Wildcats To Square Off Against North Texas
Sept. 23, 2002
Arizona (2-1, 0-0 Pac-10) plays host to North Texas (1-3, 0-0 Sun Belt) in its final non-conference action of the year Saturday, Sept. 28. Kickoff in 56,002-seat Arizona Stadium is set for 6:07 p.m. The game will be broadcast live on the Wildcat Radio Network, KNST 790 AM in Tucson, with Brian Jeffries and Les Josephson calling the play. The game will not be televised.
Some Game Themes
Two opponents with no historical knowledge of each other's programs... A critical contest for Arizona in terms of needed momentum heading into league play... The Wildcats work to get back on track after a lackluster performance at Wisconsin, against a team coming off a tough loss, 16-10, at Texas Christian... Expect considerable road resiliency on the part of the Mean Green - they've played at Texas, at Alabama and at TCU this year... UNT's defense (No. 18 nationally) against an Arizona club that's shown it can move the ball (No. 32)... Arizona's defense (No. 20 in Division I-A) against UNT's offense, last in Division I at No. 117...
Arizona and North Texas meet for the first time on the gridiron. Since its inception a year ago, though, the Cats are 1-0 against Sun Belt teams, beating Idaho, 36-29, last season in Tucson.
Arizona: John Mackovic (Wake Forest '65), second year at Arizona (7-7) and 15th season as a collegiate head coach (92-71-3). Mackovic has a career 1-0 mark against UNT with a 33-15 victory on Sept. 26, 1992, in his first year at Texas. North Texas: Darrell Dickey (Kansas State '82), 5th year at UNT (14-35) and overall as a head coach. Dickey coached against Arizona previously as offensive coordinator at UTEP in 1996 (a 23-3 Arizona victory).
Arizona Last Week
The Wildcats visited Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis., and returned hom with the knowledge that a sub-par performance will not get the job done. Wisconsin won the battle of the trenches and took advantage of several UA miscues to earn a 31-10 victory. Humbling was a 260-yard rushing day by the Badgers - at 5.5 yards per tote. Too, UW effectively moved the ball through the air, and though yardage was modest at 165 total, UW quarterbacks completed 68 percent of their throws. The first quarter was a scoreless draw but Jason Johnson was intercepted on UA's final drive of the stanza and the Badgers drove 74 yards for a touchdown just moments into the second period. A big special teams play a minute later changed the complexion of the game - Alex Lewis blocked UA freshman Danny Baugher's second career punt to give the Badgers the ball on the Arizona 3 yard-line. Anthony Davis (16-110 total) ran for his second touchdown on the next play. Arizona crossed midfield on its next possession, and after Baugher's next punt was downed at the UW 4 yard-line, the Badgers saddled up and drove 96 yards in 10 plays for a definitive TD. Brooks Bollinger completed passes of 10, 16 and 17 yards on the drive, the last one on 3rd-and-11 for the score. Wisconsin held UA on a three-and-out and a punt return of 31 yards put UW right back in UA territory where it took advantage and moved into position for a sand-in-your-face field goal as the half wound down. Arizona showed it was still contending in the second half. A defensive stop gave the Cats the ball at their own 6 yard-line, but three successive completions by Johnson and a short run by Clarence Farmer pushed the ball to the Wildcat 30. Farmer subsequently cut back on his next run and outraced defenders 70 yards for Arizona's first score. Things looked brighter for UA, but the Badgers replied with a not-in-our-place momentum killer, marching 80 yards in 15 plays - and 8:31 off the clock -- for a 31-7 lead, helped by two UA pass interferece penalties. In all UW collected 425 yards to Arizona's 292, held Johnson to 48 percent throwing and made some UA individual highlights -- Farmer (20-131 rushing), Bobby Wade (7-85 receiving) and Lance Briggs (15 tackles) -- just that.
Mean Green and Match-up Notes...
University of North Texas, Denton. Enrollment: 27,909. Colors: Green & White; Conference: Sun Belt. 2001 Record: 5-7.
...North Texas limited TCU to 178 yards in total offense in the narrow 16-10 loss Saturday, helping the Mean Green defense reach the No. 18 Division I-A rating at 275.5 yards per game...It took three TCU field goals to provide the margin of victory... Sophomore reserve QB Hiram Gonzalez came on to march NTU for its lone touchdown in the game, replacing starter Andrew Smith... NTU has thrown 80 passes without an interception this year, while its defense has intercepted five, led with two by redshirt freshman safety Jonas Buckles... The interceptions and allowed passing yardage figure of 93.5 yards per game put the Mean Green at No. 4 nationally in pass defense... UNT has eight takeaways, has lost five fumbles, and is ranked No. 37 in turnover margin at +.75 per game... Sophomore punter Brad Kadlubar is 28th nationally with a 41.9 average and has stuck five inside the 20... The game pits former star quarterbacks as head coaches - UA's John Mackovic (Wake Forest) and UNT's Darrell Dickey (Kansas State)... UNT, Sun Belt champion with a 5-1 league record a year ago, played in its first bowl game in 42 years, losing to Colorado State in the New Orleans Bowl, 45-20... North Texas was picked to defend its league title in the Sun Belt preseason coaches poll... The fourth-largest university in Texas, UNT alums include journalist Bill Moyers, actor Joe Don Baker, the WWF's 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin and singer Pat Boone - plus a rich football heritage with former NFL stars in 'Mean' Joe Greene, Cedric Hardman, Beasley Reece, Ray Renfro and Ron Shanklin, among others. Hayden Fry was head coach at UNT ffrom 1973-78...
Arizona in the Statistical Rankings
Category/Figure NCAA Pac-10Rushing/100.0 99th 10thPassing/320.3 7th 2ndPass Eff./140.97 26th 6thTotal Offense/420.3 32nd 4thScoring/23.3 80th 10thRush Def./135.7 50th 8thPass Eff. Def./103.0 32nd 5thPass Def./141.3 10th 2ndTotal Def./277.3 20th 3rdScoring Def./17.0 26th 5thNet Punting/30.4 99th 10thPunt Ret./12.6 41st 4thKOR/14.3 113th 8thTurnover Margin/-.67 77th 9thFumbles Lost/2 13th 3rdFumbles Rec./2 84th 7thPasses Had Int./3 41st 7thPasses Intercepted/1 101st 10thTurnovers Gained/3 107th 10thTurnovers Lost/5 22nd 4thRec Yds/Gm- Wade 131.0 8th 1stRec Yds/Gm -Thurman 74.3 46th 7th-Recpt/Gm - Wade 8.0 5th 1stRecpt/Gm -Thurman 4.3 72nd 11thComp/Gm- Johnson 19.0 21st 4thTot Off - Johnson 295.7 11th 2ndPass Eff. - Johnson 150.29 18th 4thScoring - Keel 8.0 50th 9thFG/Gm - Keel 2.0 5th 3rdAll-Purpose - Wade 162.7 17th 1st
CB Michael Jolivette (knee, practice before Wisconsin) may be out for the year. Offensive guard John Parada injured a knee ligament vs. Utah and missed Wisconsin. He's probable. SS Clay Hardt (ankle) missed the Wisconsin start but played. FB Joey Willrodt (shoulder at Wisconsin) and WR Ricky Williams (shoulder at Wisconsin) are questionable. OT Darren Safranek (knee), DE Andre Torrey (hip) and OG John Vorsheck (concussion) have yet to play and are out. Makoa Freitas (wrist surgery Aug. 24) missed the NAU start but returned vs. Utah, as did center Keoki Fraser (ankle, missed NAU) and CB Luis Nunez (groin, missed NAU). WR Mike Jefferson (knee) missed the first three games and is probable, though he might redshirt. Safety Justin Jochum had ankle surgery after an early August weight-room injury and has yet to return to special teams.
Missed Starts Due to Injury:
11 (Freitas-1, Hardt-1, Torrey-3, Fraser-1, Safranek-3, Parada-1, Jolivette-1.)
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 Northern Arizona -- QB Jason Johnson, LB Lance Briggs, FS Jarvie Worcester and TE James Hugo. Utah - LB Ray Wells, OT Makoa Freitas, WR Bobby Wade. Wisconsin - TE James Hugo, LB Ray Wells, LG Makoa Freitas, DT Young Thompson.
Halfback Clarence Farmer and linebacker Lance Briggs were UA nominees for Pac-10 Players of the Week -- Sept. 21. Farmer had a season-high 131 yards on 20 carries and raced 70 yards for a touchdown, plus caught two passes for 10 yards. His 141 total yards accounted for 48 percent of UA's total offense. The 70-yard was his sixth 50+ run of his career. Briggs collected 15 tackles - 10 solo - to post his 12th career double-digit tackle game, and had two tackles for loss.
Miscellany of Late...
...It's really not miscellaneous at all. UA's best cover corner, junior Michael Jolivette, injured his left knee in practice the week of the Wisconsin game and may be lost for the rest of the year. Details of an MRI examination will be available this week. Michael had started 24 consecutive games and has 10 career interceptions since his redshirt freshman year in 2000...Those who wondered if Arizona's passing offense would give halfback Clarence Farmer enough carries need not fret. He's rushed 53 times for 210 yards in the last two games, plus caught four passes in the pair of contests - in which UA also threw for 554 yards. Farmer's big run at Wisconsin gave him an average of 25.7 yards per score on his 17 career touchdown jaunts... Freshman punter Danny Baugher has two kicks for a 44.5-yard average and should push for more opportunities in coming weeks. However, at Wisconsin he did discover the speed with which the game is played, when one of his other tries (a 'team' statistical attempt) was blocked to set up a quick UW score... Place kicker Sean Keel has been a consistent factor for the Cats, with 75 percent accuracy. UA has had to settle for field goals when it was in touchdown territory, though, on too many penetrations inside opponents' 20 yard-line. The Cats have recorded a 20 percent touchdown rate on such forays and ultimately that could hurt. On its lone penetration at Wisconsin it took a Keel 27-yarder to post some points... Keel has 176 career points scored and with 19 more can pass Theo Bell (190) and Vance Johnson (194) into the No. 6 spot on Arizona's career scoring chart... True freshman offensive lineman Kili Lefotu has played center and guard this year and earned the first start of his career at right guard at Wisconsin... UA slipped below 20 first downs at Wisconsin, for the first time in the last eight games dating to last year's Oregon State game...
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. In his case the star would be offensive. The Cats' 37-3 victory against Northern Arizona Aug. 31 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 was the No. 2 figure in his tenure, behind the 578 yards UA posted against Stanford a year ago. The Cats' 416 passing yards against a quality Utah secondary is the third-highest total in Arizona history and just passed Mackovic's Arizona best, 415 yards against Stanford a year ago. 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. He is among the Top 25 among active Division I-A coaches in career victories. 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 nine national academic/citizenship honor winners during his collegiate career including two members, Jason Johnson a week ago and Eli Wnek last year, selected to the American Football Coaches Assocation 'Good Works Team.' Arizona recorded a program-high four first-team Academic All-Pac-10 selections in 2001. Graduate quarterback Johnson is among top contenders for a Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete Award.
Mackovic at a Glance:
ï¿½ 15th year as a collegiate head coachï¿½ Overall collegiate record: 92-71-3 (.563)ï¿½ Career bowl teams: Eightï¿½ Arizona record: 7-7ï¿½ Pac-10 Record: 2-6ï¿½ Arizona Road Record: 3-3ï¿½ Arizona Home Record: 4-4ï¿½ Walter Camp Foundation National Coach of the Year, 1979ï¿½ Conference Coach of the Year: ACC ('79), Big Ten ('88, '89), SWC ('95)
Air-a-Zona Gets Grounded
The aerial attack featured so prominently in UA's first two games took a hit at Wisconsin as the Cats took their 411-yard average to Madison... and threw for 138 yards. 'We never got untracked,' was Mackovic's Sunday assessment. But he did add that the schematic design of the UA system afforded a number of superb opportunities that simply weren't executed, and coaches are optimistic about the week's work ahead. Arizona had averaged 80.5 plays in its two games, with 85 runs and 76 passes for an average of 484 yards. The running of Clarence Farmer helped UA record its best rushing day of the year and eclipse the passing attack for the first time this year (154 yards). Still, passing has netted UA 961 yards compared to 300 rushing this season. The play calling is split - 115 rushes, 108 passes. Mackovic's emphasis on a successful passing game is a well-known commodity. Arizona never has averaged more than 255 yards passing per game in a season but is a mile ahead of that mark at 320.3. UA is averaging a decent 8.9 yards per attempt and 15.8 yards per completion and will not stop throwing. Johnson's game at UW saw his completion percentage drop to 58.2, but his efficiency rating is above his mark of a year ago and his yardage per game (308.7) is well ahead of the school record (236.8).
Quod Erat Demonstrandum
'That which was to be demonstrated' this year is senior quarterback Jason Johnson's ability as a college quarterback, and his role as a big key to UA's success. It is thus. Johnson, in the top 25 among active Division I-A quarterbacks with 24 career touchdown throws, has done so in one-plus season. His start this year puts him No.11in the nation in total offense and No. 18 in passing efficiency. He threw for successive career yardage totals -- 381 yards in the opener and 416 vs. Utah, both among the top 5 in UA single-game individual performances. He's suffered two interceptions in 98 throws this year. The best for Jason and Arizona, however, is what he brings to the team in leadership. It took four years -- one as a redshirt, two as a holder and one solid year last season - to demonstrate that his aptitude and ability measure up to his work ethic. Last year he 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 five 300-yard career passing games and appears capable of that each time out. Johnson found nine different receivers in his 2002 debut, then turned to some key guys in hitting Bobby Wade and Andrae Thurman nine times each against Utah. Against Wisconsin, Wade again was a big target with seven catches for 85 yards, but UA couldn't really get its passing game going. A graduate student in Judaic studies, Johnson's the reigning first-team Academic All-Pac-10 quarterback, a member of the 2002 AFCA 'Good Works Team' which cites 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 at Wisconsin and had average success, but is blessed with a strong arm and is learning.
Sine Qua Non
Arizona wide receiver Bobby Wade has proven indispensable to UA's offensive efforts, and this year leads the Pacific-10 Conference in receptions per game, receiving yardage per game, total receiving yards and all-purpose yardage. He's a recent addition to the Shrine East-West Game roster (joining teammate Lance Briggs)... Wade had nine catches for a career-high 175 yards against Utah, but saw his streak of 100-yard games end at Wisconsin, catching seven balls for 85 yards. The efforts have pushed him past Theopolis 'T' Bell into No. 2 on the school career chart with 161 catches. He's third in the UA record book with 18 scoring receptions, and No. 4 with 2,355 receiving yards. His 62 receptions a year ago were the No. 4 single-season figure. He has a streak of 34 consecutive games with a reception - No. 12 nationally and eight shy of UA's record of 41 by Dennis Northcutt (1996-99). He and his mates in the receiving corps -- junior Andrae Thurman, sophomores Lance Relford and Ricky Williams, freshman Biren Ealy and junior college transfer Juan Valentine - give Arizona a deep group. Thurman broke out with his best day against Utah, matching Wade's nine catches and totaling 165 yards, both career bests. The two-pronged 100-yard receiving duo was the first for UA since then freshman Wade and Northcutt did it in 1999 at Washington State. Relford has two catches in each game and Williams caught two each in the first two games. Williams (18.2), Thurman (17.2), Relford (17.0) and Wade (16.4) all average well above a first down when they catch the ball. Pass catchers overall are grabbing throws at a 15.8 yards per-catch rate. Wade gives UA the added kick return dimension as well. He is among national leaders (No. 17) in the Pac-10 in all-purpose yardage at 162.7 per game, thanks largely to his receiving yards (131.0 ypg, No. 8 nationally). He's No. 5 nationally with 8.0 receptions per game. His last six games: 48 receptions, 799 yards, seven touchdowns.
Senior inside linebacker Lance Briggs was all over the field at Wisconsin, recording 15 tackles, second only to his initial game as a linebacker when he had 16 to open his true sophomore year at Utah in 2000. It was a clinic in tackling, but unfortunately kind of a one-man show. He brings two-time All-Pac-10 first-team credentials to UA's defense. His total of 206 tackles in those two seasons came on the move. With 237 career hits (4 as a true freshman fullback on special teams in 1999, 27 in 2002), he'll move 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 Pac-10 experience. Wells' six hits at Wisconsin were two short of his single-game high of eight vs. Washington last year. Johnson drew raves playing as a true freshman a year ago. True Soph Pat Howard missed the opener after knee arthroscopy but returned to action at Wisconsin. In the meantime, true freshman Spencer Larsen has played in all three games on the kickoff teams and made tackles on the first two scrimmage plays of his career against NAU. On the outside, junior Joe Siofele is the returning starter at whip linebacker. He has started at defensive end in the absence of Andre Torrey and notched 12 tackles. Junior Matt Molina has started at whip and knocked down two passes and contributed seven tackles. Briggs, though, is clearly UA's primary sideline-to-sideline guy with some pop in his pads.
It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times
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. The Cats want to be more disciplined and effective with a variety of pass-defense alignments, but expect stopping the run to be paramount. Wisconsin averaged 5.5 yards per attempt in the most damaging effort vs. UA this year, skewing the season rate to a 4.2 ypc rate and dropping UA to No. 50 in rushing defense. In pass defense (yards) and pass efficiency defense UA is rated No. 10 and No. 32, respectively, and overall the unit takes a No. 20 rating in total defense into the UNT game. Opponents have scored 17 points per game, rating the Wildcats 26th nationally.
Once More Unto the Breach
Despite Arizona's early success in the passing game, its situation at halfback is deep, with three options starting with junior Clarence Farmer, the first-team All-Pac-10 pick in 2001, and a career 2,000-yard rusher. 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 2,003 career rushing yards and sits at No. 10 on UA's all-time top 10 chart. He had 99 gross yards against Utah but was caught behind the line a number of times for 79 net on 33 carries, his career high. He was held to 29 yards on 16 carries vs. NAU. He's capable of breaking away, though, with a career average of 22.9 yards on 16 career touchdown runs. 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 in their collegiate debuts. Farmer caught three balls in the opener, his single-game career high, then added two catches for 29 yards against Utah.
No J In Secondary
Junior cornerback Michael Jolivette's knee injury in practice last week took one of the Cats' best defenders out of the lineup. Also a stalwart on special teams, he had 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. 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 his first game in 2000. 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 in the national top 25 among active Division I-A players with 10 career picks. Across from Jolivette, redshirt freshman Darrell Brooks wrested the top role. Senior David Hinton started at Wisconsin in Jolivette's place, while juniors Luis Nunez and Gary Love also played. At free safety, senior Jarvie Worcester is the dean of the secondary, a fifth-year player with three years' experience. Junior Clay Hardt is the starter at strong safety but missed his start at Wisconsin with an ankle sprain, giving sophomore Tony Wingate his first career start. Hardt can also play free safety, where true freshman Lamon Means has seen some action. Note: ...Junior SS Anthony Fulcher also has seen playing time but did not make the Wisconsin trip... DBs have broken up 11 opponent passes in 85 attempts...
The Little Streak is Over
It was modest, indeed, but it sure felt good - a little winning streak. Now the Cats toil under the realization that improvement demands constant attention. Arizona's football program seemingly turned a corner in last year's closing weeks, then put on a show in the season finale and beat Arizona State. Spring ball and fall camp were upbeat, and the Cats won the first two games in 2002. The three-game winning streak matched Mackovic's regular-season start a year ago.
The More the Merrier
Three starters along the offensive front missed the season opener because of injury, but two have returned to action in the past weeks. 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 Darren Safranek had off-season surgery (shoulder/knee) and hasn't been able to practice yet. Backup guard and placements snapper John Vorsheck suffered a concussion that kept him out of the first three games. 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 right guard, and junior Brandon Phillips at right tackle. Parada was hurt against Utah and missed the Wisconsin trip, so backup center Kili Lefotu started in his place at guard. Offensive line coach Charlie Dickey also has played mid-year transfer Matt Lamatsch at tackle. Higginbotham and Phillips are returning veterans who worked diligently in the summer to improve. Sampay's started at three positions in his career. UA has some size up front and has more in the wings with some additional true freshmen like Tanner Bell and Keith Jackson. Note: ...Coaches moved Freitas from tackle to guard a week into camp and Mackovic says he has NFL potential at the position. He's been a tackle for most of his UA career...
Entering the season Arizona was No. 7 nationally among I-A teams with 74 sacks from 2000-2001. The team has six this year with seven players in on the action. Neither team recorded a sack at Wisconsin though Arizona did catch the quarterback behind the line or near it on several so-called running plays - and UA coaches have asked Wisconsin game scorers to re-consider a 6-yard loss the UW quarterback suffered on a 1st-and-20 play as a sack. The Wildcats have forced opponents into 20 three-and-out possessions among 41 total possessions - plus three other four-play drives, so it's not like UA has had a wealth of sack opportunities on 3rd-and-long. Meantime, opponents have collected seven sacks on about 110 passing plays the Cats have used, decent protection especially considering some early injuries that kept three offensive line starters out of the opener (Makoa Freitas, Keoni Fraser and Darren Safranek). Note: ...UA's protection was a problem at Wisconsin, forcing Jason Johnson and Nic Costa to try some throws that aren't designed on the run. Two were picked off...
A New Broom Sweeps Clean
Coaches had to move whip linebacker Joe Siofele to defensive end in the first three games 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. Then in the Utah game, sophomore Vince Feula had his first start ahead of Williams. In the Wisconsin game, redshirt freshman Brad Brittain had his first start ahead of Feula. True freshman end Marcus Smith, junior college end Javier Martinez, junior college tackle Carl Tuitavuki and redshirt freshman John Abramo also have seen action. It's not exactly an old vets brigade on the defensive front, but appears to be a unit with some flexibility and depth. Note: ...If junior college transfer defensive end Andre Torrey is able to return from a hip injury, it will further change the complexion of UA's front. He was arguably the best pass rusher in the group during spring ball, but has yet to play...
Field Goal Threat
Senior Sean Keel has hit six field goals in the first three games to rate No. 5 nationally and third in the Pac-10 at 2.0 per game. He's missed from 29 and had a 52-yard attempt blocked (Utah). He's hit from 19, 21, 24, 27, 39 and 48 yards. Sophomore Bobby Gill came on for the team's final try in the opener and hit a 26-yarder in his first career attempt. Seven-for-nine (78%) tops last year's 64% success rate (9-for-14, all by Keel). Note: ...Six of the FGs this year came on red-zone penetrations, giving UA 18 points against a potential of 42...
Arizona has improved on its third-down conversion rate, but slipped a bit with a 5-for-16 mark at Wisconsin. The Cats are 25-for-55 for 45 percent. Last season the team finished with a 39 percent rate. In the opener UA 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 Utah it was a more modest 7-for-18. Opponents have managed only 13 third-down conversions in 44 tries, a decent defensive rate of 33 percent. Wisconsin was most effective at 5-for-14. Note: ...Arizona's defense has managed to force the opposition into a total of 20 possessions of 3-and-out...
Time... Is on My Side
Wisconsin used an eight-minute, 31-second scoring drive to help accrue an eight-minute edge in time of possession last week. But on the season, Arizona enjoys a four-minute edge in average time of possession, rounded off at 32 minutes to 28. Against Utah, a solid running team, the edge for Arizona was a whopping 36:32 to 23:28 and the Utes had to disdain the run in the end.
Water, Water Everywhere, Nor Any Drop to Drink
Arizona has to increase its offensive power in scoring position. It's scored eight times in 10 trips inside opponents' 20 yard-line, but only managed two touchdowns. Last week the Cats had to settle for a field goal after Andrae Thruman's 35-yard punt return set UA up with the ball at the Wisconsin 21 yard-line. UA reached the 10 but the Badgers stiffened and Sean Keel came on for the three-pointer. Earlier, UA ended a 76-yard drive at the Utah 4 and settled for a field goal, ended a 50-yard drive at the Utah 2 yard-line and settled for a field goal, and recovered a fumble at the Utah 19 and settled for a field goal. Not exactly punching it in. On defense, UA could stiffen. Opponents have scored five touchdowns in eight incursions, though tthree of those were turnover short-field possessions. NAU managed to penetrate Arizona's red zone once, and kicked a field goal, while Arizona had its only two scoring-zone touchdowns (and two field goals) in five trips. Note: ...One of the TDs against Northern Arizona came on a fourth-down play from the 20 itself, a toss from Jason Johnson to James Hugo.
Arizona: 10 Scoring Zone Possessions - 80% scoring, 20% TDOpponents: 8 Scoring Zone Possessions - 88% scoring, 63% TD
Turnabout is Fair Play
The Cats have held turnovers to a relative minimum, but also have not been creating 'takeaways' with much frequency. Quarterbacks Jason Johnson and Nic Costa each suffered interceptions at Wisconsin on unwise throws on the run after being flushed from the pocket. The first one led to a long scoring drive by the Badgers. UA was somewhat sloppy against Utah, coughing up three turnovers which led to 14 points plus ruined a 52-yard drive. The picks last week dropped UA to -2 in the turnover department and with a game margin of -0.67. UA's lone takeaway vs. the Utes was a recovered fumble at the Utah 19 yard-line, which resulted in Sean Keel's third field goal of the game. In the opener,Jarvie Worcester intercepted a pass and Gary Love recovered a fumble on punt coverage, but UA did not capitalize with points. Also versus NAU, two blocked punts by Michael Jolivette created short fields for touchdown and field-goal scoring drives. The Cats did not turn the ball over in that contest.
Arizona When It...
Has more first downs than opponent... 2-0Has fewer first downs... 0-1Has more time of possession... 2-0Has less time of possession... 0-1Has more total offense... 2-0Has less total offense... 0-1Has more rushing yards... 1-0Has fewer rushing yards... 1-1Has a 100-yard rusher... 0-1Has no 100-yard rusher... 2-0Has more passing yards... 2-0Has fewer passing yards... 0-1Has fewer turnovers... 1-0Has more turnovers... 1-1Has fewer penalties... 1-0Has more penalties... 0-1Has the same number of penalties... 1-0Has fewer penalty yards... 1-0Has more penalty yards... 1-1Has higher net punting... 1-0Has lower net punting... 1-1Has more sacks... 0-0Has fewer sacks... 1-0Has the same number of sacks... 1-1Blocks a kick... 1-0Has a kick blocked... 1-1Leads at the half... 2-0Trails at the half... 0-1Leads after 3 quarters... 2-0Trails after 3 quarters... 0-1Uses two quarterbacks... 1-1Uses one quarterback... 1-0Allows a 100-yard rusher... 0-1Allows a 200-yard passer 0-12002 Arizona Football Depth Chart - North Texas Week, Sept. 28
WR 4 Andrae Thurman, 6-0, 185, *Jr., 2L, Avondale, Ariz. (Westview)18 Lance Relford, 6-0, 200, *Jr., 2L, Houston, Texas (Booker T. Washington)84 Ricky Williams, 6-3, 210, *So., SQ, Los Angeles, Calif. (Verbum Dei) 81 Juan Valentine, 6-1, 200, Jr., JC, Houston, Texas (Clear Lake/Tyler JC)LT 59 Chris Johnson, 6-3, 295, *So., SQ, Houston, Texas (North Shore)78 Darren Safranek, 6-7, 290, *Sr., 3L, Tucson, Ariz. (Catalina Foothills)76 Matt Lamatsch, 6-7, 315, Jr., JC, Clafkin, Kan. (Clafkin HS/Butler County CC)LG 77 Makoa Freitas, 6-4, 295, Sr., 3L, Manoa, Hawaii (Kamehameha) 73 Aaron Higginbotham, 6-5, 295, *Sr., 2L, Calimesa, Calif. (Yucaipa)C 67 Keoki Fraser, 6-3, 300, *So., 1L, Kailua, Hawaii (Kailua) 66 Kili Lefotu, 6-5, 298, Fr., HS, Riverside, Calif. (Arlington)RG 75 Reggie Sampay, 6-3, 285, Jr., 2L, Houston, Texas (North Shore) or 66 Kili Lefotu, 6-5, 298, Fr., HS, Riverside, Calif. (Arlington)70 John Parada, 6-8, 326, Fr., HS, Alta Loma, Calif. (Alta Loma)RT 68 Brandon Phillips, 6-8, 330, *Jr., 1L, Chandler, Ariz. (Corona del Sol)76 Matt Lamatsch, 6-7, 315, Jr., JC, Clafkin, Kan. (Clafkin HS/Butler County CC)TE 89 James Hugo, 6-6, 266, *Sr., 3L, The Woodlands, Texas (Oak Ridge) 88 Justin Levasseur, 6-4, 245, *Jr., 1L, Antioch, Calif. (Antioch)87 Steve Fleming, 6-6, 250, *So., 1L, Scottsdale, Ariz. (Chaparral)WR 1 Bobby Wade, 5-11, 185, Sr., 3L, Phoenix, Ariz. (Desert Vista)18 Lance Relford, 6-0, 200, *Jr., 2L, Houston, Texas (Booker T. Washington) 82 Biren Ealy, 6-2, 175, Fr., HS, Houston, Texas (Cypress Falls)QB 10 Jason Johnson, 6-2, 215, *Sr., 3L, Puyallup, Wash. (Rogers)7 Nic Costa, 5-11, 200, *Fr., RS, Aloha, Ore. (Aloha)HB 32 Clarence Farmer, 6-0, 224, Jr., 3L, Houston, Texas (Booker T. Washington)26 Mike Bell, 6-0, 210, *Fr., RS, Phoenix, Ariz. (Tolleson) 23 Gainus Scott, 5-10, 195, *Fr., RS, La Porte, Texas (La Porte)FB 37 Joey Willrodt, 6-1, 240, *Sr., SQ, Salinas, Calif. (Palma/Moorpark JC)35 Sean Jones, 5-11, 230, *Fr., RS, Houston, Texas (North Shore)36 Gilbert Harris, 6-1, 211, Fr., HS, San Antonio, Texas (Churchill)
DE 98 Fata Avegalio, 6-3, 255, *So., 1L, Pago Pago, American Samoa (Leone)85 Javier Martinez, 6-4, 260, *Jr., JC, Pico Rivera, Calif. (St. Paul/Cerritos CC)DT 92 Carlos Williams, 6-4, 291, So., 1L, Denver, Colo. (Montbello) or 91 Brad Brittain, 6-5, 280, *Fr., RS, Encinitas, Calif. (Torrey Pines) 90 Carl Tuitavuki, 6-3, 350, Jr., JC, Oakland, Calif. (San Leandro/Ricks CC)DT 93 Young Thompson, 6-2, 305, Sr., 3L, Aloa, American Samoa (Samoana)99 Vince Feula, 6-0, 300, *So., SQ, La Mirada, Calif. ((La Mirada)DE 42 Joe Siofele, 6-2, 255, *Jr., 2L, Waipahu, Hawaii (St. Louis)55 Marcus Smith, 6-5, 220, Fr., HS, San Diego, Calif. (Mission Bay)56 Andre Torrey, 6-4, 250, Jr., JC, Alameda, Calif. (Alameda/Laney CC)ROV 7 Ray Wells, 6-0, 220, *Sr., 1L, San Diego, Calif. (Mt. Miguel/Mesa JC) 25 Kirk Johnson, 6-1, 215, So., 1L, Oakland, Calif. (Skyline)MLB 27 Lance Briggs, 6-2, 245, Sr., 3L, Sacramento, Calif. (Elk Grove) 51 Spencer Larsen, 6-1, 225, Fr., HS, Gilbert, Ariz. (Highland)WLB 49 Matt Molina, 6-2, 240, *Jr., 1L, Scottsdale, Ariz. (Chaparral)42 Joe Siofele, 6-2, 255, *Jr., 2L, Waipahu, Hawaii (St. Louis)KAT 33 Clay Hardt, 6-2, 200, *Jr., 2L, Marana, Ariz. (Marana) 30 Tony Wingate, 6-1, 200, *So., SQ, Tucson, Ariz. (Sahuaro) 24 Anthony Fulcher, 5-11, 195, Jr., 2L, Scottsdale, Ariz., (Horizon)CB 2 David Hinton, 6-1, 175, *Sr., 2L, San Diego, Calif. (Lincoln Prep) 13 Luis Nunez, 5-11, 190, Jr., JC, Chula Vista, Calif. (Hilltop/Southwestern CC)FS 47 Jarvie Worcester, 6-0, 204, *Sr., 3L, La Jolla, Calif. (La Jolla).33 Clay Hardt, 6-2, 200, *Jr., 2L, Marana, Ariz. (Marana) 19 Lamon Means, 6-3, 190, Fr., HS, Galena Park, Texas, (Galena Park)CB 6 Darrell Brooks, 6-0, 191, *Fr., RS, Moreno Valley, Calif. (Moreno Valley) 9 Gary Love, 5-10, 180, Jr., 2L, Los Angeles, Calif. (Jefferson)
PK 3 Sean Keel, 6-0, 187, Jr., 2L, Littleton, Colo. (Mullen)28 Bobby Gill, 5-11, 190, *So., SQ, Littleton, Colo. (Mullen)(KO) 34 Ryan Slack, 6-1, 195, So., 1L, Tucson, Ariz. (Salpointe Catholic)P 12 Ramey Peru, 6-1, 205, *So, 1L, Chandler, Ariz. (Dobson) or 43 Danny Baugher, 5-10, 185, Fr., HS, Phoenix, Ariz. (Mountain Pointe)Hold 10 Jason Johnson, 6-2, 215, *Sr., 3L, Puyallup, Wash. (Rogers)Snaps LS 50 Ben DalMolin, , 6-0, 210, So., 1L, Globe, Ariz. (Globe) PK 42 Joe Siofele, 6-2, 255, *Jr., 2L, Waipahu, Hawaii (St. Louis) 65 John Vorsheck, 6-4, 305, *Sr., 1L, Laguna Hills, Calif. (Laguna Hills/Saddleback CC)Returns 1 Bobby Wade (P/KO), 4 Andrae Thurman (KO/P), 9 Gary Love (KO)