Cats Head to Stanford on Saturday
Oct. 6, 2008
Game 6: Arizona at Stanford
Saturday, Oct. 11, 2008
2 p.m. (PDT) - Stanford Stadium
Arizona vs, Stanford Series Fast Facts:
First Meeting: 1979 (Stanford 30 - Arizona 10 in Palo Alto, Calif.)
Last Meeting: 2007 (Stanford 21 – Arizona 20 in Tucson, Ariz.)
All-Time Series: Arizona leads 13-10
Arizona vs. Stanford All-Time: The 24th all-time meeting between the two schools ... Arizona owns a 13-10 edge in the 23 games ... Stanford has defeated Arizona in two of the last three seasons – both in Tucson – but the Wildcats prevailed with a 20-7 win at Stanford in 2006 … Previous to UA’s victory in 2006, Stanford had won a series-high three straight games against the Wildcats ... UA’s longest winning streak over the Cardinal is six (1991-98).
Arizona-Stanford 2007 Flashback: Arizona had three drives of 80-plus yards and put up 17 points, but couldn't master some other opportunities in dropping a narrow decision, 21-20, to Stanford before a Parents' Day crowd of 55,270 in Tucson. UA missed a short field goal late in the third quarter, couldn't convert on 4th-and-1 at the SU 43 yard-line with just under four minutes remaining, and fumbled away its final chance at a comeback. Both teams had some offensive problems -- a combined 12 three-and-outs -- although Arizona put up the edge with a doable margin, 368 to 277, but the big plays fell on the side of the team in crimson and white instead of cardinal and navy. It started with the appearance that UA could control, with a solid stop then an 87-yard drive for Jason Bondzio's first field goal, and an 84-yard drive for a 10-0 lead on a double-reverse TD run by receiver Mike Thomas four minutes into the second quarter. But Stanford picked off Willie Tuitama near midfield shortly thereafter and Tavita Pritchard hit Richard Sherman for a 33-yard TD pass, and then UA missed on its first of two fourth-down conversions and the Cardinal took over from midfield for a nine-play drive and a 14-10 halftime lead. Arizona opened the second half with an 11-play, 85-yard touchdown drive keyed by Nic Grigsby's 35 rushing yards to regain the lead, and added a Bondzio career-long 49- yard field goal to make it 20-14 after three periods. The fourth stanza wasn't fun for the UA faithful. UA was stopped on a three-play drive, with Grigsby losing three yards on 3rd-and-1, and Keenyn Crier's 40-yard punt was returned 16 yards to near midfield by Chris Hobbs. The Cardinal saddled up for an 11-play drive to regain the lead for good, 21-20, with Jason Evans and backups Tyrone McGraw and Jason Stewart rushing for the final 14 yards on five carries into paydirt. UA then lost the ball on a no-gain 4th-and-1 keeper by Tuitama and, a catch-and-fumble on a first-down play on its next possession. Later, operators burned only one second off the clock on a take-a-knee 4th-and-6 play by Stanford to give UA two seconds and an 86-yard field. A hook and lateral play got some final UA yards but not nearly enough, and UA actually fumbled on the end of the play. The result spoiled the Cats' defensive effort, led by linebacker Spencer Larsen's 14 hits, and interception and a forced fumble, and a career-best nine by defensive tackle Lionel Dotson. Bondzio's missed 29-yarder snapped his streak of made field goals at seven. True freshman Grigsby had the second 100-yard game of his young career with 24 totes for 126. Redshirt freshman receiver Delashuan Dean had a career-high eight catches. Tuitama hit redshirt freshman TE A.J. Simmons for his first catch and first score.
Arizona-Stanford 2006 Flashback: The Wildcats surrendered the fewest yards of total offense in school history in a 20-7 victory over the Cardinal in Stanford, Calif. ... Arizona attempted just 13 passes in the game and rushed for 220 yards on 51 carries ... The Cardinal managed a program-low 52 yards of offense on 32 plays ... The minus eight yards rushing by Stanford was the first time UA held an opponent to negative yards on the ground since 1999 ... Stanford finished with just four first downs ... Aside from an interception returned for a TD, Stanford did not possess the ball inside Arizona territory during the contest, probing only as deep as its own 43 ... The Cardinal’s longest drive was three plays for 13 yards in the first quarter ... Game time was an economical 2:30
Some Game Themes: The Cats open a two-week stretch against the Bay Area clubs... In the progression that has been UA's schedule, this game represents Arizona's sternest test.... The Wildcats take to the road to see how they handle prosperity as a co-leader in the league standings... Arizona measures its self-image as a tough customer against a club with a physical reputation... The Wildcats' spread propensity against a more traditional physical style ... Two teams well aware of what turnovers can do to an effort (i.e. UA 5 at New Mexico and SU 4 at Notre Dame in a pair of defeats)... Arizona sees if its 40 points per game in two conference contests has any basis in reality... Stanford plays its lone home contest in a span of 41 days, fittingly Homecoming... A pair of head coaches who faced off as Hawkeyes and Wolverines back in the day...
Last Week: Arizona took on the challenge of facing an opponent it should dominate, and did, winning going away against Washington, 48-14. The victory pushed Arizona to 4-1 for the first time in eight years years and kept it atop the conference standings at 2-0 (tie with California). The Cats put up 28 first downs, rushed for 256 yards and emphasized that senior quarterback Willie Tuitama and soph tight end Rob Gronkowski make a decent big-play combo. The former threw three scoring strikes to the latter, who tied a school record with the effort. They were the big guy's fifth touchdown catches in two games, both since returning to action after missing three games with a virus. Meantime, all-purpose threat Mike Thomas caught a few balls but also notched his first return score of his career, wheeling 48 yards on a punt take-back to cross the goal line. Arizona scored first on a Jason Bondzio field goal, took a 17-0 first-quarter lead and never looked back. The UA defense held the Huskies to 244 somewhat inconsequential yards, 62 of those on one big play -- a pass from Ronnie Fouch to Jermaine Kearse that set up Washington's first score. The Huskies later drove 43 yards against Arizona's backup defense to put another score on the board half way through the fourth quarter. Arizona used its offensive reserves to run out the clock, rushing 15 times for 66 yards to take the remaining 8:33 off the clock. In one miniature setback, that drive ended with UA spoiling its red-zone success (5-for-6) by taking a couple of knees to finalize the evening's play. A crowd of 55,624 watched Wildcat running back Nic Grigsby post his third 100-yard game of the year (14-113) and score his eighth rushing TD to lead the running attack, and backups Xavier Smith, Keola Antolin and Nick Booth combined for 24 carries for another 102 yards to help UA average 5.0 per tote. UA did allow three sacks -- the Huskies' first of the year and all by Daniel Te'o Nesheim. Gronkowski had five receptions for 109 yards and the 18 points, giving him eight catches, 141 yards and five scores in two games since returning to action. Tuitama completed 81 percent of his throws (17-for-21) for 193 yards, a superb 9.2 yards per attempt. UA sophomore cornerback Devin Ross had his first career interception to help hold Fouch to a 43 percent completion rate, broke up three others and joined with his teammates in compiling nine PBUs.
The Coaches: Arizona -- Mike Stoops (Iowa '86), fifth year at Arizona (21-30) and fifth year overall as a head coach. Stoops is 1-2 against Stanford. He carries a record of 14-22 in Pac-10 games. The Wildcats have improved from twin 3-8 seasons his first two years to a current stretch of a 7-2 spanning last year and this season since the last meeting with the Cardinal. Stanford -- Jim Harbaugh (Michigan '86), second year at Stanford 7-11 and 36-17 in his fifth year overall as a head coach. Harbaugh's '07 club clipped UA, 21-20, last October.
Big Rob TD Inc.: Sophomore tight end Rob Gronkowski has five touchdown receptions among his eight catches since returning to action after missing the first three games of the year. Effective use of the big guy, indeed. In his short career he has shown he's an effective short-, medium- and long-yardage weapon. He has 36 career receptions and 11 of those have gone for scores. That's a TD on 31 percent of his grabs. Whether on a fade, screen, slant, fly, post or whatever, he's a big target and tough to bring down once it's in his hands.
Getting Picky: The Cats have six interceptions through five games, about the same pace as last year's squad that picked off 15. Sophomore corner Devin Ross had his second career INT against Washington last week. Redshirt freshman Trevin Wade leads with two, both in the first game of the year against Idaho. A good note is the Cats' 20-yard average on the thefts, led by backup safety Joe Perkins' 42-yard return, also versus the Vandals. The Cats have not faced a prolific passing attack. Opponents have averaged 27 throws per game and 14 completions for a 4.4-yard average per pass and 8.2 yards per completion. Those figures are part of why UA leads the nation in passing defense (ypg at 118) and is third in pass efficiency defense (88.70).
Hitting the Holes: Arizona has improved its running game dramatically, at least on paper through five games. A year ago the Wildcats averaged 2.9 yards per rush, a figure that checked in last in the Pac-10 -- where UA also finished last with 76.8 yards per game. Sure, UA threw for 3700 yards and averaged 385 per game total, but the lack of some punch was evident. To date the team is clicking along at a respectable 4.4 yards per attempt and 170 markers per contest. Taking what's given, and the nature of playing from a lead, has surely been keys. Against Washington the Cats handed off for a season-high 51 carries in building 256 rushing yards, while throwing the ball 21 times. Against New Mexico in the loss the figures were reversed (50 passes, 24 runs). It's clear that with four backs (Grigsby, Smith, Antolin and Booth) Arizona can check out what's there against any opponent.
How Far They’ve Come: 2006 was a difficult season for the Arizona offense, particularly early in the year when it lost starting QB Willie Tuitama for two games and parts of others due to a concussion and its after affects. The Wildcats finished the season with 199 total points and an average of 16.6 points per game in the 12 game season. Through five games in 2008, Arizona has already surpassed that season total from 2006 with 218 points to date this year (43.6 ppg).
Flags: Or, not many. The one penalty for 10 yards against Washington was tied for the fifth-best disciplined outing in UA history behind a foursome of zero penalty games, the last 30 years ago in a 21-17 loss at Michigan in 1978. The Wildcats also drew no penalties against Montana in 1938, Centenary in 1936 and Whittier in 1929 if you want to turn back the clock a few more decades.
Chain Movers: Through five games, Arizona has tallied an impressive 119 first downs (45 rushing, 66 passing and 8 by penalty). That figure is nearly double the total posted by Wildcat opponents, which have picked up 60 first downs on the season (30 rushing, 25 passing and 5 by penalty). Arizona has “out-first-downed” all five opponents in 2008, including a 28-12 margin against Washington last week. On the season, the Wildcat offense is averaging 23.8 first downs per game, while opponents are averaging 12
Efficient Effort: Willie Tuitama completed 17-of-21 passes, including a stretch of 14 consecutive completions, against the Huskies and tossed three touchdowns. The performance boosted Tuitama’s pass efficiency rating to 157.33 for the season, jumping him up to No. 16 in the nation heading into this weekend’s action. Before the game against Washington, Tuitama ranked No. 29 with a rating of 149.76. The senior signal caller trails only USC’s Mark Sanchez (172.25) in the Pac-10.
The Percentages: QB Willie Tuitama's completion rate of 66 percent continues to challenge some school records. For seasons with 100 completions (Willie has 102), the UA recored is 68.5 by Keith Smith in 1998 when he had a 113-for-165 mark. For 200 pass attempts (which Tuitama will hit in a couple of games, at 154 now), the record is 62.4 percent, set by Willie a year ago. \
Benchmark For Success: Looking for a key stat that separates wins from losses for the Wildcats? Well look no further than the rushing yards column in each game’s box score. Yes, the pass-happy Wildcats, who broke nearly every school passing record a year ago, often are victorious in games in which they rush for 100 yards or more. Under Head Coach Mike Stoops, Arizona is 15-8 when it rushes for 100 yards or more. But looking closer, the Wildcats have won 11 of their last 12 games (21-20 loss to Stanford in ’07) when they reach the century mark, a streak that includes a 7-1 record in offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes’ spread offense installed at the beginning of the 2007 season. On the other hand, Arizona is 6-22 under Stoops when it fails to reach 100 yards on the ground, but two of those victories did come last season when UA used its passing attack to post some points. Bottom line numbers: UA has rushed for an average of 159 yards per game in its 21 wins since 2004 and has rushed for an average of 50 yards per game in its 30 losses during the time period.
Rushing from the Point: Arizona freshman quarterback Matt Scott took over the No. 2 spot in rushing with his 58-yard night against Washington Oct. 4. That gave him 125 yards on 16 carries, 7.8 yards per attempt. No doubt with some increasingly tough competition it might be harder for Scott to garner serious playing time, but he's accomplished his total in only four second-half appearances as is. The last Arizona quarterback to finish with positive rushing yardage was sophomore Nic Costa in 2003, with 101 yards on 23 carries. That year, then true freshman Kris Heavner (now a volunteer helping the offensive staff) also had positive yards from under center, with 33 on 31 attempts. UA had some designed running plays for Costa, as it does in today's offense for Scott, who on a good time with time on the field might turn in a 100-yard day sometime in the future. The last QB to do that was Ortege Jenkins against UCLA in 2000. With senior ace Willie Tuitama under center, Nic Grigsby (109 ypg) and some sharper running of late by backup RBs Xavier Smith, Keola Antolin and Nick Booth, running time for Scott looks to be down the road.
Splitting the Rods: Senior kicker Jason Bondzio is on pace for a superlative season relative to field goal accuracy. He's five for six (.833) and there appears to be no issue about range. He's perfect on the 20-30s and has a 41- and 49-yarder to his credit. He's made his last 19 field goals in 22 tries dating to a 59-yard shot just wide against WSU a year ago. Overall in his one-plus season as the guy replacing current Dallas Cowboy Pro-Bowl kicker Nick Folk, Bondzio is 26 for 32 (.813), better than the school career record of .738 by Max Zendejas from 1982-85. Bondzio's .808 mark a year ago (21-26) just edged Zendejas' previous record of .800 with a 20 for 25 effort in 1983.
True Blue: Arizona coach Mike Stoops doesn't buy the 'We're young' argument from foes. UA has played these true freshmen this year: RB Keola Antolin, DE Dominque Austin, WR Juron Criner, OG Vaughn Dotsy, WR David Douglas, CB Robert Golden, QB Matt Scott and DT Jowyn Ward. All 10 scholarship redshirt freshmen on the roster have played. Walk-on special teams wedge buster Orlando Vargas, a redshirt freshman, has played. as have a number of first-time sophomore guys on both sides.
Quarter Scores: Arizona has played 20 quarters of football in 2008 and has scored at least a field goal in 18 of those quarters. The two scoreless quarters? A zero on the board in the third quarter at UCLA on Sept. 20 and another one in the final frame of UA’s 48-14 victory last Saturday in which it did not attempt a pass in fourth quarter. Here’s a look at how Arizona has spread its points around by quarter:
1 2 3 4 Total
Arizona 51 84 34 49 218
Opponents 17 26 13 20 76
Quick Strikes: Arizona continues to rate highly in terms of its ability to get down the field and put up points. It's not hurry-up offense, it's just a knack for some big plays. Interestingly, despite scoring 48 points against Washington, only one a drive – a two-play, 40 second drive – resulted in a touchdown while consuming less than two minutes of game time. Here’s a look at tha nation’s top teams and their touchdown drives under two minutes:
Rank Team # of Touchdown Drives
1. Tulsa 18
2. Missouri 17
3. Oregon 16
4. Oklahoma State 13
5. Rice 12
In a Rush For TD’s: No, this is not another note on Arizona’s track recording of quick scoring drives; rather, this note about the 13 rushing touchdowns that the Cats have scored this season. A year ago, the Wildcats rushed for seven (7) touchdowns on the entire season, a figure that sophomore Nic Grigsby has surpassed single-handedly with eight TD’s this year. The 13 ground scores also surpasses the total rushing touchdowns scored by each of the last four Arizona squads (2004-2007). Of the 13 rushing scores in 2008, 10 of them have come in goal-to-gain situations.
Progress in the Pac: After two games, the Wildcats find themselves tied with California atop the Conference standings, but that hasn’t happened just over night. In 2006, Head Coach Mike Stoops led Arizona on a 3-1 streak to end the season and the Wildcats finished with four Pac-10 wins for the first time since 1998. A year ago, another late 3-1 run to close the year gave the Wildcats four wins against conference foes, giving UA back-to-back seasons of four or more Conference victories for the first time since the 1997-98 seasons. In the last 14 Conference games, Stoops and the Wildcats have posted an 9-6 record. Overall, Arizona is 12-9 in its last 20 games.
Total-D Details: Arizona, giving up a paltry 226.2 yards per game, ranks No. 2 in the nation in total defense, trailing only TCU (208.83). No question the competition heats up with only Pac-10 offenses left, but it's a heck of a start. Arizona held two teams (Idaho and UCLA) to sub-200 yard total offense efforts to help build that figure. Historically, eight UA teams in the 1930s and 1940s held opponents to the fewest yards per game, and the 1993 Wildcats (236.9) and 1968 Cats (240.6) rounded out the top 10. In the modern era, six Wildcat teams might be considered in a group of top defenses -- the 1983, 1984 and 1985 teams under Larry Smith, and the 1992, 1993 and 1994 clubs under Dick Tomey -- the 'Desert Swarm.' The late Smith's teams had no nicknames, just a bunch of free-wheeling nasty defenders who held opponents to 17, 17 and 12 points per game. Some of the names: Ricky and Lamont Hunley, Byron Evans, Randy Robbins, Allan Durden, John Barthalt, John Kaiser, Steve Boadway, Danny Lockett, Chuck Cecil and Dana Wells, among others. Tomey's units of those years included Rob Waldrop, Tedy Bruschi, Sean Harris, Brant Boyer, Jim Hoffman, Chuck Osborne, Joe Salave'a, Charlie Camp, Brandon Sanders and Tony Bouie, among others. They gave up 9, 15 and 15 points per game and the '93 Swarm set the Pac-10 record in allowing only 30 yards rushing per contest. It's clear that in this era, any work that results in a sub-280 effort should be good enough to rate in the nation's top 25 but moreover help give the team a good chance to win games. The 2008 Cats are still building their reputation and have eight games to go, but things are looking good.
That’s Not All: Through four games, Arizona’s defense ranks in the top-5 nationally in several categories. The Wildcat defense leads all programs in passing defense, allowing only 118.8 yards per game. That includes a pass efficiency defense rating of 88.70, which ranks third in the country. The Wildcats also rank among the nation’s top teams in scoring defense (No. 17), allowing only 15.2 ppg.
Leading the Pac: UA and its players lead the league in a few individual categories. Here are some... Arizona leads the Pac-10 in pass efficiency defense (88.7), total defense (226.2), punt returns (19.95) and pass defense (118.8) … Individually, Mike Thomas leads the conference in receptions per game (6.4) and receiving yards per game (86.8) … Nic Grigsby leads all players in scoring with an average of 9.6 points per game … UA's 70 points against Idaho was a league high, as were the 10 touchdowns in that game. Willie Tuitama's 77 percent completion rate against Toledo is the league best ... Keenyn Crier's 69-yard punt at New Mexico is the longest by a Pac-10 punter... UA's defensive job against Idaho (112 yard in total offense) is the best effort thus far...
Deflections: Arizona more than doubled its season output with 10 passes broken up at UCLA and then added another nine breakups against Washington. That gives the Wildcats 27 passed defended in 2008, nearly half of 2007’s total of 56 for the 12-game season.
Nic Ticking: Sophomore running back Nic Grigsby has put himself in position for a 1,000-yard rushing season, last accomplished at UA by Clarence Farmer (209-1,229) in a first-team All-Pac-10 year in 2001. Still with seven games to go, Grigsby is over the half-way point, but the toughest defenses remain on the schedule. But his 6.0 yards per tote and about 20 carries per game give him a decent shot. A year ago Grigsby totaled 704 yards in seven starts (10 games), so it's do-able... Nic's eight rushing touchdowns are better still. Farmer had 10 in 2001, the most recent runner in two digits. Before that it was Trung Canidate with 11 rushing TDs in 1999. Before him it was Kelvin Eafon with 16 (and Candidate with 10) in 1998. The Arizona record is 21 by Art Luppino in 1954.
Sterling Start: Linebacker Sterling Lewis has not wasted any time emerging as one of UA’s top defensive players. Lewis has started each of UA’s last three games after filling in for Xavier Kelley who was held out of the New Mexico game with an ankle injury. Through five games, Lewis leads the Cats with 36 tackles.
Double D: Sophomore receiver Delashaun Dean posted his first career 100-yard receiving game with a 6-106 effort and a score at Albuqurque in September. His previous high for yards was his debut game at BYU last year with four snares for 88 markers. His single-game high for catches is an 8-for-51 game against Stanford a year ago. He has a reception in each of his 17 career games and a total of 61.
2 X 100: Receivers Mike Thomas (136 yds) and Delashaun Dean (106 yds) each surpassed the 100-yard receiving mark against New Mexico, becoming the first UA receiving duo to accomplish the feat in 2008. The last time two Cats went over the 100-yd mark in the same game came against, interestingly, New Mexico in 2007, when three players tallied 100 yards or more (Mike Thomas 7-137, Terrell Turner 7-109, and Anthony Johnson 3-117).
They’re Taking Notice: Antoine Cason won the Jim Thorpe Award last year, now a host of other Wildcats are on the early watch lists for major college football awards. Eight different Wildcats are on pre-season watch lists for awards:
QB Willie Tuitama – Maxwell Award (College Player of the Year)/Davey O’Brien Award (Top QB)
WR Mike Thomas – Maxwell Award (College Player of the Year)
OT Eben Britton – Outland Trophy (Top Interior Lineman), Rotary Lombardi Award (Top Lineman)
P Keenyn Crier – Ray Guy Award (Top Punter)
Jason Bondzio – Lou Groza Award candidate (Top Kicker)
C Blake Kerley – Rimington Trophy (Top Center)
TE Rob Gronkowski – John Mackey Award (Most Outstanding Tight End)
LB Ronnie Palmer – Butkus Award (Top Linebacker)
Willie in the Pac: Willie Tuitama has not only written his name in the UA record books, his arm and UA’s spread offense has helped him etch his name into the Pac-10 records and with a similar season in 2008 to the one he had a year ago, he will find himself among the Conference’s best. Tuitama is only 1,996 yards away from jumping 21 spots (currently No. 30 with 7,330 yards) in the all-time passing yards, which would put him in the top-10 of one of the Conference’s most prestigious record books. Currently tied for No. 19 all-time in touchdown passes with 57, he needs 10 more to tie UCLA’s Drew Olson, who currently stands at No. 10. His 2007 total of 3,520 all-purpose yards ranks him No. 11 all-time in single season total yardage, which includes sacks. If he did not lose yards on sacks and only used his total passing yards as the total offense stat (3,683), Tuitama would move himself into the top-10. As is, his single season passing yards total does rank No. 10 all-time, and his 28 touchdown passes in 2007 place him in a tie for No. 14 in a single season. Add in one more scoring toss and he would again find himself in the top-10 of a category.
One of the Pac-10’s Best: Like the other half of the TNT connection (Tuitama and Thomas), “Money” Mike Thomas is moving up the Pac-10 charts. With 83 receptions in 2007, he ranks No. 15 in single season receptions and his 11 touchdown grabs also place him No. 15 in a single season. Thomas is within striking distance of some career marks, including career receptions. The senior playmaker, who has 217 receptions in three-plus years (currently No. 8 all-time), is only 42 catches away from becoming the Pac-10’s all-time receptions leader (Derek Hagen, ASU, 258). And while he currently stands at No. 17 in career receiving yards (2,840), a modest – by his standards – 289 more yards this season will move him into the top-10. Lastly, with five more touchdowns, he will find himself among the top-10 all-time leaders in receiving touchdowns (currently t-No. 25 with 21 TDs).
Tuitama’s Total Offense: Willie Tuitama’s 321 yards passing against New Mexico helped him climb into the No. 3 spot on UA’s all-time Total Offense chart. Tuitama currently has compiled 6,923 yards of total offense in his career, and trails only Tom Tunnicliffe (7,336) and Keith Smith (7,049).
A New Leader: With his 27 completions against New Mexico, Tuitama (596) surpassed Tom Tunnicliffe as UA’s all-time leader in completions (574).
Rob is Back: Rob Gronkowski returned to the UA lineup at UCLA and posted three catches – two touchdowns and one for a first down and then really turned in a stellar day against Washington with 109 yards and three scores. Although he has only played just 14 career games, Gronkowski is already statistically placing himself among the top TEs in school history. A look at what Gronk has done through 14 games against the career totals of some of the best TEs UA has had to offer over the years:
Player Years Rec Yards TDs
Ron Beyer 75-78 53 811 7
Mark Keel 81-82 59 856 6
Gary Parrish 84-85 28 366 1
Richard Griffith 89-92 35 358 2
Mike Metzler 94-96 34 497 6
Mike Lucky 95-98 43 563 4
Brandon Manumaleuna 97-00 40 544 3
Steve Fleming 01-04 50 584 4
Brad Wood 03-06 41 413 7
Rob Gronkowski 07- 31 666 11
Senior Status: Willie Tuitama enters his final campaign at Arizona in elite company on a national level. The Stockton, Calif., native is one of seven quarterbacks across the country that has become a four-year starting quarterback after taking over the starting role in the final four games of his freshman season when he helped UA to wins over Oregon State and a Top-10 UCLA team. Here are the other six four-year starters:
Rudy Carpenter, Arizona State
Curtis Painter, Purdue
Mike Teel, Rutgers
Drew Weatherford, Florida State
Pat White, West Virginia
Drew Willy, Buffalo
Decoys are for Hunting: Senior receiver Mike Thomas has played in 40 games and caught a pass in 39 of them. His one miss – the final game of his freshman year on Nov. 25, 2005, at Arizona State. In that game he wore a soft but cumbersome cast on a hand, courtesy of an injury a couple weeks earlier. No passes went in his direction, but he drew coverage as expected anyway. Otherwise, Thomas could challenge for the Arizona record for consecutive games catching a pass. That’s held by Dennis Northcutt, who posted 42 successive games with a grab after he was switched from true-freshman cornerback to receiver in late October of 1996, through his senior year in 1999… Northcutt (223) and Thomas (217) join leader Bobby Wade (230) in the all-time threesome for career pass receiving at UA. Northcutt was on the Arizona squad that posted the top two Wildcat per-game offense averages of 471.9 yards (’99) and 444.9 (’98), Wade was part of John Mackovic’s passing makeover of the UA attack, and Thomas is now part of Mike Stoops’ and Sonny Dykes’ system that topped the historical chart with 308 yards passing per game last year. Thomas should emerge as Arizona’s all-time pass receiver with anywhere near his 83 grabs from a year ago (32 to date in ’08), and if he can match his 1,000-yard junior season he’ll push for the career figure in yardage as well. (See ‘Charting Some Cats’ elsewhere in this release for the numbers.) Clearly, there’s little doubt you can say ‘Mike Thomas’ in the same Arizona historical context as Northcutt, Wade or Jon Horton and the late Theopolis T. Bell -- among others: playmakers all.
TEP Bill: It’s a good thing that Tucson Electric Power is a proud sponsor of Arizona Athletics because the Arizona offense hopes to keep electricians busy by lighting up the home side of the scoreboard with points. Entering 2008, the Arizona spread attack returned 10 starters from a year ago and entered the second year of an offensive system that averaged 28.0 points per game, the highest mark for a UA team in six years (29.1 ppg, 2001). Even more impressive was the offensive output in the Wildcats’ five wins in 2007, when the unit tallied totals of 45, 48, 48, 34 and 34 points for an average of 41.8 points per game. However, none of those totals match the 70 points put up against Idaho in Week 1 – the third highest total in program history and the most since 1921.On the season, UA is averaging 43.6 points per game, a mark that ranks No. 8 nationally.
Close Calls: Arizona played six games in 2007 that were ultimately decided by seven points or less, including wins at Washington (48-41) and on Homecoming against UCLA (34-27). Unfortunately, UA was on the losing end of such close ball games twice as many times. The Wildcats dropped heartbreakers to New Mexico (29-27), USC (20-13), Stanford (21-20) and Arizona State (20-17). That is four games lost by a combined 13 points (3.25 points per game). In 2008, UA’s lone loss to New Mexico was decided by a touchdown (and a two-point coversion).
The Graduates: Two Arizona players already have received degrees, placekicker Jason Bondzio in finance and offensive lineman James Tretheway in mathematics. J.B.'s working on a master's degree, while Tretheway is taking an additional bachelor's degree program in economics. Three other letterwinning Wildcats are anticipated to graduate in December -- H-back Brandon Lopez, offensive guard Joe Longacre and offensive lineman Bill Wacholz.
Records Check: As one might expect in a 70-0 romp, Arizona broke several school records for offensive scoring output against Idaho. The first record to fall was the 28 year old record for most points scored in a single half (42 points against Pacific in 1980 and against UTEP in 1976) as the Wildcats tallied 49 first-half points.In doing so, UA posted 35 second quarter points, breaking the previous high mark set in 1954 when the Cats scored 29 in the third quarter against New Mexico State.
Cloud 9 – UA scored 10 – yes, 10 – touchdowns against Idaho on Aug. 30. What can be more impressive than scoring 10 touchdowns in a single game? How about nine (9) different players scoring those touchdowns. Nic Grigsby (2), Mike Thomas, Marquis Hundley, Chris Gronkowski, Keola Antolin, Terrell Turner, Matt Scott, Nick Booth and Xavier Smith all found the endzone in what is believed to be the most individual touchdowns in a single game in UA history.
Opening Day Rosters: Arizona had 16 former players suit up for NFL opening-week games as active roster members. They included linebacker Lance Briggs-Bears, Tedy Bruschi-Patriots, defensive lineman Copeland Bryan-Ravens, defensive lineman Lionel Dotson-Dolphins, cornerback Antoine Cason-Chargers, kicker Nick Folk-Dowboys, running back Chris Henry-Titans, safety Michael Johnson-Giants, linebacker Spencer Larsen-Broncos, tight end Brandon Manumaleuna-Chargers, offensive lineman Edwin Mulitalo-Ravens, cornerback Chris McAlister-Ravens, receiver Dennis Northcutt-Jaguars, receiver Syndric Steptoe-Browns and receiver Bobby Wade-Vikings.
MOV: Not that any team can or should expect 70-0 performances to be the norm, but UA’s 70-point margin of victory last Saturday was a long time coming. It was the largest MOV since 1921 and the third largest in school history. Here’s a look at the Top 5 MOV’s in UA history:
Point Margin Opponent Year Score
1. 74 UTEP 1921 74-0
2. 73 New Mexico St. 1916 73-0
3. 70 Idaho 2008 70-0
4. 60 South Dakota St. 1956 60-0
5. 59 Arizona St. 1919 59-0
Fresh Faces: Head coach Mike Stoops wasn't blowing smoke when he noted in his pre-opener news conference that a number of new guys had chances to play. In UA’s opener against Idaho, a total of 31 players saw their first official game action as Wildcats.
RELATED NEWS & VIDEOS
TOMORROW | 12:30pm PTLive
TOMORROW | 3:00pm PTLive