Cats Prep for
Nov. 16, 2009
Complete Game Notes (PDF)
No. 11 Oregon (8-2, 6-1 Pac-10) at Arizona (6-3, 4-2 Pac-10)
Saturday, Nov. 21 | 6 p.m. (MST) | Arizona Stadium (57,400)
Live TV Broadcast: ABC
Television Talent: Brent Musburger (play-by-play); Kirk Herbstreit (color); Lisa Salters (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 (Wildcat Radio Network radio feed)
National Radio: Westwood One (John Tautges - play-by-play; Terry Donahue - analyst)
Internet Video Broadcast: ESPN360
Series Fast Facts:
All-Time Series: Oregon leads 20-14
First Meeting: December 4, 1937(UA 21, UO 7 at Tucson)
Last Meeting: November 15, 2008 (UO 55, UA 45 at Eugene)
Some Game Themes: A game of considerable import for the Pac-10 title, with Oregon a full game ahead of two challengers in Arizona and Stanford, with several different tie-breaker scenarios involved for each... Arizona sees how it handles itself under the microscope of national attention -- College GameDay on campus -- against a team that it beat in a somewhat similar situation in November 2007 in an ESPN telecast from raucous Arizona Stadium... A clash of offensive teams, with UO checking in at No. 6 in rushing and No. 9 in scoring while Arizona is ahead in total offense at No. 24... But two defenses aren't bad, either, with UA at No. 18 and Oregon at No. 22 in total D... Two running backs with elusiveness in Arizona's Nic Grigsby and Oregon's LaMichael James. The latter ranks ninth nationally with 119 yards per contest while Grigsby could be 100 percent after nursing a shoulder injury for five games... A passing quarterback in Arizona's Nick Foles against a two-way threat in UO's Jeremiah Masoli... Two teams that get after the quarterback, with UA 14th and Oregon 20th nationally in sacks. The Cats are led by Ricky Elmore (8.5) while Oregon's Kenny Rowe (7.0) leads the Ducks... The Ducks shoot for a third consecutive nine-victory (or better) season while Arizona works to set itself up for improving on its eight victories a year ago... Defense (Mike Stoops) vs. offense (Chip Kelly) in the head coach-pedigrees department... The Ducks have only a Civil War at home remaining after this one, while Arizona heads out on the road to Tempe for a Territorial Cup battle and then to Troy for the regular-season finale... The Pac-10 has six bowl affiliations and currently has five teams with seven victories; Arizona works to join the group and make it a done deal...
Last Week: Arizona made the control of its own destiny a no-loss situation by falling at California, 24-16. The Cats had a narrow lead at the half, 10-9, and a lead in the fourth quarter, 16-15, but couldn't come up with the culmination of a final drive. Then, to make things worse, UA gave up a 61-yard touchdown run to Shane Vereen to further dampen the spirits inside the final minutes. Even then, UA had a final minute to tinker with, and the ball near midfield, but couldn't move the ball. That was a refrain, as the UA's league-best offense came up with its second-lowest output of the year, 274 yards. The Bears, meantime, kept at it with kicking -- a field goal in each quarter by Giorgio Tavecchio -- and recorded three sacks against what had been the best pass protection in the Pac-10. Vereen's big late run gave him 159 yards on the ground -- twice the UA's team total of 73. The Cats punted a season-high six times, but had a season-low 36.0 average by Keenyn Crier to help give UC-Berkeley average field position at its own 40-yard line. That and good defense helped the Bears maintain momentum nearly from the onset. Eight Arizona penalties also hurt. The Cats were 3-for-3 in the red zone but didn't get there enough, limited in part by converting only three of 13 third downs. (Cal was 2-for-10, not much better.) But the Bears got the stop when they needed them and got Tavecchio's three-pointers frequently enough to put up scores. The loss put UA at 4-2 in league play, a full game in the loss column behind its next opponent, Oregon, but still kept some hope for a league title by virtue of one tie-breaker scenario that involves UA winning out. On the potential game-winning drive, UA got the ball to the Cal 25-yard line, and at 3rd-and-3, quarterback Nick Foles was called for an illegal pass after his first try bounced off a Cal defender and he caught it himself, rolled out and threw another. Oops.
Arizona-Oregon 2007 Flashback: In front of a national TV audience on ESPN, CB/PR Antoine Cason’s 100 yard night proved one key in Arizona’s rousing 34-24 victory over No. 2 Oregon on Thursday, Nov. 15. Cason’s 42-yard interception return for a score gave Arizona the lead for good five seconds into the second quarter, 17-11, and his 56-yard punt return for a score 10 minutes later capped a Wildcat 24-0 splurge in just over 15 minutes. UA took a 31-14 lead into the locker room, a bit of additional daze for an Oregon squad that suffered through the loss of quarterback Dennis Dixon to a knee injury 10 minutes into the game. He opened the scoring with a 39-yard run and through 20 plays under his direction the Ducks had 183 yards in total offense. Afterward: a whopping 77 more plays for a respectable 240 more yards but only sporadic success on the scoreboard. Cason’s interception, two others by safety Nate Ness and a fumble play by Cason and safety Corey Hall helped UA get four takeaways to thwart any UO continuity. Linebacker Spencer Larsen had 16 tackles to help make the point in the middle of things, three of those for losses, plus forced a fumble. LB Ronnie Palmer had 11 tackles to give that pair its first double-digit double of the year. Cason broke up five passes (of UA’s nine PBUs) to help make Dixon’s sub, Brady Leaf, ineffective with a 22-for-46 evening. On the other side of things, the Ducks’ feared sack attack reached UA’s Willie Tuitama just once, and he enjoyed a modest but more effective 21-for-39 for 266 yards and two scores – big catches of 34 yards by Mike Thomas for the Cats’ first score and 46 yards by Money Mike for the second. UA sacked Leaf three times and was credited for a sack on Dixon’s injury play. UO running back Jonathan Stewart was as advertised, pounding for 131 yards, but the Duck offense was that: predictable, without Dixon at the reins. Not to be measured by one player alone, Oregon did recover enough to draw within a score a 31-24 with just under eight minutes remaining, but the Cats had enough verve to put together the longest drive of the night -- 4:26 -- on 11 plays for 38 tough yards that put them in position for a 46-yard field by Jason Bondzio to cap the scoring and provide some cushion. It was JB’s second goal of the night, his ninth consecutive double-dip. In the end the Cats had enough offense (322) to score some points, had the special teams’ plays to boost that effort with more points, and had the defensive spine to notch another six and stop the Ducks when it counted. No one in the green helmets likely felt warmed by the 238 yards rushing or 463 yards in total offense.
The Coaches: …. The refrain in 2009: another defense-offense match of head coaches... Arizona, Mike Stoops, 47, (Iowa '86), sixth year at Arizona (31-37) 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 20-27 in Pac-10 games and a 10-9 slate in non-conference games. His teams are 21-17 in home games and 10-20 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. Oregon, Chip Kelly, 45 (New Hampshire '90), first year at Oregon (8-2) and overall as a head coach. Kelly was offensive coordinator for eight years at his alma mater prior to assuming that role for two years in Eugene as the heir apparent. The Ducks' version of his play-maker offense has produced points and yards in prolific numbers. His background includes two years coaching New Hampshire RBs and a pair with the offensive line, but he broke into the trade at as a defensive coach (DBs, OLBs, Special Teams at Columbia) for two seasons and as defensive coordinator at Johns Hopkins in 1993.
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 a 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.
House of “No Names”: Ranked No. 18 in total defense (305.1 ypg) and No. 20 in rushing defense (104.9 ypg), the Arizona “No Name” defense has taken an even better liking to playing in Arizona Stadium, shutting down some of the nation’s best offensive teams this year and in recent seasons. In the last 12 games in Arizona Stadium, UA’s defense has held opponents to a paltry 184 total points (15.3 points per game). The Wildcats have allowed just 83 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.
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 31-37 includes an impressive 12-8 mark in the final two months of the season. Over the last three seasons, Arizona is 9-5 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 entered November with a national ranking of their own and now, despite a loss at Cal, continue a crucial stretch of games. Next up will be a home showdown with 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 4-2 mark in the Pac-10 to date gives it 12 victories in the last 19 conference games, dating to the last four games of the 2007 season. That 12-7 record (0.632 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 34 points (average of 4.9 per 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 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
Nov. 15 – Not ranked
Total Package: The Wildcats are one of just three teams to rank in the national Top 25 in both the total offense and total defense categories. Arizona is gaining 429.2 yards per game, while allowing just 305.1 yards per game. The other two teams to rank in the Top 25 of both categories are TCU (10-0) and Boise State (10-0).
Farewell and Thank You: Arizona will cite 23 seniors prior to the Oregon game, their last home game as Wildcats. The group includes a baker’s dozen starters but all have contributed in one way or another. They are: defensive back Haig Abnous, long snapper Jason Bertoni, running back Nick Booth, offensive tackle Mike Diaz, H-back Chris Gronkowski, offensive guard Herman Hall, safety Corey Hall, defensive tackle Donald Horton, linebacker Xavier Kelley, center Blake Kerley, linebacker Sterling Lewis, tight end Tyler Lyon, defensive tackle Earl Mitchell, fullback Kevin Morris, safety Cam Nelson, receiver Brad Posten, cornerback Devin Ross, safety Brandon Tatum, receiver/snapper Sean Trowbridge, linebacker Vuna Tuihalamaka, receiver Terrell Turner, H-back/special teams player Orlando Vargas and long snapper Ricky Wolder. Corey Hall, Horton, Kelley, Kerley, Mitchell, Nelson, Ross and Turner were four-year lettermen. Bertoni, Booth, Diaz, Gronkowski, Herman Hall, Lewis, Tatum, Tuihalamaka and Vargas also lettered.
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 1,736 yards and No. 12 is Bruce Hill (1974) who had 1,814 yards and at No. 10 is Keith Smith (1999) who had 1,903... Interestingly, too, Arizona's single-season passing touchdowns chart is within reach of Foles, who has 13. 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 141.13 shakes out near the top 5 if held up, while his passing percentage of 69.7 would 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. 5 in the nation in completion percentage at 69.7… 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.
Chart Watchers: UA QB Nick Foles is one touchdown pass shy of tying Dan White (14 – 1994) for No. 10 on UA’s single season passing TD chart … Foles is also just 167 passing yards shy of the No. 10 spot on the single season yardage chart, held by Keith Smith (1,903 – 1999) … The sophomore already is seventh on the single season completions chart (175), and one more will move him into a tie with Tom Tunnicliffe (176 – 1982) for sixth-most … Senior WR Terrell Turner, who has a catch in 15 consecutive games, now has 136 in his career, which ties him with Jon Horton (1983-86) for fifth-most in school history. Next in line is ‘T’ Bell’s 153 catches … Junior WR Delashaun Dean has quietly moved into the No. 9 spot for career receptions at UA, hauling in 114 grabs. Five more will tie him for the No. 8 spot, held by Richard Dice (119 – 1993-96) … Junior RB Nic Grigsby’s next rushing touchdown will move him into a tie for No. 4 all-time at Arizona. Grigsby, who has 20 rushing scores in his career, is one shy of Ontiwaun Carter’s 21, set from 1991-94 … Grigsby ranks eighth on UA’s career rushing yardage chart with 2,392 yards, which is 238 shy of Clarence Farmer’s career tally (2,630 – 2000-03).
Overcoming Adversity: The fact that Arizona is still in contention for the conference crown at this stage of the season is a testament to the program’s depth and maturity given the amount of adversity the Wildcats have overcome in 2009. Among the issues the Cats have dealt with this year are … Losing All-American tight end Rob Gronkowski to a season-ending back injury prior to the season … The Wildcats played three consecutive road games, including trips to Iowa, Oregon State and Washington that spanned 7,116 round-trip miles and left UA without a home game for 35 days, the second-longest stretch in the nation … Arizona has trotted out five different starting offensive line combinations in nine games … Over 50 players have suffered from the flu, with only a handful missing games, but nearly all missing 2-3 days of practice time … Running back Nic Grigsby, who suffered a sprained shoulder on his first carry at Oregon State, has been in and out of the lineup since late September, missing two full games. After carrying the ball 49 times for 400 yards in UA’s first three games, he has since carried just 22 times for 135 times in the team’s last six games … Keola Antolin, the team’s No. 2 runner entering the year, suffered through ankle problems early in the season forcing redshirt freshman Greg Nwoko to assume the No. 2 duties. He did so admirably until spraining his shoulder against UCLA and has since missed nearly all of UA’s last two games … Junior wide receiver Delashuan Dean, the team’s top returner at the position, missed all of fall camp with a hamstring injury, then suffered a concussion against NAU and later injured his ankle at Washington … ’08 sack leader Brooks Reed suffered a high ankle sprain at Iowa in Week 3 and did not return to his starting role until last week at Cal … Not to mention, a controversial deflected interception at Washington and an unfortunate batted pass at Cal stand between UA and a perfect Pac-10 record to date … And lastly, UA entered the season having to replace the Pac-10’s all-time leading receiver in career receptions (Mike Thomas) and the school’s all-time leading passer (Willie Tuitama), along with a second round draft pick in tackle Eben Britton.
Staring at the Stats: The Wildcats need to move the ball to win. Duh. Facts bear it out, too. UA had a season-low eight first downs at Iowa and dropped a 10-point game, and had 18 at Cal and dropped an eight-point game. In the other loss, UA outgained Washington in yards, 461-256, and first downs (26-14) but also had more turnovers... Neither team in Arizona games seems to be turnover prone to excess. The Cats are even-up with 16 TOs and 16 by opponents. UA has error free against only WSU (0-2) and had more than the opposition at Washington (2-1) and against UCLA (5-2). The rest of the games were even... The Wildcats have completed passes at a 67 percent clip, better than the school-record team passing percentage of .646 spearheaded by Willie Tuitama last year... Senior receiver Terrell Turner needs eight receptions to hit the 50 mark, his career high as a sophomore in 2007... Should UO running back LeGarrette Blount return to action against Arizona, he'll test his superlative 8.3 yards per carry vs. UA a year ago in Autzen Stadium (9-75). That wasn't even tops in the game. Jeremiah Masoli averaged 8.9 yards with 10 carries for 89 markers. Of those 164 yards, 117 of them came on TD runs topped by Masoli's 66-yard scamper less than two minutes into the game... Arizona has more penalties and yards than opponents, a first for Mike Stoops' UA squads if it holds up. Arizona has a tenure-low 53 flags for 457 yards in his first year. Opponents averaged 83 turnovers per year in the five years; they have 42 penalties for 389 yards this year compared to UA's 52 markers for 436 yards with three games to go... It may not solely be former kicker Jason Bondzio's missing leg, but Arizona has gone for it on fourth down 17 times this season, making eight. Bondzio had 48-yard range, whereas current kicker Alex Zendejas is more comfortable in the 38 neighborhood, with all 13 of his field goals coming from 39 and in... An expected crowd of about 55,000 in this weekend would assure Arizona of a fifth consecutive season average above the 52,000 per game level, some 90-percent plus of capacity (57,000)... Sophomore cornerback Trevin Wade is seventh nationally in FBS rankings in passes defended at 1.33 per game (12 total). He has four interceptions. Senior safety Cam Nelson got his first career pick last week at Cal near the goal...
Threes-and-Out: Arizona is in the national top 20 and the Pac-10 leader in standard 3-and-out defense, playing tight enough to force 4.0 per game. Clemson is No. 1 in the FBS (5.8). UCLA and USC, at 3.7 each, also have shown a penchant for accumulating the quick possessions on defense... A derivative of it for Arizona is offensive time of possession. Stanford leads the league at 33:13 minutes per game, while UA is close behind at 32:48. Both those offenses are the only two in the league's top five in both rushing and passing.
Arizona Versus Ranked Teams: Historically the Wildcats are 37-89-1 against teams ranked in the Associated Press poll at the time of the game. Since Mike Stoops arrived at Arizona for the 2004 season it's played out to 7-15. Included therein are victories (8) over a ranked squad each year -- No. 18 ASU in 2004, No. 7 UCLA in 2005, No. 25 and No. 8 California in 2006, No. 2 Oregon in 2007 and a pair over No. 25 Cal and No. 22 BYU in 2008. Six of those (except WSU and BYU) came in Arizona Stadium.
Ps and Qs: Pass pressure by defensive end Ricky Elmore gives him 8.5 sacks, making him the Mike Stoops' era leader at Arizona. He passed fellow junior end Brooks Reed's 8.0 from a year ago. No other Wildcat in Stoops' six years has passed the eight mark. UA doesn't blitz often, so sacks have come from man-to-man action up front mostly since Mike and brother Mark arrived for the 2004 season. Even so, UA has 26 sacks on the season, a per-game figure of 2.94, which ranks No. 14 in the nation. One more sack will match the ’07 squad which tallied 27, the highest in the Stoops era at UA.
Can’t Touch This: Arizona has given up just seven acks this year, and only four in league action. The Cats’ 0.78 sacks allowed per game is second in the Pac-10 and ranks No. 6 in the nation. UA’s impressive 5.2 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’ 69.7 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 five 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.
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 16 rushing and 14 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 as early as this week with another scoring toss.
Three-and-Out: Not what you think. Arizona was in the AP polls three weeks -- No. 23 on Oct. 25, No. 21 on Nov. 1, and No. 18 on Nov. 8. The loss at Cal -- to a team that was No. 6 (AP) on Sept. 20 -- dropped UA from the rankings. UA did find its way into the BCS rankings prior to AP getting on board this year, debuting at No. 22 on Oct. 18.
East-West and Plenty of Mo: Senior defensive tackle Earl Mitchell has accepted an invitation to play in the East-West Shrine Game Jan. 23 in Orlando, Fla. Also in early November Mitchell was named the Western region male recipient of a National Academic Momentum Award from the Scholar-Baller program and the National Consortium for Academics and Sports.
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 91-41 in the first quarter of games and 70-36 in the third quarter. Combined with the 2008 season, those numbers are even more impressive. UA has outscored opponents 183-103 in the first quarter of its last 22 games, and 198-90 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.
Ground Control: Arizona ranks in the Top 30 nationally in both rushing offense and rushing defense. The Cats are rushing for 187.1 yards per game, while limiting opposing teams to just 104.9 markers per game. That puts among just a dozen schools that can claim a spot in the offensive and defensive Top 30 charts. Alabama (10-0), Ohio State (9-2), TCU (10-0), Oklahoma State (8-2), Florida (10-0), Wisconsin (8-2), Pittsburgh (9-1), Nevada (7-3), Louisiana-Monroe (6-4), Northern Illinois (7-3) and Southern Miss (6-4) are the other teams. Combined with UA’s 6-3 record, the 12 teams are a cumulative 90-21 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.
Strength of Schedule: The NCAA rates the Wildcats’ schedule as the 18th-toughest in the nation based on cumulative
opposition. Through last Saturday’s action, Arizona’s previous opponents have a combined record of 49-33, while UA’s
next three opponents have a combined record of 19-11, yielding a cumulative opposition record of 68-44 for the season.
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 nine games, UA has upped its 19.3 average
from a year ago all the way up to 26.8 yards per return, good enough for No. 8 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 20.4 yards per return.
Ball Control: On the season, the Wildcats are possessing the ball just under six minutes longer than their opponents (32:49-27:10). One of the contributing factors has been UA’s ability to move the chains on a consistent basis. The Cats have 205 first downs on the season and lead the conference with 22.8 first downs per game. That mark ranks No. 14 nationally and has helped UA run an average of 71.8 offensive plays per game, the top figure in the Pac-10. UA’s opposition has run an average of just 59.8 plays per game, another mark that leads the league (fewest opponent plays per game).
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 136 catches for 1,565 yards in his career, is just 97 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 15-consecutive games with a catch. He leads the team with 42 receptions for 407 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 33 on the season for 352 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 nine games, Douglas has 29 receptions for 300 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 62 catches for 652 yards from their inside receivers. Now you can also add in a healthy Bug Wright, who has nine grabs for 79 yards on the season since returning from a knee injury.
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 22-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. 17 nationally with his four interceptions (0.44 per game) and has 12 passes defended on the season, which is good enough for No. 7 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 50 tackles, including four for loss, and three sacks. Against Cal, he snared his first career interception and 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.
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 six 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.
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 13-for-16 (.813), potentially within reach of Jason Bondzio's school record of .875 (14-16), posted last year.
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.
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.
Sub-200: The Wildcats' defense has been a nightmare for opposing offenses, particularly when it comes to moving the football. In its last 21 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 10 interceptions and, if they are going to surpass last year’s total, need to pick off – err, pick up – the pace.
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 46 GPs apiece. Cornerback Devin Ross (45), linebacker Xavier Kelley (45), tackle Earl Mitchell (45) and tackle Donald Horton (42). Nelson (34) and Mitchell (33) 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 40 games played (30 starts). Junior center Colin Baxter has played in 34 games, with 33 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.
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: On November 28, Arizona will travel 100 miles to the northwest to battle intrastate rival Arizona State in the battle for the Territorial Cup, the NCAA’s oldest recognized trophy game. The game will be televised live on ABC with kickoff set for 1:30 p.m. at Sun Devil Stadium.