Conference Co-Leaders to Battle on Homecoming
Oct. 20, 2008
Teams: No. 6 USC @ Arizona
Kickoff: 7:15 p.m. MST
Site: Tucson, Ariz. Stadium: Arizona Stadium (57,400)
Television (National): FSN
Commentators: Barry Tompkins, Petros Papadakis, Jim Watson
English Radio: 1290 AM. and 107.5 FM (Brian Jeffries, Lamont Lovett, Pedro Limon)
Spanish Radio: 990 AM ESPN Deportes (Francisco Romero, Marco Rincon, Pedro Limon)
National Radio: Sports USA Radio Network (Tom Dillon, John Robinson, Troy West)
Satellite Radio: Sirius 214; XM 193
USC and Arizona Fast Facts
First Meeting: 1916 (USC 20 - Arizona 7 in Phoenix)
Last Meeting: 2076 (USC 20 - Arizona 13 in L.A.)
Current Streak: USC has won six straight dating back to 2001
All-Time Series Record: USC leads 25-6
Arizona vs. USC All-Time: The 32nd all-time meeting between the two schools ... USC owns a 25-6 edge in the 30 games played thus far and has won six straight contests, which marks the second time USC has posted a six-game win streak in the series (1982-1989 – did not play in 1983 and 1985) ... Arizona’s last victory over USC came on the road in the Coliseum in 2000 when true frosh Clarence Farmer (22 carries, 134 yards, TD) led the Wildcats to a 31-15 upset of the No. 22-ranked Trojans ... Since then USC has dominated the series, out-scoring Arizona 117 to 70 in the last six games between the two, but UA has limited an explosive USC offense to only 20 points in each of the last two meetings ... Since joining the Pac-10 in 1978, Arizona is 6-16 against the Trojans ... The last time Arizona defeated USC at home was 1999 (31-24) ... Arizona’s largest margin of victory in the all-time series with USC was a 31-point win in 1993 (38-7) ... USC’s largest margin of victory against UA was a 71-point win over the Wildcats in 1928 (78-7).
Some Game Themes: The Cats put on their best big-city imitation for all things L.A. with a sellout crowd, national television, a decent record and some momentum built by a solid victory over a talented, ranked squad... A match of two of the four co-leaders helps define the late October race in the Pac-10... The Trojans march into Tucson with their normal post-midterm head of steam built off a pair of recent blow-out shutouts and their usual assortment of stars... 'The Lamp in the Desert,' journalist Douglas Martin called the University in his 1960 book by that name, and UA tests whether it can control the switch USC has turned on late in otherwise close, recent series games... Arizona measures whether its league second-best 40 points per game has merit against a team that has given up about eight per contest; USC checks whether its league-best 42 points per game is meaningful after the WSU point fest... UA picks a doozy in trying to secure bowl eligibility in October for the first time since its last holiday trip a decade past... On paper, the Trojans still are a victory shy of their bowl berth... The Wildcats get to let it all hang out, with an open date looming before a trip to Wazzu two weeks hence... A game featuring at least six 100-yard-capable backs, with four doing so last week... A match of two quarterbacks with similar season statistical lines; one's spoken of with the full might of Troy behind him, the other's a guy named Willie who just became his school's all-time career passing and total offense leader... It's Homecoming and Arizona Sports Hall of Fame weekend on the UA campus...
Last Week: Arizona exploded with 21 unanswered points in the third quarter to race past No. 25 California, 42-27, in Tucson. The momentum began to shift with the opening drive of the second half, when UA quarterback Willie Tuitama found Mike Thomas on a deep post for a 56-yard scoring strike on the fourth play of the period, cutting Cal's lead to three, 24-21. It increased three exchanges later when Arizona's defense held Cal to a field goal after the potent Bears had 1st-and-10 at the Cats' 26 yard-line. On the next possession, Tuitama hit a couple of throws to put UA at its own 38, and then true freshman running back Keola Antolin ripped off a 59-yard run to reach the Bears' 3 yard-line, and moments later dipped in for this third rushing TD of the game to put UA up 28-27. The blitz fired up another notch on the first scrimmage play after that score, when cornerback Devin Ross ripped a pick on the boundary and returned it 21 yards for a score to make it 35-27. Arizona more or less iced it five minutes later -- after a Cal three-and-out -- with a 59-yard drive fueled by some Antolin rushing and a 35-yard Tuitama TD pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski, who stepped over a couple of Bears to cross the stripe. UA threw the ball one more time in the ensuing 16 minutes and played inspired defense to keep California in the middle of the field. Antolin's antics -- 21 carries for a game-, season- and career-high 149 yards -- came in relief after starter Nic Grigsby ran for 13 yards and lost a fumble on the Cats' second play of the game. He also added a catch and kickoff yardage to post a 237-yard all-purpose night. Tuitama finished with 225 passing yards on 16 completions including six apiece to Thomas (104 yards) and Gronkowski (91). The Cats weathered a 67-yard scoring run by Cal running back Jahvid Best, who otherwise gained 40 more yards on 15 additional carries to be a factor but not a definitive one. UA joined four teams in its history to play a game without a penalty to move it to No. 2 in the country with 3.4 flags per game. Arizona got a fourth-quarter interception by backup corner Trevin Wade to give it 10 for the year and a spot in the Top 20 in that category at No. 16. The victory gave head coach Mike Stoops a win over a ranked team in each of his five seasons.
UA-USC 2007 Flashback: Arizona visited the No. 10-ranked team in the land on its home turf and slugged it out with focus throughout, but fell victim to just enough letdowns to thwart the upset try and fall at USC, 20-13. The Cats had a fourth-quarter lead, 13-10, and had chances for more points both before and after that. USC took control of the game at the right moment. A 45-yard Joe McKnight punt return off a low 38-yard Keenyn Crier punt put the ball at the UA 25 yard-line, and it took one pass play from Mark Sanchez to Fred Davis to put USC on top for good. UA followed with two three-and-outs, and then the Trojans followed an 83-yard Crier punt to march 93 yards from for a field goal. The Cats had no steam after that 6-minute drive. Both teams played good defense -- Arizona held USC to 275 yards and the Trojans held the Cats to 255 -- with a combined 17 drives of five plays or less, nine of those by the Trojans. UA quarterback Willie Tuitama completed 30 of 43 passes for 233 yards, but couldn't find the end zone. Junior Mike Thomas tied his career high (and No. 2 in Arizona history) with 12 catches, but was held to 83 yards on the grabs. Jason Bondzio hit his fourth and fifth consecutive field goals including a career-best 45-yarder, but the six points were matched by his counterpart. Arizona helped make it clear the 2007 Trojans appear to have no magical switch to turn on as did some of their juggernauts of past years. UA held the Trojans to 3.7 yards per play, and that good (defensive) figure was skewed by a 59-yard run by McKnight that spoiled a lot of things. It was the gem in the long drive that otherwise included 14 other patient, physical plays. USC had to gut it out, and it did.
Arizona -- Mike Stoops (Iowa '86), fifth year at Arizona (22-31) and fifth year overall as a head coach. He carries a record of 15-23 in Pac-10 games, He is 0-4 against USC. The Wildcats have improved from twin 3-8 seasons his first two years to a current stretch of 8-4 spanning last year and this season dating to the last game against USC. The Wildcats have beaten a ranked team each year under Stoops, including No. 2 Oregon a year ago, and are 5-13 against ranked squads in his tenure. Included in that are the four losses to USC as the No. 1, No. 1, No. 3 and No. 10 team in the land, respectively, since 2004.
Southern California -- Pete Carroll (Pacific '73), eighth year at USC (81-15) and eighth overall as a head coach. He has 30 victories over Top 25 teams including a couple that earned USC national championships. He has kept USC ranked for the past 84 contests and is the winningest active coach by percentage.
Sold Out Arizona Stadium: This week’s Homecoming showdown with USC sold out nearly two weeks in advance of the game. Only a handful of single seat tickets remained available over the last 10 days leading up to the game. The game will mark the first sold-out crowd in Arizona Stadium since 2006, when UA announced crowds in excess of the 57,400 seat capacity on four occasions, including against BYU (58,450), USC (58,801), Oregon State (57,113) and Arizona State (57,895). The largest crowd to see a game at Arizona Stadium in 2007 came against Stanford on Family Weekend (55,270), while 2008’s largest crowd to date was also on Family Weekend against Washington (55,624)
Special K: Backup running back Keola Antolin's 149-yard rushing effort (21 totes) against California was the fifth-best effort by a true freshman in UA history. His three scores matched three by true frosh Ontiwaun Carter in 1991. It came a year after Nic Grigsby tied the UA mark with 186 yards against Washington State. Former Philadelphia Eagle power back Hubert 'Hubie' Oliver carried 29 times for 186 yards against UTEP in 1977 a week after he broke on the scene with a 141-yard day against New Mexico. Here are a half-dozen outings by true freshmen Wildcats, plus one more from the last time Arizona beat USC:
True Freshman Wildcats' Top Rushing Games
1. Hubie Oliver UTEP, 1977 29-186, TD
2. Nic Grigsby WSU, 2007 30-186 (receving TD)
3. Vance Johnson Fresno State, 1981 24-183
4. Ontiwaun Carter Oregon State, 1991 15-160, 3 TD
5. Keola Antolin California, 2008 21-149, 3 TD
6. Hubie Oliver New Mexico, 1977 21-141
7. Clarence Farmer USC, 2000 22-134, TD
New Territory: Whatever Arizona does in the running game against the Trojans could be new stuff. One back on Arizona's roster, Nic Grigsby, has carried the ball against USC. Last season he had seven rushes for 10 yards. Uhm... in the last three series games the Wildcats have rushed 58 times for 70 net yards against the boys from Troy. Meantime, receiver Mike Thomas enters his fourth USC contest with 23 receptions for 249 yards and a score (his freshman year). Last season he snared a career-high (tie) 12 grabs for 83 markers against the Trojans. Senior quarterback Willie Tuitama did not play against USC his first year in 2005. He has completed 44 passes in 60 attempts (73%) for 403 yards, an interception and a TD in two outings vs. USC. He has been sacked six times (five in 2006.) Tuitama completed 30 throws at USC last year including the dozen to Thomas, five to Terrell Reese, three to Delashaun Dean and one apiece by three other guys who will play -- Terrell Turner, Rob Gronkowski and Earl Mitchell (who is now a starting DT).
30 Is (Usually) The Magic Number: Football is a pretty simple game in that the team that scores the most points wins. For Arizona, 30 points is usually enough to do just that. Since joining the Pac-10 in 1978, the Wildcats have played 101 games in which they have scored 30 or more points. Their record in those games? An astounding 92-8-1. That record includes a streak of 18 consecutive victories when scoring at least 30 points, including a 14-0 mark under Mike Stoops. For the record, Arizona is 5-0 in such games this season.
Benchmark For Success: Looking for another 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 16-8 when it rushes for 100 yards or more. But looking closer, the Wildcats have won 12 of their last 13 games (21-20 loss to Stanford in ’07) when they reach the century mark, a streak that includes an 8-1 record in offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes’ spread offense installed at the beginning of the 2007 season. On the other hand, Arizona is 6-23 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 160 yards per game in its 22 wins since 2004 and has rushed for an average of 50.9 yards per game in its 31 losses during the time period.
There’s No Place Like Home: After playing three of the last four games on the road, the Wildcats returned home and improved its home record to 4-0 in 2008 with the victory over Cal. Arizona is on a current six-game home winning streak, its longest such streak since it won seven games at the end of the 1988 season and start of the 1989 season. The six-game streak is tied with Oregon State and USC for longest such streak in the Pac-10. Since the start of 2007, UA has won eight of its last 10 games at Arizona Stadium, including five of six Pac-10 contests.
Top 25 Challenge: The Wildcats sent the No. 25 Golden Bears home with a loss a week in UA’s first matchup against an AP Top 25 team in 2008. This week, the challenge is the No. 6 USC Trojans.. The Trojans will be the 20th ranked opponent that Head Coach Mike Stoops has faced at Arizona as the Wildcats have posted a record of 6-13 against ranked foes in his tenure. Included was the 24-20 Homecoming victory in 2006 against Cal, a season in which UA went 2-2 against Top 25 teams. A season ago, UA dropped three of four such games. All-time, Arizona holds a 35-87-1 record against ranked teams.
If Not 30, Try 40: If Arizona’s .910 winning percentage since 1978 when scoring 30 or more points isn’t enough, then try out a 40+ point stat. In its entire history of football, Arizona is 107-3 when scoring 40 or more points in a game, something it has done in all four home games this season. As you might expect, Arizona is 4-0 in those games. What you might not know is that the last time UA reached the mark four times in one season was in 1954, when it did so six times. We appreciate former UA assistant SID Matt Rector and his late night research efforts from Wes Lafyaette, Ind., for contributing this bit of information.
Homecoming Streak on the Line: Arizona will put its three-game Homecoming win streak to the ultimate test this week against USC. The Wildcats have won their last three Homecoming games in upset fashion. Included are a 52-14 upset of then-No. 7 UCLA in 2005, a come-from-behind upset of then-No. 8 California 24-20 in 2006, and last year’s win over a favored UCLA squad 34-27.
It Happens Here: In recent seasons, if Arizona beats a ranked opponent, it has happened in Arizona Stadium. The Wildcats are 4-1 in their last five against ranked teams in Tucson, including last week’s 42-27 win over then-No. 25 California and two previous Homecoming upsets over California and UCLA. In 2007, the only ranked team the Wildcats faced at home was then-No. 2 Oregon, which they defeated 34-24. In 2006, The then-No. 8 Cal Golden Bears visited the Old Pueblo, only to leave with a 24-20 loss. In 2005, the Wildcats blasted then-No. 7 UCLA 52-14 in Tucson. Arizona has lost six games to ranked teams in Arizona Stadium under Stoops, but four of those six have been decided by seven points or less.
A New Leader: Willie Tuitama became the UA career leader for passing yards (7,814), total offense (7,365) and attempts (1,092) against California. With his 27 completions against New Mexico, Tuitama (596) surpassed Tom Tunnicliffe as UA’s all-time leader in completions (574).
Primary Secondaries: USC (3rd) and Arizona (5th) rate among the nation's top teams in pass efficiency defense. The Trojans get the mark because they're the top team in the land in passing yardage control, allowing only 137 yards per game. UA gives up only 152, rating sixth in the category, plus has 10 interceptions to help build a solid PED rating. USC also simply just stops opponents in all ways, checking in at No. 2 in total defense (220 ypg), where UA rates 19th (284 ypg). About the only thing USC doesn't rank highly in are some kicking stats -- 85th in punt returns, 103rd in kickoff returns and a handful (four) of made field goals (no need to try these with 33 TDs). It's hard for the Trojans to rate in kickoff returns since opponents don't score and then kick off much -- only 10 KORs by the Trojans.
Touchdown Derby: Both teams have shown a proclivity to finding a way to put points on the board. Arizona enters the game with 37 touchdowns -- 17 rushing, 16 passing, two on interception returns and two on punt returns. The Trojans, in one fewer game played, have scored 34 TDs -- 21 passing, 11 rushing and a pair of picks.
Wading In: Backup cornerback Trevin Wade, a redshirt freshman, leads the club with three interceptions. Two came in the season opener against Idaho, the third came on a tipped ball against California. That's some nice work for a reserve. Former UA wide receiver Dennis Northcutt broke into the trade as a freshman (true) cornerback in 1996 and had two INTs against Illinois in the third game of the year before switching to offense. 2007 Jim Thorpe Award winner Antoine Cason had two interceptions (4 for the year) against Cal in his freshman year in 2004. This isn't to compare Wade to those guys, but he's doing a nice job when needed, such as his first career start at Stanford for a banged up Devin Ross.
Tossing at Ross: Sophomore cornerback Devin Ross is getting tested more and more as Pac-10 teams unleash their goods. He shut things down on the boundary in the first three or four games, and then has had interceptions against Washington and Stanford, and six passes broken up, in the last three games as things heated up. He'll get some serious work this week against Mark Sanchez and Co.
Spread is for Bread: A year ago after seven games Arizona had attempted 313 passes and rushed the ball 181 times for 2,612 yards. In 2008 after seven games the Wildcats have run the ball 256 times and thrown 226 passes for 2,883 yards. If you can't add that's 494 plays a year ago, 482 this time. Coach Stoops wanted some more balance, and he got it. The Cats are more unpredictable, tougher up front, have a few more versatile weapons and a nicer grasp in Year 2 of coordinator Sonny Dykes' offense. The USC game represents an outstanding test to put this more in focus.
Pac-Men: The first page of the weekly Pac-10 statistics report has USC atop nine of 10 team categories. The Trojans fall short by some 80 yards per game in rushing offense (198), trailing their friends at Oregon State (275 ypg). To its credit, Arizona is No. 2 in six categories, third in another and a respectable sixth in two more. If UA could pull off the average in one of the latter this week -- and give up only 133 team rushing yards -- things might be okay. But stats have a way of working themselves out over the course of a season to reflect the full body of work, and no matter how you look at it now there still are five or six games left for teams to play.
Point Man: Oregon's Legarrett Blount leads the Pac-10 in scoring, with a TD (10) every eight times he carries the ball (82), for 60 points. Next up, Arizona kicker Jason Bondzio with 57. (UA running back Nic Grigsby is tied for second in the TD-only category with nine, and 54 points.) JB's perfect on PAT kicks (33-33) and has hit eight of nine field goal tries, the best percentage other than USC's David Buehler and his 4-for-4 FG mark. Had Bondzio been a three- or four-year guy instead of interning under Pro Bowl kicker Nick Folk (Cowboys) for two years, he'd be more of a UA record book guy than the handful of kicking marks he's likely to secure (season and career percentage, for two). But at least he was paying attention. The Cats hope redshirt freshman sidekick Alex Zendejas is watching closely, because he's next up.
Brooks is Bringing It: Arizona sophomore defensive end Brooks Reed has made a big impact on the UA defensive line in his first season as a starter. Through seven games, Reed is tied with Earl Mitchell with 20 tackles for the most by the front-four guys, and Reed leads the team with three sacks – two of which came last week in UA’s upset of then-No. 25 California. In addition, Reed has broken up a pair of passes on the season and has forced one fumble.
Back to Form: Keenyn Crier, whose 43.7 yards per punt average as a redshirt freshman a year ago is tied for fifth best in school history, got off to a rough start in 2008 when his first punt of the season against Idaho traveled a total of two yards. But since, the Ray Guy Award candidate has been back to his old form, punting for an average of 43.2 yards – a mark that would rank No. 9 all-time at Arizona if the season ended today. Crier’s leg has helped UA significantly in the field position battle and, thanks to the help of the coverage team, UA’s net punt average of 37.89 ranks No. 20 in the nation and second in the Pac-10. Of note for this week’s game against USC is the fact that Crier boomed an 83-yard punt against the Trojans a year ago in the Coliseum, which still stands as the second-longest punt in UA history.
Not to be Offensive: Arizona is riding a streak that is would be more than happy to continue this week. The Wildcats have scored a non-offensive touchdown in three straight games. On 10/4, Mike Thomas returned a Husky punt 48 yards for a touchdown, giving the Wildcats their second punt return score of the season (Marquis Hundley 87-yard fumble return during punt return vs. Idaho). At Stanford on 10/18, Nate Ness picked off a pass and raced 75-yards for the touchdown. Last week against Cal, Devin Ross stepped in front of a short pass near the boundary and darted 21-yards into the end zone for a touchdown.
Zona’s Zone: The Wildcats have been particularly impressive in the Red Zone in 2008, posting a 91 percent success rate (31-34). The three times UA has failed to score? Well, twice UA has ended the game with the ball in its hand inside the red zone while running out the clock in blowout wins over UCLA (31-10) and Washington (48-14). The third occasion was also at UCLA, where UA’s second string offense turned the ball over on downs while trying to convert late in the fourth quarter. Otherwise, UA has scored 25 touchdowns inside the Red Zone (15 rushing, 10 passing) and added six field goals. Incidentally, the only game UA has failed to score a Red Zone touchdown came at Stanford, a game it lost by one point and had to settle for three field goals instead.
Third Down, Last Down: The Arizona defense has shown marked improvement in third down situations in 2008. A year ago, UA allowed opponents to convert 43 percent (86-199) on third down plays. This season, the Wildcats have held the opposition to a 30 percent success rate (30-99). The Cats showed their ability to buckle down in key situations last week against Cal, holding the Bears to only 2-15 on third down. Looking deeper at that stat, the Bears converted their first two third down plays of the game, meaning Arizona limited them to zero third down conversions the rest of the game, including 0-8 in the second half.
Move The Chains: A stat often looked at and attributed to offensive success or lack thereof is third down conversions. But for UA’s offense, which is averaging 411 yards per game, success is coming on all downs, particularly 2nd Down. While the Wildcats have posted a 45 percent success rate on offense, it has only 41 conversions on 3rd Down (41-92). The Cats have racked up 59 conversions (25 rushing, 34 passing) in 2nd Down situations not counting penalties. Even on 1st Down, when UA has posted 45 conversions (20 rushing, 25 passing), the Cats have more conversions than they do in those notable 3rd Down situations.
Money Receptions: Despite tough economic times, Money Mike Thomas is proving his worth to the Wildcats. Now No. 2 all-time at Arizona in career receptions (227), Thomas doesn’t just rack up catches to fill the stat sheet; rather, his receptions are usually ones that matter in the game. Of his 42 receptions in 2008, a whopping 26 of them have resulted in a first down (62 percent) and four have gone for touchdowns. In addition, Thomas has recorded eight carries on the season – usually end-arounds – and has picked up three first downs while averaging 9.0 yards per tote.
Big Play Robbie: Need a big play? Dial up No. 48. Rob Gronkowski. The sophomore tight end has played in only four games this season after missing the first three with an illness. But Robbie is doing his best to make up for lost time and he has hauled in 16 receptions for 262 yards in his four games. That is an average of 16.4 yards per catch. Even more impressive, though, is that six of those catches have gone for touchdowns and 12 of them have resulted in first downs.
Watch For Money Mike: Last week it was Willie Tuitama taking down three career statistical records, this week”Money” Mike Thomas (227 catches) has a great chance to move up the career ranks on the UA receiving charts. Against Cal, Thomas surpassed Dennis Northcutt (224) for career receptions. Four more receptions will move him past Bobby Wade (230) to become UA’s all-time leader in receptions.
Big Days from the WR’s: Junior receiver Terrell Turner's 10 catches for 175 yards against Stanford were career bests. It was the second 100-yard game of his career (7-109 against New Mexico in 2007). Since UA adopted the spread offense, Arizona has posted 100-yard games by receivers on 15 occasions -- Turner's pair, Mike Thomas with nine, tight end Rob Gronkowski with a pair, Delashaun Dean with one, and former receiver Anthony Johnson with one. Thomas has four double-digit catches games while Turner added a fifth.
Touchdown Trends: Arizona has scored 28 offensive touchdowns in 2008 (3 non-offensive) with an even split of 14 rushing scores and 14 passing strikes. Since 1978, when UA joined the Pac-10, only six UA teams have balanced at least 15 rushing TD’s and 15 passing TD’s in a season. The last Wildcat team to accomplish the feat was the 2001 squad that notched 16 rushing touchdowns and 21 passing scores. In the span, no UA team has ever rushed for 20 touchdowns and passed for 20 scores in the same season.
Getting Picky: The Cats have 10 interceptions through seven games, ahead of last year's squad that picked off 15. Sophomore corner Devin Ross had his second career INT against Washington two weeks ago and then returned his third for a TD against Cal, while Nate Ness returned his seventh career interception 75-yards for his first score at Stafnord. Redshirt freshman Trevin Wade leads with three, including one against Cal in the fourth quarter. A good note is the Cats' 19-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 30.7 throws per game and 16.2 completions for a 4.8-yard average per pass and 9.1yards per completion.
Put Your Money in Bonds: Or, Bondzio. Arizona's senior kicker Jason Bondzio has scored 57 points just over half way through the year, a potential second straight 100-pointer for the only kicker who ever hit the century mark in an Arizona uniform. Wanting that success is an approach-avoidance problem: who wants to give up TDs for FGs? Nonetheless, Bondzio has connected on his last six field goal tries spanning three games and is 8-for-9 overall, with 33 PATs. Three treys at Stanford matched his career best against Oregon State a year ago. Overall he is 29 of 35, a sparkling 83 percent, which would be an Arizona record better than his Arizona record .807 mark a year ago.
Start of a New TD Streak? UA senior quarterback Willie Tuitama did not throw for a score two weeks ago at Stanford, snapping his streak at 10 consecutive games. In that span he had spun 26 scoring throws. He completed 22 throws for 11.8 yards per completion on The Farm but most of it was in between the 20 yard-lines. He bounced back to throw two scoring tosses against California, to bring his total to 15 on the season against three interceptions.
Loch Ness Monsters: Safety Nate Ness returned his seventh career interception 75 yards for a score at Stanford on Oct. 11. That along with a fumble recovery and 14 tackles. The latter were a career high, besting his 10 against Washington in 2007, his first year after a redshirt season in 2006 following transfer from junior college. Ness led a foursome of Cats with double-figure tackles at Stanford, nice but probably indicative of too much work on the field -- fellow safety Cam Nelson with 12, linebacker Sterling Lewis with 12 and linebacker Ronnie Palmer with 10. Nelson's total also is a career high.
Silver Lining: Linebacker Sterling Lewis' 12 hits at Stanford kept him atop the UA chart with 48 tackles, but he did not record a tackle against Cal. The mid-year junior college transfer filled in for injured Xavier Kelley in the Cats' second game and posted his first double-digit game, with 12 tackles against Toledo. He has five starts since.
Quarter Scores: Arizona has played 28 quarters of football in 2008 and has scored at least a field goal in 23 of those quarters. Here’s a look at how Arizona has spread its points around by quarter:
1 2 3 4 Total
Arizona 54 112 62 55 283
Opponents 31 46 23 27 127
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 the nation’s top teams and their touchdown drives under two minutes:
Rank Team # of Touchdown Drives
1. Tulsa 21
2. Missouri 18
3. Oregon 16
Oklahoma State 16
5. La.-Lafayette 15
6. Rice 14
7. Arizona 13
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 17 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 nine TD’s this year. The 17 ground scores also surpasses the total rushing touchdowns scored by each of the last four Arizona squads (2004-2007). Of the 17 rushing scores in 2008, 11 of them have come in goal-to-gain situations.
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 five games to go, Grigsby (627yards) is over the half-way point, but the toughest defenses remain on the schedule. But his 5.8 yards per tote and about 16 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 nine 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.
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 1,737yards away from jumping 21 spots (currently No. 23 with 7,814 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. 16 all-time in touchdown passes with 59, he needs 8 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 227 receptions in three-plus years (currently No. 6 all-time), is only 31 catches away from becoming the Pac-10’s all-time receptions leader (Derek Hagen, ASU, 258). And while he currently stands at No. 16 in career receiving yards (2,975), a modest – by his standards – 154 more yards this season will move him into the top-10. Lastly, with four more touchdowns, he will find himself among the top-10 all-time leaders in receiving touchdowns (currently t-No. 21 with 22 TDs).
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 41 games and caught a pass in 40 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. The 31 consecutive games with a reception rates Thomas 12th nationally and first in the Pac-10 (tied with Brandon Gibson of WSU). Had he caught one against ASU in 2005 he'd be third in the country behind Jarrett Dillard of Rice (43) and Casey Flair of UNLV (42) with 41 .… Northcutt (223) and Thomas (227) 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 (42 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.
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 UA two losses have come by a combined nine points to New Mexico and Stanford.
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