Mike Stoops Era Begins With 21-3 Win For Arizona
Sept. 4, 2004
By BOB BAUM
AP Sports Writer
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - The Mike Stoops era at Arizona got off to a winning, ifunspectacular, start Saturday night with a 21-3 victory over Northern Arizona.
Mike Bell carried 31 times for 118 yards for the Wildcats, includingtouchdown runs of 2 and 9 yards. Kris Heavner completed 18 of 23 passes for 171yards and a score.
Arizona led 7-3 most of the night against the Division I-AA Lumberjacksbefore putting the game away with a pair of touchdowns in the final 10 minutes.
Stoops, who as co-defensive coordinator helped his brother Bob build apowerhouse at Oklahoma, was hired to rebuild the Wildcats after the tumultuoustenure of John Mackovic - fired midway through last season.
Arizona defenders intercepted Jason Murrietta three times. Murrietta, theBig Sky Conference player of the year as a freshman last season, completed 20of 37 passes for 176 yards. Roger Robinson gained 101 yards in 20 carries.
Arizona, 2-10 a year ago, took the opening kickoff and went 80 yards in 19plays, capped by Bell's 2-yard TD run. On the drive, Arizona converted onfourth-and-1 with Bell's 2-yard run to the Lumberjacks' 27. Heavner's 26-yardpass to Syndric Steptoe set up the score.
Bell's fumble on Arizona's next possession was recovered by NorthernArizona's Vince Henman at the Wildcats' 26. Paul Ernster's 22-yard field goalcut the lead to 7-3 with 13:02 left in the first half.
Arizona didn't mount another serious drive until the fourth quarter, whenHeavner and Steptoe connected on a 37-yard play to the Lumberjacks' 17. Threeplays later, Bell scored from the 9 to make it 14-3 with 9:56 remaining.
Arizona's final score came after John Buckley came a yard short on a fakepunt attempt, giving the Wildcats the ball at the Lumberjacks' 36. Heavnerthrew 13 yards to Steptoe for the score with 5:40 remaining.
On its first possession of the second half, Arizona drove to the NorthernArizona 40. But on fourth-and-1, the Wildcats' Nic Costa switched from wideoutto quarterback on a last-second shift, then was dropped for a 3-yard loss.
The Lumberjacks threatened to take the lead when Roger Robinson ran 30 yardsto the Arizona 13. But he was called for unsportsmanlike conduct forcelebrating at the end of the run. On the next play, Kory Mahr took a pass overthe middle, then fumbled after a hard hit by Darrell Brooks. Sean Jonesrecovered for the Wildcats at the Arizona 17, and Mahr had to be helped fromthe field.
Northern Arizona, 14th in the Division I-AA preseason rankings, lost to aDivision I-A team for the 12th straight time.