Cats Welcome Cougs For 93rd Homecoming
Nov. 2, 2009
Washington State (1-7, 0-5 Pac-10) vs. Arizona (5-2, 3-1 Pac-10)
Saturday, Nov. 7 | 1:30 p.m. (MST) | Arizona Stadium (57,400)
Live TV Broadcast: KWBA TV-58 (local), FOX College Sports Atlantic
TV Replay: FOX Sports Arizona (8:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 7)
Television Talent: Dave Sitton (play-by-play); John Fina (color); Glenn Howell (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: XM 195, SIRIUS 213
Series Fast Facts:
All-Time Series: UA leads, 23-13
Current Streak: UA has won three consecutive games
First Meeting: October 5, 1962 at Spokane, Wash. (WSU 7, UA 2)
Last Meeting: Nov. 8, 2008 at Pullman, Wash. (UA 59, WSU 28)
Some Game Themes: Arizona tests its development of a national reputation, entering a game ranked for the first time in nine years, coincidentally against the same school it beat in its last win as a ranked team... UA matches its highly rated offense against a club that's had some difficulty on defense... Arizona's Mike Stoops works to extend his five-game winning streak in Arizona Stadium... The Cougs return to league action out of the klieg lights after a nationally televised neutral-site tilt against the Fighting Irish... The Cats start their final leg of the year after an open date with five games in five weeks... Arizona checks whether the week off helped a number of players recover enough to play this week, notably running backs Nic Grigsby and Greg Nwoko and defensive end Brooks Reed... A pair of young QBs in the Wildcats' soph Nick Foles in his fifth career start and Cougar true freshman Jeff Tuel in his fifth career start. Only one other true freshman has been a starting signal caller for WSU and that was a guy named Drew Bledsoe... Mix-and-match with the big boys up front as the two clubs sport 17 guys who have started on their offensive lines this year... The Cats try to make it four in a row over the Cougs, who in turn work for their first league victory of the year and try to snap a five-game losing skid... It's the 93rd Homecoming weekend on the Arizona campus...
The Coaches: This week is yet another match of defensive-offensive backgrounds… Arizona, Mike Stoops, 47, (Iowa '86), sixth year at Arizona (30-36) 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 19-26 in Pac-10 games and a 10-9 slate in non-conference games.. His teams are 20-17 in home games and 10-19 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. WSU, Paul Wulff, 42, (WSU ’90), 2nd year at WSU (3-18), 10th year overall as a head coach (58-69 plus). Wulff was head coach at Eastern Washington from 2000 to 2007 and had seven earlier seasons in Cheney as offensive coordinator (1998-99) and offensive line and strength coach. He was a four-year letterwinner as WSU’s starting center (1986-89). He played under three head coaches in Jim Walden, Dennis Erickson and Mike Price.
Last Week: Arizona enjoyed its second bye week of the season Oct. 31... On Oct. 24 in Tucson, the Cats overcame five turnovers to otherwise put a convincing victory to bed against UCLA, 27-13. The Cats had a two-to-one margin in total offense, 10 more minutes in time of possession, four sacks to none, only two penalties and ran 81 plays. UCLA did not score an offensive touchdown, earning its only TD on a return of an incomplete pass ruled a lateral. UA quarterback Nick Foles, under the weather, showed it with a modest game (by his earlier standards) in completing 22 of 34 passes for 247 yards and two touchdowns, but suffering three interceptions (two of those off tipped balls). The UA defense held UCLA to 65 rushing yards and 211 total yards, plus helped force the Bruins into trying three different quarterbacks, none of whom enjoyed much success. Still, Tony Dye's 28-yard fumble recovery for the score brought UCLA within seven points, 20-13, with 5:20 left in the third period. UA answered five minutes later for its and the game's final score. The Cats held UCLA to 55 fourth-quarter yards and ran the ball 14 times in the period to help run down the clock. The Bruins scored all their points off UA turnovers, with kicker Kai Forbath knocking home two field goals off two other UA miscues. UA also capitalized, however, notching 14 points after two Bruin fumbles. No Arizona possession lasted longer than four and half minutes, with three of the four scoring drives taking six plays or less. Individually, Arizona safety Cam Nelson made the most of six tackles, with two sacks, two forced fumbles and a pass breakup, with both fumbles-caused leading to Arizona touchdowns. Linebacker Xavier Kelley led all tacklers with 10. The Cats had 209 rushing yards with a stable of runners chipping in, led by backup RB Keola Antolin with 77, while receivers Delashaun Dean (3-46), Juron Criner (3-39) and Terrell Turner (2-14) used sweeps to add a combined 98 markers. Turner had five receptions while Criner (two for scores) and Dean added four each. Arizona converted nine of 16 third-down plays and did not give up a sack for the second consecutive game.
Cats in the Polls: On Oct. 25, the Cats joined the AP Top 25 poll for the first time since the 2000 season, at No. 23. This week the Cats are 21 in AP and 19 in the USA Today coaches poll. UA was last ranked at No. 24 (AP) on Oct. 22, 2000, but lost to UCLA, 27-24, to drop out of the polls. UA stayed unranked for 104 games until the victory over UCLA brought the Cats back into some national limelight. UA checked in at No. 22 two weeks ago in the first BCS rankings of the season. Arizona in the 2009 polls:
Oct. 18 – No. 22, BCS
Oct. 25 – No. 23 AP, No. 24 USA Today, No. 20 BCS
Nov. 1 – No. 21 AP, No. 19 USA Today, No. 18 BCS
Running through Hoops: The last time the Arizona football team was ranked while the men’s basketball team was NOT was in January 1987 when Larry Smith’s Wildcats wrapped up a 9-3 season with a 30-21 victory over North Carolina in the Aloha Bowl to finish No. 11 in the final AP poll. (A few days later Smith left Tucson for the head coaching position at USC). Meantime, Lute Olson’s fourth UA basketball squad – without injured guard Steve Kerr – was 5-3 en route to an NCAA tourney berth and an 18-12 year. The hoops squad was ranked No. 1 a year later and stayed in the rankings until the end of December 2007.
Late Season Success: Mike Stoops’ Wildcats have enjoyed a nice run of success in the months of November and December since his arrival in 2004. A career record of 30-36 includes an impressive 11-7 mark in the final two months of the season. Over the last three seasons, Arizona is 8-4 in such late-season games. But, perhaps most impressive, the Wildcats are 6-2 against ranked teams in November/December showdowns, , which includes last year’s Las Vegas Bowl win over BYU last December. This year, the Wildcats enter November with a national ranking of their own and start a crucial stretch of games against the un-ranked Washington State Cougars. After that, a pair of teams could be ranked at the time of the game – California and Oregon – before the Thanksgiving weekend rivalry game against Arizona State. To top off the difficult closing schedule, the Wildcats face USC in a rare regular season finale matchup. Stoops’ teams have been building toward the position they are in this year: playing meaningful football into November and December.
Cats in the Pac: Arizona’s 3-1 mark in the Pac-10 to date gives it 11 victories in the last 17 conference games, dating to the last four games of the 2007 season. That 11-6 record (0.647 winning percentage) is impressive by itself, but, even in the Wildcats’ six losses, they have been just a few plays away from winning. UA has lost four of the six games by three points or less and by a total of 26 points (average of 4.3 per game).
Strength of Schedule: The NCAA rates the Wildcats’ schedule as the ninth-toughest in the nation based on cumulative opposition. Through last Saturday’s action, Arizona’s previous opponents have a combined record of 35-16, paced by highly-ranked Iowa’s 8-0 mark as it leads the Big Ten. UA’s next five opponents have a combined record of 24-16, yielding a cumulative opposition record of 59-32 for the season. Surely the difficult schedule to date has put UA in a favorable situation with the computers, which are factored into the BCS ratings. Should the Cats find ways to keep winning, that computer score is sure to remain strong throughout the season as a difficult set of games looms ahead throughout November and the first week of December.
Balancing Act: Arizona enters Homecoming week ranked No. 14 in the FBS in total offense (445 yards per game) and No. 26 in total defense (315 ypg). UA doesn’t rate in the Top 20 in either rushing or passing, but the overall ability to move the ball pushes the total offense figure into the top 15. Defensively the ranking is weighted more by the Cats’ rushing defense, No. 17 in allowing 101 yards per game.
Total Package: The Wildcats are one of seven teams to rank in the national Top 30 in both the total offense and total defense categories. Arizona is gaining a conference-best 445 yards per game, while yielding just 315 yards per game. The other six teams to place in the Top 30 of each category are TCU (8-0), Florida (8-0), Penn State (8-1), Boise State (8-0), Oklahoma (5-3) and Cincinnati (8-0). Including the Cats, those teams are a combined 50-6 on the season. Pretty good company to be in.
Ground Control: Arizona ranks in the Top 30 nationally in both rushing offense and rushing defense. The Cats are rushing for 188 yards per game, while limiting opposing teams to just 101 markers per game. That puts UA in some pretty elite company as only eight other teams can claim a spot in the offensive and defensive Top 30 charts. Florida (8-0), TCU (8-0), Alabama (8-0), Northern Illinois (5-3), California (6-2), Wisconsin (6-2), Ohio State (7-2) and Boise State (8-0) are the other teams. Combined with UA’s 5-2 record, the nine teams are a cumulative 61-11 on the season. Obviously, teams that can control the ground game consistently over the course of the season should be in good shape in the end.
R & R: The Wildcats are coming off their second and final bye week of the 2009 season. The byes came at conveniently placed points in the season and allowed the Wildcats to heal up physically following some tough stretches of games. Surely the toughest – and longest – stretch is to come. UA began the season playing four straight games, then played a three-game chunk of games before the most recent bye. Now, a season-defining five-game stretch will close the season, with three of five games away from Arizona Stadium. But taking it one game at a time, recent history could bode well for the Wildcats this week. UA is 6-2 in its last eight games played after a layoff of more than a week. That includes the heart-breaking and controversial 36-33 loss at Washington this September and a 28-14 loss to Arizona State to conclude the 2007 season. Otherwise, Arizona defeated Washington, Washington State and Arizona State after mid-season byes a year ago, and knocked off BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl after a two-week layoff. In 2007, UA upset then-No. 2 Oregon in Tucson on a Thursday night after a bye week, and in 2006 the Cats defeated Washington State in Pullman.
Ball Control: On the season, the Wildcats are possessing the ball for four and a half minutes longer than their opponents (32:15-27:45). One of the contributing factors has been UA’s ability to move the chains on a consistent basis. The Cats have 160 first downs on the season and lead the conference with 22.9 first downs per game. That mark ranks No. 15 nationally and has helped UA run an average of 71.3 offensive plays per game, the top figure in the Pac-10. UA’s opposition has run an average of just 62 plays per game, another mark that leads the league (fewest opponent plays per game).
Staring at the Stats... Arizona's 2009 receiving title shapes up as a pick-em contest, with four guys within nine catches of each other and a fifth capable of big single-game numbers to put his name in the mix. Terrell Turner (35), David Roberts (29), Juron Criner (27) and David Douglas (26) lead the way, with Delashaun Dean (17) chasing. Turner's had a 50-catch year (2007) and Dean had 53 grabs last year, while the other totals are career highs for the guys. The Cats have made the best of missing injured tight end Rob Gronkowski's 47 receptions ('08) in the mix... Arizona is averaging 5.5 yards per rush, not far off the school-record 5.7 posted by the 1961 Wildcats (8-1-1 record). Bobby Lee Thompson (7.3), Walt Mince (6.3) and Joe Hernandez (5.1) helped build that one. UA's 2009 trio of Nic Grigsby, Keola Antolin and Greg Nwoko have combined for 980 yards at a 6.0 clip to contest the mark... There have been 32 opponent punts, but Arizona has returned only three of them, well under (0.4) the season low of 1.0 per game returned in 1966 with 10 in 10 games. Return specialist Bug Wright's early ankle injury helped create this one, with safe-catch David Douglas spelling him thus far. The next decent punt return will be the first, with Douglas spotted a 3 returns for -1 yards. He has a 4-yard long play... Arizona's red zone efficiency factor (25-for-31) is colored by a missed field goal, two goal-line thwarts on downs, an interception and two let-the-clock expire-possessions... The Cats are averaging 445 yards per game in total offense, compared to the school-record 472 posted by the 1999 team that set a then Pac-10 record with 5,663 yards and finished No. 3 nationally. That club was led by 1,643-yard senior tailback Trung Canidate, 1,422-yard senior all-purpose man Dennis Northcutt and a two-feature QB situation with senior Keith Smith and junior Ortege Jenkins, plus also had future pros Bobby Wade and Brandon Manumaleuna handling the ball, along with then-freshman fullback Lance Briggs. This time around it's sophomore quarterback and junior RB doing much of the damage... Pass Pressure: It was hoped UA could get more in 2009, and so far, so good. With 18 after seven games, the Cats are on pace for about 31 sacks in 12 games, which would top the Mike Stoops' era high of 27 in 2007. Add a bowl game and it's potentially higher. His five Arizona teams have averaged 22 per season before this year.
Flu Bug: The Wildcats have had their share of the pandemic known as swine flu, the H1N1 virus. According to Randy Cohen, Arizona associate AD for medical services, some two dozen players (who will remain unnamed) have battled the bug in the past two months. UA's process has involved quick identification, cautionary isolation from teammates and prompt medical treatment. Missed games have been held to a minimum.
Homecomings to Come... University officials set the event dates for Family Weekend and Homecoming in the next two years: Family Weekend 2010 - Oct. 2 California game; Homecoming 2010 - Oct. 23 Washington game; Family Weekend 2011 - Oct. 15 UCLA game; Homecoming 2011 - Nov. 5 WSU game.
The 40 Club: Arizona has six veteran seniors -- all defenders -- who have played in 40 or more games, led by safety Cam Nelson and nickelback Corey Hall with 44 GPs apiece. Cornerback Devin Ross (43), linebacker Xavier Kelley (43), tackle Earl Mitchell (43) and tackle Donald Horton (40). Nelson (32) and Mitchell (31) lead in starts. They played as true freshmen, as did Ross. Horton and Kelley already have their college degrees. On offense, senior receiver Terrell Turner leads with 38 games played (28 starts). Junior center Colin Baxter has played in 32 games, with 31 starts, ahead of his position predecessor and current reserve senior Blake Kerley (31 GP, 28 starts). A knee injury caused Kerley to miss all of last season, and gave Baxter a chance to shine.
Fun Foles Facts: Sophomore QB Nick Foles is making a run toward the single-season passing yardage chart, despite not starting in the first three games. He has 1,399 yards and No. 12 is Bruce Hill (1974) who had 1,814 yards... Interestingly, too, Arizona's single-season passing touchdowns chart is within reach of Foles, who has 11. Four other 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 147.55 shakes out in the top five if it held up, while his passing percentage of 72.3 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... Foles currently leads all FBS quarterbacks with a 72.3 percent completion percentage(0.3 ahead of Texas’ Colt McCoy)… 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.
Move the Chains: Arizona has converted 46 percent of its third downs this season, a mark that ranks second in the Pac-10. A big reason for that has been the accuracy of Nick Foles in passing situations. The NCAA’s leader in completion percentage at 72.3 percent, Foles has remarkably completed a slightly higher percentage of his passes on third downs. To date, Foles is 29-40 on third downs, a 72.5 percent mark. He has thrown for first downs 18 times on third downs and connected on three touchdown passes.
Home Sweet Home: The Wildcats have treated the home faithful to a run of 11 victories in the last 13 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 4-0 home record in 2009, including the Oct. 17 shootout against Stanford (43-28), has pushed Mike Stoops’ home record to 20-17 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 five-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 an 11-2 mark in their last 13 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 13-game span that dates back to the end of the 2007 season, Arizona has outscored opponents 450-229 in Arizona Stadium, or by an average score of 34.6-17.6. 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”: Ranked No. 17 in rushing defense and No. 26 in total defense to date, the Arizona “No Name” defense has taken a particular liking to playing in Arizona Stadium, shutting down some of the nation’s best offensive teams. In the last 11 games in Arizona Stadium, UA’s defense has held opponents to a paltry 177 total points (16.1 points per game). The Wildcats have allowed just 76 points in the second half of those games (6.9 ppg). Only two teams, California (27) and Stanford (38) have broken the 20-point barrier, and UA emerged victorious against both.
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 67-38 in the first quarter of games and 63-30 in the third quarter. Combined with the 2008 season, those numbers are even more impressive. UA has outscored opponents 159-100 in the first quarter of its last 20 games, and 191-84 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.
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.
Touchdown Trends: The 2008 Arizona Wildcats became the first UA team to score at least 20 rushing touchdowns and 20 passing touchdowns in the same season (33 rush, 24 pass) since the school joined the Pac-10 in 1978. This year’s squad could repeat the feat as UA has 12 rushing and 12 passing touchdowns to date. Interestingly, only eight UA teams (including the ’08 squad) balanced even 15 rushing TDs with 15 passing TDs in the same season. The ’09 Cats could join that group in the coming weeks.
Can’t Touch This: Arizona has given up just four sacks this year, and only one in league action (at Washington). The Cats’ 0.57 sacks allowed per game leads the Pac-10 and ranks fourth-best in the nation. UA’s impressive 5.5 yards per carry figure has also gained a boost to the limited number of sacks (which take away from rushing yardage in the NCAA). And certainly, Nick Foles’ nation-leading 72.3 percent completion percentage is a byproduct of the pass-protection allowed by the big boys up front. Considering there have been a number of players hurt up front and the line has seen four starting combinations, that's pretty good. It’s a credit to offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh and his troops for working hard together on and off the field.
Wide Backs and Running Receivers? Arizona uses various formations to get the ball in the hands of playmakers at speed, and has seen receivers contribute with more than blocking in the running game and running backs figure into the passing game. Delashaun Dean leads the way for the receivers with nine carries for 68 yards, while Terrell Turner has added five for 20. Juron Criner had his first totes of the year against UCLA and posted 39 yards on three carries. Others with carries this year include Travis Cobb (2-6), David Douglas (1-6) and Bug Wright (2-0). The receivers have 22 totes for 139 yards, a nice per-carry average of six yards, which is comparable to the team’s 5.5 average per carry. The Cats also have motioned RBs Nic Grigsby and Keola Antolin for positive yardage out of split formations. UA’s trio of backs – Grigsby (8-52), Antolin (8-27) and Nwoko (10-114) – have a total of 26 receptions for 193 yards. That’s nearly 7.5 yards per reception.
Right On, Juron: Sophomore WR Juron Criner has emerged as a big play threat for the Wildcats’ offense. He leads the club with 386 receiving yards and five touchdowns on 27 receptions. Most impressive, however, has been the significance of his receptions. Of his 27 receptions, 18 (or 67 percent) have gone for either a first down or touchdown. In addition to his five TD grabs, he has 13 other receptions on first down. Interestingly, he has been a popular target on first down. He has 15 receptions on first down plays, and of those, 10 have resulted in either a first down or touchdown. Four of his five touchdown receptions have come on first down plays.
Third Down Targets: While Juron Criner has scorched opposing defenses on first downs, teams have to pick their poison of who to defend on third down. The Davids – sophomores David Roberts and David Douglas – each have five receptions for first downs in third down situations. Veterans Delashaun Dean and Terrell Turner each have four grabs apiece on third downs which have resulted in first down Throw in catches Bug Wright, Greg Nwoko, Criner, A.J. Simmons and Nic Grigbsy, and there is a quite an arsenal to throw to on third down.
Movin’ Up the Charts: Junior running back Nic Grigsy, who has been sidelined at times with a shoulder sprain, continues to move up the UA career rushing charts. To date, he has 2,392 career rushing yards (446 attempts), which ranks No. 8 all-time at Arizona. His 20 rushing touchdowns are tied with Kelvin Eafon and Vance Johnson for fifth-most in a career. Grigsby is averaging a Pac-10 best 7.5 yards per carry in 2009 (on 71 attempts), which has pushed his career average up to 5.4 ypc. He has rushed for at least 100 yards in a game on 10 occasions in his career.
Flag Day: After just two penalties against UCLA, the Wildcats moved up to No. 31 in the NCAA for fewest penalties per game. The Cats have been flagged 5.57 times per game, the fewest in the Pac-10. The total is still higher than UA would like it to be, especially after the Cats were in the top five a year ago in being flagged only 4.0 times per game. The Cats have 39 penalties for 317 yards through seven games. In October 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.
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 now has 124 catches for 1,494 yards in his career, is just 168 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 13-consecutive games with a catch. He leads the team with 35 receptions for 332 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 half of the season. Against Washington, Roberts led all receivers with 12 receptions for 138 yards. The dozen grabs tied 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 29 on the season for 300 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 seven games, Douglas has 26 receptions for 278 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 55 catches for 578 yards from their inside receivers. Add in Bug Wright, who has recovered from a knee injury, and the Wildcats have a trio of dangerous inside receivers.
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 20-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. 7 nationally with his four interceptions (0.57 per game) and has 10 passes defended on the season, which is also seventh in the country. 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 38 tackles.
“Cam”araderie: A senior-laden defense includes free safety Cam Nelson, one of the leaders of the tight-knit unit. A two-year starter at strong safety, Nelson moved to free safety prior to the start of his senior campaign. The move seems to have paid off as Nelson checks in second on the squad with 44 tackles, including four for loss, and three sacks. He was named Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week following his six-tackle, two-sack and two-forced fumble game against UCLA. In the game against the Bruins, Nelson narrowly missed hauling in his first career interception.
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 intercepted a pass in consecutive games earlier this year, 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 28 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 his play. Elmore leads the Wildcats with 5.5 sacks through seven games, a mark that ranks fifth in the Pac-10 and No. 33 nationally. The pass-rush specialist has 25 tackles on the season, which is tops on the team for a defensive lineman.
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. Since, UA has found paydirt on the ground in four consecutive games.
Return Game: One of the area's the Wildcats have shown significant improvement from a year ago is in the kickoff return game. In 2008, 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 24.5 yards per return, good enough for No. 21 in the nation and third in the conference. 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 22 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 22.2 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-13 (.769), potentially 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 19 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, if they are going to surpass last year’s total, need to pick off – err, pick up – the pace.
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 hit the road for the first time in over a month as they travel to Berkeley, Calif., to take on the California Golden Bears.