Cats Face High-Flying Cougars in Pac-10 Opener
Sept. 24, 2001
The Game -
The Arizona Wildcats (3-0, 0-0 in the Pacific-10 Conference), open league play against the Washington State Cougars (3-0, 1-0) in a contest of unbeatens at 7:07 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29, in 56,002-seat Arizona Stadium. The game will be produced by Fox Sports Net Arizona for live broadcast on KWBA-TV (and KUSK in central Arizona), with Dave Sitton, Doug Plank and Dana Cooper calling the play. A crowd in excess of 50,000 is expected.
Some Game Themes -
It's the Cats' league opener, while WSU has a victory over California under its belt... Two 3-0 clubs (for the first time since 1998), with the victor a potential contender for the Top 25... WSU (42 ppg) and Arizona (32 ppg) show a proclivity to score -- and the winner's scored an average of 38 points in the last five series games... Can the Cats thwart WSU quarterback Jason Gesser, who topped his career-best 348 passing yards (at UA last year) with a 432-yard, four-touchdown day against Cal last week?.. Can WSU baffle UA quarterback Jason Johnson, who's completed seven more passes than Gesser and hit 64 percent of this throws?.. WSU is No. 10 nationally in rushing defense (66 ypg) while Arizona clicks in at No. 24 (92 ypg), so running will be a key... Can UA break its five-game Pac-10 losing streak, and streak of three consecutive home league losses?
The Series --
Arizona leads 21-9 and has won the last three games, plus the last four in Tucson. The Cats have an 11-4 mark in games played in Arizona Stadium. UA won last year in three tie-breaker periods, 53-47. Three of the last four games have been decided in overtime or on the last play in regulation. WSU last won in Tucson, 23-20, in 1992. The teams combined for the 100 points and 980 yards in total offense last season.
The Coaches --
Arizona: John Mackovic (Wake Forest '65), first year at UA (3-0) and 14th season as a collegiate head coach (88-64-3). He became the first new UA coach to open 3-0 since Jim Young did so in 1973, when Mackovic was UA's offensive coordinator and UA started 5-0. He is 0-1 against WSU. The Cougs beat Mackovic's first Illinois team, 44-7, in the 1988 season opener. WSU: Mike Price (Puget Sound '69), 13th year in Pullman (66- 73), and 21st year as a head coach (112-117). Price is 3-9 against Arizona.
Last Week --
Arizona scored on its opening drive for the first time this year with a sharp 11-play, 61-yard march, let a fumble cost it the lead minutes later, then got back to business and picked on the UNLV defense en route to a 38-21 victory. The Cats gained 24 first downs and averaged 6.2 yards per play for 440 net yards, led by the passing of Jason Johnson (18-30, 247 yards and 3 TDs). Redshirt freshman running back Tremaine Cox broke a trap play for an 80-yard scoring run late in the first half and finished with his first 100-yard game (8-111). UA, which will work to shore up its fourth-quarter scoring defense, held the Rebels to 96 total yards and one first down in the first half, sacked elusive Jason Thomas three times, and put up some points when corner Michael Jolivette recovered an errant lateral and romped 40 yards for a score. UA also held UNLV to one third-down conversion in 13 tries. The Cats suffered a blocked field goal, gave up too much kickoff return yardage and lost two fumbles -- the first was returned for UNLV's only points through three quarters. UA punter Ramey Peru provided a 41.2 average to give UA a net figure of 39.0. Johnson threw to nine different receivers (the most for UA in 25 games) and Bobby Wade caught two scoring passes among four balls while tight end James Hugo had his first career scoring catch. Malosi Leonard (4-75) kept pace with Wade. Defensive end Johnny Jackson had two sacks and forced a fumble with his five hits while linebacker Lance Briggs led 13 multiple-tackles players with seven. After one quarter the outcome was not in doubt, and UA is 3-0.
Arizona Head Coach John Mackovic
UA's 26th head coach, John Mackovic (Wake Forest '65) assumed leadership in December 2000 and quickly demonstrated his intent to take Arizona football in a new direction. Notably it's been a turnaround, as he snapped a school five-game losing streak and gave the program new life with three consecutive victories to open his tenure. The victories this year make him the first new Arizona head coach to open 3-0 since Jim Young did so in 1973 when Mackovic was an offensive coordinator on the staff.
The Wildcats' 3-0 non-conference record in 2001 give him one of only three undefeated non-conference seasons Arizona has enjoyed in the past 11 years.
Mackovic draws on 17 years' experience as a collegiate head coach, athletics director or professional head coach, and from 15 additional seasons in coordinator or assistant positions in the trade. Further, he has three recent years' experience in the media as a college football analyst for ESPN. The transition year has progressed extremely well and given Arizona a mentor with extensive offensive acumen and a strong network of colleagues in the allied professions. His professional and organized approach in assembling a staff, recruiting his first class and establishing the coaching processes for the 2001 Wildcat program has been exemplary.
Mackovic took over for 14-year Arizona coach Dick Tomey and switched gears in placing a primary focus on the passing game and its contemporary derivations. That being said, he determined that UA's strong tradition of defense is a useful tool, and his vision of Wildcat football involves putting the same aggressive forces to work while UA attacks with the ball. It's a swell development for Arizona partisans and has been in evidence on the field in 2001.
UA's first three games of the Mackovic era have demonstrated his play-calling ability and taste for unpredictability, such as the 1st-down, 99-yard pass play by Jason Johnson from his own end zone after a sudden-change possession against Idaho. It was the longest play in UA history and came off in de rigueur fashion. Arizona throws the ball as advertised. Still, a weekly wrinkle here or there has resulted in new plays which catch the defense off balance, such as a simple trap play that RB Tremaine Cox turned into an 80-yard score against UNLV. Unpredictability has quickly become an Arizona offensive trait.
Mackovic, 57, carries a 13-year collegiate record of 88-64-3. He took three of his last four teams (University of Texas) to bowl games and has led nine teams to winning records with eight bowl trips overall as a head coach. In 32 years of coaching he has held three college head coaching positions and one top National Football League spot (Kansas City, 1983-86, 30-34-0 record), served as offensive coordinator at three different Division I-A schools and worked as an assistant under former Dallas Cowboys' legend Tom Landry. He has Arizona bloodlines as Young's four-year offensive coordinator from 1973-76, heydays for prolific Western Athletic Conference offensive displays.
He has worked with and helped to develop such noted offensive players as Arizona's Bruce Hill and Theo Bell, Purdue's Mark Hermann, the Cowboys' Danny White, Illinois' Jeff George and Ricky Williams of Texas. Moreover, his emphasis on the total student-athlete can be underscored by eight national academic/citizenship honor winners including defensive end Eli Wnek's recent selection to the AFCA Good Works Team. Plus, Mackovic has fostered classroom progress which gave him nine overall first-team Big 12 All-Academic honors his charges earned during his tenure at Texas. Quite soon several UA players should join that list.
Mackovic is no stranger to honors. At Wake Forest as a quarterback he won the Atlantic Coast Conference Gold Medal Award and earned Academic All-America honors his senior year. Later at WFU as head coach in 1979 he earned Walter Camp Foundation National Coach of the Year, The Sporting News College Coach of the Year, AFCA District Coach of the Year and Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year. At Illinois where he also served as athletics director, he earned Big Ten Coach of the Year honors in 1988 and 1989. At Texas in 1995 he was Southwest Conference Coach of the Year and a national award finalist. In 1996 he was Big XII Coach of the Year by the Austin American Statesman after taking the Longhorns to victory in the inaugural Big XII title game over Nebraska.
Mackovic has endowed an athletics scholarship in the name of his daughter, Aimee, at the University of Arizona, just as a similar endowment continues in his name at the University of Texas.
Mackovic's Turnaround Tradition
If Arizona continues its improvement from a 5-6 finish in 2000, it should be no surprise. John Mackovic has stepped forward at each stop in his 17-year head coaching career, to improve the program. For that matter, in his first stint at Arizona as offensive coordinator (1973-76), he was part of a staff which improved UA from a 4-7 club to successive 8-3, 9-2 and 9-2 seasons. At Texas, the Longhorns were 5-6 the year before his arrival. His six-year mark: 41-28-2 with three bowl appearances. At Illinois, the Illini finished 4-7 before he arrived. His four-year mark: 30-16-1 with four bowls. At Wake Forest, the Demon Deacons were 1-10 the year before he took over. His three-year mark: 14-20 and WFU's first bowl appearance in 30 years. At Kansas City of the NFL, he took over following a 3-6 mark in a strike year and eventually led the Chiefs to a 30-34 record and their first playoff appearance in 15 seasons.
Cats Break Streak, Face Some Others
John Mackovic helped UA end an ignominious streak in the opener, snapping a five-game losing skein with the 23-10 victory at San Diego State. The next obstacle -- his first Pacific-10 Conference game. As Arizona enters league play it faces the challenge of trying to break a string of five league losses, and a streak of three consecutive Pac-10 home losses. As to non-league action, before this year Arizona was undefeated in non-conference play only twice in the past 10 seasons -- the program's two historically best years (10-2 in 1993 and 12-1 in 1998). Only four Arizona clubs since 1978 -- the year it joined the Pac-10 -- have done so.
Arizona Game Captains
Here are the game captains to date: San Diego State: SS Brandon Nash, WR Malosi Leonard, SS Zaharius Johnson, C Steven Grace, DE Eli Wnek. Idaho: FB Mike Detwiler, LB Lance Briggs, FS Jarvie Worcester, WR Lance Relford, DE Alex Luna. UNLV: TE Peter Hansen, CB Jermaine Chatman, DT Anthony Thomas, OT Makoa Freitas, OG Kevin Barry.
WSU, Match-up Notes...
Washington State University, Pullman, Wash.: Enrollment 22,000... Colors - crimson and gray... Conference - Pac-10... In 2000: 4-7.
The Cougars passed for a school-record 513 yards against California in a 51-20 blowout Saturday. Starter Jason Gesser (19-43, 432 yards) found Nakoa McElrath nine times for 163 yards and two scores and hit Mike Bush (5-144, 1 TD) and Mike Riley (3-124, 1 TD) for more than 100 yards as well... McElrath, with 27 catches for 414 yards, leads the nation in receiving yards per game and is third in receptions. That yardage is enough to rank him 13th in all-purpose yardage. He's on a pace that would break the WSU single-season receptions mark of 67.. Place kicker Drew Dunning connected on three field goals and the Cougs ran up 605 yards in total offense vs. Cal to move to No. 5 nationally at 546 yards per game... Dunning is averaging two FGs per game to rank eighth nationally... Gesser had some big numbers (19-36, 348 yds) in Tucson last year when he threw for six touchdowns in the triple-overtime UA victory... Gesser's No. 7 in total offense and No. 9 nationally in pass efficiency with a 171.40 rating.... Improvement was expected on the Palouse this year, with WSU returning 17 starters... Free safety Lamont Thompson missed last year with a sore neck but is back at full strength with his 15 career interceptions, while strong safety Bill Newman and corner Marcus Trufant will help give UA's passing game its biggest test so far as the Cougar defense has five interceptions... WSU has outscored opponents 128-47 in three games, a year after it lost three games in overtime including the loss at UA... WSU coach Mike Price, the dean of league coaches, is the active Pac-10 career coaching victories leader with 112. He had trailed Dick Tomey and Bruce Snyder, but tenure moved him to the forefront... WSU received 19 votes in this week's AP poll and one vote in the USA Today/ESPN poll...
More Game Themes...
UA, laboring in the anonymity a 5-6 campaign provided, gets to show its Pac-10 brethren it's a different Arizona team than most have been accustomed to in the past 14 years. Now league counterparts will be introduced to the new coach, new focus and new style... UA passed the ball 22 times on first or second down against UNLV, for example... The UA-WSU series has enjoyed some donnybrooks, notably the overtimes and late-game deciding plays of recent years...
Arizona in the Polls
The Wildcats received eight votes in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls this week. Arizona was last in the rankings (No. 23 ESPN/USA Today, No. 24 AP) with a 5-2 a year ago, but dropped out on Oct. 29 after a loss to UCLA.
Injury Report for WSU Game
Arizona, with an early Thursday game and an off week, now hits the grind. Defensive end Alex Luna (knee vs. UNLV) had surgery to remove cartilage Sept. 23 and is out for at least this week. Right tackle Darren Safranek (wrist) and backup cornerback David Hinton (wrist) are questionable for WSU pending further evaluation this week. Defensive end Eli Wnek (foot fracture, has not played) and defensive end Fata Avegalio (dislocated elbow at SDSU, missed two games). Avegalio has returned to practice. Wnek is likely still out for another week or so, while Avegalio is probable for the WSU game. Placements snapper John Vorsheck performed those duties against UNLV but missed rotation play at offensive tackle because of an ankle injury. He's probable for WSU. Defensive end Austin Uku (knee) missed the first two games but played against UNLV. Special teams player Danny Perry (knee) had surgery prior to the Idaho game after a camp injury and will redshirt 2001. Lost Potential Starts due to Injury: 3 (Wnek).
Graphic Impact Player of the Game(s)
Coaches award three Graphic Impact Player of the Week mementoes for team-supporting efforts. SDSU: SS Brandon Nash, defense, QB Jason Johnson, offense, Andrae Thurman, special teams. Idaho: FS Jarvie Worcester, defense, LT Makoa Freitas, offense, Lance Briggs, special teams. UNLV: DE Johnny Jackson, defense, WR Malosi Leonard, offense, Clay Hart, special teams. The honors go to those not necessarily garnering the headlines but instead to those whose efforts help the Cats win a ball game. Against UNLV, Jackson's two sacks help pace a defensive effort which kept high-powered Jason Thomas in check, Leonard caught four balls, all for first downs, and Hardt made three tackles in kick coverage.
Jason Johnson's EfficiencyUA quarterback Jason Johnson has shown superb composure, accuracy and understanding of the Cats' multiple-pro passing attack in his three-game starting career. He's 14th nationally in pass efficiency rating at 149.86. He's completed 64 percent of his passes (59 for 92) and thrown only one interception (a tipped ball at SDSU) while striking for six touchdown throws including a school and Pac-10 record 99-yarder to Brandon Marshall. The completion percentage and the fact 10 percent of his passes result in touchdowns have put a new dynamic in UA's offense. Further, Johnson has shown he can stay in the pocket and take a hit, plus get rid of the ball quickly.
Offensive Line Continuity
Arizona's starting offensive line is the group expected after spring, with starters Makoa Freitas, Reggie Sampay, center Steven Grace, Kevin Barry and Darren Safranek from left to right. The group did not play together last year due to injuries which caused Grace (shoulder) to miss 10 games and Freitas (foot) to missed eight. Sampay played center a year ago but has switched to guard because Mackovic feels Grace is a natural, and the best center he's ever coached. The group takes on the challenge of pass protection in Pac-10 play this week, typically facing quick, big people off the edge. The line has allowed only three sacks in 101 passing attempts, well within goals set by offensive coaches. UA's running game has shown its mettle through three games, too, with a couple of 100-yard individual efforts (Clarence Farmer, 18-118 vs. Idaho, Tremaine Cox, 8-111 vs. UNLV) and team gross rushing yardage at the 200-yad mark in each of the past two games. The Cats have depth up front with tackles Brandon Phillips and John Vorsheck and center-guard Keoki Fraser.
Rushing-Defense Tradition Continues
Arizona held its first three opponents to an average of 92 rushing yards per game, good enough to rate No. 24th nationally. The last two teams have used fourth-quarter splurges to account for more than 100 yards, only the fourth and fifth teams to eclipse the century mark in the last 15 games. UA held San Diego State to 41 net yards rushing on 29 attempts, an average of 1.4 yards per carry. Idaho used its fourth-quarter momentum to finish with 113 net rushing yards. Idaho's Blair Lewis (110) is one of four backs to hit the 100-yard mark against UA in the last 16 games. Defensive coordinator Larry Mac Duff is back on the job after a stint with the New York Giants. One of his long-standing priorities has been stopping the run.
Turnover Margin In Cats Favor
UA remained near the Division I-A top 25 (26th at +1.0) in turnover margin after recovering two fumbles and returning one for a score against UNLV. A week earlier the Cats recovered a fumble and intercepted a pass against Idaho. The Cats lost one fumble. Figures after Week 2 also put the Cats high in the NCAA rankings in turnovers gained (23rd) and fumbles recovered (4th). A week earlier UA recovered three San Diego State fumbles to balance a tipped-ball interception, plus blocked a punt for a safety. Brandon Nash returned a fumble 57 yards for a score vs SDSU. The interceptor at San Diego State fumbled on the return and UA recovered, in effect negating that turnover. UA suffered an over-the-head snap on a punt that was illegally kicked through the endzone by punter Ramey Peru to give SDSU a scoring possession at the UA 1 yard-line. The Cats' ball security and interception avoidance has been good, with a No. 17 national ranking in fumbles lost (1) and No. 20 in turnovers lost (2).
Scoring Zone Report
Arizona is proving efficient at scoring once it has penetrated the opponents' 20 yard-line, but also has not stiffened as well as hoped for when opponents reach the red zone. Arizona has penetrated opponents' 20 yard-line 11 times, scoring nine times with eight touchdowns. Opponents have penetrated UA's 20 yard-line eight times and scored seven times, with six touchdowns. The Cats have two touchdowns on three 1st-and-goal opportunities while opponents have five touchdowns on six 1st-and-goal opportunities.
Spreading the Field With a Dozen
Arizona completed passes to eight or more different receivers in each game this year, with the nine different players catching a ball vs. UNLV the biggest single-game corps since the 1998 season opener (9 at Penn State). So far this year 12 players have had receptions. It's a trend likely to continue because the Cats play several more wideouts, backs and tight ends who are involved in the passing game. Justin Levasseur and Gary Love had their first career catches against the Rebels. The near-dozen who have caught passes includes receivers Malosi Leonard, Bobby Wade, Andrae Thurman, Brandon Marshall, Lance Relford and Gary Love, tight ends James Hugo and Justin Levasseur, and backs Clarence Farmer, Anthony Fulcher, Mike Detwiler and Leo Mills. Wade (14-168) and Leonard (14-185) lead the way in receptions, although Marshall's school-record 99-yard catch-run against Idaho put him close in yardage lead with six for 151 yards. He and Wade lead with two TD snares to one each by Thurman and Hugo.
Sacking and Protecting the QB
UA did a pretty good job of containing UNLV's mobile Jason Thomas (6 positive rushes for 13 yards) and sacked him three times, with two by DE Johnny Jackson and one by DT Young Thompson. A week earlier UA had seven sacks in the Idaho game, its most since a school-record nine at UCLA in 1999. Lance Briggs and Alex Luna had one and shared another to lead the way. Luna, Jackson and Michael Jolivette had one apiece in the opener. Opponents have three sacks (two at SDSU, one by UNLV). The latter is well within parameters set by offensive coaches, who insist on pass-protection success of one sack per 17 passing attempts. Currently UA has allowed three sacks on 101 passing attempts.
Arizona's defensive secondary has broken up 14 of opponents' 107 passes, plus intercepted another to wreck 14% of the other guy's work. Cornerbacks Jermaine Chatman (4) and Michael Jolivette (3) lead the way in PBUs.
Kicking Game Notes...
Arizona had a 30-yard field goal attempt by place kicker Sean Keel blocked against UNLV, though he later connected on a 20-yard attempt. He's 2 for 5 on the year and one was a career-long 44-yard kick against Idaho. He missed his first 2001 field goal attempt at SDSU, striking the upright from 30 yards. He missed from 43 against the Vandals. He's 20 for 30 in his career. He had one PAT kick blocked and missed a PAT against Idaho... Punter Ramey Peru did a better job of getting some air under his punts in the last two games, connecting for a 41.2 average against UNLV and helping UA record a net punting figure of 39.0 yards. In Game 2 he kicked five for a 38-yard average and helped UA record a 37.4 net punting figure... UA's kickoff return coverage allowed 109 yards on three plays by UNLV, including an opponents' season-best 55-yard return by Dominique Dorsey. That pushed the opponent average to 26.7 yards per return on nine plays, a factor UA will work to reduce... UA used a long punt return by Bobby Wade (58 yards) to set up a score against the Aztecs, and a 16-yard return by Wade against UNLV to give it scoring-drive starting position at UA's 40 yard-line ... Peru has stuck two punts inside the 20 yard-line and had two others inside the 25... Andrae Thurman blocked a punt at the goal line to give UA a safety at SDSU... The team blocked two punts and three PAT kicks in 2000 and has blocked 43 kicks in the last 12 seasons.
Arizona converted three of 13 third-down plays against UNLV to drop the season conversion rate to 36 percent. Still, the Cats had a season-high 24 first downs, but converted a number of 1st- and 2nd-down opportunities. UA was eight for 16 in converting third downs against Idaho. Opponents have a 27 percent rate, thanks to the 1-for-13 defensive effort against the Rebels. Notes... In UA's first drive against UNLV, it converted on 3rd, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 2nd down with Jason Johnson hitting four different receivers including Bobby Wade for the score... In one of the team's better drives at San Diego State, the Cats converted four first downs after starting at their own 6 yard-line in the fourth quarter, eventually moving the ball into Aztec territory followed by a Ramey Peru punt which requred a fair catch at the SDSU 19 yard-line. The 10-play possession used 4:30 on the clock. While a ball-control effort, it used five pass completions by Jason Johnson for 46 yards, illustrating that UA's offense has evolved from its recent traditions of 'hold-em, and slug it out.' The 1st-and-10 pass from UA's end zone by Johnson for 99 yards and a score to Brandon Marshall against Idaho further emphasized the shift in priorities.
Nation's Longest Rivalry Trophy Recognized -- The Territorial Cup
Arizona and Arizona State officials worked over the summer to earn NCAA Division I-A designation for the 1899 Territorial Cup as the oldest trophy game in America, eclipsing the battle for the Little Brown Jug, awarded annually since 1909 to the winner of the Michigan-Minnesota game. Officials of the two Arizona schools are working to complete details for the awarding of the Territorial Cup to the winning school, a replica to the winning school's president's office and awarding of two later trophies in the series -- the Saguaro Trophy for the winning coach (since 1997) and a modern sculpture piece by artist Ben Goo which is expected to be awarded to the game's Most Valuable Player. That piece formerly went to the winner of the Big Game from 1979 to 1998.
Arizona Football Notes...
...Tremaine Cox's 80-yard touchdown run against UNLV was UA's longest since Clarence Farmer popped for 80 and a score at Southern California last Oct. 7... Cox is averaging 8.3 yards per carry on 16 totes thanks to that break-away effort...
...Brandon Marshall caught three balls for 35 yards against UNLV and remains the team leader with 25.2 yards per catch. The Pac-10-record 99-yard reception against Idaho helped boost that figure... He and Bobby Wade lead the club with two TD catches apiece... Wade had six receptions for 112 yards and a touchdown last year against Washington State...
...Arizona's 491 yards in total offense against Idaho was the team's biggest total since Nov. 13, 1999, when UA had 500 even at Oregon State...
...The season is barely under way, so extrapolating three-game numbers is foolish -- but fun. Quarterback Jason Johnson's 19.7 completions per game puts him on a pace to break the Arizona single-season record of 193 completions set 35 years ago by Marc Reed. That was the 10-game era, and Reed averaged 19.3 completions... Better yet, Reed pulled that off in 365 attempts in 1966, while Johnson would finish with some 337 attempts if he continued to throw 30 times per game...
...Johnson's 242.3 passing yards per game compares favorably to Arizona's school record of 236.8 by Reed in that same 1966 season...
...Johnson's .641 completion percentage is exceptional and in the season Minimum-200 Attempts category compares to Keith Smith's .575 figure in 1999...
...Believe it or not (considering UA has played football since 1899), the 21 completions by Johnson ( 21 against SDSU, 20 against Idaho, plus Cliff Watkins' 1) in the first two games were only six shy of the single-game team and individual record of 27 by Marc Reed against Utah in 1966...
...Johnson's 310-yard passing game against Idaho was the first over the 300 mark since Ortege Jenkins threw for 348 yards on Oct. 18, 197 against Washington. That's a span of 43 games...
...Linebacker Lance Briggs, to no surprise, leads Arizona with 26 tackles, and with four for losses. He had 10 against Idaho, while cornerback Michael Jolivette had 10 against SDSU... Defensive end Johnny Jackson leads with three sacks... Briggs had 113 hits a year ago, the most among returning Pac-10 players...
...The NCAA switched gears a few weeks into the season and asked conferences to count assisted tackles as a full tackle rather than .5, which alters some early-game statistical reports. For example, if Lance Briggs gets seven solo and three assists, it's now reported as 10 total tackles rather than 8.5...
...Arizona seems to pounce on loose balls with authority. The Cats have recovered six of opponents' seven fumbles and three of their own. UA was among national leaders (5th) last season with 17 fumble recoveries and could match that figure with continued effort...
...Arizona's 18 penalties in the first two games was followed by a more disciplined effort against UNLV (6- 58). Still, the Cats are averaging 9.3 penalties per game, near the unwanted school-record 9.6 penalties per game in 1999...
...UA's Pac-10 Player of Week nominees - Defense: Nash-SDSU. Lance Briggs-Idaho. Briggs-UNLV. Offense: Clarence Farmer-SDSU. Johnson-Idaho. Johnson-UNLV. ST: Bobby Wade-SDSU. Ryan Slack-Idaho. None-UNLV.
...Arizona has started basically the same units in both its games with only the dictates of formation or planned plays altering the mix... Junior DT Young Thompson and senior DT Anthony Thomas have shared starts... Thomas started against Idaho for Keoni Fraser who was benched for the first half for a team infraction... Senior two-year letterman Anthony Banks, a contender at cornerback, missed much of fall camp and the opener while awaiting summer school clearance and is back on the varsity for league play... The offensive backfield appears in the hands of a five-man group with sophomore Clarence Farmer and junior Leo Mills the top two at halfback, senior Mike Detwiler the big-body choice at fullback, and redshirt freshman Tremaine Cox and sophomore Anthony Fulcher the versatile two-way options. Fulcher had two nice catches against UNLV and is a good receiver out of the backfield. Detwiler caught a 4th-down pass to give UA another set of down on a scoring drive against the Rebels... Redshirt freshman Ryan Slack has won the kickoff chores over sophomore Bobby Gill, although the latter is ready for that chore or place kicking... Freshman DE Vince Feula is not academically cleared to play but may practice with the team...
...Senior wide receiver Malosi Leonard has 14 receptions, eclipsing his single-season best of 11 in 1999. He had 10 catches last year. Mackovic said he'd be a key to the passing game, especially with Jason Johnson's ability to find the open receiver... Tight end James Hugo caught four balls against Idaho, then grabbed his first career touchdown reception against UNLV...
...A number of players have had their first career action this year. Redshirt junior Ray Wells is the starting inside linebacker. Backup quarterbacks Cliff Watkins and John Rattay were indoctrinated against Idaho. Redshirt freshman fullback Tremaine Cox has an 80-yard TD run among his 16 carries. Redshirt freshman DE Fata Avegalio saw action before an elbow injury at SDSU. Soph tight end Justin Levasseur has played as a backup. Junior redshirt tackle John Vorsheck sees duty as a backup and placements snapper. True freshman linebacker Kirk Johnson sees duty on special teams and in UA's nickel defense package... Redshirt freshman LB Pat Howard has played. Walk-on RS frosh Ben DalMolin has handled long snaps. Walk-on freshman Ryan Slack kicks off for the Cats...
...UA coaches during games: In the pressbox -- offensive coordinator Rick Dykes, DL coach Marty Long, TE coach Jay Boulware, DB coach Steve Bernstein and GAs Jeff Rodgers and Terry Samuel. On the field -- head coach John Mackovic, defensive coordinator Larry Mac Duff, OL coach Charlie Dickey, special teams/ILB coach Scott Pelluer, WR coach Rob Ianello, RB coach Bobby Kennedy and student assistant Adrian Koch. The 2001 opener saw eight of them begin their Arizona careers -- Bernstein, Boulware, Dykes, Kennedy, Pelluer, Rodgers and Samuel. Mackovic was a coordinator at Arizona for four years in the 1970s, Mac Duff was coordinator for 10 years until 1997 and Koch is a four-year letterman who ended his playing career last season. Dickey, Ianello and Long were on UA staffs of recent years and have a combined 21 seasons of UA experience, plus Dickey was a Wildcat player in the early 1980s...
Arizona Position Summaries
Junior Jason Johnson put his strengths in view quickly in 2001, accumulating 59 completions and a nationally-ranked efficiency rating after three games. He hits the open man. After sideline charting for a couple of years, his relish for the game is exceptional. He's a keen student of Arizona's new offense and has a solid understanding of coordinator Rick Dykes' strategy and John Mackovic's play calling. Sophomore Cliff Watkins and redshirt freshman John Rattay each played in the Idaho game, while Watkins also saw duty against UNLV. They have coaches' confidence but Johnson took the opportunity in spring ball and ran with it.
Arizona has some superb tools here. Soph Clarence Farmer added 100- and 90-yard games to his growing list of accomplishments as what Mackovic calls UA's 'raging bull.' He's a big-play back who can beat people in various ways. Junior Leo Mills had a 282-yard all-purpose game a year ago and is rounding into form after missing spring ball attending to his personal commitment to higher education. Redshirt freshman fullback Tremaine Cox has his first 100-yard game with an 8-111 outing against UNLV, thanks to an 80-yard score on a trap play. The starting fullback, senior Mike Detwiler, has what Mackovic's calls the 'bulldozer' effect, while soph Anthony Fulcher offers more versatility. All of them can catch the ball.
The Wildcats go eight deep in the receiving corps and have used three tight ends. Eleven different players have receptions in 2001, typical of varying combinations in many patterns. Senior Malosi Leonard and junior Bobby Wade lead the team with 14 catches apiece. Soph Andrae Thurman has sparkled on special teams and also made some big catches. Wade and Brandon Marshall lead with two TD catches including the latter's Pac-10-record 99-yard score against Idaho. Junior TE James Hugo has six grabs while backup Justin Levasseur had his first against UNLV. So did WR Gary Love and FB Mike Detwiler.
The top five from left to right gives Arizona a chance to have one of its best fronts in years. Senior center Steven Grace is as good a player Mackovic has coached at his position, says the coach. The return of junior tackles Makoa Freitas and Darren Safranek (2000 injuries, out in spring) make a big difference. Senior guard Kevin Barry is an accomplished UA letterman. Soph guard Reggie Sampay was thrown into the fire as a true freshman center a year ago and is miles ahead of many his age simply because of a rugged Pac-10 indoctrination. Key reserves are junior redshirt John Vorsheck (OT), soph Brandon Phillips (OT) and redshirt freshman Keoki Fraser.
The Cats have three proven players here, with seniors Keoni Fraser and Anthony Thomas and junior Young Thompson sharing rotation play. Coaches may do some shifting around in the coming weeks to develop more depth. Junior squadman Bobby Ramsey has been on UA's travel team for two years and has played in two games. UA has started seniors Alex Luna and Johnny Jackson at end after senior starter Eli Wnek's foot injury prior to camp. Senior Austin Uku returned for the UNLV game after missing the first two games and RS frosh Fata Avegalio hurt his elbow at SDSU and missed the Idaho game. He's back in time to help overcome Luna's knee cartilage tear (UNLV) and subsequent surgery. True freshman Carlos Williams is learning the trade at DT and DE and saw limited action against UI.
Speed is the name of the game in UA's linebacking corps. You have it, or you play some other position. First-team All-Pac-10 returnee Lance Briggs anchors a solid unit. Junior redshirt Ray Wells earned the adjoining starting role, with senior Shelton Ross the rotation alternate inside. True freshman Kirk Johnson and redshirt freshman Pat Howard also have played, with KJ a feature in UA's pass-defense packages. At whip linebacker, sophomore Joe Siofele is a potential future star, according to Mackovic, while soph Matt Molina backs up there and has dramatically improved. Briggs led UA with 113 tackles a year ago and is nearly on that pace with 26 so far in 2001. Ross, the No. 3 linebacker a year ago, missed some practice with a quad muscle pull before the opener but is back at full speed.
Four returning starters and eight total lettermen in the secondary give UA a fine group of players. The group broke up 15 passes in the first three games. Soph Michael Jolivette intercepted a pass in deep coverage against Idaho and was Freshman All-American a year ago with five interceptions. Jermaine Chatman has eight career starts, while David Hinton also plays. Junior CB David Laudermilk also has game experience. Senior SS Brandon Nash is a team leader on and off the field, while Zaharius Johnson is a proven vet behind him. Nash returned a fumbled punt for a score in San Diego and Jolivette took one all the way against UNLV for UA's two defensive scores this year. At free safety, junior returning starter Jarvie Worcester and soph Clay Hardt each see time, with Hardt a frequent nickel back as well. Senior CB Anthony Banks, who has good game experience, was suspended but returns for conference play.
Arizona's special teams are manned by quick players, predominantly linebackers, receivers and defensive backs. The Cats have had some mixed results this year, with some sporadic kicking and kick coverage, but some decent goods on the receiving ends. Kicking field goals takes a back seat to scoring-zone touchdown effectiveness in Mackovic's scheme. Junior PK Sean Keel is 2 for 5 this year (including a career-best 44-yarder) and 20 for 30 in his career. One was blocked against UNLV. Soph Bobby Gill awaits a chance but has no career attempts. Freshman walk-on Ryan Slack is handling kickoff duties with good results. Soph punter Ramey Peru has kicked well against Idaho and UNLV and helped boost UA's net punting figure. Peter Hansen has seven career blocked kicks but has yet to stuff one in 2001. Return specialsts Bobby Wade, Gary Love and Andrae Thurman have break-away abilities.
Arizona In the Statistical Rankings
Fumble Recoveries (6) - 4th NCAA, 1st Pac-10
Passes Had Intercepted (1) - 9th NCAA, 3rd Pac-10Jason Johnson (149.9 effic) - 14th NCAA, 4th Pac-10Passing Efficiency (139.73) - 23rd NCAA, 6th Pac-10Rushing Defense (92.7) - 24th NCAA, 2nd Pac-10Turnovers Gained (7) - 24th NCAA, 1st Pac-10Turnover Margin (1.0) - 26th NCAA, 3rd Pac-10Jason Johnson (19.7 pc/pg) - 27th NCAA, 4th Pac-10
The Last Time Arizona...Returned a punt for a TD: Bobby Wade (60 yards) at Washington, 2000Returned a blocked punt for a TD: Andrae Thurman vs. SDSU, 2000 (34 yards, B. Nash block)Returned a kickoff for TD: Chris McAlister (100 yards) at Hawaii 1998Returned an interception for a TD Keoni Fraser-DT (36 yds) vs. UCLA, 2000Returned a fumble for a TD: CB Michael Jolivette (40 yards) vs. UNLV, 2001Blocked a punt for a safety: Andrae Thurman at San Diego State, 2001Scored a safety: Blocked punt (Andrae Thurman), at San Diego State, 2001Did not score: at Washington, 1991 (UW 54-0)Did not score a touchdown: vs. Oregon State, 2000 (OSU 33-9)A back ran for 200 yards: Trung Canidate (33-221) at OSU, 1999A back ran for 100 yards: Clarence Farmer (18-118, 2TD) vs. Idaho, 2001A quarterback ran for 100 yards Ortege Jenkins (11-104) vs. UCLA, 2000Two players rushed for 100 yards: C. Farmer (33-107) and O. Jenkins (11-104) vs. UCLA, 2000Blocked a punt : Andrae Thurman at San Diego State, 2001Blocked a field goal: Peter Hansen at Utah, 2000Blocked a PAT kick : Peter Hansen at USC, 2000, Antonio Pierce at USC, 2000Scored a 2-pt. conversion: Jason Johnson to Andrae Thurman pass at San Diego State, 2001Missed a PAT kick: Sean Keel vs. Idaho, , 2001 (missed 1, one blocked)Beat a ranked team: 31-15 at USC (No. 18), 2000Lost to a ranked team: 9-33 vs. Oregon State (No. 10), 2000Beat an unranked team: 38-21 vs. UNLV, 2001Lost to an unranked team: 17-30 vs. Arizona State, 2000Won as a ranked team: 53-47 vs. Washington State (Arizona No. 22), 2000Won as an unranked team: 38-21 vs. UNLV, 2001Lost as a ranked team: 24-27 vs. UCLA, 2000 (Arizona No. 23)Lost as an unranked team: 36-29 vs. Idaho, 2001Played in tie-breaker game: 53-47 vs. Washington State, 2000 (3 OT)
The last time an Opponent...Returned a punt for a TD: Eric Guliford (68 yards), at Arizona State, 1991Recovered a blocked punt for a TD: Frank Primus, Stanford, 1997Returned a kickoff for TD (last 2): JaWarren Hooker (89), Washington, 1997Returned an interception for a TD: Chris Martin (31 yards) vs. WSU, 2000Returned a fumble for a TD: Ahmad Briggs (30 yards), UNLV, 2001Scored a safety: vs. Oregon (Ortege Jenkins lateral into endzone), 1999Did not score: Illinois, 1996 (UA 41-0)Did not score a touchdown: at Stanford, 2000 (27-3)A back ran for 100 yards: Blair Lewis (21-110) vs. Idaho, 2001Two backs ran for 100 yards: J.R. Redmond (23-112) and Delvon Flowers (15-103) at ASU, 1999A back ran for 200 yards: Reuben Droughns (45-202) vs. Oregon, 1999Blocked a punt : Donnie Neal, Arizona State, 2000Blocked a field goal: Tosh Burrus, UNLV, 2001 (Sean Keel attempt)Blocked a PAT kick: Idaho, 2001Scored a 2-pt. conversion: QB John Welsh to Kevin O'Connell vs. Idaho, 2001
Academic Stalwarts - Brandon Nash, Jarvie Worcester, Eli Wnek, Malosi Leonard, Jason Johnson
Arizona's top academic honors candidates include seniors Eli Wnek, Brandon Nash and Malosi Leonard, and junior s Jarvie Worcester and Jason Johnson. In order they carry 3.76, 3.13, 3.01, 3.00 and 3.75 cumulative grade point averages while starting as college football players. Wnek's been out with an injury. On Sept. 18 he was named to the American Football Coaches Association 'Good Works Team,' just one of 11 Division I-A players so honored and the only Pac-10 representative. He and Nash earned 1st-team All-Pac-10 Academic honors in 2000, while Leonard and Worcester were honorable-mention picks. Wnek and Nash both earned degrees in May and are taking post-graduate studies. Nash was named a winner of a Pac-10 Postgraduate Scholarship prior to the season.
WR, Bobby Wade, 5-11, 187, Jr., Phoenix, Ariz.
Arizona's most experienced receiver, having played in 25 career games (21 starts) ... Has at least one catch in 24 of 25 career appearances, including 23 consecutive (which ranks 17th nationally) ... Three career 100-yard receiving games to his credit ... Posted the first two-TD game of his career with a pair of scoring grabs vs. UNLV (14. 15) and finished with four receptions for 54 yards ... Led UA with five catches vs. Idaho and totaled 70 yards ... Also added his third career reception of 50+ yards vs. the Vandals ... Tallied five catches for 44 yards in the opener at San Diego State, and added 107 return yards (59 punt/48 kick) that included a 58-yard punt return ... Led the Cats with 45 receptions and 626 yards last season ... Should blossom under Coach Mackovic's offensive system ... Has big-play potential with 14-, 60- and 75-yards TD catches last year ... Has seven TD catches in his career ... Outstanding kick returner who led the 2000 squad with 981 yards.
PK, Sean Keel, 6-0, 200, Jr., Littleton, Colo.
Enters the year on the Lou Groza Award Preseason watch list as one of the nation's top collegiate kickers ... A Street & Smith's Preseason honorable mention All-America ... Made 2-of-5 FG atts. on the year ... Hit a 20-yard FG vs. UNLV and was 5-of-5 on PATs vs. UNLV ... Equaled a career long with a 44-yard FG vs. Idaho ... Missed only FG attempt at San Diego State (40 yds.) ... Ranked third in the Pac-10 and 26th nationally with 1.18 FG/game last year ... Made 13-of-17 field goal attempts (.765) and 25-of-26 PATs (.962) in 2000 ... Made 9-of-10 field goals inside 40 yards and was 4-of-5 on attempts of 40-49 yards last year ... Has a career long of 44 yards at Utah in the 2000 season opener ... Connected on 18-of-26 FGAs in his career (.692).
OL, Stephen Grace, 6-3, 293, Sr., Honolulu, Hawaii
Arguably Arizona's best offensive lineman and one of the finest in the Pac-10 Conference ... Under his guidance, the O-Line continues to help the UA offense remain balanced and productive, as the squad totaled 440 yards of offense (184 rush/256 pass) in the win over UNLV ... Led the offensive line in allowing no sacks in the win over Idaho as the offense tallied 491 yards of total offense, the team's highest total since Nov. 13, 1999 ... Anchored an offensive line that first-time QB starter to complete 21-of-32 passes for 176 yards vs. SDSU ... Coach Mackovic has called Grace 'the best center I have ever coached.' ... Has recovered from shoulder surgery last year that limited him to just one game played ... Earned second-team all-Pac-10 honors in 1999 as a starter at left guard.
RB, Clarence Farmer, 6-0, 224, So., Houston, Texas
A Street & Smith's Preseason honorable mention All-America ... Averaging 4.9 ypc in 2001 ... Collected 35 yards on 11 totes vs. UNLV ... Topped 100 yards for the first time this season (fourth career) with 118 yards on 18 carries with two TDs ... Posted a strong 2001 debut, compiling 90 yards on 21 carries and a TD ... Scored UA's first TD on a nice 12-yard run and set up a second with a 27-yard scamper at San Diego State ... A powerful, bruising back that rushed for 666 yards and five touchdowns last year ... One of only two true freshmen running backs at Arizona to post three 100-yard rushing games ... Had three runs of 35 yards in 2000, including two for scores ... Named a freshman All-American by The Sporting News.
LB, Lance Briggs, 6-1, 230, Jr., Sacramento, Calif.
Recovered a fumble and registered a team-high seven tackles (six solo) in the win over UNLV ... Led UA with 10 stops (8 solos) 2.5 TFL, one forced fumble and 1.5 sacks vs. Idaho ... Anchored a defense that allowed SDSU just 41 net rushing yards in the season opener ... Tallied 9 stops vs. the Aztecs, including one TFL ... The Pac-10's leading returning tackler with 113 stops ... A second-team preseason All-America pick by Football News ... A Street & Smith's Preseason honorable mention All-America ... Posted seven games with 10 or more tackles, his first on the defensive side of the ball ... Briggs' earned first-team all-Pac-10 honors last season.
CB, Michael Jolivette, 5-9, 178, So., Houston, Texas
Posted a stellar all-around game in the win over UNLV, totaling two tackles, one forced fumble, one fumble return 40 yards for a TD and once PBU ... Collected his sixth career interception in the win over Idaho to go with 6 tackles ... Arizona's leading tackler in the season opener vs. SDSU with 10 stops, including a sack (-6) and two PBUs ... A Street & Smith's Preseason honorable mention All-America ... A solid cover guy ... Returns after a freshman campaign that saw him tally 42 tackles and five interceptions (19th nationally) ... A second-team all-Pac-10 pick and freshman All-America as a wide-side corner.
QB, Jason Johnson, 6-2, 200, Jr., Puyallup, Wash.
Continues to flourish in the Mackovic offensive scheme, as he connected on 60 percent of his passes (18-of-30) vs. UNLV for 247 yards and three TDs ... Completed 20-of-30 passes for 304 yards and 2 TDs vs. Idaho ... He is UA's first 300-yard passer since Oct. 18, 1997, and he logged the longest pass play in school and Pac-10 history with a 99-yard TD strike to Brandon Marshall ... Completed 21-of-32 passes for 176 yards in his first collegiate start at San Diego State, and most importantly, led his team to victory ... Showed a strong grasp of the offensive by completing passes to eight different receivers ... Outstanding student with a 3.75 GPA as a business major ... Could be a strong contender for academic All-America honors.
The McKale Center Ticket Office is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (520-621-2287). Season tickets remain on sale until Sept. 7. Single-game public tickets range from $6 to $22. Arizcats.com offers online purchases.
Arizona Football On TV
The UA-WSU game will be produced by Fox Sports Net Arizona for live broadcast on KWBA-TV in Southern Arizona and KUSK in central parts of the state. Three other games have been selected for national cablecasts, with others likely to be chosen by ABC Sports or Fox Sports Net.
Arizona Football On Radio
KNST 790-AM Radio is the flagship station for live Arizona football broadcasts on the Wildcat Sports Network. Brian Jeffries and Les Josephson call the play. Affiliates: KCTK-Phoenix, KVNA-Flagstaff, KBLU-Yuma, KTAN-Sierra Vista, KRLV-Las Vegas, KDAP-Douglas, KWRQ-Safford, KZUA-Holbrook, KIKO-Globe, KINO-Winslow. Internet broadcast: www.knst.com KNST also administers UA's Spanish broadcasts carried by XENY-Nogales and KXEW- Tucson, with Joel Bojorquez and Francisco Romero. KNST's broadcast is available by phone using TEAMLINE for about 10 cents per minute, by calling 1-800-846-4700.
John Mackovic Coach's Shows
Head coach John Mackovic's weekly radio and television shows are produced by KNST Radio, with host Brian Jeffries and the coach taping during 'Tuesdays in the Huddle With John Mackovic,' a public gathering at McMahon's Steakhouse at 12 noon Tuesdays. The radio show airs at 6 p.m. Tuesdays on KNST-790 AM and the TV segment is broadcast over the air at 9:30 p.m. Wednesdays on KWBA-58.
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