Arizona Faces 2-0 Utah In Early Test
Sept. 9, 2002
The Game - Arizona (1-0, 0-0 Pac-10) plays host to the Utah Utes (2-0, 0-0 Mountain West) in an inter-mountain contest at 7:22 p.m. (MST, 8 p.m. MDT) Saturday, Sept. 14, in 56,002-seat Arizona Stadium. The game will be cablecast live in Arizona markets by Fox Sports Net, with Dave Sitton and Glenn Parker describing the action, and in Utah markets by KJZZ-TV.
Some Game Themes - The two teams renew a rivalry from Western Athletic Conference days... The Cats try to win at home for the first time since Sept. 22 last year...Arizona looks to protect its home turf after snatching a road victory over Utah, 17-3, in Salt Lake City in 2000... Utah works to win a second consecutive victory over a Pac-10 school after tripping up USC, 10-6, in last year's Las Vegas Bowl... UA tests its potent offense revealed against I-AA Northern Arizona against a tougher foe... Utah's last victory in Tucson came in October 1967 - 35 years ago... The nation's leading rusher, Marty Johnson, possibly tests Arizona's revamped defense. He sprained a knee Saturday against Indiana and missed the fourth quarter, after gaining 229 yards.
The Series - Arizona trails in the Utah series, 17-14-2, but has won seven of the last eight games including the last meeting, 17-3, in the 2000 season opener. The clubs are even in games played in Tucson, 7-7-2, with UA winning the last six in Arizona Stadium. The Utes' last victory vs. UA came in the 1994 Freedom Bowl, 16-13, in Anaheim. Utah's last victory in Tucson came in 1967, 33-29. Against teams now in the MWC, UA has an historical mark of 106-67-7.
The Coaches - Arizona: John Mackovic (Wake Forest '65), second year at Arizona (6-6) and 15th season as a collegiate head coach (91-70-3). He is 1-0 against Utah, coaching Illinois to a 35-24 victory in 1988. He is 3-0 vs. the MWC including victories over UNLV and San Diego State last year. Utah: Ron McBride (San Jose State '64), 13th year at Utah and overall (85-57). McBride was offensive line coach for Dick Tomey's first three Arizona teams from 1987-89. He is 1-1 against Arizona and 8-11 vs. Pac-10 schools.
Arizona Last Time Out - The Wildcats turned in a team effort in demonstrating some potential for the program's future, pasting Northern Arizona 37-3 before a crowd of 48,446 on opening night. The offense mixed 41 passing plays with 41 running plays for 510 yards, largely on the arm of Jason Johnson, who completed 20 of 36 tosses for a career-high 381 yards and three scores. NAU, a solid Division I-AA team, took some pride in stacking against UA's running game, and held All-Pac-10 halfback Clarence Farmer to 29 net yards, but couldn't match with Wildcat receivers, who had a big part in the team converting 13 of 21 third-down plays. Johnson threw for 316 yards in the first half alone and ended up connecting with nine different receivers. Bobby Wade caught eight balls for 133 yards and two scores. The Cats came out of the gate with purpose, scoring on five of their first six possessions. UA was effective in the red zone, with four scores in five tries (and let the clock run down to end the game inside the NAU 5 yard-line). UA played a ton of new guys across the units, gaining valuable game experience. Michael Jolivette blocked two punts to set a school record and punctuate special teams' play, which was solid, and earned Pac-10 Player of the Week honors. Ramey Peru helped solidify his job with a 43.3 average and hang time to give UA a 40.5 net punting figure. Lots of good things happened, just the way it should be for a Pac-10 program against a Division I-AA opponent.
Utah and Match-up Notes
Unviersity of Utah
Location: Salt Lake City.
Colors: Crimson & White
Conference: Mountain West
2001 Record: 8-4, Las Vegas Bowl victor
The Utes, winners over the Pac-10's Southern California in last year's Las Vegas Bowl, 10-6, opened the year with a 23-3 road victory over Utah State in Logan, then throttled Indiana, 40-13, Saturday... Running back Marty Johnson, the nation's leader, rushed for 176 yards on 30 carries against the Aggies, then had a remarkable 229 yards on 28 carries against Indiana. He sprained his knee and missed the fourth quarter, otherwise he likely would have broken the school rushing record of 248 yards... Meantime his backup, J.R. Peroulis, toted 15 times for 93 yards in the opener and added 118 vs. the Hoosiers, to give Utah two backs with 100+ averages. Johnson's game totals this year are No. 4 and No. 19 on the Utah single-game chart... Utah's rushing defense limited Utah State to -9 yards rushing and held Indiana to 79, giving the Utes the No. 4 ranking nationally in that category...Utah is No. 26 in total defense... Junior quarterback Lance Rice is 12-5 as the starter for the Utes, a streak which began the final three games in 2000... Senior left tackle Jordan Gross is a Lombardi Award watch-list member, while center Dustin McQuivey, who could miss the Arizona game due to a knee injury, was cited in the preseason as a Rimington Trophy prospect... A host of returning starters on defense key the Utes' efforts, led by defensive tackle Garrett Smith, defensive end Jason Kaufusi and linebacker Sheldon Deckart, among others. Kaufusi was the Mountain West Conference defensive freshman of the year in 2000. Deckhart is a Nagurski and Lombardi awards candidate, while Kaufusi is on the Lombardi Award watch-list and Smith is an Outland Trophy and Lombardi candidate... The Utes played tough against one of the Pac-10's better 2001 squads, Oregon. Utah held the Joey Harrington-led Ducks to no third-down conversions on nine attempts in a close 24-10 loss in Eugene... McBride's taken Utah to six bowl games in his 12 years in Salt Lake City... Utah offensive line coach Don Eck, an associate on the staff, was a graduate assistant at Arizona in 1990, working with offensive line coach Pat Hill... Of Utah's 13 all-time NFL draft picks, 11 have come under McBride's watch... Utah will quarter at the University Marriott, 520-792-4100...
In the Polls
Utah had 32 votes, and Arizona received three, in this week's ESPN coaches poll.
Offensive guard Makoa Freitas (wrist surgery Aug. 24) missed the NAU start and is probable. Defensive end Andre Torrey (hip) missed NAU and is doubful. Center Keoki Fraser (ankle) missed NAU and is probable. Offensive tackle Darren Safranek (knee) missed NAU and is questionable. LB Pat Howard (knee surgery) missed NAU and is doubtful. OL John Vorsheck (concussion) missed NAU and is doubtful. CB Luis Nunez (groin) missed NAU and is probable. WR Mike Jefferson (knee) missed NAU and is doubtful. Safety Justin Jochum had ankle surgery after an early August weight-room injury and is out. Missed Starts Due to Injury: 4 (Freitas, Torrey, Fraser, Safranek.)
The team will elect permanent team captains near the close of the season. Each week prior to that honor, game captains are selected by head coach John Mackovic. The game captains for the Northern Arizona game were QB Jason Johnson, LB Lance Briggs, FS Jarvie Worcester and TE James Hugo.
Quarterback Jason Johnson, cornerback Darrell Brooks and Michael Jolivette (CB) were UA nominees for Pac-10 Player if the Week vs. NAU (offense, defense and special teams). Jolivette won the award. Johnson threw for a career-high 381 yards, hitting nine different receivers. He broke a 19-year-old record set by Tom Tunnicliffe by tthrowing for 316 yards in the first half. Tunnicliffe had 293 against Pacific in 1983 en route to the school single-game record of 427 yards passing. Brooks, a redshirt freshman making his first start, knocked down two passes and had a tackle for loss among his six hits, tying LB Lance Briggs for tackling honors. Jolivette set a school record by blocking two punts for UA's 'Raider' unit, one of the hallowed special teams in recent UA memory. He has a crack at the school mark of five blocks in a year set by Wally Scott (5 in 196.
Miscellany of Late
Darrell Brooks and Lance Briggs each had 11 percent of UA's tackles vs. Northern Arizona, combining for 12 on 53 NAU plays... Arizona had a superb 13-for-21 third-down conversion rate vs. the Lumberjacks, giving the Cats' more than half their 25 first downs in the game. That's two games in a row (plus ASU last year) that UA has notched 25 first downs... The 82 plays UA ran against NAU is a John Mackovic-era UA high... The Cats averaged 9.9 yards per pass attempt against the 'Jacks, a superb figure... Coaches are pleased with the 40.5 net punting figure from the opener. Ramey Peru had four punts for a 43.2 yard average and NAU returned two for a combined 11 yards, plus fumbled one of them. Peru had the high average despite a 30-yard poocher downed at the NAU 14 yard-line... The 407 yards passing against NAU is No. 4 on the UA single game charts. Mackovic's teams now have two of the top five in that category... RS freshman halfbacks Mike Bell (4.5 ypc) and Gainus Scott (4.7) each showed some spark with the ball... The tight end factored against NAU, with James Hugo catching a 20-yard scoring pass and Justin Levasseur snagging another for 23 markers... Sean Keel made two of three FG tries vs. NAU, then gave way to Bobby Gill for his first career attempt (good from 26 yards)...
Arizona Head Coach John Mackovic
Arizona is aiming high and hoping for great things. It starts with the head coach, who might be said to heed Ralph Waldo Emerson, and hitch his wagon to a star. UA's 26th head coach enters his 18th year as a collegiate head coach, athletics director or professional head coach, plus adds another dozen years in the game as a coordinator or assistant to give the Wildcats a mentor with more than three decades of established leadership and organization. The Wildcats are a well- organized group working to bring dividends in the here and now, as well as the future. Mackovic, a proven strategist, had his 2001 team unveil a sophisticated attack that produced a 2,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher and a near 1,000-yard receiver. Mackovic served notice that under his tutelage Arizona will be a productive team that can score points. He's the first UA coach to win his first two season openers since Jim Young in 1973 and 1974, when Mackovic was the offensive coordinator in Tucson. The Cats' 37-3 victory against Northern Arizona in 2002 was one point shy of the Wildcats' highest point total a year ago, a 38-21 win over Nevada-Las Vegas. The team's 510 yards in total offense also is the No. 2 figure in his tenure, behind the 578 yards UA posted against Stanford a year ago. Mackovic's first year in Tucson opened with the team snapping a program five-game losing streak, and opened the year 3-0 to complete only the third perfect non-conference campaign in the past 11 seasons. Pacific-10 Conference play ushered in some difficult going as the club extended its league losing streak to 10 games before a breakthrough. This year he's emphasized the mental readiness the team must have at the same juncture. Mackovic's second-year legacy at several previous coaching stops gives Arizona partisans optimism. At Wake Forest his second club improved by seven games. His second Kansas City Chiefs team went from 6-10 to 8-8. His Fighting Illini improved from 6-5-1 to 10-2 in his second season. Anticipation is clearly a theme in UA's camp. As the District 9 representative on the Board of Trustees of the American Football Coaches Association, Mackovic, 59, has a voice heard nationally. His focus on the total student-athlete has been underscored by eight national academic/citizenship honor winners during his collegiate career including another member (Eli Wnek) selected last year to the AFCA 'Good Works Team.' Arizona recorded a program-high four first-team Academic All-Pac-10 selections in 2001.
Mackovic at a Glance:
* 15th year as a collegiate head coach
* Overall collegiate record: 91-70-3 (.564)
* Arizona record: 6-6
* Pac-10 Record: 2-6
* Arizona Road Record: 3-2
* Arizona Home Record: 3-4
* Career bowl teams: Eight
* Walter Camp Foundation National Coach of the Year, 1979
* Conference Coach of the Year: ACC ('79), Big Ten ('88, '89), SWC ('95)
Arizona's offense will get a markedly more difficult test against Utah than it did against Northern Arizona, yet John Mackovic's emphasis on a successful passing game was never more evident than in the opener. Jason Johnson averaged 10.6 yards per attempt, one of the head coach's revered statistical yardsticks. When you're hitting at that pace, it's wise to keep throwing it. Johnson threw it 36 times, nine more than he averaged per game in 2001, and completed 20 for a career-high 381 yards. That total is No. 4 in Arizona single-game history. He threw three scoring passes. The Wildcats finished with redshirt freshman Nic Costa at the controls and his debut was modest. But the team finished with 407 passing yards, No. 4 on the UA single-game chart, and 510 total yards. NAU appeared to stack things against UA's running game, and the Cats never got untracked, finishing with 103 net rushing yards on 41 attempts (2.5 per carry), below expectations. Offensive coordinator Rick Dykes has emphasized Arizona will use the power game when required; against NAU it was not.
The Last Time Versus Utah
Arizona went to Utah for the 2000 season opener and did what football teams do most of the time when they win - win the turnover battle, keep penalties to a minimum, perform on special teams and win the critical situations in the fourth quarter. It added up to a 17-3 victory before a national cable audience on ESPN2. The Cats balanced an off day on offense - only 146 yards - with a defensive effort that made Utah predictable (51 passes), and UA splurged on two sack-fumbles in the third quarter. UA scored on a fumble return by Adrian Koch then took the good field position on the next fumble to drive 29 yards for another TD. Later, a modest 54-yard drive put UA in position for a Sean Keel 43-yard field goal to cap the scoring. Arizona did not turn the ball over, was penalized only six times for 40 yards and was not frustrated by its modest offensive production. QB Ortege Jenkins completed only three of 15 passes for 11 yards and the Cats managed 135 rushing yards. Leo Mills (4.6 ypc) and Larry Croom (5.4 ypc) made the best of their carries and Croom scored the lone offensive TD on a nifty 13-yard run. UA linebacker Lance Briggs had 16 tackles in his defensive debut after a true freshman year in 1999 as a fullback. Defensive end Joe Tafoya led a six-sack effort with two. The Cats' five takeaways - three fumbles and two interceptions - gave Arizona the No. 1 ranking in turnover margin after the opening week. Arizona won despite only nine first downs to Utah's 21, and overcame 310 passing yards by the Utes with tough effort in its own half of the field. Freshman cornerbacks Michael Jolivette (8 tackles) and David Hinton (7) had a busy night.
New Faces Galore
Arizona's first game marked the first game for nearly two dozen new players - redshirts, incoming freshmen, mid-year transfers and transfers. Notable were senior fullback Joey Willrodt, true freshman offensive guard John Parada and redshirt freshman cornerback Darrell Brooks, who each started. But they were just a couple of the new guys in action. Other true freshmen who played against the Lumberjacks included wide receiver Biren Ealy, defensive end Marcus Smith, center Kili Lefotu, linebacker Spencer Larsen and free safety Lamon Means. Other redshirt freshmen were halfbacks Mike Bell and Gainus Scott, quarterback Nic Costa, fullback Sean Jones, defensive tackle Brad Brittain, defensive tackle John Abramo, special teams player Copeland Bryan and wide receiver Josh Duncan. Junior college transfers in the game were wide receiver Juan Valentine, offensive tackle Matt Lamatsch, defensive tackle Carl Tuitavuki, defensive end Javier Martinez. Sophomore defensive tackle Vince Feula also saw his first action. Juco transfer cornerback Luis Nunez should play this week after missing the opener with a groin injury. Projected DE starter Andre Torrey, another mid-year transfer, has been sidelined with a hip injury since camp.
Jason and the Ariznauts
Senior quarterback Jason Johnson and his teammates are on the quest for some golden riches - maybe not the fleece of the miraculous flying ram, but a piece of some post-season action. Johnson, in the Top 25 among active Division I-A quarterbacks with 22 career touchdown throws, has done so in one scant season. In the 2002 opener he tossed for a career-high 381 yards, No. 4 among UA's single-game individual performances. The best for Jason and Arizona, however, is what he brings to the team in leadership. Borrowing from Alexandre Dumas, it's simply 'all for one and one for all;' he does what it takes for the team concept. It took four years -- one as a redshirt, two as a holder and one solid year last season - to demonstrate his aptitude and ability measure up to his work ethic. Last year he eagerly devoured the offensive strategies of John Mackovic and coordinator Rick Dykes and completed 169 passes for 57 percent , 2,347 yards and 19 touchdowns, all in Arizona's top 10 for single-season marks. That he was previously untested... was demonstrated by 13 interceptions. Now he has four 300-yard career passing games and appears capable of that each time out. Arizona coaches intend to determine just how much he's digested of a complex and attacking offense. Johnson found nine different receivers in his 2002 debut and has infused that multiple threat factor into Arizona football. A graduate student in Judaic studies, Johnson's the reigning first-team Academic All-Pac-10 quarterback, a candidate for the AFCA 'Good Works Team' which cites athletic, scholastic and civic responsibility, and UA's nominee for the National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete post-graduate studies program. Behind Johnson, redshirt freshman Nic Costa saw action in the opener and had average success, but is blessed with a strong arm and is fleet of foot. True freshman Ryan O'Hara came on strong at the end of camp and could see action this year, according to Mackovic. Johnson, though, is the man behind UA's new offense.
The Farmer and the Bell
Arizona's situation at halfback is among the strongest on the team. Junior Clarence Farmer, the first-team All-Pac-10 pick in 2001, and redshirt freshmen Mike Bell and Gainus Scott give the program a good three-back punch. Farmer rushed for more yards (1,229) than any runner in the league a year ago and was named a preseason candidate for the Doak Walker Award. He has 1,924 career rushing yards and needs 59 more to hit UA's all-time top 10 chart, where Gary Taylor sits at No. 10 with 1,982. With 98 more he'd move into the No. 9 spot, passing Eddie Wolgast (1945-50) who toted for 2,022. He was held to 29 yards on 16 carries vs. NAU. Bell's an explosive player who led the club with 59 yards on 13 carries in the opener, while Scott added 28 on six carries. Their averages of 4.5 and 4.7 per tote were solid. Farmer caught three balls in the opener, his single-game career high, while Bell added two and senior fullback Joey Willrodt added another. Redshirt freshman fullback Sean Jones also is expected to contribute in the backfield rotation.
Senior inside linebacker Lance Briggs brings two-time All-Pac-10 credentials to UA's defense and it hasn't been done with mirrors. His total of 206 tackles in those two seasons came on the move. With 216 career hits (4 as a true freshman fullback on special teams in 1999, six in 2002), a big year could move him close to former UA All-American and NFL draftee Sean Harris (1991-94), a swift and rugged linebacker like Briggs who recorded 320 tackles. Briggs is a preseason All-American and clearly the top physical presence behind the line for the Wildcats. Beside him, senior Ray Wells and sophomore Kirk Johnson have solid Pac-10 experience. Johnson drew raves playing as a true freshman a year ago. True Soph Pat Howard missed the opener after knee arthroscopy but should return to the rotation. In the meantime, true freshman Spencer Larsen played against NAU and made tackles on the first two plays of his career. On the outside, junior Joe Siofele is the returning starter at whip linebacker. He started at defensive end vs. NAU, giving Matt Molina his first start at whip. Molina knocked down a pass and contributed three tackles.
The Little Streak
It's a very modest winning streak, but Arizona's football program has been upbeat since its victory at Arizona State to close last season. The two-game winning streak is something to build on. Enthusiasm and a foundation of success for the program have been evident since the ASU contest. 'You're only as good as your last game' is one coaching adage. The Wildcats played an outstanding game in the finale, in all aspects, and worked hard to continue to do so this season. The NAU game gave Arizona a chance to strike while the iron was still hot. Now the Cats face a more difficult, but no less welcome, task.
Arizona's Bobby Wade has shown plenty of verve and receiving ability in his career as a Wildcat wide receiver. He's a recent addition to the Shrine East-West Game roster (joining teammate Lance Briggs)... Wade had eight catches for 133 yards in the opener, his fourth consecutive 100-yard game. He's No. 3 on the school career chart with 145 catches. He's tied for third in the record book with 19 scoring receptions, and No. 4 with 2,095 yards. His 62 receptions a year ago were the No. 4 single-season figure. He has a streak of 32 consecutive games with a reception - No. 12 nationally and 10 short of UA's record of 41 by Dennis Northcutt (1996-99). He and his mates in the receiving corps -- junior Andre Thurman, sophomores Lance Relford and Ricky Williams, freshman Biren Ealy and junior college transfer Juan Valentine - give Arizona a deep group. Each caught balls in the first game. Thurman had 30 receptions for 470 yards last year. Relford was cited by coaches for an outstanding camp and showed why with two key grabs for 54 yards in the opener.
Junior cornerback Michael Jolivette blocked two punts against Northern Arizona to earn Pac-10 Special Teams Player of the Week honors. The two blocks in one game are a school record. The season mark is five by Wally Scott in 1967 and it might be in jeopardy. Arizona's off-season work in the secondary centered around stopping the litany of big plays which plagued the defense in 2001. Jolivette intercepted five passes and set an Arizona single-season record in breaking up 20 passes a year ago. Michael's been a fixture of UA's secondary since then quarterback Keith Smith told bystanders in summer 1999 that there was only one guy who was covering wide receiver Dennis Northcutt with any regularity in informal drills - Jolivette. Since, he's intercepted five passes in each of his first two years (after redshirting the '99 season), good enough for national Top 20 rankings. He's tied for No. 4 among active Division I-A players with 10 career picks. Across from Jolivette, redshirt freshman Darrell Brooks wrested the top role. He had six tackles and broke up two passes in his debut, and appears to give UA solid strength on both sides of the field. Senior David Hinton also brings a veteran mind-set to the secondary, and converted wide receiver Gary Love also saw action on the edge against NAU. At free safety, senior Jarvie Worcester is the dean of the secondary, a fifth-year player with three years' experience. True freshman Lamon Means has raised eyebrows there. Junior Clay Hardt is the starter at strong safety, but sophomore Tony Wingate and junior Anthony Fulcher rotate in various sets. Hardt also has experience at the free safety spot.
Offensive Line Back To Strength?
Three starters along the offensive front missed the NAU game because of injury, but they could be back for the Utah contest. Left guard Makoa Freitas injured his hand a week before the opener and had surgery. Center Keoki Fraser suffered an ankle injury in camp that kept him out of the first game. Right tackle Darrren Safranek had off-season surgery (shoulder/knee) and wasn't ready. Backup guard John Vorsheck suffered a concussion that kept him out of the game. The losses gave UA a different look vs. NAU, with sophomore Chris Johnson at left tackle, senior Aaron Higginbotham at left guard, junior Reggie Sampay at center, freshman John Parada at left guard, and junior Brandon Phillips at right tackle. The action provided offensive line coach Charlie Dickey some early game-experienced depth, and he also played freshman center Kili Lefotu and mid-year transfer Matt Lamatsch at tackle. Coaches moved Freitas from tackle to guard a week into camp and Mackovic says he has a potential NFL future at the position. The quick progress of Parada and Lefotu is a bonus. They, Lamatsch, Tanner Bell and Keith Jackson were UA's big recruits along the front. Higginbotham and Phillips are returning veterans who worked diligently in the summer to improve. Sampay's started at three positions in his career.
Tight Ends Grab a Couple
Senior tight end James Hugo and junior Justin Levasseur each had key receptions against NAU, both on the same drive that nailed the door shut in the second quarter. At 2nd-and-10 from the UA 30 yard-line, Jason Johnson threw for 23 yards to Levasseur. Six plays later, at 4th-and-1 from the Lumberjacks' 20 yard-line, Johnson play-actioned right on a naked bootleg and found Hugo in the flat for a 20-yard touchdown play. It put UA up 27-3. Sophomore Steve Fleming also sees action in the tight end rotation. A year ago all three combined for 15 catches -- Hugo (9), Levasseur (5) and Fleming (1). The pace should pick up in 2002.
The Double-Eagle Flex
Despite some difficulty in 2001 - surrendering a school-record 34.3 points per game, for one -- Arizona kept its double-eagle flex defensive scheme. But in the off season coordinator Larry Mac Duff and head coach John Mackovic looked at ways to improve and did add some wrinkles to continue the gap-control, pressure style that pushed Arizona to the top of the national statistics in total defense and rushing defense in the 1990s. Look for the Cats to be more disciplined and effective with a variety of pass-defense alignments, but expect stopping the run to be paramount. UA slipped in the department a year ago, dropping from No. 8 nationally (2000) to No. 48. Arizona enters the Utah game with questions about how the tweaked defense will perform against I-A competition - but certainly more confidently than a year ago.
Entering the season Arizona was No. 7 nationally among I-A teams with 74 sacks from 2000-2001. The team collected four against NAU - one each by LB Ray Wells, LB Matt Molina and DT Brad Brittain, and a shared hit by DT Young Thompson and DE Fata Avegalio.
Newbies Along the Defensive Front
Coaches had to move whip linebacker Joe Siofele to defensive end in the opener due to Andre Torrey's injured hip. He joined sophomore end Fata Avegalio (his first career start), sophomore tackle Carlos Williams (his first career start) and senior tackle Young Thompson. True freshman end Marcus Smith, junior college end Javier Martinez, redshirt freshman tackle Brad Brittain, sophomore tackle Vince Feula, junior college tackle Carl Tuitavuki and redshirt freshman John Abramo also saw their first career action. Not exactly an old vets brigade. But the group contributed 13 tackles (compared to 16 by linebackers and 11 by DBs), so it was a nice coming out party. Siofele will no doubt move back to whip linebacker when health returns to Torrey, but Matt Molina (3 tackles) did a credible job at whip in his first start.
Ramey Hangs On
Junior punter Ramey Peru backed up a good camp with some of the real stuff in the opener, kicking four times for a 43.2 average and hang time to give UA coverage units the wherewithal to record a 40.5 net punting figure. That's good news in contrast to the 37.9 individual figure by Peru and the team's 34.7 net punting mark from last year. Peru had one kick downed at the 14 yard-line and two returned for a combined 11 yards. He's won the job for the time being, but true freshman Danny Baugher had a hand in the apparent improvement, pushing hard during camp.
Senior Sean Keel hit field goals of 48 and 24 yards against NAU, and missed from 29. Sophomore Bobby Gill came on for the team's final try and hit a 26-yarder in the fourth quarter in his first career place kicking action. (He kicked off last year against Stanford.) Three-for-four tops last year's 64% success rate (9-for-14, all by Keel).
Islanders in the Desert
Arizona leads all Division I-A institutions in the continental United States with three starters from Hawaii. Only UH itself has more than Arizona, according to Dennis Anderson of the Honolulu Advertiser. Left guard Makoa Freitas (Kamehameha High School), outside linebacker Joe Siofele (St. Louis High) and center Keoki Fraser (Kailua High) give UA the distinction. Too, UA could count defensive tackle Young Thompson (Aloa, American Samoa) and defensive end Fata Avegalio (Pago Pago, American Samoa) among its islander regulars. Starting fullback Joey Willrodt also has Polynesian ancestry, along with backup center Kili Lefotu and backup defensive tackles Carl Tuitavuki and Vince Feula.
Eddie Lynch Athletics Pavilion Grand Opening
The UA athletics department will celebrate the grand opening of the new $14 million Eddie Lynch Athletics Pavlion at 11 a.m. prior to the Utah game. While parts of the facility have been in use since July - the Estes Family Strength and Conditioning Center and the Kasser Family Medical Treatment Center - the unveiling of the Jim Click Hall of Champions and tours of the entire complex will be featured Saturday. The Lynch Pavilion represents the most dynamic event in Arizona athletics facility history since Arizona Stadium skybox construction in the late 1970s. Among dignitaries on hand Saturday will be members of the Arizona Board of Regents and city council, Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup, state legislators and congressmen and UA President Peter Likins. The Eddie Lynch Pavilion was paid for with private funds raised by the athletics department.
Habitat for Humanity
Three players on the UA squad have volunteered - with encouragement from head coach John Mackovic - to participate in a 'Habitat for Humanity' community project in which civic-minded individuals cooperate with organizers to help build housing for the indigent. Wide receiver Bobby Wade and defensive ends Andre Torrey and Javier Martinez were to assist in an effort Sept. 7. The three players were involved in two different off-season incidents. Mackovic did not assess any game suspensions but prevailed upon the young men to make additional commitments to the Southern Arizona community... A number of team members also made a recent trip to University Medical Center to visit with youngsters in the pediatric wing...
...Arizona is 54-23-3 in season openers played against four-year university opponents... Head coach John Mackovic is 2-0 in his Arizona season openers.
...In-game coaching duties spot head coach John Mackovic, defensive coordinator Larry Mac Duff, offensive line coach Charlie Dickey, special teams coordinator Scott Pelluer, wide receivers coach Rob Ianello and defensive line coach Marty on the sideline this year. The high view in the coaches booth is used by offensive coordinator Rick Dykes, defensive ends coach Charlie Camp, secondary coach Steve Bernstein, running backs coach Jay Boulware and graduate assistants Jeff Rodgers and Terry Samuel.
...Senior linebacker Lance Briggs and senior wide receiver Bobby Wade have accepted invitations to join the West roster for the Shrine East-West Game early in 2003 in Palo Alto, Calif. They're currently among 19 Pacific-10 Conference players on the team to be coached by Washington State's Mike Price... Others include pre-season All-Americans in WSU's Jason Gesser, USC's Troy Polamalu, Oregon's Keenan Howry and UCLA's Mike Saffer...
...Arizona had 17 players on NFL rosters for opening weekend, including 2001 seniors Steven Grace and Kevin Barry, offensive linemen who signed 2002 free agent contracts. Grace (Cardinals) and Barry (Packers) could become the first Arizona players under head coach John Mackovic to make active National Football League rosters... Only recently, the UA player with the longest active tenure in the League - offensive lineman Glenn Parker - retired after 12 years of play. The UA Sports Hall of Fame member is the new color analyst for Fox Sports Net Arizona cable productions of Arizona football games. Other NFL veterans in the Arizona group ready for 2002 action include kick returner Michael Bates (Panthers, 10 years), linebacker Brant Boyer (Browns, 8 years), punter Josh Miller (Steelers, 7 years), linebacker Tedy Bruschi (Patriots, 6 years) and tackle Frank Middleton (Raiders, 5 years)...
...Two players who switched positions in spring ball aren't going to be idle despite not earning starting roles. Junior Kat safety Anthony Fulcher, switched from fullback during spring ball, and junior cornerback Gary Love (former wide receiver) are the only players on the team who are penciled in as starters on Arizona's five primary special teams units - punt, punt return, kickoff, kickoff return and the 'hands' team...
In the Scoring Zone
Arizona scored four of five times it penetrated NAU's 20 yard-line, and let time expire on the one unsuccessful attempt. NAU managed to penetrate Arizona's red zone once, and kicked a field goal. The Cats had two touchdowns and two field goals and one of the TDs came on a fourth-down play from the 20 itself, a toss from Jason Johnson to James Hugo.
Arizona: 80% scoring, 40% TD
Opponents: 100% scoring, 0% TD
Sudden Change Possessions
The Cats have a plus-2 turnover margin, thanks to two heads-up plays. Jarvie Worcester picked off a pass on the rebound and Gary Love recovered a ball knocked loos by Ray Wells on a punt return. UA, unfortunately did not turn either into points, missing a field goal after the interceptions and punting after the fumble. But two blocked punts by Michael Jolivette created short fields for touchdown and field goal scoring drives. The Cats did not turn the ball over.
Turnover Points: Arizona 0, Opponents 0
Miscue Points: Arizona 10, Opponents 0 (includes turnover, blocked/botched kick possessions
Arizona converted 13-of-21 3rd down plays and 1-for-1 on 4th down to hang on to the ball at a 64 percent conversion rate against NAU. The Lumberjacks managed a 31 percent rate (5-for-15 on 3rd down, 0-for-1 on 4th down). It's a welcome trend. Arizona finished 2001 with a third-down conversion rate of 39 percent.
Time of Possession
Arizona takes an eight-minute edge in time of possession into the Utah game, rounded off at 34 minutes to 26 minutes. That's a swing of six minutes more time with the ball over the final 2001 figure that showed UA trailing in time of possesion, 32:03 to 27:57.
The McKale Center Ticket Office is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (520-621-2287). Single-game public tickets range from $6 to $28. Arizonaathletics.com offers online purchases. Call 1-800-452-2287 toll-free.
Arizona Football On TV
The Utah Game will be produced by Wildcat football partner Fox Sports Net for live cablecast on its Arizona regional outlet, with Dave Sitton and Glenn Parker calling the play. Other games have or will be selected for national or regional cablecasts or local production by FSNA..Arizona Football on Radio
KNST 790-AM Radio (Clear Channel) is the flagship station for live UA football broadcasts on the Wildcat Sports Network. Brian Jeffries and Les Josephson call the play. Affiliates: KCTK Phoenix, KDAP Douglas, KVNA Flagstaff, KIKO Globe, KZUA Holbrook, KLAV Las Vegas, KWRQ Safford, KTAN Sierra Vista, KNOT Prescott, KBLU Yuma. KTOX-Needles, KVSL Show Low. KNST administers UA's Spanish language broadcasts carried by KXEW Tucson and XENY Nogales with Joel Bojorquez and Francisco Romero. KNST's broadcast is available on the internet for $6.95 monthly, through RealNetworks, at arizonaathletics.com. It's also available by phone using TEAMLINE, by calling 1-800-846-4700, team code 5909.
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 noon Tuesdays. The radio show airs at 6 p.m. Tuesdays on KNST-790 AM and the TV segment is broadcast at 9 p.m. Wednesdays on KWBA-58.
RELATED NEWS & VIDEOS
TODAY | 4:00pm PTLive
TODAY | 6:00pm PTLive
TOMORROW | 7:00pm PTLive