Cats Prep For Road Trip to Berkeley
Nov. 9, 2009
Arizona (6-2, 4-1 Pac-10) at California (6-3, 3-3 Pac-10)
Saturday, Nov. 14 | 4 p.m. (PT) | Memorial Stadium (67,500)
Live TV Broadcast: Versus Network
Television Talent: Ted Robinson (play-by-play); Glenn Parker (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 217; XM 195 (California radio feed)
Series Fast Facts:
All-Time Series: Tied 13-13-2
First Meeting: October 14, 1978 at Tucson (Cal 33, UA 20)
Last Meeting: October 18, 2008 at Tucson (UA 42, Cal 27)
Some Game Themes: Arizona works to stay in mid-November contention for the Pac-10 title... The Cats put a league-best three-game winning streak on the line... Two clubs that move the ball, with both above the 400-yard level in total offense… A match of Arizona’s 18th-rated rushing offense against Cal’s No. 27 rushing defense, while UA checks in a No. 11 in rushing defense against Cal’s 179-yard attack (36th)… Two teams that have shown they can get to the quarterback, with UA ranking 14th nationally in sacks to Cal’s No. 27 spot. The Wildcats put their No. 3 pass protection rating to test therein, having given up only four all year… Two teams averaging about 32 points per game and holding opponents to around 22… Questions about the availability of two of the league's play-making running backs in UA's Nic Grigsby and Cal's Jahvid Best could last until game time. Grigsby’s been limited since the Iowa game with a shoulder injury and did not play last week; Best suffered a concussion on a touchdown play against Oregon State and was taken off the field on a stretcher… The Cats try to get something done in Strawberry Canyon, where they’ve lost three consecutive games after winning three straight from 1998-2002… Mike Stoops’ team looks to win a fourth-consecutive Pac-10 game for the first time in his tenure…
Last Week: Arizona scored on each of its first seven possessions with bookend special teams plays of note setting the tone in a 48-7 Homecoming victory over visiting Washington State. At opposite ends of that spree Travis Cobb took the opening kickoff 95 yards for a score and Bug Wright took the first punt of the third period back 86 yards for a score. Those plays bracketed drives for three touchdowns and two field goals to put UA up 41-0. A 97-yard, 15-play, eight-minute drive to open the fourth quarter made it 48-0. Defensively Arizona held WSU to 185 total yards on a modest 42 total plays, limiting the Cougars to 18:41 in time of possession. The Cats helped do that by forcing eight 3-and-outs plus a 4-and-punt, all drives under two minutes in duration. On WSU's best drive, a 12-play, four-minute possession when trailing 31-0 in the second quarter, one of UA's five sacks in the game, by Xavier Kelley, caused a fumble the Wildcats recovered to turn back a 1st-and-goal opportunity for the Cougs. Ricky Elmore added two sacks, Brooks Reed came off his five-game injury hiatus to record another fumble-causing version and D'Aundre Reed got the fifth sack. Cobb and Wright combined for 246 return yards on five touches. UA used both Nick Foles (12-for-19, 136 yards and a score) and Matt Scott (10-91 rushing) quarterback, while backs Nick Booth (18-88), Keola Antolin (12-61) and Taimi Tutogi (11-50) helped at Arizona run for 295 markers. No punts, no turnovers, 471 total yards and 41 minutes in time of possession more or less underscored the afternoon for the Cats, who improved to 4-1 to pull to within a half-game of Pac-10 leader Oregon, and became bowl eligible at 6-2 overall. Arizona also benefited from playing plenty of people -- 65 players in all.
The Coaches: Another defense-offense match of head coaches... Arizona, Mike Stoops, 47, (Iowa '86), sixth year at Arizona (31-36) 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 20-26 in Pac-10 games and a 10-9 slate in non-conference games. His teams are 21-17 in home games and 10-19 on the road. The Wildcats have beaten a ranked team each of his first 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. California, Jeff Tedford, 48, (Fresno State '93), eighth year at Cal (65-33) and eighth year overall as a head coach. Tedford was an offensive coordinator at Oregon from 1998 to 2001 and for five years before that at alma mater Fresno State (1993-97) after three years as an offensive assistant in the CFL and at Fresno. He had a two-year juco career and two-year stint as the Bulldogs quarterback.
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 last month 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
Nov. 8 – No. 18 AP, No. 19 USA Today, No. 17 BCS
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 31-36 includes an impressive 12-7 mark in the final two months of the season. Over the last three seasons, Arizona is 9-4 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 continue a crucial stretch of games this week on the road. Next up will be a home showdown with (currently) nationally-ranked Oregon on Nov. 21, followed by roadies at rival Arizona State and USC to close. 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 4-1 mark in the Pac-10 to date gives it 12 victories in the last 18 conference games, dating to the last four games of the 2007 season. That 12-6 record (0.667 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).
Staring at the Stats: Arizona has gained 27 first downs three times this year and is averaging 23 chains-relocation per game... The Wildcats' balance might be seen most directly in this statistic: 295 rushing attempts, 282 passes... Arizona football games are not turnover prone affairs. The Cats and opponents have combined for 3.5 TOs per game and are straight up, 14-14, on the year. That even-Steven stuff equates to pretty much middle of the road status, with UA ranked 61st in the FBS with the .00 turnover margin... UA settled down somewhat in the penalties department the last two games (7 total) after a two-game spree with 17 against Washington and Stanford. Arizona-California games have witnessed some penalties of note. The Arizona record for penalties-both teams most, is 29 at Cal (15) in 1998, when the clubs were flagged for a combined (154 UC, 153 UA) 307 yards, also a school record... The Wildcats have had a game's worth of time of possession more than opponents, 54 minutes and 12 seconds, in the eight contests... In the last five games UA has given up one sack while reaching the other quarterback 17 times. That's about 90 helpful yards over that span... Sophomore place kicker Alex Zendejas is quietly posting 80 percent effectiveness on field goals, with 12 in 15 tries, all from 37 yards and in. Walk-on John Bonano took over kickoff duties three games ago and that's helped Zendejas focus on the point-possible kicks. Bonano did score a point with his first PAT try against WSU but is mostly a weapon on kickoffs, with seven touchbacks among 22 kicks... Quarterback Matt Scott's 91-yard game against WSU moved him into third on the squad in rushing with 261 yards. The yards come in chunks. He has a slight edge in yards per tote, 7.9, over running back Nic Grigsby (7.5)... Junior defensive end Ricky Elmore's 7.5 sacks make him the favorite to emerge as the Mike Stoops-era leader in that department. Fellow junior Brooks Reed had 8.0 as a sophomore last year (and has missed most of 5 games this year), while other top marks under Stoops are 6.5 by DT Lionel Dotson in 2007, 4.0 by DE Louis Holmes in 2006, 7.5 by DE Copeland Bryan in 2005 and 5.0 by DE Andre Torrey in 2004... Arizona let the clock run out on its final possession, burning some 40 seconds while at the WSU 9-yard line. Nice fellowship but also tweaked the Red Zone numbers, giving UA 5 scores in 6 trips for the game. Still, UA has scored 30 times in 37 trips with three such let-the-period expire possessions...
In Threes: Mike Stoops has had a three-game winning streak late in the year in league play in three of the last four seasons, with the 2009 one a live model heading into Berkeley. Narrow losses at Oregon State (10-17) in 2006, at Stanford (20-21) and ASU (17-20) in 2007, and at Stanford (23-24) last year prevented opportunities for four- or five-game winning streaks. Stoops' longest overall winning streak as Arizona's coach is four games including ASU and BYU to close 2008 and Central Michigan and NAU to open this year.
Balancing Act: Arizona's found a winning combination with a balanced offense and a resilient defense, and some specialty prowess. In what shapes up to be a hellacious Pac-10 title stretch, the Cats are first in sacks allowed, third in scoring, first in total offense, third in rushing, second in passing, second in total defense, second in rush defense, third in pass defense, third in sacks... And thanks to some bombs against WSU, Arizona is first in punt returns and second in kickoff returns. Those categories cover a lot of territory. Such ratings don't mean much with a third of the season remaining, but as trends based on eight games they're swell.
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 1,535 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 12. 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 146.92 shakes out in the top five if it held up, while his passing percentage of 71.4 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 is currently No. 2 in the nation in completion percentage at 71.43, trailing on Texas’ Colt McCoy (72.9)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.
Strength of Schedule: The NCAA rates the Wildcats’ schedule as the 13th-toughest in the nation based on cumulative
opposition. Through last Saturday’s action, Arizona’s previous opponents have a combined record of 39-26, while UA’s next four opponents have a combined record of 24-12, yielding a cumulative opposition record of 63-38 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.
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 91-38 in the first quarter of games and 70-30 in the third quarter. Combined with the 2008 season, those numbers are even more impressive. UA has outscored opponents 183-100 in the first quarter of its last 21 games, and 198-84 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.
All-100 Club: Arizona had at least three players gain 100 all-purpose yards for the second time this season with efforts against Washington State. Kickoff return man Travis Cobb (2-131, plus a reception) had 146, punt returner Bug Wright (3-115) plus a catch had 121 and running back Nick Booth (18-84) plus two receptions had 100 on the nose. Against Stanford Arizona had RB Nic Grigsby (101) and receivers Terrell Turner (101), Juron Criner (152) and Cobb (102). No Wildcat averages more than 84 all-purpose yards per game, but the Cats have six over the 50 level -- Grigsby, RBs Keola Antolin and Greg Nwoko, plus receivers Turner, Criner and Cobb.
Rose Bowl Drought: Now that bowl shakedown cruises have gathered steam, there’s been mention of the drought. Yet there is another feature to the dreaded “Never been to the Rose Bowl” label Arizona has carried since it joined the Pac-10 for the 1978 season; two other teams in the league haven’t been there since Arizona joined the pool of contenders -- the California Golden Bears and Oregon State Beavers. The Bears do have considerable Pasadena experience with eight appearances from 1921 to 1959, and the Beavers played in Rose Bowls in 1942, 1957 and 1965. But if one must pick on the UA, at least cut the Cats a tiny piece of slack with the haven't-been-there label. Thank you.
Get Me Re-Write: So goes the old newspaper saying (possibly an unknown concept for much of today's ether-driven media). In this case it's the note UA has carried for awhile -- its place among the top 10 list of schools that hadn't returned a kickoff for a touchdown in so many contests.UA's drought covered 136 games, and ended with the opening boot against Washington State when Travis Cobb sprinted 95 yards for a score. Cobb’s return ties him for the sixth-longest in Arizona history. He also added his first career catch in the game as a receiver, for a 15-yard gain.
Get Me Re-Write II: Entering the Washington State game Arizona was rated 120th in the FBS in team punt returns at -.3 yards per attempt. Then Bug Wright popped one for 86 yards and a touchdown, plus returned two others for 29 yards against the Cougars and Arizona zoomed to the top of the list at 19.0 yards per return and the No. 1 team rating in the land. Wright had not returned a punt this year until those plays against WSU because of a knee injury early in the season.
Special Teams, Indeed: Collegefootballperformance.com, which touts a scientific selection process, cited three Arizona players for nationally-rated jobs against WSU – kick returner Travis Cobb, punt returner Bug Wright and kickoff specialist John Bonano. Cobb and Wright had long returns for scores, while Bonano drilled six touchbacks on nine Kos and scored his first career point with a PAT after UA’s last touchdown.
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 eight games, UA has upped its 19.3 average
from a year ago all the way up to 27.5 yards per return, good enough for No. 5 in the nation and second in the conference. Travis Cobb leads the way with a 28.3 yards per return average, including a 95-yard touchdown return that ended a drought of 136 games between kickoff return touchdowns for Arizona. On the flip side, UA has limited opponents to just 22.0 yards per return.
Desert Swarms: At the top of the Pac-10 weekly statistics in rushing defense sit Arizona State (87.4 ypg) and Arizona (96.0 ypg). Not exactly real Desert Swarm territory, like the 1993 UA squad that held opponents to a Pac-10 record 30.1 yards per game, but in today's game anything under 100 is pretty good. In UA's case it's 11th nationally, and you know what they say -- if you can stop the run, you can win. Throw in some offense, like Arizona's league-best 13th nationally 448 yards per game, and you get some possibilities. The two desert schools are the only in the league to hold opponents under 300 yards in total offense, so maybe it's the air or the water... or just plain good defense.
Three and Out Notes: Offensively, the Wildcats are tied with Nevada for No. 4 in the nation in fewest three-and-out possessions (this does not include possessions that end in turnovers, scores, etc.) UA is averaging just 1.38 three-and-out possessions per game, a figure that trails only Idaho (1.0), Notre Dame (1.22) and Florida (1.33). At the same time, Arizona is No. 17 in the country in defensive three-and-outs at 4.0 per game. The leader is Ohio State (6.0), the school that started this list, naturally. ASU has a slight edge over Arizona at 4.1 per game to lead Pac-10 schools on the chart. The Cats are tied with Utah. The Cats hit the list after the eight three-and-outs they pulled against WSU.
Composure: After some early troubles Arizona has settled down to rate as the Pac-10's best in discipline -- fewest penalties (44) and penalty yards per game (46.4). It shows on the flip side, too: Arizona's opponents have only been penalized 39 times for 314 yards. Those are 10th in the league, although that doesn't quite compute. What it could mean is that when UA plays football games, the football part of it usually has more emphasis than the histrionics -- on both sidelines.
Pass Pressure: It was hoped UA could get more in 2009, and so far, so good. With 23 (for 141 yards) after eight games, the Cats are on pace for about 34.5 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. Ricky Elmore leads the club with 7.5 in eight games, while 2008’s pass-rush specialist Brooks Reed, limited due to an ankle injury since the third game of the year, recorded his first sack last week against Washington State.
Total Package: The Wildcats are one of just four teams to rank in the national Top 20 in both the total offense and total defense categories. Arizona is gaining a conference-best 448.6 yards per game, while the Pac-10’s second-lowest number at 298.6 yards per game. The other three teams to rank in the Top 20 of both categories are TCU (9-0), Boise State (9-0) and Florida (9-0). Pretty good company to be in.
Ground Control: Arizona ranks in the Top 20 nationally in both rushing offense and rushing defense. The Cats are rushing for 201.4 yards per game, while limiting opposing teams to just 96 markers per game. That puts UA in some pretty elite company as only five other teams can claim a spot in the offensive and defensive Top 20 charts. Florida (9-0), TCU (9-0), Alabama (9-0), Wisconsin (7-2), and Oklahoma State (7-2) are the other teams. Combined with UA’s 6-2 record, the six teams are a cumulative 47-6 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.
Ball Control: On the season, the Wildcats are possessing the ball for more than six minutes longer than their opponents (33:23-26:37). One of the contributing factors has been UA’s ability to move the chains on a consistent basis. The Cats have 187 first downs on the season and lead the conference with 23.4 first downs per game. That mark ranks No. 12 nationally and has helped UA run an average of 72.1 offensive plays per game, the top figure in the Pac-10. UA’s opposition has run an average of just 59.5 plays per game, another mark that leads the league (fewest opponent plays per game).
Move the Chains: Arizona has converted 48 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 No. 2 passer in completion percentage at 71.4 percent, Foles has remarkably completed a slightly higher percentage of his passes on third downs. To date, Foles is 32-44 on third downs, a 72 percent mark. He has thrown for first downs 20 times on third downs and connected on three touchdown passes.
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 45 GPs apiece. Cornerback Devin Ross (44), linebacker Xavier Kelley (44), tackle Earl Mitchell (44) and tackle Donald Horton (41). Nelson (33) and Mitchell (32) 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 39 games played (29 starts). Junior center Colin Baxter has played in 33 games, with 32 starts, ahead of his position predecessor and current reserve senior Blake Kerley (32 GP, 29 starts). A knee injury caused Kerley to miss the last two-thirds of last season, and gave Baxter a chance to shine.
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.
Home Sweet Home: The Wildcats have treated the home faithful to a run of 12 victories in the last 14 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 5-0 home record in 2009, including the Oct. 17 shootout against Stanford (43-28), has pushed Mike Stoops’ home record to 21-17 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 six-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 12-2 mark in their last 14 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 14-game span that dates back to the end of the 2007 season, Arizona has outscored opponents 498-236 in Arizona Stadium, or by an average score of 35.6-16.9. Additionally, Arizona won five home games in a season ('08) for the first time since 1998 and has done so again in 2009. Since 1950, the Cats have won five games at home 16 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 110 games in which they have scored 30 or more points. Their record in those games? An astounding 99-10-1. That record included a streak of 18 consecutive victories prior to the Oregon game in 2008 (55-45 loss), and UA is now 20-2 under Mike Stoops in such games following the 48-7 win over Washington State on Nov. 7. Arizona was 8-1 in such games in 2008 and is 4-1 in 2009.
If Not 30, Try 40: If Arizona's .900 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 110-4 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 twice (43 vs. Stanford and 48 vs. WSU), putting the season record at 2-0.
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 15 rushing and 13 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’ 0.50 sacks allowed per game leads the Pac-10 and ranks third-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’ 71.4 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.
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. Junior Delashaun Dean leads the squad with eight catches on third downs, while Terrell Turner and David Roberts each have seven third-down grabs apiece. David Douglas is next in line with six, and Bug Wright has three. Two of UA’s running backs – Keola Antolin and Nic Grigsby – each have three as well. Throw in catches Greg Nwoko, Criner, A.J. Simmons and Chris Gronkowski, Terrance Miller and Nick Booth, and there is quite an arsenal to throw to.
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.
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 132 catches for 1,542 yards in his career, is just 120 yards shy of breaking into UA’s top 10 for career receiving yards. He pushed his receiving TD tally to nine with a score against the Cougars and stands three 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 14-consecutive games with a catch. He leads the team with 38 receptions for 380 yards and four 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 eight games, Douglas has 27 receptions for 284 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 56 catches for 584 yards from their inside receivers. Now you can also add in a healthy Bug Wright, who has seven grabs for 70 yards on the season.
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 21-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 toed for No. 12 nationally with his four interceptions (0.50 per game) and has 12 passes defended on the season, which is good enough for No. 4 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 third 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 30 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 7.5 sacks through eight games, a mark that ranks second in the Pac-10 (behind USC’s Everson Griffin) and No. 17 nationally. The pass-rush specialist has 28 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 five consecutive games.
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.
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 three 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.
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 12-for-15 (.800), 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 20 games, the UA defense has held five opponents under 200 total yards in a game, the most recent being Washington State (42 plays – 185 yards on Nov. 7). 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.
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.
Pac-10 Players of the Week: Three Arizona players have been named Pac-10 Players of the Week this season ... Most recently, Cam Nelson was named the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week following his game against UCLA on Oct. 24 when he recorded a career-high two sacks and forced two fumbles, which led to UA offensive touchdowns ... Nick Foles was named the offensive POW for his sensational performance in rallying the Wildcats to a come-from-behind victory over Stanford on Oct. 17, 43-38. Foles passed for a career-high 415 yards in the game ... Devin Ross was handed the weekly honor for his defensive effort in UA’s 38-33 win at Oregon State on Sept. 26. The senior hauled in a game-clinching interception late in the fourth quarter and added 12 tackles.
Up Next: The Wildcats will return home to close out their 2009 home schedule in a Pac-10 showdown against the Oregon Ducks.