Cats Host Bruins This Weekend
Oct. 19, 2009
Complete Game Notes (PDF)
UCLA (3-3, 0-3 Pac-10) vs. Arizona (4-2, 2-1 Pac-10)
Saturday, Oct. 24 | 3:30 p.m. | Arizona Stadium (57,400)
Live TV Broadcast: FOX Sports West/Prime Ticket and FOX Sports Arizona
Television Talent: Steve Physioc (Play-by-Play), James Washington (color analyst)
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 157 (UCLA feed); XM 197 (UA feed)
Some Game Themes: Arizona battles to stay in contention while the Bruins seek a first Pac-10 victory of the year... A match of the league's top total offense (Arizona, 443 ypg) against the league's No. 4 defense (UCLA, 320 ypg)... Arizona QB Nick Foles, the league's top pass efficiency man, tries his hand against the Bruins strong pass defense keyed by nine picks (national leader Rahim Moore with five) and only six TDs allowed through the air... Arizona defends its modest but important four-game home winning streak against a UCLA club working to get off a three-game losing streak... The Cats let it all hang out with a second open date on the near horizon while UCLA digs in for the fourth of eight games in eight weeks... The national leader in field goals in UCLA's Kai Forbath tests the thin air in Tucson... An odd series in which the last 10 games have been decided by an average margin of 19 points, with only three by a touchdown or less... A bewitching month for Arizona comes to a close (Oct. 31 bye), as it works to win two games in October for only the second time in the last six seasons... Mike Stoops seeks his 30th win as a head coach.
The Coaches: Arizona, Mike Stoops, 47, (Iowa '86), sixth year at Arizona (29-36) and sixth year overall as a head coach. The 2009 season is his 24th in coaching. He's eighth 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 18-26 in Pac-10 games and a 10-9 slate in non-conference games. His teams are 18-17 in home games and 10-18 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. UCLA, Rick Neuheisel, 48, (UCLA '84), second year in Westwood (7-11) and 10th year overall (73-41). He began his coaching career at UCLA helping tutor Troy Aikman as a volunteer in 1986 and took the UCLA job after three years as an NFL assistant. He was an offensive assistant at UCLA and Colorado,and head coach at Colorado and Washington. The Tempe McClintock High School product was a walk-on turned starter as a senior quarterback, earning MVP of the 1984 Rose Bowl.
Last Week: Arizona hung on and turned what looked like disaster into a rousing come-from-behind victory over Stanford, 43-38, saving its best for last. UA played head-shaking defense for three quarters, watching SU's Andrew Luck complete passes at a phenomenal 12.1 yards per attempt and weathering the usual rushing storm from Cardinal Toby Gerhart. But in the fourth quarter the Cats stiffened and held SU to a missed field goal, a three-and-out, and two possessions lost on downs in its final four tries. UA overcame a 2nd-quarter deficit of 15 points and held Stanford to 10 second-half points, and notably posted a 14-0 edge on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter. Nic Grigsby's 57-yard touchdown run with 2:57 left provided the winning points. The Cats had touchdown drives of 47, 89, 80 and 92 yards, plus picked up the first score of the game with a 79-yard interception return by sophomore safety Robert Golden. But the Cardinal had touchdown drives of 44, 82, 68, 80 and 86 yards, so defense wasn't exactly the name of the game. In all, the teams had 1,137 yards in offense and 49 first downs. Arizona quarterback Nick Foles continued his sophomore development with 40 completions in 51 attempts for 415 yards and three scores. His performance drew an ESPN helmet sticker from Lou Holtz in the evening's wrapup. Arizona overcame nine penalties, a deficit of 12 minutes in time of possession and SU's 584 yards in total offense. Gerhart gained 123 tough yards and scored twice while Luck threw for 423 yards and three scores on only 21 completions, plus caught a pass for 11 yards and rushed for 20. UA sophomore Juron Criner had the No. 2 single-game reception total in Arizona history (tie) with 12 grabs for 152 yards, while Terrell Turner had nine for 101 yards. The game had some pinball moments, with 12 kickoff returns for 343 yards, but only four punts, three by Arizona. The Cats did not give up a sack, their second perfect-protection outing in three games.
Miscellaneous QB Football Factoids: Quarterback Nick Foles' 415 yards passing against Stanford rates No. 8 in Arizona single-game passing history, while his 420 yards in total offense in the game rank sixth on the UA chart. His 40 completions rank as the No. 2 figure in history behind Willie Tuitama's 42 at California in 2007... Foles and SU's Andrew Luck combined for an Arizona combo record of 62 pass completions, besting the 60 tossed by Keith Smith (25)and Pat Barnes (35) of California in the first quadruple overtime game in NCAA history at Berkeley in 1996... Foles set a school record for pass completion percentage (78.4) for games with 20, 30 and 40 completions. Tom 'Terrific' Tunnicliffe hit 78.0 (21-for-27) against Pacific in 1982, Willie Tuitama hit 74.5 (38-for-51) at Washington in 2007 and Willie hit 68.9 (42-for-61) at Cal in 2007... Foles is making a run toward the single-season passing yardage chart, despite not starting in the first three games. He has 1,152 yards and No. 12 is Bruce Hill (1974) had 1,814 yards... Interestingly, too, Arizona's single-season passing touchdowns chart is within reach of Foles, who has nine. Four players are tied with 11 in a season at No. 14, the last being Keith Smith in 1996... Dan White (1994) holds the No. 10 spot with 14 touchdown throws. Last year Willie Tuitama had 23, and 27 in 2007 for the top two spots... Foles' pass efficiency rating of 151.89 shakes out in the top five if it held up, while his passing percentage of 73.9 would clearly rate the best ever, compared to Smith's 68.5 in 1998, while Tuitama sits at No. 2 with 64.9 in 2008...
More Nick Nuggets: Sophomore quarterback Nick Foles has completed 73 percent of his passes, and he's been consistent in doing so. He's hit at a 76 percent rate on first down, at 72 percent on second down, at 75 percent on third down and at 50 percent on two fourth-down throws. On second downs, he's hit deep enough for 26 first downs on 58 passes. Foles leads the FBS with his completion rate and is one of only two in the top 100 above the 70 percent barrier, along with earlier 2009 foe Dan LeFevour of Central Michigan (70.0).
The Other Nic: As Nick Foles’ poise and pocket presence became the talk of the Wildcats’ offense, junior running back Nic Grigsby’s play-making ability was seemingly forgotten. A lot of that had to do with the fact that Grigsby sprained his right shoulder on his first carry at Oregon State and missed the final three quarters, then played only sparingly in the first half at Washington. With UA’s offensive attack primarily dominated through the air against Stanford, Grigsby dazzled the Arizona faithful with a spectacular game-winning 57-yard touchdown run on a third-and-17 draw play. It was a flash of the dimension Grigsby can bring to the offense at any moment and his continued progress toward healing the injured shoulder will be welcomed. On 62 carries in 2009, Grigsby has rushed for an eye-popping 8.2 yards per carry, nearly two full yards more than any other Pac-10 running back on the rushing charts.
More Nic Nuggets: Nic Grigsby’s 57-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter against Stanford was the 19th rushing score of the junior’s career, which ties him with Chuck Levy and Clarence Farmer for seventh-most rushing TDs in a career. His 89 rushing yards against the Cardinal pushed his career rushing tally to 2,366 yards, leaving him just 23 yards shy of another career milestone. Jim Upchurch currently stands at No. 8 all-time ay UA with 2,389 yards.
Staring at the Stats... This week's game features the league's top field goal kickers by percentage, UCLA's Kai Forbath (17-18, 94.4%) and UA's Alex Zendejas (10-12, 83.3%). (Erik Folk of Washington also slates in at 10-for-12)... The Bruins also bring punter Jeff Locke, who's helped build the league's best net punting figure, a superlative 41.7, with his individual 46.1 average. That one might not faze rizona since the Cats only have returned three punts this year... The Cats last two games have helped push their scoring average above 30 for the first time this season, fourth in the Pac-10... UCLA's Terrence Austin (26.9) and UA's Travis Cobb (24.0) give some spark to kickoff return units. Austin's a veteran threat with punt return duty for four years, Cobb's a newcomer via junior college who started playing a few games ago...
4th Quarter Stand: Defensive coordinator Mark Stoops will be the first to admit that the Cats’ defensive effort against the Cardinal was actually offensive. But consider this: the Wildcats shut out the Cardinal over the final 18:53. That’s noteworthy for a handful of reasons, including the fact that, entering the game, opponents were out-scoring Arizona 53-32 on the season in the fourth quarter. In no other period had UA allowed more than 31 cumulative points. Yet, in an old fashioned Pac-10 shootout, the Arizona defense was able to make stops at the most crucial points. The Cats stopped the Cardinal inside the redzone twice in the game’s final minutes (twice turning over the Cardinal on downs, including the final drive of the game). Arizona limited Cardinal QB Andrew Luck, who threw for 337 yards and three touchdowns in the first three quarters, to just 6-for-15 passing for 86 yards in the final period. Additionally, Arizona did not allow a third down conversion in five attempts in the fourth quarter (and actually limited Stanford to 1-of-7 on third downs after a 5-for-7 start). But perhaps most importantly, the Cats didn’t let Toby Gerhart, Stanford’s all-everything back, beat them. Gerhart rushed three times for eight yards (2.7 ypc) and caught just one pass for 18 yards in the final frame.
Earning the Points: How impressive was Arizona’s come-from-behind win against Stanford? Consider how the Wildcats had to score their second half points. After the two teams traded field goals to start the third quarter, Stanford led 31-23 with 9:55 remaining in the quarter. The Wildcats out-scored the Cardinal 20-7 the rest of the way. On each of the three touchdown drives to close the game, the Wildcats had to cover at least 80 yards. Here’s how it happened:
- Following SU’s field goal in the third, Nick Foles leads the Wildcats on a 10-play, 80-yard drive in 3:28. Foles completed 8-of-9 pass attempts for 75 yards, including a one-yard scoring toss to David Douglas on 4th-and-goal from the one.
- With the Wildcats trailing by two scores, 38-29, in the fourth quarter, Foles again leads UA on an 80-yard drive, this time lasting 2:36 on six plays. Foles completed 5-of-5 passes for 42 yards before handing off to Greg Nwoko, who exploded for a 43-yard touchdown run, on a third-and-one play.
- After Stanford failed to convert on a fourth-and-two and UA’s 8-yard line, Foles led the Cats on a five-play, 92-yard drive in the next 2:30. The breakout play was Nic Grigsby’s sensational 57-yard run on a third-and-17 draw play that gave UA the lead for the first time since the first quarter.
First Down Receivers: Sophomores David Roberts and David Douglas lead Arizona with 14 first-down catches apiece, a nice figure considering whty have 27 and 25 grabs, respectively. That's medium-range big-play stuff for inside guys. Senior Terrell Turner has 13 first-down catches on the outside, while sophomore Juron Criner adds 12, one more than senior Terrell Turner.
Pac-10 Parlay: In three league games Arizona has averaged 38 points, 25 first downs and 467 yards, so at this moment it appears defense might not be the byword for the Conference of Champions in 2009. UA still faces some powerful defensive squads this year so who knows how it will all shake out, yet the Cats have shown they have some firepower when they're in possession of the ball. The flip side is that the three league opponents have averaged 35 points, 23 first downs and 415 yards, so the Wildcats aren't shutting anyone down just yet. No one's punting it much in league action involving UA, with the Cats averaging three kicks and the opponents averaging four per game. Why bother, with all those yards going by?
Offensive Morph: In its first three games, Arizona averaged 253 yards on the ground and 167 through the air. In its last three games UA has slacked off the running game (116 yg) and ratcheted up the passing (351 ypg). Not coincidentally each span covers three starts by Matt Scott and Nick Foles at quarterback, respectively. Both are 2-1 as the starter of record with that decidedly different flavor to the squad's offensive balance. Whether Arizona is a power-spread or a spread-spread remains to be seen, but no question that Foles' strength in moving the club comes with a bit more air under the ball. One fact could color coaches' decisions: Arizona is averaging 5.7 yards per run, so it might be smart to keep doing it. Nic Grigsby, in particular, seems to be capable of making key plays. He's averaging a league-best 8.2 yards per tote. Were it not for a sore shoulder, he might have shouldered more of the plan in the past three games.
Stay Away from Him: Arizona has given up four sacks this year, and only one in league action, at Washington. Considering there have been a number of players hurt up front and the line has seen four starting combinations, that's pretty good. UCLA's Brian Price will test the protection seriously this week. The sacks allowed figure of .67 per game is tied for fourth nationally behind two given up by Oklahoma State, and three apiece by Iowa State and North Texas.
Flag Day: Arizona has dropped to 48th in the FBS in penalties per game (6.17) after rating in the top five a year ago in being flagged only 4.0 times per game. The Cats have 37 penalties for 306 yards half way through the year. Against Stanford the Cats drew nine flags for 56 yards, the most calls since being penalized nine times for 61 yards against Oregon in 2005. One penalty that helped against the Cardinal was an out-of-bounds kickoff that SU made UA re-kick, and instead of getting the ball at the 40, Arizona's coverage got to returner Chris Owusu for a tackle by Mike Turner at the SU 22-yard line, a reversal of 18 yards in field position at a key time in the game -- after Arizona had taken a 43-38 lead with 2:57 left. The Cardinal's potential game-winning drive ended at the Arizona 17-yard line 11 plays later.
Up and Down the Field: Arizona surrendered 584 yards in total offense to Stanford, its most since Oregon put up 504 last year, and the highest total since Oregon State built a 654-yard day in 2005. Earlier that year USC dropped a 724-yards bomb on the Cats, too. Washington hit for 572 in 2007, but Arizona also posted plus-500 and won that game, similar to the blur against Stanford. Arizona has exceeded the 500 barrier twice this year with 559 against NAU and 553 against the Cardinal.
Don't Take Your Time: Arizona might not have reverted to its quick-strike mentality of 2007 this season, but it surely was economical in the last game. Against Stanford the Cats scored 43 points on an interception return and six scoring drives that averaged about 2 minutes 20 seconds. The drives used an average of 7.5 plays and covered an average of 75 yards. With the game in the balance the final three scoring drives were 80, 80 and 92 yards.
Home Sweet Home: The Wildcats have treated the home faithful to a run of 10 victories in the last 12 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 3-0 home record in 2009, including the Oct. 17 shootout against Stanford (43-28) has pushed Mike Stoops’ home record to 19-17 in his five plus seasons in Tucson. Dating back to last year’s 31-10 win over Arizona State, the Wildcats have quietly put together a four-game home winning streak.
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 10-2 mark in their last 12 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 12-game span that dates back to the end of the 2007 season, Arizona has outscored opponents 423-216 in Arizona Stadium, or by an average score of 35.3-18.0. 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.
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 109 games in which they have scored 30 or more points. Their record in those games? An astounding 98-10-1. That record included a streak of 18 consecutive victories prior to the Oregon game in 2008 (55-45 loss), and UA is now 19-2 under Mike Stoops in such games following the 43-38 win over Stanford on Oct. 17. Arizona was 8-1 in such games in 2008 and is 3-1 in 2009.
If Not 30, Try 40: If Arizona's .899 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 109-4 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. In 2009, the Wildcats have reached 40 points once (43 vs. Stanford), putting the season record at 1-0.
The Heat-Seeking Missile: Former Arizona All-American and NCAA Top VI Award winner Chuck Cecil will be cited at the UCLA game for his induction later this year into the NFF & College Hall of Fame. Cecil, a safety at Arizona from 1984 to 1987 is one of Arizona's legendary defenders and was a consensus All-America pick in 1987 when he won the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year Award. A two-time first-team Academic All-America selection and winner of the Pac-10 Conference Medal, Cecil made a name for himself as a hard-hitting all-out player. He finished his career with 21 career interceptions including the single-game record of four at Stanford his senior year. Currently defensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans, Cecil was a fourth round NFL Draft pick and spent seven years in the league with Green Bay, Arizona and Houston, earning Pro Bowl honors in 1992. His 100-yard interception return against Arizona State in 1986 remains one of the signature plays in Arizona football history. Cecil and his wife, Carrie, co-chaired the campaign to develop the trauma center at University Medical Center in Tucson. He was inducted into the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame in 1993 and will be inducted into the College Hall of Fame on Dec. 8.
Receiving Backs? Arizona’s offensive coaches have been searching for ways to make up for the absence of Rob Gronkowski. One of the ways has been to involve the running backs more in the passing game. Through six games, UA’s running back trio of Nic Grigsby, Keola Antolin and Greg Nwoko have totaled 167 yards on 23 receptions. Nwoko leads the group with nine catches for 106 yards and a score, while Grigsby and Antolin have seven catches each for 39 and 22 yards, respectively. The 23 grabs equals the total UA’s running back corps tallied in 2008. Interestingly, a year ago, those 23 receptions resulted in only 69 yards. With half the season to go, UA’s backs could make even a stronger impact in the passing game.
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 54-38 in the first quarter of games and 49-20 in the third quarter. Combined with the 2008 season, those numbers are even more impressive. UA has outscored opponents 146-100 in the first quarter of its last 19 games, and 177-74 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.
Sonny Days: In 2006, the Wildcats rated around 100 in the FBS in passing (94), total offense (115), rushing (110) and scoring (105). Ouch. In 2007, the Wildcats brought in Sonny Dykes to assume the offensive coordinator duties. In 2008, just two full seasons later, 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 Dykes’ offensive staff, including 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. Dimel and Smith are now at Kansas State, but another former Texas Tech coach, Seth Littrell, has taken over working with the running backs and tight ends. Also, Garret Chachere, who worked with Dykes earlier in his coaching career, took over duties with the inside receivers. Despite losing offensive stars Willie Tuitama, Mike Thomas, Eben Britton and a pair of offensive line starters, the Wildcats offense is continuing to post impressive numbers in 2009. Arizona ranks No. 14 in the nation in total offense (443.7 ypg), No. 29 in rushing (184.7 ypg), No. 29 in passing (259.0) and No. 36 in scoring (30.5 ppg).
Cats in the BCS Rankings: On Sunday, the first set of 2009 BCS rankings were released and the Wildcats found themselves ranked No. 22 in the nation. While UA still remains on the radar for voters in the Top 25 voter polls, the Cats know taking care of business at home in the next few weeks could put them in the rankings for the first time in quite sometime. Players and coaches won’t talk about the importance of possibly reaching that milestone, should it come, but it certainly would be a reflection of steady play on the field. As for the BCS standings, Pac-10 foes USC and Oregon check in at No. 7 and No. 11, respectively. The last time UA was ranked in the BCS standings came at the end of the 1998 season, when UA’s 12-1 season and Holiday victory placed it at No. 7 in the rankings.
Steady TT: With his nine-catch, 101-yard performance against Stanford, senior wide receiver Terrell Turner moved past Richard Dice for seventh place in Arizona history for career receptions. Turner, who has 124 catches for 1,439 yards in his career, is just 213 yards shy of breaking into UA’s top 10 for career receiving yards. He pushed his receiving TD tally to eight with a second quarter score against the Cardinal and stands four shy of hitting the career top 10 in the respective category. With a reception in each game this season, Turner now has a streak of 12-consecutive games with a catch. He leads the team with 30 receptions for 277 yards and three scores in 2009.
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 eight other players for second-most in a single game at Arizona, while the 138 yards were the most for a UA receiver in 2009 (until Juron Criner hauled in 152 yards worth of passes against Stanford). Roberts is the Cats’ second-leading receiver by reception tally with 27 on the season for 288 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 defenses to defend. Through six games, Douglas has 25 receptions for 267 yards, improving upon his freshman total of three catches a season ago. Douglas hauled in a pair of touchdown grabs – the first two of his career – in a seven-catch, 92-yard effort against Stanford. Combined with the above-mentioned David Roberts, the Cats have 52 catches for 555 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. Wright did play against Stanford last week, but his lone reception was negated by a penalty on the offense.
Unlucky 13: For some reason, UA receivers in recent seasons haven’t been able to reach the elusive No. 13 for single game receptions. The number is significant because no player has ever finished a game at Arizona with 13 catches. In 1996, Jeremy McDaniel eclipsed the mark by hauling in 14 passes for 283 yards (another school record). Since, UA receivers have snared 12 catches a total of six times. Bobby Wade hit the dozen mark in 2002, while Mike Thomas did so twice in 2007. A season ago, Rob Gronkowski caught 12 passes in a game at Oregon, while teammate Dave Roberts did so this year on the road at Washington. Juron Criner is the latest Wildcat to join mix, pulling in 12 grabs for 152 against Stanford. In all, eight single game performances have fallen one catch shy of 13 in UA history.
IN“T” Wade: Sophomore cornerback Trevin Wade snagged his fourth interception of the year and eighth in his short 19-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. 6 nationally with his four interceptions (0.6 per game) and has nine passes defended on the season. 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 36 tackles.
Golden is Golden: In his first year as a starter at strong safety, sophomore Robert Golden is coming into his own at the position. Brought into the program as a corner, the secondary convert has intercepted a pass in consectutive games, including a pick-six against Stanford in which he raced 79-yards for the opening score. It was the eighth-longest interception return in school history. On the season, Golden has 27 tackles and a pass broken up to go with his two picks.
Elmore Steps Up: With fellow defensive end Brooks Reed hobbled by an ankle injury in recent weeks, junior Ricky Elmore has stepped up play. Elmore leads the Wildcats with 5.5 sacks through six games, a mark that ranks fourth in the Pac-10 and No. 20 nationally. The pass-rush specialist has 24 tackles on the season, which is tops on the team for a defensive lineman.
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.
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 six 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. 23 in the nation. Keola Antolin leads the charge with eight returns for an average of 28.4 yards. But, Travis Cobb has filled in for a hobbled Antolin in recent weeks, and averages a nifty 24.0 yards per return. Against NAU, Terrell Turner returned his first career kickoff a season-long 49 yards. On the flip side, UA has limited opponents to just 21.4 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.
Kicking 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 10-for-12 (.833), within reach of Jason Bondzio's school record of .875 (14-16), posted last year.
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.
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. To date, the Wildcats have eight interceptions and, at the midway point of the season, are on pace to reach or surpass the 16-pick total of a year ago.
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: Arizona will spend next week trick-or-treating (or resting) as it enters its final bye week of the season over Halloween weekend. The Wildcats will remain at home to close out a three-game homestand with their annual Homecoming game on Saturday, November 7.
TOMORROW | 2:00pm PTLive
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