Rested Cats To Take On WSU
Nov. 3, 2008
Arizona (5-3, 3-2) @ Washington State (1-8, 0-6)
Saturday, Nov. 8, 2008
Pullman, Wash. - Martin Stadium
Kickoff: 2 p.m. PST (3 p.m. in Tucson)
TV: None Radio: 1290 AM, 107.5 FM, 990 AM (Spanish)
Arizona and WSU Fast Facts
First Meeting: 1963 (Washington State 7-2 in Spokane)
Last Meeting: 2007 (Arizona 48-20 in Tucson)
Current Streak: UA has won two straight
All-Time Series Record: Arizona leads 22-13
Arizona vs. WSU All-Time: The 36th meeting between the Cougars and Wildcats ... UA owns a 22-13 advantage in the previous 35 games played ... The Wildcats snapped a series-high four-game losing streak to the Cougars in 2006 with a 27-17 victory in Pullman and then romped to a 48-20 victory in Tucson a year ago ... Since joining the Pac-10 Conference in 1978 the Wildcats have enjoyed a 18-10 run against WSU ... UA's largest margin of victory against WSU was a 39-point win in 1983 (45-6) ... WSU's largest margin of victory over Arizona is 27 points, accomplished in 2001 (48-21) ... The average margin of victory in the all-time series is 13.2 points, however in 10 of the last 15 meetings between the two schools, the game has been decided by 10 or fewer points, including two by six points, three by three points and two by a single point ... Two of those 15 contests have gone into OT, including a three-overtime game in 2000 (UA's last conference game to go extra frames).
Some Game Themes: Arizona opens a two-game November road swing in the Northwest... UA takes on the Cougars' quest for a first Pac-10 victory of the season, while for Arizona a decision in the game would all but assure the Wildcats a first bowl appearance since 1998... Arizona ventures to the Pac-10 venue, Martin Stadium, where it enjoys its best historical record, 8-4... Paperwork signifies Arizona's edge in the contest, notably its No. 18-ranked total defense unit against a Cougar offense beset by injuries and inexperience, and the Cats' four-year starter at quarterback against WSU's guy with four starts... While Arizona has enjoyed a relative stable season in terms of games lost to injury, the Cougs have worked to ovecome about 40 missed games by starters, including two lost QBs... The Cats put their reasonably high-scoring offense (37 ppg, 21st nationally) into play against a team that has given up 49 per contest... Maybe the first cool game of the year for the Cats. Whatever the temperature, it won't be the average of 86 degrees for home games or 76 for road games that UA has played in thus far... It's Dad's Weekend and Armed Forces Day on the WSU campus...
Arizona vs. WSU 2007 Flashback: Arizona proved that the spread offense is not necessarily pass-presumptive and rushed over Washington State, 48-20, behind a balanced attack that was evident from the onset. UA had to settle for a field goal on the opening drive, but the 12-play, 69-yard march took five minutes off the clock and featured freshman running back Nicolas Grigsby's downhill running. WSU took a 7-3 lead with an answering drive, but the Cats went 84 yards with more Grigsby, including one of his nine pass receptions for a culminating 22-yard TD. An interception by sophomore corner Devin Ross set up a third consecutive scoring drive, then a solid stop by UA's defense set up a field goal by Jason Bondzio to make it 20-7 after UA's first four possessions. To its credit, the Cougars scored again before the half on the strength of Alex Brink's passing, then took the opening drive of the second half for 80 bones to tie the game at 20-all. The rest of the story was Arizona, on both sides of the ball. The Cats allowed the Cougs to reach only their 38 yard-line twice on their next six possessions -- turning those back to the UA offense on downs -- and picked off a second pass (Nate Ness) and forcing three punts. Meantime, Grigsby added on markers on an eventual 30 rushes for 6.2 yards per pop and 186 total, plus Willie Tuitama put the air in the spread by building a nifty 217.9 pass efficiency rating on five touchdown passes including two scores by Mike Thomas and two by freshman tight end Rob Gronkowski. The latter had a 57- yarder for six that featured a run-over move against the safety -- one of seven plays for 20 yards or more on the Cats' ledger. UA played pay dirt, cashing in on all five red-zone chances, punted only one time for the first time in 16 years, and averaged 7.5 yards per play. Tuitama hit the magic double-digit threshold, averaging 11.2 yards per attempt in completing 22 of 31 for 346 yards. Gronk had 115 receiving yards on his four grabs and Grigsby had 76 to give him an all-purpose total of 262 yards, not far from the UA single game top 10. Jason Bondzio hit two field goals and barely missed wide left from what would have been a school-record 59 yarder. The Cats' 567 yards in total offense tied for No. 10 in school history.
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.
The Last Time Out: UA played host to then No. 6 Southern California on Oct. 25 and took it to the wire in a defensive battle it lost, 17-10. The Trojan defenders did a number on Arizona's attack in the second half, holding the Cats to three first downs, two complete passes and 54 yards in total offense after the break. That staunch showing and a couple of missed opportunities helped thwart UA's bid for what it felt would not be a monumental upset. UA had an apparent first down at the USC 1 yard-line pushed back by its only penalty in the game and settled for a second-quarter field goal and a 3-3 tie instead of the go-ahead touchdown; and the Cats' Jason Bondzio just hooked a somewhat hurried try at a 48-yard field goal as time ran out in the half, a kick that would have cut the lead to four points. To start the second half, a Brooks Reed sack jarred the ball loose from SC quarterback Mark Sanchez, and Donald Horton recovered at the Trojan 15 yard-line to set up UA's lone touchdown -- on four consecutive rushes by Nic Grigsby. UA might have stuck to running the ball some more -- its passing game was stuffed by SC's superb pass defense, which held Willie Tuitama and Co. to a mere 88 yards and a slim 2.8 yards per attempt. But in the meantime, the Arizona defense lived up to its own billing in holding USC to 17 points -- 25 under its Pac-10 average -- and keeping the Wildcats in the game from start to finish. Sanchez proved adept, with 216 yards on 21 completions, overcoming a first-half interception by Marquis Hundley, and throwing the eventual game-winning score with a 30-yard pass to a wide-open Stanly Havili half way through the third period. The Cats had six more possessions after the final score of the game, but an interception thrown by WiIlie Tuitama stopped one and a couple of sacks stopped two others. The final play of the game resulted in UA's Derick Barkum streaking 40-plus yards down the sideline after a hasty punt catch-pitch by Mike Thomas, but that ended at the USC 34 yard-line as time expired. The Cats dropped out of a tie for first in the league at 3-2 while USC moved to 4-1 and kept its BCS hopes alive.
The Coaches: Arizona -- Mike Stoops (Iowa '86), fifth year at Arizona (22-32) and fifth year overall as a head coach. He carries a record of 15-24 in Pac-10 games, but holds a 6-3 record in the last nine conference games. He is 2-1 against Washington State. The Wildcats have improved from twin 3-8 seasons his first two years to a current stretch of 8-5 spanning last year and this season. The Wildcats have beaten a ranked team each year under Stoops, including a No. 2 (Oregon a year ago), and are 5-14 against ranked squads in his tenure. Stoops was a UPI All-American defensive back at Iowa in 1984 and All-Big Ten his last two years in 1983-84. Washington State -- Paul Wulff (WSU '90), first year in Pullman (1-8) and ninth overall as a head coach (54-41). He was a four-year starter at center for the Cougars from 1986-89 under three different head coaches in Jim Walden, Dennis Erickson and Mike Price.
Remember November: A common saying in college football is 'you always remember the games you play in November'. That has certainly been the case for the Wildcats under Mike Stoops. Now in his fifth season, Stoops' has led his UA squads to an 8-4 mark in games played in the 11th month of the season. Now the Wildcats hope they can remember their November games this season for another reason besides late-season momentum - because this year there is a lot at stake. The Wildcats enter November with five wins for the first time since 2000 and with a lot at stake in terms of Pac-10 standings and post-season hopes.
Northwest Success: The longest road trips in the Pac-10 for the Wildcats are to the four Northwest schools - Washington, Washington, Oregon and Oregon State. But that hasn't been a bad thing for Arizona under Mike Stoops. In fact, his teams are 5-2 on the road against the Northwest schools, including a pair of wins over Washington and victories over Oregon (one loss), Oregon State (one loss) and once at Washington State.
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.
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 West Lafayette, Ind., for contributing this bit of information.
One of Those Exceptions: Looking for another key stat that separates wins from losses for the Wildcats? Usually it's a 100-yard rushing game, but that wasn't the case against USC. The typically pass-happy Wildcats (again, USC game being the exception), 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 16-9 when it rushes for 100 yards or more. But looking closer, the Wildcats have won 12 of their last 14 games when they reach the century mark, a streak that includes an 8-2 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 52.4 yards per game in its 32 losses during the time period.
Thomas and the Charts: With his six receptions against USC, Mike Thomas became UA's all-time receptions leader, moving past Bobby Wade. Thomas (22), who stands at No. 4 on UA's all-time touchdown receptions list, trails Wade by on touchdown grab. On the career all-purpose yards chart, Thomas has moved into No. 5 all-time with 4,417 yards. He trails - you guessed it - Wade's 368 yards at No. 4. UA's leader in the category is Dennis Northcutt at 5,392 yards.
Point of Fact: Arizona has scored 293 points in its 37 points-per-game effort this year, more than the season total five of the last six years and on pace to challenge the school record of 38.5 in 1954 when Warren Woodson's UA club put up 385 in 10 games during a 7-3 season. That club had Art 'The Cactus Comet' Luppino, UA's halfback of national all-purpose renown and a guy who personally posted 166 points on 24 touchdowns and some 2-pointers. The Cats are on pace, as well, to challenge the school record of 439 points in a season -- scored by the 1998 team en route to its school-best 12-1 season. The 2007 Wildcats posted 28 points per game and 336 total to kick-start a serious scoring focus.
Keen on Kicking: Arizona opened the season with a freak two-yard punt against Idaho by Keenyn Crier in his first boot in live action after missing much of fall camp after off-season back problems. Since, Crier's been climbing back kick after kick and the squad now boasts an average of 44.9 yards per punt. The school record for a team season total is 44.9 behind the leg of All-American Danny Baugher (1st team Pro Football Weekly, 3rd team AP) in 2005. Baugher's individual mark of 47.5 that year was a school record. Crier hit the UA chart at No. 5 last year with an individual mark of 43.7 and UA had a team mark of 43.6. This year he's shown a broader arsenal -- sky, rugby, boomers, pooches -- and has kept improving each week. The team's net punting figure of 37.3 was rated 20th in the FBS on Oct. 27. Arizona's special teams were revamped some in the offseason with the hiring of former Wildcat player and coach Jeff Hammerschmidt as special teams coordinator. Nearly all of UA's kicking units are doing well, continuing the effort led by coordinator Joe Robinson for the preceding four years before him.
Sacks This Week? There are liable to be some sacks this week, maybe. Arizona (2.4) and WSU (3.1) combine to allow about six per game. The Cats average 1.75 on defense while the Cougars are next-to-last in the country in getting to the quarterback at .67 times per game. Opponents have not had to put themselves in pass-protection mode a whole lot; WSU is 31st nationally in passing yards allowed but 118th in rushing defense, allowing 275 yards per game. WSU opponents have averaged 41 rushes per game. If the coaching mantra of take-what-they-give-you is in play, you don't have to be a genius to figure out where Arizona's focus might be in Pullman.
Conversion Surge: Arizona has a third-down conversion rate of 43 percent, a decent figure that rates 40th nationally and 3rd in Pac-10. It's considerably better than last year's 35 percent rate. Look at it this way: over the course of the season if the 2007 team had been making 43 percent of its third down tries, it would have meant another 15 conversions -- equating to another 45 plays and more opportunities to keep moving the ball. The better conversion rate this year has done one thing --reduced punts. The Cats had 62 punts last year. After eight games this year UA has 34 punts. UA also has about two more minutes of possession per game this year than last. Arizona also has reached the red zone one more time per game than last year's club. And down there, the Cats are vastly improved.
Flag Football: Arizona has been penalized 25 times for 207 yards. The 3.13 flags per game was tied for best in the nation Oct. 26. The Cats have cut their penalty yards per game in half from a year ago. In the last two games UA had one penalty, and the no-flags outing against California tied a school record accomplished four previous times.
The Second Brigade: The Wildcats have scored 115 points in the second quarter this year. Arizona had 102 in the frame a year ago. Those two are the most in that or any period since the 1998 squad put up 137 second-quarter points. The UA's minimum scoring period thjis year is the opening stanza, with 54 -- still a touchdown per game. On the flip side, Arizona has allowed only 27 fourth-quarter points this year, including a stubborn whitewash against USC this year when both teams were scratching for something in a scoreless fourth of a seven-point game.
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
Vs. Ranked: Arizona's loss to No. 6 USC on Oct. 25 gave it an all-time record of 35-88-1 against ranked teams. Sixteen percent of those games have come in Mike Stoops' tenure and he carries a 5-14 mark against ranked squads, 11 of those (3-8) against teams in the Associated Press Top 10.
Danger Zone: Arizona has proved adept at making the punt return a dangerous play from anywhere on the field. The Cats were rated 5th in the country after the USC game at 19.1 yards per return, thanks to Mike Thomas' steady work (13.4 avg., in the national top 20) as the primary guy and a couple of big plays by Marquis Hundley and Derick Barkum. Those two added another 129 yards -- Hundley picking up a drop by Mike and taking it back 87 yards for a score against Idaho and Barkum taking a pitch from Thomas against USC and returning it 42 yards on the last play of the game. Videotape shows one more block down field might have freed Barkum for a 76-yard return and a TD. Thomas took one back 48 yards for a score against Washington, another big play in that segment of the kicking game.
Hit Parade: The intrasquad race for team-high tackler has shaped up as a four-man race heading into the final third of the year. Linebacker Sterling Lewis (58), safety Nate Ness (50), linebacker Ronnie Palmer (47) and safety Cam Nelson (45) have a shot at leading the club in tackles for 2008. Lewis' three double-digit games (Toledo, Stanford, USC) are a team high. Palmer had 10 at Stanford. Ness had a team season-high 14 at Stanford; Nelson had 12 at Stanford and 12 against USC to round out the seven 10-or-more games posted by UA defenders this year. Lewis has been splitting time of late with Xavier Kelley, the starter to open the year before an injury against Toledo caused him to miss a full game and more action in two others. He came back with four hits apiece in the last two games.
Continuity on the Line: Arizona has played the season with basically two offensive line substitutions, Mike Diaz at guard and James Tretheway at tackle. LT Eben Britton and RG Joe Longacre have started and played each game. Center Blake Kerley injured a knee in the UCLA game and was replaced by LG Colin Baxter, who has three center starts to go with his four guard starts. Diaz took over at guard. RT Tretheway has started the last two games in favor of Adam Grant, whose hand injury against the Huskies has limited him in those two contests. The relative steadiness in this unit has been one reason for Arizona's success on offense. Contrast that with Washington State, where coach Paul Wulff had started the same OL group (two different groups) in back-to-back games only twice this year entering the Stanford game.
Plenty of PBUs: Each player on Arizona's starting defensive lineup has broken up a pass, which couldn't be said last year. Throw in nickel back Corey Hall (4), six-game DE starter Ricky Elmore and three-game LB Xavier Kelley and the group has combined for all but five of the teams' 44 passes defended. The NCAA individual defensive rankings combine interceptions with PBUs for a total. Team-wise UA has broken up 55 passes, therefore, of 251 attempted. That's a knock-down or pick-off rate of 22 percent. It helps. Cornerback Devin Ross leads with 11 total passes defended, ranking him 12th in the FBS after the USC game. Cornerback Marquis Hundley is next with eight (43rd).
What-Zona? Some pundit has called it the 'Air Zona' offense since UA adopted a form of the spread attack. This year UA has rushed for 1,208 yards and thrown for 1,863, to make that monniker a bit off the mark -- an err(or). After the USC game (and some difficulty throwing the ball against maybe the nation's best pass defense) UA has 286 rushing attempts and 257 passing attempts.
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).
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. Also, in place of Ross for only one play against USC, Wade broke-up a pass in the endzone.
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 four games as things heated 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 eight games, Reed has recorded 22 tackles, but leads the team with four sacks. Perhaps most impressive about his sack total is the fact that three of them have come in UA's last two games - against No. 24 California and No. 6 USC nonetheless. His crushing hit on Mark Sanchez forced a fumble at the USC 15-yard line, which set up UA's lone touchdown in the game.In addition, Reed has broken up a pair of passes on the season and has forced two fumbles.
Not to be Offensive: After posting only one offensive touchdown against USC, the Wildcats hope to get back on track offensively, but also hope to find other ways to score. The Wildcats have scored a non-offensive touchdown in three of the last four 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 92 percent success rate (33-36). 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 26 touchdowns inside the Red Zone (16 rushing, 10 passing) and added seven 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 32 percent success rate (38-117). The Cats showed their ability to buckle down in key situations 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.
More Third Down Facts: The main reason why UA's defense has shown marked improvement in stopping teams in third down situations is because it is winning the battle for tough yards. In third-and-short situations (four yards to gain or less), UA is limiting teams to a 31.7% success rate (13-41) - or on par with its total third down defense number. On the other hand, Arizona's offense has been having success in those same situations, converting 70% (26-37) third-and-short situations.
Money Receptions: Despite tough economic times, Money Mike Thomas is proving his worth to the Wildcats. Now No. 1 all-time at Arizona in career receptions (233), 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 48 receptions in 2008, a whopping 31 of them have resulted in a first down (65 percent) and four have gone for touchdowns. In addition, Thomas has three first down carries.
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 18 receptions for 274 yards in his fivegames. That is an average of 15.2 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.
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 34 offensive touchdowns in 2008 (4 non-offensive) with an even split of 18 rushing scores and 16 passing strikes. Since 1978, when UA joined the Pac-10, only seven UA teams (this year included) 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 11 interceptions through seven games, ahead of the pace from last year's squad that picked off 15. Sophomore corner Devin Ross had his second career INT against Washington on Oct. 4 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' 17.7-yard average on the thefts, led by backup safety Joe Perkins' 42-yard return, also versus the Vandals.
Put Your Money in Bonds: Or, Bondzio. Arizona's senior kicker Jason Bondzio has scored 61points just 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 seven of his last eight field goal tries spanning four games and is 9-for-11 overall, with 34 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.
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' 10 hits against USC kept him atop the UA chart with 58 tackles, but he did not record a tackle against Cal the week prior. 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, but with Kelley now healthy, the two will seemingly split time.
Quarter Scores: Arizona has played 32 quarters of football in 2008 and has scored at least a field goal in 25 of those quarters. Here's a look at how Arizona has spread its points around by quarter:
1 2 3 4 Total
Arizona 54 115 69 55 293
Opponents 34 53 30 27 144
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 18 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 10TD's this year. The 18 ground scores also surpasses the total rushing touchdowns scored by each of the last four Arizona squads (2004-2007). Of the 18 rushing scores in 2008, 12 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 four games to go, Grigsby (696yards) has some work to do, but needs to average only 76 yards per game the rest of the way (currently averages 87 yards per game. His biggest obstacle may the be emergence of freshman Keola Antolin, who emerged against Cal with 149 rushing yards and took carries away from Grigsby against USC before leaving with a minor shoulder injury. A year ago Grigsby totaled 704 yards in seven starts (10 games), so it's do-able... Nic's 10 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 Semi-Finalist(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 currently ranks No. 22 with 7,814 yards on the all-time passing yards chart and is currently tied for No. 16 all-time in touchdown passes with 59. He needs 8 more TD tosses 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 233 receptions in three-plus years (currently No. 4 all-time), is only 26 catches away from becoming the Pac-10's all-time receptions leader (Derek Hagen, ASU, 258). And while he currently stands tied for No. 13 in career receiving yards (3,020), 109 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 42 games and caught a pass in 41 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 32 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 (233) 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 (48 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 three losses have come by a combined 16 points (5.3 per game) to USC, 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