Cats Face Potent UNLV Football Team
Sept. 12, 2001
2001 Arizona Football Schedule/Results
Date Game Score Atten
A 30 at San Diego State (ESPN2) 23-10 28,386S 8 Idaho (Fox Sports Net Arizona) 36-29 44,250S 22 Nevada-Las Vegas# (KWBA) 7 p.m. MSTS 28 *Wash. State 7 p.m. MSTO 6 *Oregon (Fox Sports Net) 7:15 p.m. MSTO 13 *at Oregon State (Fox Sports Net) 7:15 p.m. MSTO 20 *at Washington 12:30 p.m. MSTO 27 *Southern California& 7 p.m. MSTN 3 *at California 12:30 PSTN 10 *Stanford% 7 p.m. MSTN 23 *at Arizona State (Fox Sports Net) 1 p.m. MST#Hall of Fame Game, &Family Weekend, %Homecoming
The Game - Arizona (2-0, 0-0 in the Pacific-10 Conference) continues a four-game home stand with its final non-conference tilt of the year at 7:07 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22, against the UNLV Rebels (0-2, 0-0 in the Mountain West Conference) in 56,002-seat Arizona Stadium. The game will be produced by Fox Sports Net Arizona for live broadcast on KWBA-TV (and KUSK in central Arizona), with Dave Sitton and Doug Plank calling the play. A crowd of about 50,000 is expected.
Some Game Themes - UA and UNLV meet for the first time... The Cats get a week off and search for renewed vigor, and UNLV has at least an extra day of preparations after a Friday contest this week... Arizona's emerging offense against UNLV's stingy defense... Can UA's defense recover from its porous showing against Idaho and stop a big-play Rebel offense?... Two narrow losses vs. bowl teams to open the year cloak the Rebels' true team quality, while Arizona has played combined 0-4 clubs... The Cats hope to open 3-0 for only the second time in the last seven years and sixth time in the last 15 seasons... UA wants momentum for the open of league play, while UNLV gets accustomed to the road in the second of six road games...
The Series -- Arizona and Nevada-Las Vegas have not met in football. The Cats played to a 104-67- 7 mark against Mountain West Conference teams, largely during their Border and Western Athletic conferences affiliations from 1931 to 1977.
The Coaches -- Arizona: John Mackovic (Wake Forest '65), first year at UA (2-0) and 14th season as a collegiate head coach (87-64-3). He became the first new UA coach to open 2-0 and win his first game since Jim Young did so in 1973, when Mackovic was UA's offensive coordinator. He has not coached against UNLV, but did face UNLV's mentor in an NFL game 16 years ago. UNLV: John Robinson (Oregon '58), third year (11-15) in Las Vegas and 15th year as a head coach (115-50-4). Robinson was 6-2 against Arizona while coaching at Southern California in two stints from 1976-82 and 1993-97.
Last Week -- Arizona played pretty good football for 49 minutes, cruising to leads of 29-0 and 36-7, then was reminded the game is a 60-minute affair as Idaho scored 22 unanswered points and used 272 offensive yards in the fourth quarter alone to change a runaway into a slim Arizona victory, 36-29. Arizona did a bunch of things right by accumulating 491 yards in total offense. One scoring play set a Pac-10 and school record on a 99-yard pass from Jason Johnson to Brandon Marshall. UA sophomore halfback Clarence Farmer netted his fourth career 100-yard game (in seven starts) with 118 yards and two scores on 18 totes. Halfback Leo Mills saw more duty and chipped in a 22-yard scoring run. Johnson completed 20 of 30 passes for 304 yards to become the first UA quarterback to solo over the 300 barrier in the Cats' last 43 games. For the second consecutive game he spread the wealth, hitting eight different receivers including a nifty 19-yard corner route to Andrae Thurman for a score. Linebacker Lance Briggs made nine tackles including three behind the line and forced a fumble. The Cats had seven sacks. UA was 3-for-3 in the scoring zone, all touchdowns. But place kicker Sean Keel missed a field goal and a PAT kick, plus had a PAT kick blocked, the UA was assessed 93 yards in penalties, an Idaho kickoff return of 33 yards and a 37-yard pass on 3rd-and-10 helped set up its first score, and UA couldn't stop the Vandals' subsequent momentum. UI's 29 fourth-quarter points was nine shy of the UA's one-quarter 'record' -- 38 by Southern California in the fourth period in 1928. UA emptied its bench, though, and improved to 2-0.
UNLV, Match-up Notes...
University of Nevada, Las Vegas: Enrollment 23,000... Colors - scarlet and gray... Conference - Mountain West... 2000 Record - 8-5.
The Arizona game is the Rebels' first Saturday game after three successive Thursday or Friday night ESPN affairs... Despite a combined four decades of coaching experience, UNLV's John Robinson and UA's John Mackovic have faced each other only one time, a 16-0 victory for Robinson's L.A. Rams over Mackovic's Kansas City Chiefs on Oct. 20, 1985... Both Mackovic and Robinson call the plays for their teams... Running back Joe Haro was listed No. 17 in Division I-A rushing after two games at 117.5 yards per game... QB Jason Thomas rushed for 103 yards in the opener... UNLV held Arkansas to zero third-down conversions on 15 attempts. The Hogs, who had 114 yards in total offense, scored the winning TD with seconds remaining after a bobbled punt snap gave them the ball at midfield... Three UNLV mistakes cost it 21 turnover points in the 37-28 loss at Northwestern. Receiver Michael Johnson had eight catches for 174 years and two long TDs in that game, while Dominique Dorsey returned a kickoff 87 yards but UNLV failed to score on the ensuing possession... UNLV tailback Larry Croom transferred from UA this summer and is sitting out 2001 to gain residency... Senior starting linebacker Shanga (Mike) Wilson redshirted at UA in 1997 before leaving the program in summer '98... UNLV offensive coordinator Rob Boras, one of the youngest coordinators in the country at 30, was an assistant under Mackovic at Texas from 1994-97...
Arizona Head Coach John Mackovic
UA's 26th head coach, John Mackovic (Wake Forest '65) assumed leadership in December 2000 and quickly demonstrated a professional and organized approach in assembling a staff, recruiting his first class and establishing the coaching processes for the 2001 Wildcat program. He won his first two games as head coach, becoming the first Arizona coach to do so since Jim Young in 1973 when Mackovic was an assistant in Tucson. He draws on 17 years' experience as a collegiate head coach, athletics director or professional head coach, and from 15 seasons in coordinator or assistant positions in the trade. Further, he has three recent years' experience in the media as a college football analyst for ESPN. The transition year has progressed extremely well and given Arizona a mentor with extensive offensive acumen and a strong network of colleagues in the allied professions. Mackovic took over for 14-year Arizona coach Dick Tomey and switched gears in placing a primary focus on the passing game and its contemporary derivations. That being said, Mackovic determined that UA's strong tradition of defense is a useful tool, and his vision of Wildcat football involves putting the same aggressive forces to work while UA attacks with the ball. It's a swell development for Arizona partisans.
UA's first two games of 2001 have demonstrated his play-calling ability and taste for unpredictability, such as the 1st-down, 99-yard pass play by Jason Johnson from his own end zone after a sudden-change possession against Idaho. It was the longest play in UA history and actually came off as de rigueur stuff. Arizona will throw the ball as advertised.
Mackovic, 57, carries a 13-year collegiate record of 87-64-3. He took three of his last four teams (University of Texas) to bowl games and has led nine teams to winning records with eight bowl trips overall as a head coach. In 32 years of coaching he has held three college head coaching positions and one top National Football League spot (Kansas City, 1983-86, 30-34-0 record), served as offensive coordinator at three different Division I-A schools and worked as an assistant under former Dallas Cowboys' legend Tom Landry. He has Arizona bloodlines as Young's four-year offensive coordinator from 1973-76, heydays for prolific Western Athletic Conference offensive displays.
He has worked with and helped to develop such noted offensive players as Arizona's Bruce Hill and Theo Bell, Purdue's Mark Hermann, the Cowboys' Danny White, Illinois' Jeff George and Ricky Williams of Texas. Moreover, his emphasis on the total student-athlete can be underscored by seven national academic/citizenship honor winners and nine overall first-team Big 12 All-Academic honors his charges earned during his most recent coaching tenure at Texas. Quite soon several UA players should join that list.
Mackovic is no stranger to honors. At Wake Forest as a quarterback he won the Atlantic Coast Conference Gold Medal Award and earned Academic All-America honors his senior year. Later at WFU as head coach in 1979 he earned Walter Camp Foundation National Coach of the Year, The Sporting News College Coach of the Year, AFCA District Coach of the Year and Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year. At Illinois where he also served as athletics director, he earned Big Ten Coach of the Year honors in 1988 and 1989. At Texas in 1995 he was Southwest Conference Coach of the Year and a national award finalist. In 1996 he was Big XII Coach of the Year by the Austin American Statesman after taking the Longhorns to victory in the inaugural Big XII title game over Nebraska.
Mackovic has endowed an athletics scholarship in the name of his daughter, Aimee, at the University of Arizona, just as a similar endowment continues in his name at the University of Texas.
Mackovic's Turnaround Tradition
John Mackovic has stepped forward at each stop along the way in his 17-year head coaching career, improving the program. For that matter, in his first stint at Arizona as offensive coordinator (1973-76), he was part of a staff which improved UA from a 4-7 club to successive 8-3, 9-2 and 9-2 seasons. At Texas, the Longhorns were 5-6 the year before his arrival. His six-year mark: 41-28-2 with three bowl appearances. At Illinois, the Illini finished 4-7 before he arrived. His four-year mark: 30-16-1 with four bowls. At Wake Forest, the Demon Deacons were 1-10 the year before he took over. His three-year mark: 14-20 and WFU's first bowl appearance in 30 years. At Kansas City of the NFL, he took over following a 3-6 mark in a strike year and led the Chiefs to a 30-34 record and their first playoff appearance in 15 seasons.
Cats Break Streak, Face a Few More
John Mackovic helped UA end an uncomfortable streak in the opener, snapping a five-game losing streak with the 23-10 victory at San Diego State. The next obstacle -- UNLV. Arizona has been undefeated in non-conference play only twice in the past 10 seasons -- the program's two historically best years (10-2 in 1993 and 12-1 in 1998). After the UNLV game UA will take on Pac-10 play, and enter that challenge trying to break a string of five league losses, and a streak of three consecutive Pac-10 home losses.
Arizona Game Captains
UA coach John Mackovic selects game captains each week. After the season annual captains will be selected as a team honor. Here are the captains to date: San Diego State: Brandon Nash, Malosi Leonard, Zaharius Johnson, Steven Grace, Eli Wnek. Idaho: Mike Detwiler, Lance Briggs, Jarvie Worcester, Lance Relford, Alex Luna. UNLV: TBA.
Greater Impact Player of the Game(s)
SS Brandon Nash earned the first Greater Impact player of the game award to be given this year by Wildcat coaches. He broke up two passes, was in on three tackles and provided a game-turning play with his 57-yard fumble return for a touchdown to give Arizona the eventual winning points at SDSU. Greater Impact award 2 went to LT Makoa Freitas, who anchored the quarterback's blind side as UA gave up no sacks against Idaho and amassed 491 total yards. Coaches cited free safety Jarvie Worcester as defensive player of the week and Lance Briggs as special teams player of the week.
Arizona has started the same units in both its games with only the dictates of formation or planned plays altering the mix. An injury to defensive end Eli Wnek shortly before camp began, then injuries to defensive ends Austin Uku and Fata Avegalio, have created a thin corps on the edge, but Alex Luna and Johnny Jackson have assumed starting roles with some aplomb... The starting inside linebacker spot beside All-Pac-10 performer Lance Briggs was won by redshirt junior Ray Wells, holding off senior Shelton Ross, who was slowed in camp with a quad pull... Junior DT Young Thompson started at San Diego State with 2000 starter Anthony Thomas working to reclaim a spot. Thomas contributed at SDSU State and started against Idaho with a one-half disciplinary benching of Keoni Fraser. Those three are a solid three-man rotation... Senior two-year letterman Anthony Banks, a contender at cornerback, missed much of fall camp and the opener while awaiting summer school clearance and though reinstated will serve a two-game suspension and be available for the league opener... Junior James Hugo's game experience has given him the edge at tight end over redshirt freshman Justin Levasseur, who had an outstanding fall camp and appeared to be close to No. 1... Junior Bobby Wade, seniors Malosi Leonard and sophomore Andrae Thurman are clear leaders in the wide receiving corps, but Gary Love, Lance Relford, Ricky Williams and Nick Fleury play... The offensive backfield appears in the hands of a five-man group with sophomore Clarence Farmer and junior Leo Mills the top two at halfback, senior Mike Detwiler the big-body choice at fullback, and redshirt freshman Tremaine Cox and sophomore Anthony Fulcher the versatile two-way options. Promising freshman halfback Mike Bell has not yet played... Redshirt freshman Ryan Slack has evidently won the kickoff chores over sophomore Bobby Gill, although the latter is ready for that chore or place kicking... Freshman DE Vince Feula is not academically cleared to play but may practice with the team...
Injury Report for UNLV
Defensive end Eli Wnek (foot fracture) is out. Defensive end Fata Avegalio (dislocated elbow at SDSU) is out. Wnek and Avegalio are likely to miss at least three more weeks. Defensive end Austin Uku (knee) is probable, after missing the SDSU and Idaho games questionable. Special teams player Danny Perry (knee) had surgery prior to the Idaho game after a camp injury and will redshirt 2001. Lost Potential Starts due to Injury: 2 (Wnek).
Rushing-Defense Tradition Returns
Arizona held its first two opponents to an average of 77 yards per game, good enough to rate No. 22 in Division I-A. UA held San Diego State to 41 net yards rushing on 29 attempts, an average of 1.4 yards per carry. Idaho used its fourth-quarter momentum to finish with 113 net rushing yards, only the fourth team in the last 14 games to eclipse the century mark. Idaho's Blair Lewis (110) is one of four backs to hit the 100-yard mark against UA in the last 15 games. Defensive coordinator Larry Mac Duff is back on the job after a stint with the New York Giants. One of his long-standing priorities has been stopping the run. UA's total defense success dipped dramatically after the Idaho game, dropping the Cats from No. 15 to No. 65.
Turnover Margin In Cats Favor
UA remained in the Division I-A top 20 (16th at +1.50) in turnover margin after recovering a fumble and intercepting a pass against Idaho. The Cats lost one fumble. Figures after Week 2 also put the Cats high in the NCAA rankings in turnovers gained (23rd) and fumbles recovered (4th). A week earlier UA recovered three San Diego State fumbles to balance a tipped-ball interception, plus blocked a punt for a safety. Brandon Nash returned a fumble 57 yards for a score vs SDSU. The interceptor at San Diego State fumbled on the return and UA recovered, in effect negating that turnover. UA suffered an over-the-head snap on a punt that was illegally kicked through the endzone by punter Ramey Peru to give SDSU a scoring possession at the UA 1 yard-line. The Cats' ball security and interception avoidance has been good, with a No. 17 national ranking in fumbles lost (1) and No. 20 in turnovers lost (2).
2001 Turnovers - Arizona 2, Opponents 5
2001 Miscue Points - Arizona 22, Opponents 14
Offensive Line Shapes Up
Arizona's starting offensive line is the group expected after spring, with starters Makoa Freitas, Reggie Sampay, center Steven Grace, Kevin Barry and Darren Safranek from left to right. The group did not play together last year. Much of that was because Grace (shoulder) missed 10 games and Freitas (foot) missed eight. Two departed seniors, center Bruce Wiggins and three-role guy Marques McFadden were bringing along youngsters like Sampay and Safranek. Sampay played center a year ago but has switched to guard because Mackovic feels Grace is a natural, and the best center he's ever coached. Key reserves are John Vorsheck and Brandon Phillips, who each have played at both games. Continuity in the front line will be a big key to UA's offensive success. Arizona's passing game requires a variety of pass-protection schemes that require some crafty adjustments by the unit from play to play.
Kicking Game Notes...
Place kicker Sean Keel has missed two field goals in three tries this year, yet tied his career-long mark with a 44-yard kick against Idaho. He missed his first 2001 field goal attempt at SDSU, striking the upright from 30 yards. He missed from 43 against the Vandals. He's 19 for 29 in his career. He had one PAT kick blocked and missed a PAT against Idaho... Punter Ramey Peru did a better job of getting some air under his punts in Game 2, kicking five for a 38-yard average and helping UA record a 37.4 net punting figure. That was a boost of considerable yardage over the rate in the opener when net punting factored at 31.7 yards due to 23 return yards... Two nice special teams efforts were hands-team recoveries of onsides kicks by Idaho late in the game... UA used a long punt return by Bobby Wade (58 yards) to set up a score against the Aztecs... Peru has stuck two punts inside the 20 yard-line and had two others inside the 25... Andrae Thurman blocked a punt at the goal line to give UA a safety at SDSU... The blocked kick hopefully renewed UA's effectiveness in that area. The team blocked two punts and three PAT kicks in 2000 and has blocked 43 kicks in the last 12 seasons including 2001...
Arizona did a decent job (8 for 16) in converting third downs against Idaho to push its season rate to 42 percent (13-31). Opponents have a 35 percent figure (11-31). The Vandals, however, eclipsed UA in first downs at 29 to 22, hitting a number of big plays before third down. Notes... In one of the team's better drives at San Diego State, the Cats converted four first downs after starting at their own 6 yard-line in the fourth quarter, eventually moving the ball into Aztec territory followed by a Ramey Peru punt which requred a fair catch at the SDSU 19 yard-line. The 10-play possession used 4:30 on the clock. While a ball-control effort, it used five pass completions by Jason Johnson for 46 yards, illustrating that UA's offense has evolved from its recent traditions of 'hold-em, and slug it out.' The pass from UA's end zone by Johnson for 99 yards and a score to Brandon Marshall against Idaho further emphasized the shift in priorities.
Spreading the Field
Arizona completed passes to eight different receivers in both games this year, the biggest single-game corps since the 1998 season opener. So far this year nine players have had receptions. It's a trend likely to continue because the Cats play about four other wideouts, backs and tight ends who are involved in the passing game. Leo Mills caught his first pass of the year vs. Idaho to join a group which includes receivers Malosi Leonard, Bobby Wade, Andrae Thurman, Brandon Marshall and Lance Relford, tight end James Hugo, and backs Clarence Farmer and Anthony Fulcher. Wade (10-114) and Leonard (10-105) lead the way in receptions, although Marshall's school-record 99-yard catch-run against Idaho puts him in the yardage lead with 3 for 116. He also leads with two TD snares to Thurman's one, and has a nice 38.7 yards-per-catch figure.
Sacking and Protecting the QB
UA had seven sacks in the Idaho game, its most since a school-record nine at UCLA in 1999. Lance Briggs and Alex Luna had one and shared another to lead the way. Luna, Johnny Jackson and Michael Jolivette had one apiece in the opener. Opponents have two sacks, both in the SDSU game. The latter is within parameters set by offensive coaches, who insist on pass-protection success of one sack per 17 passing attempts. Currently UA has allowed two sacks on 67 attempts. UA averaged 3.5 sacks by its defense and 3.7 sacks allowed by its offense in the 2000 season.
New Guys On the Scene
A number of players saw their first action in an Arizona uniform at San Diego State and against Idaho, both scholarship recruits and walk-ons. Backup quarterbacks Cliff Watkins and John Rattay were indoctrinated against Idaho. Redshirt junior Ray Wells started at inside linebacker. Redshirt freshman fullback Tremaine Cox had four carries in each game. Redshirt freshman DE Fata Avegalio saw action before an elbow injury at SDSU. Soph tight end Justin Levasseur has played as a backup. Junior redshirt guard John Vorsheck saw duty on offense. True freshman linebacker Kirk Johnson saw duty on special teams, as did redshirt freshman LB Pat Howard. Walk-on RS frosh Ben DalMolin has handled long snaps. Walk-on freshman Ryan Slack kicks off for the Cats. Other players with their first action may see their first action in the coming weeks including tight end Steve Fleming (RS frosh), defensive tackle Vince Feula (frosh)in the cardinal and kicker Bobby Gill (RS frosh), to name a few. UA's backup quarterbacks, soph Cliff Watkins and redshirt freshman John Rattay, also will be called on and their work under center will be their first career action.
Nation's Longest Rivalry Trophy Recognized -- The Territorial Cup
Arizona first played San Diego State on Sept. 25, 1931, beginning a solid long-standing rivalry. Still, Arizona and Arizona State officials worked over the summer to earn NCAA Division I-A designation for the 1899 Territorial Cup as the oldest trophy game in America, eclipsing the battle for the Little Brown Jug, awarded annually since 1909 to the winner of the Michigan-Minnesota game. Officials of the two Arizona schools are working to complete details for the awarding of the Territorial Cup to the winning school, a replica to the winning school's president's office and awarding of two later trophies in the series -- the Saguaro Trophy for the winning coach (since 1997) and a modern sculpture piece by artist Ben Goo which is expected to be awarded to the game's Most Valuable Player. That piece formerly went to the winner of the Big Game from 1979 to 1998.
Arizona Football Notes...
...Arizona's 491 yards in total offense against Idaho was the team's biggest total since Nov. 13, 1999, when UA had 500 even at Oregon State...
...The season is barely under way, so extrapolating two-game numbers is foolish -- but fun. Quarterback Jason Johnson's 20.5 completions per game puts him on a pace to break the Arizona single- season record of 193 completions set 35 years ago by Marc Reed. That was the 10-game era, and Reed averaged 19.3 completions...
...Johnson's 240.0 passing yards per game compares favorably to Arizona's school record of 236.8 by Reed in that same 1966 season...
...Johnson's .661 completion percentage is exceptional and in the season Minimum-200 Attempts category compares to Keith Smith's .575 figure in 1999...
...Believe it or not (considering UA has played football since 1899), the 21 completions by Johnson ( 21 against SDSU, 20 against Idaho, plus Cliff Watkins' 1) in the first two games were only six shy of the single-game team and individual record of 27 by Marc Reed against Utah in 1966... ...Johnson's 310-yard passing game against Idaho was the first over the 300 mark since Ortege Jenkins threw for 348 yards on Oct. 18, 197 against Washington. That's a span of 43 games...
...Arizona's 18 penalties in two games put the Cats on an unwanted pace to rival the school-record 9.6 penalties per game in 1999...
...Idaho's fourth-quarter offensive outburst (272 yds) gave the Vandals a total of 479 yards and dropped the Wildcat defense from No. 15 in Division I-A total defense to No. 65...
...Senior wide receiver Malosi Leonard has 10 receptions, already just one shy of his single-season best of 11 in 1999 and an amount equal to his 10 grabs last year. Mackovic said before the year he'd be a key to the passing game, especially with Jason Johnson's ability to find the open receiver... Tight end James Hugo caught four balls against Idaho and has the first five catches of his career in the two games...
...UA's Pac-10 Player of Week nominees - Defense: Nash-SDSU. Lance Briggs-Idaho. Offense: Clarence Farmer-SDSU. Johnson-Idaho. ST: Bobby Wade-SDSU. Ryan Slack-Idaho.
...UA coaches during games: In the pressbox -- offensive coordinator Rick Dykes, DL coach Marty Long, TE coach Jay Boulware, DB coach Steve Bernstein and GAs Jeff Rodgers and Terry Samuel. On the field -- head coach John Mackovic, defensive coordinator Larry Mac Duff, OL coach Charlie Dickey, special teams/ILB coach Scott Pelluer, WR coach Rob Ianello, RB coach Bobby Kennedy and student assistant Adrian Koch. The 2001 opener saw eight of them begin their Arizona careers -- Bernstein, Boulware, Dykes, Kennedy, Pelluer, Rodgers and Samuel. Mackovic was a coordinator at Arizona for four years in the 1970s, Mac Duff was coordinator for 10 years until 1997 and Koch is a four-year letterman who ended his playing career last season. Dickey, Ianello and Long were on UA staffs of recent years and have a combined 21 seasons of UA experience, plus Dickey was a Wildcat player in the early 1980s...
...Arizona football practices are closed to the public. Media may attend, though access by out-of-town outlets is subject to approval by head coach John Mackovic. Videotaping is allowed only in early individual drills. UA players are available for interviews by arrangement with the UA Media Relations office or after practice. Complete media policies are listed in the 2001 Arizona Football guide...
...Arizona has several key players in duplicate numbers. Starting defensive end Johnny Jackson and wide receiver/kick returner Gary Love wear No. 9. Kickoff specialist Ryan Slack and running back Chris Harris both wear 34.
Arizona Travel Plans
The Wildcats are in a four-game home stand and do not hit the road until Oct. 13. 'The schedule gives us a chance to build on a good thing,' UA coach John Mackovic said after the season opener, with echoed sentiments after the Idaho game. Arizona travels by air charter following practice in Tucson and typically does not hold walk-through or practices at road venues.
Arizona Position by Position, In Brief
Junior Jason Johnson put his strengths in view quickly in 2001, accumulating 61 completions and a nationally-ranked efficiency rating after two games. He hits the open man. After sideline charting for a couple of years, his relish for the game is exceptional. He's a keen student of Arizona's new offense and has a solid understanding of coordinator Rick Dykes' strategy and John Mackovic's play calling. Sophomore Cliff Watkins and redshirt freshman John Rattay each played in the Idaho game and have shown themselves to be capable throwers. Either one could be the guy in the No. 2 spot but Johnson's quick development has been a bright spot for UA.
Arizona has some superb tools here. Soph Clarence Farmer added 100- and 90-yard games to his growing list of accomplishments as what Mackovic calls UA's 'raging bull.' He's a big-play back who can beat people in various ways. Junior Leo Mills had a 282-yard all-purpose game a year ago and is rounding into form after missing spring ball attending to his personal commitment to higher education. Redshirt freshman Tremaine Cox has seen action and appears capable of helping at both running back positions. At fullback, senior Mike Detwiler has what Mackovic's calls the 'bulldozer' effect, while soph Anthony Fulcher offers more versatility. All of them can catch the ball, and will certainly get the opportunity to do so as UA's offense evolves.
The Wildcats go eight deep in the receiving corps and have used three tight ends. Eight different players caught balls in each of the first two games, typical of varying combinations in many patterns. Senior Malosi Leonard and junior Bobby Wade lead the team with 10 catches apiece. Soph Andrae Thurman has sparkled on special teams and also made some big catches. Brandon Marshall leads with two TD catches including a Pac-10-record 99-yard score against Idaho. Junior TE James Hugo appears to have wrested the starting role from soph Justin Levasseur, one of the surprises of fall camp. TE Peter Hansen, at 6-foot-8, jumps like the basketball player he is.
The top five from left to right gives Arizona a chance to have one of its best fronts in years. Senior center Steven Grace is as good a player Mackovic has coached at his position, says the coach. The return of junior tackles Makoa Freitas and Darren Safranek (2000 injuries, out in spring) made a big difference in fall camp. Senior guard Kevin Barry is an accomplished UA letterman. Soph guard Reggie Sampay was thrown into the fire as a true freshman center a year ago and is miles ahead of many his age simply because of a rugged Pac-10 indoctrination. Reserves in junior redshirt John Vorsheck (OG or OT), senior Dusty Alexander (OG) and soph Brandon Phillips (OT) should help. Good health among this corps could help Arizona bring back its record-setting production of the late 1990s.
The Cats have three proven players here, with seniors Keoni Fraser and Anthony Thomas and junior Young Thompson sharing rotation play through the first two games. One young fourth player, Vince Feula, is academically ineligible to play. Coaches may do some shifting around in the coming weeks to develop some depth here. Junior squadman Bobby Ramsey has been on UA's travel team for two years and saw action against Idaho. UA's gap-control defense relies on strength and power from the tackles. UA has started seniors Alex Luna and Johnny Jackson at end after senior starter Eli Wnek's foot injury prior to camp. Senior Austin Uku also missed the first two games and RS frosh Fata Avegalio hurt his elbow at SDSU and missed the Idaho game. True freshman Carlos Williams saw action against UI.
First-team All-Pac-10 returnee Lance Briggs anchors a deep unit. Junior redshirt Ray Wells earned his first starts, with senior Shelton Ross helping at the other inside spot. Redshirt freshman Pat Howard and true freshman Kirk Johnson also have played. At whip linebacker, sophomore Joe Siofele is a potential future star, according to Mackovic, while soph Matt Molina backs up there and has dramatically improved. Briggs led UA with 113 tackles a year ago and is nearly on that pace with 16.5 so far in 2001. Ross, the No. 3 linebacker a year ago, missed some practice with a quad muscle pull before the opener but is back at full speed.
Four returning starters and eight total lettermen in the secondary give UA a fine group of players. The group broke up 11 passes in the first two games. Soph Michael Jolivette intercepted a pass in deep coverage against Idaho and was Freshman All-American a year ago with five interceptions. Jermaine Chatman had his sixth career start in the opener, while David Hinton also played. Junior CB David Laudermilk also has game experience. Senior SS Brandon Nash is a team leader on and off the field, while Zaharius Johnson is a proven vet behind him. Nash returned a fumbled punt for a score in San Diego. At free safety, junior returning starter Jarvie Worcester and soph Clay Hardt each see time, with Hardt a frequent nickel back as well. Senior CB Anthony Banks, who has good game experience, was suspended but should return for conference play.
Arizona's special teams are manned by quick players, predominantly linebackers, receivers and defensive backs. The complexion of Arizona's place kicking performance in 2000 was colored by the percentage efficiency of Sean Keel (13 for 17, with two misses beyond 50 yards) and his continued improvement is expected. He's missed two 40+ tries and tied his career long with a 44-yard FG this year. Soph punter Ramey Peru kicked well against Idaho and helped boost UA's net punting figure. Peter Hansen has seven career blocked kicks but has yet to stuff one in 2001.
Arizona In the Statistical Rankings
Fumble Recoveries (4) - 4th NCAA - 1st Pac-10
Fumbles Lost (1) - 17th-tie NCAA - 3rd Pac-10
Rushing Defense (41.0) - 22nd NCAA 2nd Pac-10
Turnover Margin (1.5) - 16th NCAA - 2nd Pac-10
Turnovers Gained (5.0) - 23rd NCAA - 1st-tie Pac-10
Turnovers Lost (2) - 20th NCAA - 4th-tie Pac-10
Jason Johnson (143.9 effic) - 23rd NCAA - 3rd Pac-10
Jason Johnson (20.5 cpg) - 22nd NCAA - 2nd Pac-10
Academic Stalwarts - Brandon Nash, Jarvie Worcester, Eli Wnek, Malosi Leonard, Jason Johnson
...Arizona's top academic honors candidates include seniors Wnek, Nash and Leonard, and junior Worcester. In order they carry 3.76, 3.13, 3.01, 3.00 and 3.75 cumulative grade point averages while starting as college football players. Wnek's out with an injury but as active at every practice as a player on crutches can be. He and Nash earned 1st-team All-Pac-10 Academic honors, while Leonard and Worcester were honorable-mention picks. Wnek and Nash both earned degrees in May and are taking post-graduate studies.
WR, Bobby Wade, 5-11, 187, Jr., Phoenix, Ariz.
...Arizona's most experienced receiver, having played in 24 career games (20 starts) ... Has at least one catch in 23 of 24 career appearances, including 22 consecutive (which ranks 16th nationally) ... Three career 100-yard receiving games to his credit ... Led UA with five catches vs. Idaho and totaled 70 yards ... Also added his third career reception of 50+ yards vs. the Vandals ... Tallied five catches for 44 yards in the opener at San Diego State, and added 107 return yards (59 punt/48 kick) that included a 58-yard punt return ... Led the Cats with 45 receptions and 626 yards last season ... Should blossom under Coach Mackovic's offensive system ... Has big-play potential with 14-, 60- and 75-yards TD catches last year ... Has seven TD catches in his career ... Outstanding kick returner who led the 2000 squad with 981 yards.
PK, Sean Keel, 6-0, 200, Jr., Littleton, Colo.
...Enters the year on the Lou Groza Award Preseason watch list as one of the nation's top collegiate kickers ... A Street & Smith's Preseason honorable mention All-America ... Made 1-of-3 FG atts. on the year ... Equaled a career long with a 44-yard FG vs. Idaho ... Missed only FG attempt at San Diego State (40 yds.) ... Ranked third in the Pac-10 and 26th nationally with 1.18 FG/game last year ... Made 13-of-17 field goal attempts (.765) and 25-of-26 PATs (.962) in 2000 ... Made 9-of-10 field goals inside 40 yards and was 4-of-5 on attempts of 40-49 yards last year ... Has a career long of 44 yards at Utah in the 2000 season opener ... Connected on 18-of-26 FGAs in his career (.692).
OL, Stephen Grace, 6-3, 293, Sr., Honolulu, Hawaii
...Arguably Arizona's best offensive lineman and one of the finest in the Pac-10 Conference ... Allowed no sacks in the win over Idaho as the offense tallied 491 yards of total offense, the team's highest total since Nov. 13, 1999 ... Anchored an offensive line that first-time QB starter to complete 21-of-32 passes for 176 yards vs. SDSU ... Coach Mackovic has called Grace 'the best center I have ever coached.' ... Has recovered from shoulder surgery last year that limited him to just one game played ... Earned second-team all-Pac-10 honors in 1999 as a starter at left guard.
RB, Clarence Farmer, 6-0, 224, So., Houston, Texas
...A Street & Smith's Preseason honorable mention All-America ... Averaging 5.3 ypc in 2001 ... Topped 100 yards for the first time this season (fourth career) with 118 yards on 18 carries with two TDS ... Posted a strong 2001 debut, compiling 90 yards on 21 carries and a TD ... Scored UA's first TD on a nice 12-yard run and set up a second with a 27-yard scamper at San Diego State ... A powerful, bruising back that rushed for 666 yards and five touchdowns last year ... One of only two true freshmen running backs at Arizona to post three 100-yard rushing games ... Had three runs of 35 yards in 2000, including two for scores ... Named a freshman All-American by The Sporting News.
LB, Lance Briggs, 6-1, 230, Jr., Sacramento, Calif.
...Led UA with nine stops (8 solos) 2.5 TFL, one forced fumble and 1.5 sacks vs. Idaho ... Anchored a defense that allowed SDSU just 41 net rushing yards in the season opener ... Tallied 7.5 stops vs. the Aztecs, including one TFL ... The Pac-10's leading returning tackler with 113 stops ... A second-team preseason All-America pick by Football News ... A Street & Smith's Preseason honorable mention All-America ... Posted seven games with 10 or more tackles, his first on the defensive side of the ball ... Briggs' earned first-team all-Pac-10 honors last season.
CB, Michael Jolivette, 5-9, 178, So., Houston, Texas
...Collected his sixth career interception in the win over Idaho to go with 4.5 tackles ... Arizona's leading tackler in the season opener vs. SDSU with eight stops, including a sack (-6) and two PBUs ... A Street & Smith's Preseason honorable mention All-America ... A solid cover guy ... Returns after a freshman campaign that saw him tally 42 tackles and five interceptions (19th nationally) ... A second-team all-Pac-10 pick and freshman All-America as a wide-side corner.
QB, Jason Johnson, 6-2, 200, Jr., Puyallup, Wash.
...Continues to flourish in the Mackovic offensive scheme, as he completed 20-of-30 passes for 304 yards and 2 TDS ... He is UA's first 300-yard passer since Oct. 18, 1997, and he logged the longest pass play in Pac-10 and school history with a 99-yard TD strike to Brandon Marshall ... Completed 21-of-32 passes for 176 yards in his first collegiate start at San Diego State, and most importantly, led his team to victory ... Showed a strong grasp of the offensive by completing passes to eight different receivers ... Outstanding student with a 3.75 GPA as a business major ... Could be a strong contender for academic All-America honors.
The McKale Center Ticket Office is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (520-621-2287). Season tickets remain on sale until Sept. 7. Single-game public tickets range from $6 to $22. Arizcats.com offers online purchases.
Arizona Football On TV
The UA-UNLV game will be produced by Fox Sports Net Arizona for live broadcast on KWBA-TV in Southern Arizona and KUSK in central parts of the state. Three other games have been selected for national cablecasts, with others likely to be chosen by ABC Sports or Fox Sports Net.
Arizona Football On Radio
KNST 790-AM Radio is the flagship station for live Arizona football broadcasts on the Wildcat Sports Network. Brian Jeffries and Les Josephson call the play. Affiliates: KCTK-Phoenix, KVNA-Flagstaff, KBLU-Yuma, KTAN-Sierra Vista, KRLV-Las Vegas, KDAP-Douglas, KWRQ-Safford, KZUA-Holbrook, KIKO-Globe, KINO-Winslow. Internet broadcast: www.knst.com KNST also administers UA's Spanish broadcasts carried by XENY-Nogales and KXEW-Tucson, with Joel Bojorquez and Francisco Romero. KNST's broadcast is available by phone using TEAMLINE for about 10 cents per minute, by calling 1-800-846-4700.
John Mackovic Coach's Shows
Head coach John Mackovic's weekly radio and television shows are produced by KNST Radio, with host Brian Jeffries and the coach taping during 'Tuesdays in the Huddle With John Mackovic,' a public gathering at McMahon's Steakhouse at 12 noon Tuesdays. The radio show airs at 6 p.m. Tuesdays on KNST-790 AM and the TV segment is broadcast over the air at 9:30 p.m. Wednesdays on KWBA-58.
Mackovic's Weekly Media Gatherings
Arizona's head coach meets weekly with the media in McKale Center 106 to preview games at 1 p.m. Mondays. Mackovic will review games on Sundays in a 3 p.m. teleconference. (Call the SID office for information: 520-621-4163.) Mackovic is available briefly after practices. Mackovic will appear on the weekly Pac-10 Coaches Teleconference at 10:50 a.m. (PDT) Tuesdays. Media may call the SID office for the phone number and passcode. Contact the SID office for other interview times.