Cats Turn Attention to Territorial Cup
Nov. 23, 2009
State Farm Territorial Cup Series (PDF)
Arizona Football Game Notes
Arizona (6-4, 4-3 Pac-10) at Arizona State (4-7, 2-6 Pac-10)
Saturday, Nov. 28 | 1:30 p.m. (MST) | Sun Devil Stadium (71,706)
Live TV Broadcast: ABC (regional)
Television Talent: Terry Gannon (play-by-play); David Norrie (color analyst)
UA English Radio: Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries, play-by-play; Lamont Lovette, color; Dana Cooper, sideline)
UA Spanish Radio: 990 A.M. ESPN Deportes (Francisco Romero, play-by-play; Marco Rincon, color)
Satellite Radio: XM 193; SIRIUS 219 (ASU radio network)
Series Fast Facts:
All-Time Series: Arizona leads 45-36-1
First Meeting: 1899 (ASU 11, UA 2 at Tucson)
Last Meeting: 2008 (UA 31, ASU 10 at Tucson)
Some Game Themes: The battle for the Territorial Cup, recognized by the NCAA as the nation's oldest rivalry trophy game, dating to 1899... State pride on the line in the State Farm Territorial Cup Series, with the teams knotted at 2-2 after men's and women's cross country (both ASU), women's soccer and volleyball... Arizona works to snap a two-game losing streak and ASU works to snap a five-game losing streak... UA needs a victory to help its quest for a second-consecutive upper-division finish in the Pac-10... A match of ASU's national rating of 13 in total defense against Arizona's 23rd-rated offense... The flip side is UA's 26th-rated defense against the Devils' No. 91 offense... As was the case a year ago, the clubs work to punctuate seasons flavored previously by higher aspirations... Depending on outcomes elsewhere, the Cats really need a seventh victory for assured holiday plans in a six-bowl league... Arizona tries to win a second league road game this year after dropping its last two... Senior Day in Tempe... Whereas last year featured senior QBs of long-standing status in Willie Tuitama and Rudy Carpenter, this one features some sophomores who a year ago were relatively unknown to their faithful... For the Wildcats, the ASU game is not the final regular-season game of their year for the first time since 1986, when UA traveled abroad for a match against Stanford in Tokyo, Japan, known then as the Coca-Cola Bowl...
Last Week: Arizona played 60 minutes of what might have been championship football, but fell prey to Oregon's big-play offense in a couple of extra periods, dropping a narrow decision to the Ducks, 44-41, in two overtimes. Dropping, too, were UA's hopes for a chance at the Rose Bowl as Oregon, 7-1, moved a step closer to Pasadena and dropped the Wildcats into never-never land and a tie for fourth place. Normally a guy (Nick Foles) who completed 30 passes for 314 yards and four touchdowns could be considered to have fueled a winning effort, but the other guy (Jeremiah Masoli) threw for 284 yards and three scores -- plus rushed for 61 markers and three touchdowns. Advantage: Oregon. Both teams had 22 first down, ran 80-plus plays and gained 450+ yards. But the Cats missed a field goal and fumbled at the Oregon 1-yard line, while Oregon bounced in a field goal off the cross bar and picked off a tipped pass in their own end zone. Egad. Not the most endearing collection of moments for UA partisans on a nationally televised (ABC) stage. The red zone problems (4-for-7) helped cost UA victory. But the Ducks drove 80 yards in 15 plays to score the tying touchdown at the end of regulation, and also had drives of 74, 72 and 79 yards for scores. The Cats took a 31-24 lead with a quick-strike 71-yard pass from Foles to Juron Criner (his second of the night) with just under eight minutes left. In the first overtime first Oregon, then Arizona scored TDs (Criner's third) on passing plays. In the second bonus period, Arizona had to settle for a field goal and then Masoli passed for 23 yards and three plays later ran in from a yard out for the winning six points. UO's Jeff Maehl led all receivers with 12 catches for 114 yards (and two scores), while LaMichael James rushed 19 times for 117 yards. UA was led by Greg Nwoko (16-58 rushing) and Delashaun Dean (6-51) and Criner (5-93) receiving. Alex Zendejas hit a career-long 47-yard field goal as time ran out in the first half, but missed a 24-yarder in the third period that might have made a difference. After three quarters UA had held Oregon to 221 net yards, but gave up 233 thereafter.
The Territorial Cup: The Territorial Championship Cup was first presented to Tempe Normal School after its 11-2 victory over Arizona at Tucson's Carrillo Gardens Field downtown on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 30, 1899. That makes it the oldest rivalry game trophy in America -- compared to, say, the Little Brown Jug (Michigan-Minnesota 1909) or the Old Oaken Bucket (Indiana-Purdue 1925). Carrillo Gardnes was in a downtown park on a site south of the current Tucson Community Center in the Barrio Historico district, near South Main Avenue and West Simpson Street. The Cup has been registered with the NCAA and thereby sanctions the game as the oldest trophy game. Early origins of the piece are unclear, but the cup itself is silver-plated over Britannia base metal and was manufactured by Reed and Barton of Taunton, Mass., according to some reports, which also indicate it catalog price at $20. The lone inscription reads 'Arizona Foot Ball League 1899 Normal.' The Cup's whereabouts for the next eight decades also remains unclear until its discovery among items found in the basement of a church near ASU in the early 1980s, and then displayed in various ASU collections. In 2001, then ASU President Lattie Coor led the move to have it presented to the game winner. Over the years, the Governor's Trophy (1953-1979) and a 'Victory' sculpture by artist Benn Goo (1979-1997) were presented to the game's winner. The Saguaro Trophy, a bronze piece commissioned from artist Dora Perry in 1998 also has been in the mix, and now goes to the winning coach each year. The Most Outstanding Player in the game, named after the late sportswriter Bob Moran in 2008, earns the Ben Goo sculpture for his school's hall of fame. The Cup on the sideline at the game itself is a replica; glove-treatment transfer by curators -- if necessary -- goes for the original piece, which also is a hall of champions display artifact. The games themselves are not atypical of a state where the Territorial legislature awarded one city (Phoenix) the initial economic price, the state hospital, while the other town (Tucson) got the first state university. The games are competitive, territorial and a huge matter of pride. This year mark's the first year for the State Farm Territorial Cup Series, which 18 different sports will have the chance to compete in between the two schools.
Sorry About That: A look back at what a simple decade of the Big Game can mean... In 2007 and 2008, Arizona State victories knocked Arizona out of a bowl game, leaving it at home 6-6 in 2006 and 5-7 a year later. Last season, Arizona, already bowl-eligible, eliminated ASU's hope of a potential bowl bid dropping it to 5-7, while UA went on to win the Las Vegas Bowl. In 2004, Arizona's victory over No. 18 ASU spoiled the Devils' shot at a 10-victory season. In 2003, ASU's victory doomed Arizona to last place in the Pac-10 and its worst record in history -- but brought Mike Stoops to Tucson a few weeks later. In 2002, ASU's victory earned it a Holiday Bowl berth. In 2001, Arizona's victory punctuated ASU's worst season in then seven years. In 2000 the Sun Devils' victory cost UA a bowl game and possibly Dick Tomey his job, but didn't save Bruce Snyder's at 6-5. In 1999 ASU similarly kept UA at home at 6-6 while the Devils went bowling at 6-5. In 1998, Arizona capped its best season in history and knocked ASU from bowl contention. No matter what the records, someone looks back and says, 'Ouch.' This year, ASU is out of the bowl picture, but the Wildcats have secured bowl eligibility. A Sun Devil victory, however, could leave the Wildcats desperately in need of a win at USC to close the season to actually go bowling. There is plenty at stake here this week.
The Coaches: Arizona, Mike Stoops, 47, (Iowa '86), sixth year at Arizona (31-38) and sixth year overall as a head coach. The 2009 season is his 24th in coaching. He's tied for seventh on the Arizona career coaching victories list with Jim Young. Stoops took a 2-10 program and rebuilt the Wildcats into an 8-5 bowl champion last December. He carries a record of 20-28 in Pac-10 games and a 10-9 slate in non-conference games.. His teams are 21-18 in home games and 10-20 on the road. The Wildcats beat a ranked team in 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. Arizona State, Dennis Erickson, 62, (Montana State '70) third year at Ariona State (19-17) and 21st overall as a head coach (167-82-1). He has been Pac-10 Coach of the Year at ASU, WSU and OSU and coached two national champions at Miami. He is No. 10 in career victories among active college coaches. He's 8-3 against the Cats lifetime.
Fun Foles Facts: Despite not starting the first three games of the season, Nick Foles has quickly put himself on many UA single-season passing charts, while even inching towards some career marks: Foles, who has thrown a TD pass in all 10 games this year, has 17 on the season. That total is the eighth-best for a season at Arizona, but it also is just three shy of the No. 10 spot for a career, held by Bill Demory (1970-72) and Marc Reed (1966) who each had 20 ... Foles' 69 percent completion percentage would be the best ever for a UA quarterback should it hold up, narrowly ahead of Keith Smith's 68.5 percent marksmanship in 1998. The difference is Foles already has more completions (205) than Smith had attempts (165) ... Speaking of completions, the 205 he has this year already are the fourth-most in a single season at UA, while his 297 attempts are tied for ninth-most with Dan White (1995) ... Foles has a pass efficiency rationg of 141. 18, which currently stands as the fifth-best mark in school history ... Foles' 2,050 passing yards in '09 check in at No. 10 for a season, just 131 short of White's 2,181 in 1994 ... Just 48 more yards will push Foles into the top 10 for total offense in a season. He currently has 2,006 yards of total offense, trailing Smith (1999) ... 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.
Staring at the Stats... Arizona is averaging 248 passing yards per game, which would rank sixth in school history if it held for a season. A year ago with a veteran QB (Willie Tuitama) and a 1,000-yard rusher (Nic Grigsby) the Cats hit 244 passing yards per game, the current No. 6 on that chart... The 429 yards in total offense per game would be UA's third best in a season, behind the Dennis Northcutt/Trung Canidate/Keith Smith years in 1999 (472) and 1998 (444)... Arizona senior defensive tackle Earl Mitchell, named recently to the East-West Shrine Game and a winner of a national Academic Momentum Award, has some momentum on the field, with 16 tackles in his last two games including nine at California dn seven against the Ducks. The hits versus Oregon were all solos... The Cats got shut out of the sacks department by Oregon last week, certainly a function of Jeremiah Masoli's elusive explosive play. UA had a sack in every game to that point with a high of five each against the Beavers and Cougars... The Cats have converted 46 percent of their third-down plays, among the best in UA's Pac-10 history. The best was .484 in 1986. Sonny Dykes' offense converted at a .462 rate last year... Junior transfer Travis Cobb's 23 kick returns give him a shot at the school record of 28 set by Syndric Steptoe in 2003. Cobb's 26.5 KOR average isn't too far off the UA top 10 chart where Gary Kenley sits at No. 10 with a 27.6 average in 1962. The most recent inhabitant of the chart is Chris McAlister (29.5) at No. 7 from the year he won the inaugural Mosi Tatupu Special Teams Player of the Year Award in 1998. Cobb also in within a pop or two of setting the single-season kickoff return yardage record. He has 609 yards and the mark is 682 set by all-purpose freak Chuck Levy in 1991 on 27 returns. Oddly, Cobb could be one of the first guys to lead UA in all-purpose yardage (per game) almost solely off kickoff returns. He trails Keola Antolin by five yards per contest... Looks like Terrell Turner will hit the 50-reception mark with a couple of games left, and lead the club. he has 44. Five other players are bunched from 30 to 34 catches, with five more in the 10 to 15-catch range... One thing looks clear from game-by-game comparisons: if the opponent is patient, and successful, running the ball, UA has a tough time. In the four losses each opponent rushed for good gains: Iowa (133, 3.2 ypc), Washington (116, 4.8), California (178, 4.6) and Oregon (175, 4.7). In the Stanford and Oregon State games -- Arizona victories by a combined 10 points -- the opposition also hit the 100-yard mark (no small contributions by Quizz and Toby)...
Big Play Parade: Arizona had some money plays against Oregon in the three-point loss. Included were a 71-yard touchdown throw from Nick Foles to Juron Criner, a 41-yard run by Keola Antolin, a 34-yard reception by Bug Wright, a 32-yard kickoff return by Travis Cobb, a 26-yard catch by Cobb, a 26-yard catch by Delashaun Dean and a 22-yard catch by Greg Nwoko. That's 250 yards of goods in seven plays, 35 yards per pop.
Narrowly But Might as Well Be a Chasm: Arizona's four losses came by 10 points at Iowa, by three points in Seattle, by eight points at Cal and by three points to Oregon. Three of those clubs are this week's BCS rankings, topped by Oregon at No. 8. Mike Stoops' Arizona clubs last got whipped Oct. 6, 2007, in a 31-16 loss in Corvallis. Each of the losses since then has come by an average of 4.9 points.
Big Earl: One of the steadiest performers on UA's defense in 2009 has been senior tackle Earl Mitchell, an individual who excels in all phases of the program. In his second season as a starting lineman following his switch from FB/HB on offense, Mitchell has become a load for opposing teams to handle up front. On the season, he has 34 tackles, including 4.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss, and he has forced one fumble. In his career, Mitchell has 73 tackles, 6.0 sacks and 14.0 tackles for loss. As a true freshman in 2006, Mitchell debuted as a fullback/H-back, where he remained for two seasons. He caught 14 passes for 174 and two touchdowns on offense, and had four carries for seven yards. He has been selected to participate in the East/West Shrine Game in January and was also named a winner of the National Academic Momentum Award. The award is administered by the Scholar-Baller Program in conjunction with the National Consortium for Academics and Sports (NCAS). Mitchell, an interdisciplinary studies major from Houston, was named the male Western region honoree among 22 female and male student-athletes from 10 regions picked for the award.
Introducing Mr. Criner: Sophomore wide receiver Juron Criner has emerged as Arizona's top-big play threat in 2009, despite starting just three games. At 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, Criner has the size, strength and speed that makes him a mismatch for nearly any defense. He leads the Wildcats with 496 receiving yards despite hauling in 10 fewer passes (34 total) than teammate and Terrell Turner. His 14.6 yards per reception is tops on the team for players averaging at least one catch per game. But, perhaps most impressive about Criner's numbers is the fact that 23 of his 34 receptions (67.6 percent) have resulted in a first down or touchdown (8). His eight receiving touchdowns are twice as many as the next top target, Turner, and he has nine in his career. He and Turner, who also has nine, are just two TD grabs away from hitting UA's career chart, which begins with Vance Johnson at No. 11 (11 TDs). Junior tight end Rob Gronkowski, who is out for the season, is tied for seventh with 16 TD catches. Criner's '09 season tally for TDs is tied for seventh in UA history with five other players.
Century Club: The Arizona defense features four players with over 100 career tackles, paced by senior free safety Cam Nelson who has 192 career stops. Next in line is cornerback Devin Ross with 132, followed closely by linebacker Xavier Kelley, who has 131. Nickleback Corey Hall, a key defense player who has 12 career starts, has 107 tackles as a part-time player. Linebacker Sterling Lewis is poised to be the next Cat to join the club, as he is seven shy with 93 tackles.
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 despite back-to-back losses at Cal and against Oregon State. A career record of 31-38 includes a 12-9 mark in the final two months of the season. Over the last three seasons, Arizona is 9-6 in such late-season games. But, perhaps most impressive, the Wildcats are 6-3 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 pair of losses, continue a crucial stretch of games to close the regular season. While the Rose Bowl is now a goal for next year, the rest of the Pac-10's bowl destinations are on the table for the Cats. 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 4-3 mark in the Pac-10 to date gives it 12 victories in the last 20 conference games, dating to the last four games of the 2007 season. That 12-8 record (0.600 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 five of the eight games by three points or less and by a total of 37 points (average of 4.6 per game).
Chart Watchers: Senior WR Terrell Turner, who has a catch in 16 consecutive games, now has 138 in his career, which puts him alone at No. 5 in UA history. Turner needs 15 more grabs to catch `T' Bell's 153, which rank No. 4 ... Junior WR Delashaun Dean has quietly moved into the No. 7 spot for career receptions at UA, hauling in 120 grabs. Eleven more will tie him for the No. 6 spot, held by Syndric Steptoe (131 - 2003-06) ... 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 2,416 yards, which is 214 shy of Clarence Farmer's career tally (2,630 - 2000-03).
Zendejas on Point: Somewhat quietly, Alex Zendejas has turned in an impressive year for a place kicker. Zendejas has connected on 15-of-19 field goals, including a career-long 47-yarder at the end of the first half against Oregon. He's missed three PATs, but still has hit 33-of-36, giving him 78 points on the year. He stands 11 points shy of reaching uncle Max's 89 points in the 1985 season, which is the No. 10 mark for a single season for scoring (all players). His 7.8 points per game could mean he becomes UA's single-season scoring leader for a kicker if the average held up over the final two regular season games and in a bowl game. In 2007, Jason Bondzio became the first UA kicker to reach 100. Alex's 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.
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 17 rushing and 18 passing touchdowns to date. Interestingly, only eight UA teams (including the '08 and now `09 squads) balanced even 15 rushing TDs with 15 passing TDs in the same season.
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 91-48 in the first quarter of games and 77-36 in the third quarter. Combined with the 2008 season, those numbers are even more impressive. UA has outscored opponents 183-110 in the first quarter of its last 23 games, and 205-90 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.
Overcoming Adversity: Arizona's 6-4 mark this season is a credit to one of the deepest UA teams in recent memory, and that depth has been tested to the max this year. 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 10 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 26 times for 159 times in the team's last seven 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 went on to since miss nearly all of two games, before returning against Oregon ... Junior wide receiver Delashuan Dean, the team's top returner at the position entering the year, 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 two weeks ago at Cal ... Not to mention, a controversial deflected interception at Washington and an unfortunate batted pass at Cal stand between UA and a much prettier record ... 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.
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. Since, Turner has moved up to No. 5 with 138 catches for 1,584 yards in his career. He is just 77 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 16-consecutive games with a catch. He leads the team with 44 receptions for 422 yards and four scores in 2009.
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 No. 105 among all FBS teams. Through 10 games, UA has upped its 19.3 average from a year ago all the way up to 25.8 yards per return, good enough for No. 11 in the nation and second in the conference. Travis Cobb leads the way with a 26.5 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 20.5 yards per return.
Just What D.R. Ordered: Sophomore wide receiver Dave Roberts has emerged as a key weapon for the Wildcats in his sophomore 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 35 on the season for 365 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.
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 23-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. 25 nationally with his four interceptions (0.40 per game) and has 13 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 52 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 fourth on the squad with 58 tackles, including four for loss, three forced fumbles 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 seven 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.
30 Is (Usually) The Magic Number: The Cats' loss to Oregon in double overtime and their 36-33 loss to Washington on Oct. 10 was a rare one. Since joining the Pac-10 in 1978, the Wildcats have played 111 games in which they have scored 30 or more points. Their record in those games? An astounding 99-11-1. That record included a streak of 18 consecutive victories prior to the Oregon game in 2008 (55-45 loss), and UA is now 20-3 under Mike Stoops. Arizona was 8-1 in such games in 2008 and is 4-2 in 2009.
If Not 30, Try 40: If Arizona's .892 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 110-5 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 three times with a 2-1 record in those games. The loss? A 44-41 double overtime victory by Oregon. Amazingly, the Ducks also dropped the Cats the year prior, 55-45, in Eugue, accounting for two of the five all-time losses.
Sub-200: The Wildcats' defense has been a nightmare for opposing offenses, particularly when it comes to moving the football. In its last 22 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 11 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 47 GPs apiece. Cornerback Devin Ross (46), linebacker Xavier Kelley (46), tackle Earl Mitchell (46) and tackle Donald Horton (43). Nelson (35) and Mitchell (34) 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 41 games played (31 starts). Junior center Colin Baxter has played in 35 games, with 34 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.
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
Nov. 22 - Not ranked
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: Arizona will close the regular season with a trip to Los Angeles to take on the USC Trojans on Saturday, Dec. 5. Kickoff is slated for 12:30 p.m. (PT) at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum with a live TV broadcast on ABC scheduled to broadcast to a minimum of 51 percent of the nation.