Cats at Home for Family Weekend
Oct. 12, 2009
Stanford (4-2, 3-1 Pac-10) vs. Arizona (3-2, 1-1 Pac-10)
Arizona Stadium | Tucson, Ariz.
Saturday, Oct. 17
Kickoff: 4:30 p.m.
Live TV Broadcast: Versus Network
Television Talent: Ron Thulin (play-by-play); Kelly Stouffer (color); Lewis Johnson (sideline)
UA English Radio: Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries, play-by-play; Lamont Lovette, color; Dana Cooper, sideline)
UA Spanish Radio: 990 A.M. ESPN Deportes (Francisco Romero, play-by-play; Marco Rincon, color)
Satellite Radio: SIRIUS 218; XM 194
Some Game Themes: A pair of clubs work to get the tastes out of their mouths after last week's action... A game that's pivotal to October league positioning for both teams... A match of 400-yard offenses... Arizona's 17th-rated defense takes on a stern test in Stanford's 13th-rated rushing offense spearheaded by the league's leading rusher, Toby Gerhart, who checks in this week at fourth in the country (124 ypg)... A meeting of quarterbacks with pass efficiency strength in UA's Nick Foles and SU's Andrew Luck... Both teams rate in the nation's top 10 in pass protection, and both have decent pass-rush capabilities... Arizona finally gets a home game after a 35-day hiatus, the second-longest absence from friendly confines among FBS squads this year behind Hawai'i's 36-day no-home-game stretch... In fact, the game opens a three-game home stand that will prove pivotal to Arizona's chances for a solid season... The teams are rated near the bottom of the country in red zone defense (SU 101st, UA 118th) so defending will be an 80- to 100-yard proposition this week... Another 100-yard factor is Stanford kick returner Chris Owusu, whose 39.7 average is third-best in the nation. He has three KOR touchdowns this year, while Arizona is No. 17 in allowing only 18.7 yards on the plays... Stanford starts a two-week Arizona stretch and will play host to ASU next week before its only bye Oct. 31... It's Family Weekend on the Arizona campus...
Last Week: It's always tough when you re-learn the most simplest of football axioms, that turnovers spell doom. And so it was in Seattle as Arizona played decent football for 57 minutes and then Washington spoiled it all with 15 points in the span of 30 seconds to lift the Huskies to an improbable 36-33 victory. Arizona led by 12 with just more than four minutes remaining, 33-21, after Alex Zendejas' fourth field goal of the night. But a short kickoff and a decent return gave UW field position at its own 41-yard line. Washington's Jake Locker had nine pass completions to that point, but two more of them and UA's eighth penalty pushed the ball to the Arizona 25. On 3rd-and-10, Locker hit Kavario Middleton for a 25-yard touchdown. Okay, 2:55 left. Run out the clock. On Arizona's first play, Nick Foles' 47th pass of the night was ruled to bounce off Delashaun Dean's foot and into the hands of Husky Mason Foster, who raced 37 yards untouched for the go-ahead score. With 2:29 remaining, Foles engineered Arizona's final chance, completing four passes to put UA at the Washington 38-yard line with a minute left. The Huskies only sack of the night abd ab ubcinokete pass gave UA one final shot. Foles' 53rd pass was picked off by Desmond Trufant and that was that. UA held Locker to 92 rushing yards and 140 passing, all but 24 of UW's 256 yards in total offense. But three of his nine passes went for scores, and he ran for another. Arizona ventured into Washington's red zone eight times, and scored on seven of the trips. But four of those were the Zendejas' field goals (tying a school record for the second time this year), leaving some points that otherwise might have been. Foles, in his second start, was 39-for-53 for 384 yards and a score, but suffered the two picks. UA could not get its running game untracked, netting 77 yards, but did run for two red-zone TDs. UA sophomore David Roberts had a career day on the other end of Foles' passing, catching 12 for 138 yards and a TD. Arizona punted only once, converted eight of 16 third downs, held the ball for a almost 19 minutes more than Washington, garnered 461 total yards and held UW to 14 first downs. On paper it looked swell. On the scoreboard it stunk. The eight penalties cost UA a four-year high 81 penalty yards, some at crucial moments. The loss cost UA its upper division status in the Pac-10 standings, dropping it into a tie for sixth at 1-1, and 3-2 overall.
The Coaches: Arizona, Mike Stoops, 47, (Iowa '86), sixth year at Arizona (28-36) 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 18-27 in Pac-10 games and a 10-9 slate in non-conference games.. His teams are 14-16 in home games and 14-20 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. Stanford, Jim Harbaugh, 45, (Michigan '86), third year at Stanford (13-17) and sixth year overall (42-23). He was head coach at San Diego in his first stint from 2004-06. He began his coaching career in 1994 as as assistant at Western Kentucky ('94-'01) and was QBs coach for the Oakland Raiders for two years before taking the USD job. An All-American collegiate quarterback, Harbaugh spent 15 years with five NFL teams.
Home Sweet Home: After 35 days between home games, the Wildcats are thrilled to return to Arizona Stadium. 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. UA’s 2-0 home record in 2009 has pushed Mike Stoops’ home record to 18-17 in his five plus seasons in Tucson.
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 a 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.
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 (including two in ’09), 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.
30 Is (Usually) The Magic Number: Arizona’s 36-33 loss to Washington on Oct. 10 was a rare one. Since joining the Pac-10 in 1978, the Wildcats have played 108 games in which they have scored 30 or more points. Their record in those games? An astounding 97-10-1. That record included a streak of 18 consecutive victories prior to the Oregon game in 2008 (55-45 loss), and UA is now 18-2 under Mike Stoops in such games. Arizona was 8-1 in such games in 2008 and is 2-1 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.
Injury Bug: For one, receiver William 'Bug' Wright, who's missed a pair of games after having arthroscopic knee surgery following the Iowa game... Starting DE Brooks Reed has missed the last two games with an ankle injury. All-American tight end Rob Gronkowski has not played this year and had back surgery the week before the OSU game. Starting defensive tackle Earl Mitchell missed the UW trip after suffering a head wound the day before the game. Top running backs Nic Grigsby and Keola Antolin have been limited the past two games with shoulder and ankle woes, respectively. Starting guard Vaughn Dotsy has not played in the last three games because of a concussion. Special teams stalwart Tito Foster was hurt against NAU and had season-ending knee surgery.
Miscellaneous Football Factoids: Arizona is one of three FBS squads (along with Virginia and Nevada) to have given up scores on each of its opponents' trips into the red zone. The good news is that there only have been 13 such trips (11 TD, 2 FG), which is top 25 material... Soph quarterback Nick Foles is averaging 184 passing yards per game, but really it's 319 ypg as the quarterback of record -- the last two as starter. He's thrown for a touchdown in each of his four appearances... The Cats' 81 penalty yards at Washington were the most since flags accounted for 85 yards against Northern Arizona in 2005, a span of 51 games... The Cats punted once in Seattle. The program has fewer punts -- zero -- only three times, against Colorado State in 1979, Pacific in 1989 and against NAU earlier this year... SU star Toby Gerhart has 10 rushing touchdowns in six games. Arizona has rushed for eight TDs in five contests... David Roberts doubled his receiving output with 12 catches at Washington, giving him 22 for the year, team high. The dozen grabs is tied for No. 2 on the Arizona single-game receptions chart with seven others... Arizona has three punt returns for -1 yard this year, still on track for a school record. The fewest was 1.0 per game, with 10 returns in 10 games in 1966… One of the Stanford coaching wanna-bes is former UA Wildcat Peter Hansen, an erstwhile tight end/receiver/quarterback who really made his mark as a kick blocker. In fact, Hansen blocked seven field goal or PAT kicks in his tenure at UA from 1998-2001, including the last PAT try blocked by a Cat, at USC in 2000. His collegiate debut came at Stanford as a mop-up quarterback in 1998. He also lettered on the UA basketball team in 2000 and 2002. He's a defensive assistant for the Cardinal...
Leaving Points Behind: Arizona is reaching the red zone with the same frequency as a year ago when it scored about 37 points a game. But its effectiveness in that final 20 yards of real estate is down, hence scoring is down to 28 ppg. The Cats have 13 red zone touchdowns in 24 trips (54%) while they hit for 75 percent in 2008. There's plenty of time to shore up this aspect and it's easy to see what difference it would make. In two drives at Washington, Arizona had 1st-and-goal at the UW 2-yard line, and 1st-and-goal at the UW 10-yard line. The results? A field goal the first time and turning it over on downs the second time. Punch power would have made for 10 more points in a three-point game.
Time and Time Again: Arizona has had positive time of possession margins of 15:30, 11:44, 2:38 and 18:38 in games; plus one negative margin of 15:52. The latter came in the 10-point loss at Iowa. The 18-minute bonanza came in the three-point loss at Washington, so that wasn't necessarily a meaningful statistic -- other than its defensive value in keeping Jake Locker off the field. The Huskies ran only 47 plays, an opponents' season low.
A to Z: Sophomore place kicker Alex Zendejas' four field goals in four tries at Washington tied the school record for which he already grabbed a share. He hit on relative chip shots of 18, 23, 29 and 24 yards against the Huskies. For his effort, Zendejas was named one of three “Stars of the Week” by the Lou Groza Collegiate Place Kicker Award. He opened the season 4-for-5 against Central Michigan to join four other former Wildcats with four in a game. His UW performance also gave him a piece of the 4-for-4 single-game high-percentage mark held by the same four kickers (Doug Pfaff vs. Stanford 1989, Max Zendejas at LSU 1984, Charlie Gorham vs. Indiana 1973 and Steve Jurley vs. UTEP 1968). Collegefootballperformance.com gave Alex its honorable mention PK of the Week honor. For the year, Alex, the nephew of Max, is 9-for-11 (.818), within reach of Jason Bondzio's school record of .875 (14-16), posted last year.
Ground Control: Through five games, Arizona ranks in the Top 25 nationally in both rushing offense and rushing defense. The Cats are rushing for 194.0 yards per game, while limiting opposing teams to just 98.8 markers per game. That puts UA in some pretty elite company in the early part of this season as only four other teams can claim a spot in the offensive and defensive Top 20 charts. The others? Alabama, Florida, TCU, and USC. Combined record of the teams, including Arizona? A dominating 30-3. Obviously, teams that can control the ground game consistently over the course of the season should be in good shape in the end.
Just What D.R. Ordered: Sophomore wide receiver Dave Roberts has emerged as a key weapon for the Wildcats in the first five games. Against Washington, Roberts led all receivers with 12 receptions for 138 yards. The dozen grabs ties with seven other players for second-most in a single game at Arizona, while the 138 yards were the most for a UA receiver in 2009. Roberts is the Cats’ top receiver with 22 receptions on the season for 257 yards, and he tallied his first career touchdown grab against Huskies. His emergence has helped fill the void left by Mike Thomas, the Pac-10’s all-time reception leader who is now starring for the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sundays.
The Other Double D: Junior wide receiver Delashaun Dean is easily identifiable as a top threat in the passing game, but early in ’09 it has been a different DD – David Douglas – who has been a pest for opposing defense to defend. Through five games, Douglas has 18 receptions for 175 yards, improving upon his freshman total of three catches a season ago. Combined with the above-mentioned David Roberts, the Cats have 40 catches for 432 yards from their inside receivers. This has been welcomed contribution especially in the absence of Bug Wright, who has been slowed with shoulder and knee injuries in recent weeks and is out indefinitely. Wright could return the lineup this week.
Freshmen Breakouts: In the last three years, the Wildcats have relied heavily on freshmen running backs to spark them to early-season Pac-10 wins. In 2007, Nic Grigsby took over as the featured back in a 48-20 win over Washington State. Since, he’s been one of the Pac-10’s best and one of the nation’s most underrated players. In 2008, in the shadow of Grigsby, Keola Antolin burst on to the scene with a 149-yard, three-touchdown performance in a 42-27 victory over California. On Sept. 26 at Oregon State, Greg Nwoko stepped in for the injured Grigsby and Antolin and totaled 120 all-purpose yards. Nwoko, the only redshirt of the group, carried nine times for 44 yards and a score, but also added 85 receiving yards – the most for a UA running back since Grigsby’s 76 against WSU in that ’07 game.
Year Opponent Player Rush Att-Yds Rec-Yds
2009 @ Oregon St. Nwoko 9-44, TD 5-85
2008 vs. Cal Antolin 21-149, 3 TD 1-9
2007 vs. WSU Grigsby 30-186 9-76, TD
Gotta Get Off The Field: The Wildcats showed improvement in third down situations a week ago against Washington, limiting the Huskies to just 3-of-9 conversions through the first 39 minutes of the game. However, Jake Locker and the Huskies converted the next two third downs on their final offensive drive, which put UW within one score. On the season, opponents are converting 42 percent of third downs against the Wildcats. It will be a crucial task for UA to improve, as UA has struggled in getting off the field in 2009. A season ago, opponents converted just 34 percent of third down plays against the Wildcats.
Fast Starts: In the last two seasons, the Wildcats have developed a knack for fast starts to games and halves. In 2009, the Wildcats are outscoring their opponents 41-24 in the first quarter of games and 40-10 in the third quarter. Combined with the 2008 season, those numbers are even more impressive. UA has outscored opponents 133-86 in the first quarter of its last 18 games, and 168-64 in the third quarter of those games. What does it mean? Either the Wildcats thrive playing fully rested or perhaps game plans and coaching adjustments are spot-on and the players are executing those plans.
Post-Willie: Much was speculated about Arizona's quarterbacking in the aftermath of four-year starter Willie Tuitama's career. He left with a career completion percentage of 61.6 in setting school single-game, single-season and career passing marks in nearly all categories. Early signs show things are looking good. So far this year Nick Foles and Matt Scott have combined for a 66.1 completion rate, led by Foles' near 72 percent. Considering tight end Rob Gronkowski (back surgery) and Mike Thomas (Jacksonville Jaguars) aren't in the mix any more, that's pretty good stuff. Two guys who've stepped up are sophomore receivers David Douglas and David Roberts with a combined 40 catches.
Right On, Juron: Juron Criner has 17 career receptions and four touchdowns, a ratio better than tight end Rob Gronkowski's first-team All-Pac-10 figure of .213 (10 TD on 47 grabs) a year ago. This year Juron is 3-for-10. The 6-foot-4 basketball-talented outside receiver is a big weapon on a well-thrown fade or corner route down close, notably if he has to go up for the ball against typically smaller coverage personnel. He did not play in the second half at Washington after suffering an injury. His status remains questionable this week.
Seeing Yellow: Hopefully the Cats can trim down mental mistakes a bit. The team has been penalized nearly six times per game (28-1250) this year after finishing in the nation's top five a year ago at a 4.0 rate. It's a slight difference, but always can be problematical if penalties prolong opponents' possessions or stall one's own drives. Against Washington, UA set a four-year high in penalties with eight for 80 yards. Some were critical in the fourth quarter in granting improved field position to the Huskies in their comeback.
Four-by-Four: Arizona's offense employs one running back at a time (although H-back Chris Gronkowski did get his first two carries of his career while sharing space in the backfield as a fullback against Oregon State). When feature back Nic Grigsby went down with a shoulder injury after one carry for seven yards in that game, Keola Antolin took over. When an ankle sprain put him on the sideline after 12 carries for 46 yards, Greg Nwoko took over. When a collision put him momentarily out of the game during nine carries for 44 yards, Nick Booth got a turn and toted once for 12 yards. It all added up to 23 rushes for 109 yards and a score (Nwoko's 19-yard run). That's a solid 4.7 yards per carry for the position, helping generate yards on the ground in an economical 388-yard offensive day that was good enough to win the game. Grigbsy and Antolin returned for limited action at Washington, but Nwoko remained the team’s top option, carrying 15 times in the game, including his second career score. As Gribsgy and Antolin continue to heal up, expect Nwoko to remain in the mix as a “starter”, even if he’s listed third on the depth chart.
Big Improvement: Keenyn Crier’s punting clinic in the fourth quarter at Oregon State is reflected in the latest national rankings for net punting. Prior to the OSU game, UA ranked No. 10 in the Pac-10 and No. 96 nationally with a 33.0 net punting average. Crier’s three punts downed at the 3-yard line in the fourth quarter in Corvallis, including two in excess of 60-yards, spiked the Cats’ net punting average to a respectable 37.4 yards per punt. He booted just once at Washington and does not have enough punts to rank nationally or in the Pac-10 in any categories. On the season, he has 15 punts for an average of 41.4 per kick.
YPP Trivia: Quick! Which team gained more yards per play at Iowa: 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. Ironically, Arizona also out-gained Washington per play, 5.6-5.4, and lost, too. That’s two reversals of the trend from a year ago.
IN“T” Wade: Sophomore cornerback Trevin Wade snagged his fourth interception of the year and eighth in his short 18-game playing career against Oregon State. 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. Wade is tied for No. 3 nationally with his four interceptions (0.8 per game) while his eight passes defended (2.0 per game) rank in the Top 10. He has two career double-pick games, one last year against Idaho and one against Northern Arizona this year. Additionally he is in the Top 5 on the team with 25 tackles.
Ocho-Cuatro: Terrell Turner's six grabs (55 yards) in the opener gave him 100 career receptions and he now stands at 115 – eighth-most at UW. He is second on the squad with 21 receptions on the season.
Solid Protection: Arizona’s offensive line has paved the way for the nation’s No. 25 rushing unit (194.0 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 four sacks on the season, a figure that is No. 10 nationally and trails only Stanford in the Pac-10 for fewest per game.
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 five games, UA has upped its 19.3
average from a year ago all the way up to 25.2 yards per return, good enough for No. 24 in the nation. Keola Antolin leads the charge with eight returns for an average of 28.4 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.
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.
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.
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 ... Junior running back Nic Grigsby has 2277 rushing yards in his two-plus 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 115 career receptions, which ties for eighth-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 373 yards will move Turner into UA's top-10 for career receiving yards ... Junior wide receiver Delashaun Dean has 97 career receptions for 1,049 yards. He stands 12 receptions and 570 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 19 in his career, needs seven 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 43.5 yards per punt, while Folk's career mark was 44.19 … 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 ...
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Up Next: The Wildcats will host UCLA on Saturday, Oct. 24 at Arizona Stadium. FOX Sports Prime Ticket will produce a live television broadcast of the game, which will kick off at 3:30 p.m. The game will also be broadcast in the state of Arizona on FOX Sports Arizona.
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