Cats, Beavers Open Pac-10 Action
Sept. 21, 2009
Arizona (2-1, 0-0 Pac-10)
@ Oregon State (2-1, 0-0 Pac-10)
Saturday, Sept. 26 | 4:30 p.m. (PDT) | Reser Stadium (45,674)
Television: Versus Network
Commentators: Ron Thulin, play-by-play; Kelly Stouffer, color; Lewis Johnson, sideline
English Radio: Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries, play-by-play; Lamont Lovette, color; Dana Cooper, sideline)
Spanish Radio: 990 A.M. ESPN Deportes (Abelardo Oquita, play-by-play; Marco Rincon, color)
Satellite Radio: SIRIUS 216, XM 193
Some Game Themes: It's a nice week for the so-called start of the real season, conference play, as both 2-1 teams smart from losses last week to good non-conference foes in closing that portion of their schedules... Arizona works against a streak of tough going against the Beavers, dating to the year it helped OSU gain bowl eligibility in November 1999. Since and including that year the Beavs have won nine of the last 10 in the series. UA's lone win came at Corvallis in 2005... The league's top-rated rushing attack (UA) against OSU's stingy 78 ypg rushing defense, rated No. 17 nationally... A couple of teams that need to find more ways to put more points on the board. Four scores won't easily pull the weight in the Pac-10... Arizona's 14th-rated (nationally) defense against Jacquizz Rodgers and, oh yeah, brother James. The latter's fly sweep killed UA a year ago in Tucson, gaining 102 yards... Meantime, Arizona counters with its top RB, Nic Grigsby, who's seven spots (5th) ahead of Quizz on the NCAA rushing chart at 133 yards per game... A potential view of numerous meaningful quarterbacks in Arizona's sophomores Matt Scott and Nick Foles, and OSU seniors Sean Canfield and Lyle Moevao, plus redshirt freshman Ryan Katz. Scott and Foles each saw action last week at Iowa; Canfield went the distance against Cincinnati, but Moevao (shoulder) is healthy after missing much of camp. Katz is the new guy on the scene... Canfield is fifth nationally with a 71 percent pass completion percentage, one key against what Arizona brings with its 21st-rated pass defense... UA hasn't lost to Oregon State in September in seven contests, although the last 15 games in the series have come later in the calendar...
Last Week: Arizona had what Coach Mike Stoops called a total team effort at Iowa, and stunk across the board in dropping one to the Hawkeyes, 27-17. Iowa hung on to the ball for 38 minutes and took advantage of Arizona's uncertainty from the onset, marching 10 plays and 75 yards off the opening kickoff. The Cats had more than their share of chances, held a second-quarter lead and were within a touchdown late in the third quarter. But the fourth stanza (10:5), like the first (13:2), showed UI with a sizeable margin in time of possession -- quite indicative of in-the-trenches dominance and the game wasn't truly in question. UA had a total of eight first downs, its lowest output in 36 games since that same number against USC in 2006. Inability to move the chains kept any semblance of continuity out of Arizona's attack, which otherwise checked in with an advantage (5.0 to 4.1) in average yards per play. The UA defense held Iowa to 338 total yards, but failed on its end of the chain-gang aspect, giving up 10 of 19 third-down conversions. Notable there was failing to hold on a Stoops-cited 3rd-and-23 play in the second quarter, when Hawk Adam Robinson rumbled for 43 yards to set up the go-ahead touchdown. In the had-its-chances department, Arizona squandered a potentia momentum builder shortly before that in wasting a 1st-and-goal at the Iowa 1 yard-line with a rush for a loss and two incomplete passes to settle for an Alex Zendejas 20-yard field goal. That one five-minute stretch signified the kind of day it was for the Cats in front of the 70,585 Hawkeyes faithful. Soph Nick Foles came off the bench in the fourth period to lead Arizona on a nine-play, 63-yard scoring drive capped by his TD pass to Juron Criner. While too late and a slightly no-matter score, it was important for its stewardship by Foles in place of starter Matt Scott. Arizona had some standout defensive performances led by sophomore cornerback Trevin Wade, whose 38-yard interception return had tied the score at 7-7 early on. He had a career-best seven tackles and broke up three other passes. Defensive end Ricky Elmore had a career-high eight hits and 1.5 sacks.
Some Season Themes: Arizona wraps up segment one of its 2009 season at Corvallis, with an open date coming Oct. 3. The Cats have that four-game set, a three-game set before an open date Oct. 31, and then the final home stretch of five games... UA continues its five-week absence from Tucson (35 days) in Corvallis this week and in Seattle next week...
The Coaches: Arizona, Mike Stoops, 47, (Iowa '86), sixth year at Arizona (27-35) and sixth year overall as a head coach. The 2009 season is his 24th in coaching. He's sixth on the Arizona career coaching victories list. Stoops took a 2-10 program and rebuilt the Wildcats into an 8-5 bowl champion last December. He carries a record of 17-26 in Pac-10 games and a 10-9 slate in non-conference games.. His teams are 14-16 in home games and 13-19 on the road. The Wildcats have beaten a ranked team each of his five seasons including a pair a year ago. Stoops was a UPI All-American as a senior and All-Big Ten pick his last two years as a Hawkeye in 1983-84. His coaching background as an assistant was all defense including eight seasons as a coordinator. Oregon State, Mike Riley, 55, (Alabama '75) ninth year in Corvallis (58-43) and as a collegiate head coach. Riley was a head coach for nine years in the NFL, CF and WLAF. He has been in coaching since starting as a grad assistant at California in 1983 and has been a coordinator on both sides.
Snapped Streaks: This week’s game features a pair of teams looking to bounce back from a handful of streaks that were snapped in losses last Saturday. Some of the streaks, such as OSU’s 26 straight nonconference victories at Reser Stadium, dating back to a 67-28 win over Northern Illinois on Nov. 16, 1996, were quite impressive; others, such as UA’s four-game winning streak, were more modest. Here’s a look at some notable streaks that are no longer:
UA: Junior WR Delashaun Dean saw his streak of 27 consecutive games with a reception come to an end. In fact, the game marked the first in Dean’s career that he did not tally a reception, and he had at least two catches in 26 of 27 games entering the trip to Iowa … The Wildcats’ modest four-game win streak, last accomplished in 2000, was snapped … UA had scored a rushing touchdown in 15 straight contests, but failed to reach the promised land via a rushing play for the first time since the final game of the 2007 season … The Wildcats were shutout in the third quarter at UA, the first period in 2009 that they failed to score points.
OSU: Oregon State's streak of 26 straight nonconference victories at Reser Stadium, dating back to a 67-28 win over Northern Illinois on Nov. 16, 1996, was snapped by Cincinnati … Cincinnati became the first team to score against the Beavers in the first half this season when Tony Pike scored on an 8-yard run … Prior to Cincinnati’s first score, the Beavers had not allowed a first-half score for three straight games dating back to the 2008 season … Oregon State became the last team in the nation to commit a turnover as the Beavers turned the ball over for the first time this season in a fourth quarter interception off Sean Canfield.
Tripping to the NW: Trips to the Pacific Northwest have been kind to the Wildcats under Mike Stoops. UA is an impressive 6-3 under Stoops on the road against the Oregon and Washington schools, winning six of the last eight. That includes the Cats’ 29-27 win at Oregon State in 2005, UA’s lone win against the Beavers in the last 10 meetings between the schools. The Cats also hope the journey to the Northwest will be accompanied by a scoring surge after a disappoint 17-point tally last week. In the most recent nine games in the Northwest, Arizona has scored an average of 33.1 points per game, and it has scored 48 points or more in the last three games (55-45 loss to Oregon in ’08; 59-28 win at WSU ’08; 48-41 win at UW ’07). However, Oregon State limited the Cats to just 16 points in a 31-16 romp in 2007 – UA’s last trip to Corvallis.
Frequent Fliers: The Wildcats are in the midst of a three-game road trip, the first such in-season stretch since the 1993 squad played three straight games away from home. The catch with the ’93 team is that after rounding out the regular season slate at California (loss) and at Arizona State (win), the Cats defeated Miami in the Fiesta Bowl. To find a regular season three-game road swing, you would have to go back to the 1990 season when UA played at UCLA (win), at Oregon State (loss) and at USC (win) in consecutive games. This year’s combination of Iowa-Oregon State-Washington is easily the longest in terms of total distance. Once completed at Washington on October 10, the Cats will have traveled a combined 7,116 miles to their three road games. UA is the only team in the Pac-10 playing three-consecutive road games this season, giving the Cats a nod for the Conference Frequent Flier Award, if there was such a thing.
Date Opponent (location) Round-Trip Miles
Sept. 19 at Iowa (Iowa City, Iowa) 2,502
Sept. 26 at Oregon State (Corvallis, Ore.) 2,168
Oct. 10 at Washington (Seattle, Wash.) 2,446
Total: 7,116 miles
You’re Kidding, Right? Not only does Arizona open with a pair of road games to start Pac-10 action, but for the third straight year and the fourth in the last five seasons, Mike Stoops’ Arizona Wildcats will open Pac-10 play on the road. The one reprieve during that time? That was the 2006 season when the Wildcats hosted No. 3 USC in Tucson. Last year, Arizona opened on the road and played two of its first three away from home a year ago, picking up its first win in a Pac-10 opener since 2000 with a 31-10 victory at UCLA. The toughest start was likely the 2007 season, when the Cats began conference action at California and played three of their first four against league foes away from Arizona Stadium. But, 2005 was nearly as brutal, as UA’s first two league tilts were at California and at USC.
The Experience Factor: In his third collegiate start UA sophomore Matt Scott found the going a bit tough last week, especially in the passing game. He completed four of 14 throws for 50 yards, with an interception. That checked in as a 44.29 pass efficiency rating and was the fewest pass completions for a starter since then Adam Austin ws 6-for-9 for 63 yards with an interception at Stanford in 2006. Earlier that year sophomore Willie Tuitama was knocked out of the LSU game after starting 8-for-17 for 50 yards and two picks (48.24). To be exact, receiver Anthony Johnson started the game as an option quarterback at Oregon State in 2006 and was 0-for-1, but that was an opening ploy. Scott's appeal is boosted by his rushing skills, with a 7-39 outing at Iowa to give him 170 net yards at 7.4 per rush.
Yards Per Pop: Arizona running back Nic Grigsby has carried the ball an average of 16 times per game and accumulated 8.2 yards per carry. That's school-record stuff that is improbable the rest of the way. Bobby Lee Thompson rushed 92 times and gained 732 yards to set the record at 7.96 yards per carry half a century ago in 1960. For Thompson it wasn't anomalous, as he finished his career with with 195 carries for 1,484 yards and a 7.6 figure, also a school record. For guys carrying the ball a bit more than Thompson's two-year career, the Arizona record is 6.6 ypc, posted by UA Hall of Famer Art 'The Cactus Comet' Luppino with 513 rushes for 3,371 yards from 1953-56.
YPP Trivia: Quick! Which team gained more yards per play last week: Arizona or Iowa? If you guessed the Hawkeyes, you were wrong. The Wildcats actually outgained Iowa per play (5.0-4.6). The problem for UA, however, was that it only ran 51 plays to Iowa’s 74, and it couldn’t stop the Hawks on third down (10-of-19). But, interestingly, UA’s YPP stat in the Iowa game contrasts with a common predictor of outcomes in 2008. A season ago, the Cats won all eight games in which they outgained opponents per play. Predictably, they lost all five contests in which they were outgained per play by the opposition.
Seven For Trevin: Sophomore cornerback Trevin Wade snagged his third interception of the year and seventh in his short 16-game playing career. A backup to Marquis Hundley and current mate Devin Ross a year ago as a redshirt freshman, Wade has blossomed into a ball-hawking cover man with some serious smarts. He's No. 5 in passes defensed in the Football Bowl Subdivision this week with six. He has two career double-pick games, one last year against Idaho and one against Northern Arizona this year. It will be fun to see how his ability to make the big play fares against Pac-10 offenses in the coming weeks.
To Spread or Not to Spread: That is the question regarding Arizona's offense, at least for the lay people blissfully unhip to the X-O complexities. A year ago the Cats answered it with some of their best balance in recent history, averaging 158 rushing yards and 244 passing yards per game. Through three games this year Arizona ranks eighth in the country in rushing and 99th in passing, a different dynamic. With Pac-10 play opening this week at OSU, Arizona should begin to define its offensive personality with more assertiveness. The two relative newcomers (sophomores) at quarterback, Matt Scott and Nick Foles, were said to be, respectively, a guy who runs like the wind but likes to throw, and a guy who can throw it all over and do just fine with his feet.
Staring-at-the-Stats Facts: Arizona needs to score more points. It's doing swell on scoring defense (16.7) but will find it tough to win Pac-10 games with 23.3 ppg. A year ago every league team with a winning record averaged 30.5 or better... The Cats' five touchdowns in 11 trips inside opponents' 20 yard-line is behind the reduced scoring punch... Sophomore receiver Juron Criner has 13 career grabs and three touchdowns, a nice ratio... Junior defensive end Ricky Elmore has 15 tackles in three games, giving him a nice start toward exceeding his 25 in all of 2008 as a nine-game starter. His 2.5 sacks lead the club...
Miscellaneous Football Factoids: Sophomore RB Keola Antolin ranks 22nd nationally with his 29.0 kickoff return average. His longest is 42 yards but he looks to be on the verge of breaking one. That figure is slightly below the season figure for the last guy who took one back, cornerback Chris McAlister (29.5), who popped his 100-yard return to open the 1998 season at Hawaii. Mac's figure was the seventh best on the UA single-season chart… Punt return? What's that? UA and opponents have four punt returns in three games. The Cats have one, by David Douglas for four yards at Iowa. Iowa had a 24-yarder to set up a field goal in the third quarter, and UA allowed two others for a combined 11 yards. Receiver Bug Wright normally handles the chores but was banged up enough to defer to Douglas last week... Arizona has three fumbles this year and none by RBs... Receive Bug Wright lost a fumble after a 9-yard reception in the CMU game, QB Nick Foles had a bad c-q exchange to lose one against NAU and Foles had the ball stripped from his behind as he looked for a receiver at Iowa, that tackle Mike Diaz picked up on the bounce and advanced a yard. With RBs handling the ball a combined 87 times in three games, that's good ball security...
Half a Hundred: Arizona ran 51 plays for its modest 253 yards in total offense at Iowa. The last time the Cats hit less than 60 offensive plays was 57-336 at Stanford a year ago. The last time Arizona had fewer than 51 was when it ran 48 plays for 245 yards in a 42-21 loss at USC in 2005. That same year the Cats ran 52 plays for 384 yards in a 29-27 victory at Oregon State. Otherwise, since, play totals anywhere in the 50s range usually meant trouble except for a 59-363 day at Oregon in 2006 when turnovers helped UA beat the Ducks 37-10.
All-Purpose Guys: Running backs Nic Grigsby and Keola Antolin make up a valuable percentage of UA’s all-purpose yards in games, and not just in the running game. Grigsby has been shouldering the load in the aforementioned running game with 133 rushing yards per game, while Antolin has just 20 carries on the season. But, Antolin has been impressive in the return game, tallying 232 yards on kickoff returns. With another 40 yards per game on the ground, the sophomore is averaging 121 all-purpose yards per game in 2009. Grigsby, meanwhile, has 26 receiving yards and is averaging 142 all-purpose yards per game. Combined, that’s 263 yards per game from two guys. Lastly, if you mix in veteran receivers Terrell Turner and Delashaun Dean, the Cats have four players with over 1,000 career all-purpose yards. Grigsby leads with 2,545 yards, followed by Turner (1,351), Antolin (1,243) and Dean (1,059).
Solid Protection: Arizona’s offensive line has paved the way for the nation’s No. 8 rushing unit (253.0 ypg), but it has also done a steady job in protecting UA’s quarterbacks. While the offensive game plan has become more run-oriented in the last year, protecting the QB on passing plays remains a top priority. To date, the Wildcats have yielded three sacks on the season, a figure that is No. 25 nationally and trails only Stanford in the Pac-10 for fewest per game.
Driving It Home: Arizona had back-to-back scoring drives totaling 194 yards, in alarmingly different fashion, against Northern Arizona, albeit spanning the second and third quarters. The Cats' 99-yard scoring drive to close the first half against Northern Arizona was their longest since a single-play drive covering 99 yards against Idaho Sept. 8, 2001. (Jason Johnson threw a 99-yard pass to Brandon Marshall for a TD.) The 17 plays were the most on a march since a 16-play, 72-yard drive for a field goal against Oregon State last Nov. 22... On their first play of the third quarter, after an interception by Trevin Wade near the goal line, the Cats had a two-play drive for 95 yards keyed by Nic Grigsby's 94-yard run to the NAU 1 yard-line. The run was the second-longest in school history. (Trung Canidate pulled off a 96-yard against San Diego State in 1997, his for a score).
Nic Is Ticking: Junior running back Nic Grigsby is quickly moving up the career rushing charts in several categories. Grigsby pushed his career total to 18 scores against NAU, pushing him into ninth place all-time in career rushing touchdowns at Arizona. On the yardage side of the charts, Grigsby shattered the 2,000-yard barrier with his 207 rushing yards against NAU, moving into ninth place in career rushing yardage, and after 75 yards at Iowa, stands at 2,257 career yards. Grigsby has pushed his career yards-per-carry tally to an impressive 5.3, and his 94-yard carry earlier this year vs. the Lumberjacks is the second longest in UA history. In his last 24 games, Grigsby has rushed for 2,159 yards (5.3 ypc) and 17 touchdowns. Additionally, he has posted ten 100-yard games and has scored at least one touchdown in 12 of the last 16 games.
UA's Winning Ways: Arizona's Mike Stoops has a career head coaching record of 27-35, but he has turned things around for the Wildcats in recent seasons. In fact, the Wildcats just had a four-game winning streak, the longest for UA since 2000, snapped at Iowa, but they still have won 13 of their last 20. Going back to the final half of the 2006 season, Arizona is 19-15 in its last 34 games. That's the best multi-season string of success at Arizona since Dick Tomey's 1997-98 teams combined to post a mark of 19-6 in back-to-back seasons, capped by a Holiday Bowl victory over Nebraska in 1998. Stoops' eight-win Wildcat team a year ago was just the second to hit the eight-win benchmark since 1994.
Seeing Yellow: The Cats have been flagged 4.67 penalties per game. That's not a huge breach, but it is a bit higher than when UA finished in the national top five for fewest penalties (4.0) and penalty yards per game (35.1).
Seeing Red: Arizona has scored eight times in 11(73%) trips inside the Red Zone, but only five of those are touchdowns. Improving on this short-field success will be a key down the road. A year ago the Cats were in the national top 10 at 92 percent overall and scored TDs at a 75 percent rate.
Home Sweet Home: It won't matter for the Wildcats in the next two games, but Arizona has been impressive at home in recent seasons. UA has treated the home faithful to a run of nine victories in the last 11 games played at Arizona Stadium. The only two losses came in gut-wrenching fashion, as UA dropped showdowns to No. 6 USC (17-10) and No. 22 Oregon State (19-17). Otherwise, the Cats have protected their turf as well as anyone can, posting the best stretch of home wins since Arizona won 11-of-13 home contests in the 1997-99 seasons.
Visiting the Zoo? The Arizona student section - affectionately named the `Zona Zoo' - seats nearly 11,000 standing-room only seats from endzone-to-endzone behind the UA team bench on the east side of the stadium. It's been as raucous as any around, filling to capacity an hour before kickoff for opponents ranging from Idaho to USC. The in-game atmosphere has certainly picked up in recent years giving UA a decided home field advantage. The Wildcats have posted an 9-2 mark in their last 11 home games, with the two losses coming by a combined nine points to No. 6 USC and No. 21 Oregon State in 2008. In fact, during the 11-game span that dates back to the end of the 2007 season, Arizona has outscored opponents 380-178 in Arizona Stadium, or by an average score of 34.5-16.2. Additionally, Arizona won five home games in a season ('08) for the first time since 1998. Since 1950, the Cats have won five games at home 15 times. Arizona was perfect at home twice in that span, 6-0 in 1961 and 6-0 in 1993.
Return Game: One of the area's the Wildcats have shown significant early-season improvement is in the kickoff return game. A season ago, the Wildcats ranked 105th among all FBS teams. Through three games, UA has upped its 19.3 average from a year ago all the way up to 26.7 yards per return. Keola Antolin leads the charge with eight returns for an average of 29.0 yards. Against NAU, Terrell Turner returned his first career kickoff a season-long 49 yards. On the flip side, UA has limited opponents to just 20.1 yards per return.
Gronkowski Out for Year: Arizona junior tight Rob Gronkowski, who missed most of the full-action drills in fall training camp and the first three games with back trouble, will not play this season, Coach Mike Stoops announced Saturday. Gronkowski was a third-team AP All-American as a sophomore and a top preseason candidate for the John Mackey Award this year. He also is the reigning first-team All-Pacific-10 Conference man at his position.
Mixing It Up: In its first three games, Arizona had eight players run the ball and nine players catch the ball for a total of 14 different Cats getting touches on scrimmage plays. That fexibility is clearly part of the plan. New QBs Matt Scott and Nick Foles are mixing it up in nice fashion under offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes, at least on paper. The Iowa game was a wake-up that consistency and capitalizing on scoring opportunities will be a key focus from here on out.
Adding Depth: Arizona played 58 guys in its second game after using 44 in the opener. Among those seeing action for the first time as Cats last week were mid-year juco transfer cornerback Marcus Benjamin, soph quarterback Nick Foles, freshman H-back Taimi Tutogi, redshirt freshman linebacker R.J. Young, redshirt junior tackle Phillip Garcia, redshirt freshman guard Kyle Quinn, juco transfer receiver Travis Cobb and juco transfer defensive tackle Jonathan Hollins. In the opener, redshirt frosh RB Greg Nwoko, juco transfer CB Lyle Brown, freshman linebacker Jake Fischer, juco transfer LB C.J. Parish and mid-year juco OT Jack Julsing had to take meaningful showers after the game.
Well Grounded: Arizona quarterback Matt Scott has some ability to get out of trouble in the backfield. On 46 career carries, many of the pull-it-down-and-go variety, he's accumulated 358 rushing yards in nineappearances. That's a heady 7.8 yards per carry. He's likely to seriously challenge some of the modern running totals by UA quarterbacks. Here's a look at what he's up against:
Ronnie Veal 1987 161-566, 9 TD
Keith Smith 1996 136-546, 8 TD
Chuck Levy 1993 126-567, 9 TD (primarily at TB)
Chuck Levy 1991 128-505, 7 TD (4 QB starts)
Jim Krohn 1978 141-335, 5TD
Ronnie Veal 1989 107-315, 5 TD
Ronnie Veal 1990 99-281, 8 TD
Ronnie Veal 1988 95-257, 5 TD
Keith Smith 1998 49-199, 3 TD
George Malauulu 1991 73-188, 5 TD
Bobby Watter 1988 54-175, 2 TD
Alfred Jenkins 1986 59-167, 2 TD
Arguably the most famous Arizona quarterback run was Ortege Jenkin's 'leap by the lake' in 1998 at Washington in the wanning moments, the flip for the victory. Jenkins has 56 totes for 156 yards that year. He rushed for 166 yards his senior year in 2000, the most recent 100-plus season by a QB. Chuck Levy posted a number of 100-plus games while taking some all-purpose duty off to play under center.
Kicking A to Z : Sophomore kicker Alex Zendejas' initial work in the season opener put his name in the UA record books for most field goals in a game, four, tying four others -- Doug Pfaff (1989 vs. Stanford), his uncle Max Zendejas (3 times), Charlie Gorham (1973 vs. Indiana) and Steve Hurley (1968 vs. UTEP). Max was 4-for-4 twice and Gorham and Hurley also made all their tries in those games. Max tried five in a game three times, the record Alex now shares for attempts. The miss against CMU also cost him the school record for most points scored by kicking in a game. His 13 points (1 PAT) were two behind his uncle's 15 at Cal in 1983 (3 PAT, 4 FG).
Sub-200: The Wildcats' defense has been a nightmare for opposing offenses, particularly when it comes to moving the football. In its last 15 games, the UA defense has held four opponents under 200 total yards in a game. The stat is even more impressive when compared to previous UA clubs, as the Wildcats have accomplished the feat just six other times in the last 12 seasons. The Cats stifled Central Michigan (182 yards) in the '09 opener, just one year after holding Idaho (112 yards), UCLA (196 yards) and Arizona State (162) under the 200-yard mark. Previously, in 2006 UA had a superlative effort at Stanford and held the Cardinal to 32 plays and a total of 52 yards, the Cats' Pac-10 -game record. That season UA held Stephen F. Austin to 50 plays and 196 yards. In 2005 Arizona held Stanford to 58-195. In 2000 the Cats held San Diego State to 66-196. In 1998, the 12-1 team held Oregon State to 54-167 and Hawaii to 60-176.
Ocho-Cuatro: Terrell Turner's six grabs (55 yards) in the opener gave him 100 career receptions and he added five more against NAU. He remains just three receptions shy of cracking the UA Top-10 chart for career catches. Against the Lumberjacks, Turner nabbed his sixth career touchdown reception. He leads the Wildcats with 12 catches on the season, ranks sixth in the Pac-10 in receptions per game (4.0).
Three-Year Span: Over the last three-plus seasons, Mike Stoops and Co. have posted a winning record of 21-19. That puts the Wildcats among just six conference teams that have a winning overall record since the start of the 2006 season. UA's 21 victories in three-plus seasons surpass the 16 total wins Arizona teams collected from the 2001 through 2005 seasons, a five-year stretch. The current three-year win total is best for a set of UA teams since the 1998-2000 squads combined to win 23 games, paced heavily by the 12-win season in 1998.
First Game Firsts: Arizona's victory over Central Michigan included a handful of Wildcats setting or matching individual game highs. Here's a look at the performances: Matt Scott, who made his first career start, set individual game highs for pass attempts (30), completions (19), passing yards (202), rushing yards (83) and total yards (285) ... A.J. Simmons' pair of receptions were a new high, as were his 28 receiving yards, including a career-long grab of 21 yards ... Davis Douglas pulled in a career-best two catches, totaling a career-best 22 yards ... Bug Wright recorded his first career rush, collecting three markers ... Juron Criner equaled his top reception total of four, but his 54 receiving yards were a new high ... Greg Nwoko appeared in his first career game with two carries for six yards ... Ricky Elmore's five tackles surpassed his previous high of four ... Lolomana Mikaele, who did not play in 2008, recorded his first tackle-for-loss since playing at Oregon State in 2007 ... Vuna Tuihalamaka recorded 10 tackles, surpassing his previous best of six at New Mexico in 2008, and notched his first career interception ... True freshman Jake Fischer tallied the first two tackles of his career, both solo stops on special teams ... Linebacker C.J. Parish recorded his first tackle and forced a fumble on a punt return ... Place kicker Alex Zendejas kicked his first career field goal, going 4-for-5 in the game and tying the UA single-game record for made field goals ... Jason Bertoni, who transferred to the UA from Central Michigan in 2008, recovered a fumble on a punt return.
Watchin' the Charts: The record-breaking careers of Willie Tuitama and Mike Thomas are now complete in the UA record books, but a handful of returning Wildcats are looking to etch their names into the UA annals this year ... Paced by his 10 receiving touchdowns in 2008 (tied for third-best in a single season at UA) Rob Gronkowski currently stands tied for seventh in UA history with 16 receiving touchdowns. The junior trails Theopolis `T' Bell, who snared 30 TD catches from 1972-75, but just eight more TD grabs for Gronkowski would tie him for second with Dennis Northcutt. Gronkowski, whose 12-catch game at Oregon in '08 tied for second-best ever at UA, has 75 total receptions in his two seasons, which stands 34 short of breaking UA's top-10 chart. Additionally, Gronkowski needs just 455 more yards to crack the UA career receiving chart ... Junior running back Nic Grigsby has 2257 rushing yards in his two seasons to date, which puts him No. 9 in program history. Grigsby's 13 rushing TD's in '08 tied for third-most in a season, while his 1,153 yards rushing were ninth-best at UA for a single season. He stands No.9 at Arizona with 18 career rushing TDs... Sophomore running back Keola Antolin scored 10 rushing TD's in '08, which was tied for the sixth-highest single-season total at UA and leaves him just seven shy of breaking into UA's career top-10. Antolin's 24 points scored on four rushing TD's at Oregon in '08 is the third-highest total in UA history ... Senior wide receiver Terrell Turner currently has 106 career receptions, a total that is just four shy of matching Terry Vaughn's 109 grabs for 10th-most at UA. Turner, who had 10 catches (t-13th-most in a game at UA) for 175 yards (t-11th-most in a game at UA) at Stanford in '08, has 1,279 career receiving yards. A modest 389 yards will move Turner into UA's top-10 for career receiving yards ... Junior wide receiver Delashaun Dean has 94 career receptions for 1,049 yards. He stands 15 receptions and 603 yards shy of breaking into UA's career top 10 in each respective category ... Senior cornerback Devin Ross, who broke up 13 passes a year ago and has 16 in his career, needs 10 more to break into UA's top-10 chart in the category ... Junior punter Keenyn Crier, whose first two seasons each rank in UA's top-six for single-season punting, could challenge UA career leader Nick Folk for highest career punting average. Crier's average currently is 43.7 yards per punt, while Folk's career mark was 44.19.
House of 'No Names': Arizona defensive players welcome the 'No Name Defense' nickname that they have earned since the start of the 2008 season. A young, talented and motivated group, the '08 unit didn't listen to pundits who dismissed the group and put UA's post-season aspirations firmly in the hands of a more proven offensive squad. Interestingly, as the offense continued to rank highly in scoring, the defense became the backbone of the team, emerging in the Top-25 and third in the Pac-10 in total defense following the Las Vegas Bowl Victory. The 'No Names' have taken a particular liking to playing in Arizona Stadium, shutting down some of the nation's best offensive teams. In the last nine games in Arizona Stadium, UA's defense has held opponents to a paltry 126 total points (14.0 points per game). The Wildcats have allowed just 56 points in the second half of those games (7.0 ppg), and only California (27) has broken the 20-point barrier for points in a game.
A New Way To Win: A season ago, Arizona scored at least 31 points in all eight of its wins. In fact, the Wildcats failed to reach 20 points only twice in 2008 (10 vs USC, 17 vs Oregon State). In UA's season-opening 19-6 win over Central Michigan marked the first time UA collected a win in a game that it didn't reach 20 points since a season-opening 16-13 victory against BYU in 2006, a stretch of 18 wins.
Running to Pay Dirt: Nic Grigsby's three-yard TD run against CMU extended the Cats' streak for consecutive games with a rushing touchdown to 14, surpassing the 1998-99 streak of 13 games. UA rushed for scores in all 13 games in 2008, marking the first time a Wildcat squad had done so since the 1998 season. The '99 club added a rushing TD in the opener before seeing the streak end at 13 one week later. The Cats extended the streak to 15 games, but saw the run snapped at Iowa.
Revamped Line: The Wildcats' offensive line has paved the way for the nation’s No. 8 rushing attack. That's a pretty impressive performance for a line that featured the debut of Mike Diaz at left tackle (nine starts at OG in '09), Conan Amituanai at left guard (first career start) and Vaughn Dotsy at right guard (first career start). Colin Baxter anchored the line at center, as he made his 29th career start (guard and center). Adam Grant, who started the first five games at right guard in 2008 before missing time with a hand injury, reassumed his starting position. Herman Hall, one of UA's most improved players during spring and fall practices, saw significant playing time against Central Michigan and NAU, and made his first start at Iowa in place of Dotsy who did not travel due to a concussion. Hall will also be used in power formations as an ineligible (to go downfield) tight end for blocking purposes at times.
Mark Your Calendars: If you're a Wildcat football fan, you better be in Arizona Stadium this Saturday. If not, you won't see Arizona play at home for another month. Due to a quirky schedule, Arizona not only plays three-consecutive road games, but a bye week is mixed in as well, keeping the Cats away from home for four straight weeks. The rabid fan will have to endure 35 grueling days without UA football in Tucson, one of the longest stretches away from home in the nation. Here's a look at some other teams that will be seeking a remedy for homesickness:
Most Days Between Home Games
36 - Hawai`i (Sept. 4-Oct. 10)
35 - Washington State (Oct. 10-Nov. 14)
35 - SMU (Sept. 5-Oct. 10)
35 - Middle Tennessee State (Sept. 12-Oct. 17)
28 - Colorado (Sept. 19-Oct. 17)
28 - Houston (Sept. 26-Oct. 24)
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 106 games in which they have scored 30 or more points. Their record in those games? An astounding 96-9-1. That record included a streak of 18 consecutive victories prior to the Oregon game in 2008 (55-45 loss), and UA is now 17-1 under Mike Stoops in such games. Arizona was 8-1 in such games in 2008 and is 1-0 in 2009.
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 108-4 when scoring 40 or more points in a game, something it did in four home games a year ago. As you might expect, Arizona was 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.
Offensive Turnaround: Two years ago the Wildcats rated around 100 in the FBS in passing (94), total offense (115), rushing (110) and scoring (105). Ouch. Last year UA checked in at 16th in scoring (37 ppg), 33rd in total offense (402 ypg), 36th in passing (244 ypg), and 48th in rushing (153 ypg). The improvement coincided with the arrival of current offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes, line coach Bill Bedenbaugh, (former) inside receivers coach Michael Smith, outside receivers coach Dave Nichol (a grad assistant in 2007), and some increased influence lent by (former) tight ends/RBs coach Dana Dimel in the adoption of a different scheme. It's still evolving and will under a new quarterback and a pair of new coaches, but the system has definitely turned one corner - putting points on the board. UA averaged 17 points in 2006 and an average of 33 points the last two seasons.
Getting Pickier: The magic number for the UA defense, most notably the secondary, is 17 - as in that's the number to beat last year's 16 interception total. That mark by the '08 squad continued a trend of increasing the total number of picks each year under the defense led by coordinator Mark Stoops. Devin Ross, a second team All-Pac-10 honoree at CB, snared three INTs a year ago and he will team up with fellow corner and projected starter Trevin Wade, who led the Wildcats with four picks despite playing a backup role. Defensive end Ricky Elmore and '08 backup safety Joe Perkins each added an interception last year, which gives UA nine returning interceptions. Vuna Tuihalamaka picked off a deflected pass in the season-opener, putting the UA defense on the board to start 2009. Here's a look at the year-by-year numbers under Stoops:
Premier Punters: A string of punters - Danny Baugher, Nick Folk and Keenyn Crier - have given UA an extra defensive weapon over the last four seasons. Baugher, one of the top punter's in the nation as a senior before a season-ending injury, was replaced by Folk who took over the duties for the remainder of the 2005 season. Folk then assumed the duties again fulltime in his senior season of 2006, before handing over the reigns to Keenyn Crier the last two years. The cumulative result has been an average of 44.28 yards per punt over the last four seasons, and a net punting average of no worse than 36.0 in any of the four seasons. Crier and the UA coverage team posted an impressive mark of 38.1 net punting in 2007, one of the top marks in school history. Here's a look at where the four individuals rank in single season punting average at UA:
Player (Yr.) Ave. Rank
Baugher ('05) 47.5 1
Folk ('06) 44.0 3
Crier ('08) 43.9 t-4
Crier ('07) 43.7 t-6
Coaching Newcomers: Mike Stoops' staff has two new faces in 2009, with both on hand for spring ball -- running backs and tight ends coach Seth Littrell and inside receivers coach Garret Chachere. The former came from Texas Tech and the Mike Leach spread system, with an Oklahoma player background, while the latter arrived from Memphis with some recent special teams and an offense-defense hybrid background. They replaced Dana Dimel and Michael Smith, respectively, who both took jobs at Kansas State.
Watch Lists: Arizona has several players on early watch lists with several more likely to come. Rob Gronkowski was on the John Mackey Award, Rotary Lombardi and Maxwell Award watch lists, respectively. Center Colin Baxter is on the Rimington Trophy list, running back Nic Grigsby is a candidate for the Doak Walker Award and punter Keenyn Crier will return to the Ray Guy Award list. Defensive linemen Earl Mitchell and Brooks Reed also have been named on the initial Rotary Lombardi lists. UA could have a receiver emerge for potential consideration for the Biletnikoff Award, likely Terrell Turner or Delashaun Dean, while senior corner Devin Ross is expected to be mentioned as a Jim Thorpe Award candidate. Senior Chris Gronkowski has been nominated for the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame 2009 Scholar-Athlete Award.
Pals and Peers: Four players serve a pair of University of Arizona athletics department student organizations, the Peer Athletic Leaders and the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. Senior defensive tackle Donald Horton and redshirt freshman linebacker R.J. Young are members of the PAL group that offers transitional assistance to younger students, while senior defensive tackle Earl Mitchell and sophomore quarterback Bryson Beirne are members of SAAC, which works with athletic administrators to provide feedback on improving the Arizona experience for student-athletes. Additionally, seniors Cam Nelson and Chris Gronkowski were selected to serve on Student-Athletes Taking Active Roles (STAR), a group that instills a 'we are always in uniform' message to the 500-plus UA athletes, advocating responsible personal comportment.
2009 Captains: Senior defensemen Earl Mitchell and Cam Nelson will join classmate Terrell Turner and junior Colin Baxter as this year's team of captains. Each was voted to the team by fellow teammates and approved by the coaching staff. A balance of experience and talent across various positions is clearly evident in the group, as the group has a combined 95 starts. Mitchell, nelson and Baxter started every game of the 2008 season, while Turner started all but one at wide receiver.
Next Up: Arizona will enter its first bye week of the season, before tripping to Washington on October 10 to wrap up a three-game road trip. The Pac-10 will announce television selections for the Weekend of Oct. 10 next Monday, Sept. 28th.