our guys can see that on film. You can paint whatever picture you want, but when you see them on TV or on film you know they're good."
Washington at Arizona • 7 p.m. • Pac-12 Arizona • 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Spanish)
Game-day breakdown by Ryan Finley
Arizona vs. Washington by the numbers
Arizona's all-time record against the Huskies
Arizona's record against Washington since 2002
Total aggregate score, Arizona over Washington in the teams' last 10 matchups