Cats Return Home to Face No. 21 OSU
Nov. 17, 2008
Teams: Oregon St. @ Arizona
Kickoff: 5:07 MST
Site: Tucson, Ariz.
Stadium: Arizona Stadium (57,400)
Commentators: Ron Thulin, Kelly Stouffer, Lewis Johnson
English Radio: 1290 AM. and 107.5 FM (Brian Jeffries, Lamont Lovett, Pedro Limon)
Spanish Radio: 990 AM ESPN Deportes (Francisco Romero, Marco Rincon, Pedro Limon)
Please see Page 3 of the notes for Arizona’s radio affiliates.
OSU-UA Series Fast Facts:
First Meeting: 1966 (Oregon State 31 - Arizona 12 in Portland, Ore.)
Last Meeting: 2007 (Oregon State 31 – Arizona 16)
All-Time Series Record: UA leads 20-10-1
Streak: Oregon State has won last two
OSU-UA All-Time: The 32nd all-time meeting between the two schools ... UA owns a 20-10-1 edge in the 31 games played thus far, but OSU has won eight of the last nine meetings, including two straight ... The Cats snapped a series-high six-game losing streak to the Beavers in their trip to Corvallis in 2005, pulling off a 29-27 win in what was Willie Tuitama’s first career start as a true freshman … Despite dropping the last three games against OSU in Arizona Stadium (2000, 2004 and 2006), the Wildcats hold a 11-3 advantage in games played in the stadium.
Some Game Themes: Arizona takes on the challenge of facing the team with 'its own destiny' factor, an OSU squad that can win out and go to the Rose Bowl... UA, meantime, jockeys with others for post-season positioning... Arizona works to win seven games for the first time in a decade, while OSU works on a five-game winning streak... UA works to post its best home record in a decade and this is the first of two that can help chart that... On paper, which cannot address the emotional factors, it's an even match of teams that rush for 172 yards per game, pass for 240, score in the 30s and mostly play solid defense... The Beavs bring a defense that rates in the Top 20 in sacks and TFL, and Top 10 in pass protection... A possible game of pinball wizards in Arizona's Keola Antolin vs. OSU's Jacquizz Rogers, two of the best young little men in the game. Quizz is No. 9 nationally in rushing... Another pair of lightning rods in UA's Mike Thomas and OSU's Sammy Stroughter should help put some spark in the return games... Wildcat Willie Tuitama (142.41) and Beaver Lyle Moevao (134.11) bring some pass efficiency to the mix. The Beavers lead the league with 245 yards per game while Arizona is tough in that department ... Arizona will welcome nearly 2,000 service men and women from Davis Monthan Air Force Base as part of “DM Day”.
The Coaches: Arizona - Mike Stoops (Iowa '86), fifth year at Arizona (23-33) and fifth year overall as a head coach. He carries a record of 16-25 in Pac-10 games, but is 7-4 in the last 11 league games. He is 1-3 against Oregon State, with a victory at Corvallis his second year in 2005. The Wildcats have improved from twin 3-8 seasons his first two years to a current stretch of 9-6 spanning last year and this season. The Wildcats have beaten a ranked team each year under Stoops, including a No. 2 last year. and the Cats are 5-14 against ranked squads in his tenure. His recruiting ability and player-development emphasis has dramatically changed Arizona football since his arrival. Stoops was a UPI All-American defensive back at Iowa in 1984 and All-Big Ten his last two years in 1983-84. Oregon State - Mike Riley (Alabama '75), 8th year at OSU (54-41) and eighth year overall as a collegiate head coach. He was head coach for four years in the CFL, a pair in the WLAF and four years in the NFL. He spent two years at OSU in 1997-98 before his four-year NFL tour.
OSU-UA 2007 Flashback: Arizona refreshed its memory that playing well for portions of a game will only result in proportional rewards, as Oregon State's fast start doomed the Cats to a disappointing road loss, 31-16, in Corvallis. Just say that shutting down a team for the second half is swell -- if it already hasn't run amok beforehand. The Beavers warmed up with a four-and-out, then scored on their next four possessions, and tossed in a 49-yard interception return for a score somewhere in the middle of that to take an improbable 31-3 lead with all their points four minutes into the second quarter. Had they not been greedy -- engaging in a two-minute drill near the close of the half – UA cornerback Antoine Cason might not have picked off a pass and returned it 60 yards for the Wildcats' only touchdown of the game with 25 ticks left in the frame. UA came out in the second half and figured out a way to hold OSU to 44 yards of total offense in the final 30 minutes and hold a team scoreless in the second half for the first time in 2007. (Of course, OSU didn't need points or yards by then, and played accordingly). But after a field goal drive set up by senior defensive end Jason Parker's first career interception, UA couldn't figure out a way to nullify OSU's defensive front. The Beavers notched eight sacks of UA quarterback Willie Tuitama to subtract 75 yards and pin the Cats with a figure of nine net rushing yards. Willie's 47 percent passing (18-38) could build only a 222-yard collection. The Cats faced a plethora of 3rd-and extra-longs and converted only three of 16. The need to pass put UA in a predictable mode and the Beavs picked off three Tuitama passes against the two Wildcat takeaways. Individually, junior free safety Michael Klyce had 10 tackles and broke up two passes in his third career start; junior placekicker Jason Bondzio was a perfect 3-for-3 with field goals of 42, 37 and 32 yards; senior receiver Anthony Johnson caught six balls for 80 yards; redshirt freshman Terrell Reese had four catches for 77 yards in his first start; and freshman running back Nic Grigsby made the most of 16 carries for 61 net yards, a respectable 3.8 per tote against a good line. Cason's score was his second career interception return for a touchdown.
Last Week: Arizona closed its road season with an amazing game, a tale of two halves, in dropping a 55-45 decision at Oregon. Oregon played well enough to win, Arizona did not. But it wasn't a mismatch. Both teams had 500 yards in offense, both scored somewhat freely, and Oregon did it in lightning fashion while the Wildcats had to claw back from the dead -- trailing 48-17 early in the second half -- to make it a compelling game. UA handed Oregon a 14-0 lead in the first minute and a half with bad defense (Ducks QB Jeremiah Masoli romping 66 yards around end for a score) and an interception off Willie Tuitama by Patrick Chung returned 31 yards for a score. After that, things settled for a bit and the Cats went on two drives for points. UO answered with a bomb from Masoli for another TD. All that in the first quarter. Then, the Ducks outscored Arizona 24-7 in the second period to make it look like a runaway train, with 411 yards of offense in the first half to post a 45-17 lead. It worked out that UO scored a point for every 13 seconds it had possession in the first half. After Oregon opened the second half with a field goal to make it a 31-point lead, Arizona went to work, playing defense and getting stops, and putting together a string of quality scoring drives in patient fashion. These were, unanswered: eight plays for 66 yards in four minutes, nine plays for 80 yards in four minutes, nine plays for 77 yards in five minutes and a brief two-minute drive of five plays and 33 yards. After that it was a three-point ball game, 48-45. The Cats got another stop and had the ball near midfield with five minutes remaining but lost the ball on downs at their own 45. Three plays later, LeGarrette Blount took a simple handoff and raced 40 yards for the nail in the coffin. Unfortunately that typified Oregon's day -- touchdown plays of 66, 31, 44, 5, 65 and 40 yards. UA tight end Rob Gronkowski had a huge dy, with 12 catches for 143 yards and a score, and frosh running back Keola Antolin tied a school record with four rushing TDs among his 20 carries for 87 yards. Arizona ran 98 offensive plays to tie a school record, had 41 minutes in possession in building its 527-504 edge in yardage, but spotted the Ducks too much leeway and couldn't get the job done.
Home Cooking: Arizona can post its best home record since (you guessed it) the 1998 team posted a 5-1 mark at Arizona Stadium. UA was 4-2 a year ago, its best since '98, and are 4-1 at home entering the OSU and ASU contests. From 1999 to 2006 Arizona was no better than 3-3 in home games. Historically, the 1992 (Dick Tomey) and 1961 (Jim LaRue) squads' 6-0 records are the best, with the 1984 (Larry Smith) team checking in at 6-1.
Cats' and Beavs' Similarities: Just a couple of oddities based on the everlasting appeal of the paper game... Arizona and Oregon State both have 223 first downs this year...Arizona averages 172.4 yards rushing, OSU 172.0... Both are within 41 yards in total passing (2405-2446)... Both are within four total pass attempts (318-322) and within one in completions (201-202)... Both are withing four in total rushing yards (1724-1720)... Both split with the Bay Area schools, although in flip-flop fashion... Arizona scored 107 points against the Washington schools, OSU 100... Both have 49 trips to the red zone (where Arizona -- 46 scores, 38 TDs to OSU's 41/30) -- has fared better)...
Century City and a Thousand Mark: Sophomore tight end Rob Gronkowski had his third career 100-yard game at Oregon last week (12-143, 1 TD), adding to a 5-109 evening against Washington earlier this year and a 4-115 game last year against Washington State. He hit the career 1,000-yard receiving list in Eugene with his big afternoon and now has 62 catches for 1,025 yards and 14 touchdowns -- all Arizona career marks for a tight end. His 12 receptions at Oregon is the second-most (tied with many) single-game mark in UA history, too.
Single-Season Tight Ends Receiving
1. Rob Gronkowski 34-500, 8 TD, 2008 sophomore
2. Mark Keel 32-513, 2 TD 1982 senior
3. Rob Gronkowski 28-525, 6 TD 2007 freshman
4. Mark Keel 27-343, 4 TD 1981 junior
5. Steve Fleming 23-332, 2 TD 2004 senior
6. Brandon Manumaleuna 20-316, 2 TD 1999 junior
Arizona Career Tight Ends Receptions-Yds-TD
1. Rob Gronkowski, 62-1,025, 14 TD, 2007-
2. Mark Keel, 59-857, 6 TD - 1981-82
3. Steve Fleming, 50-584, 4 TD - 2001-04
4. Brandon Manumaleuna, 40-571, 3 TD - 1997-2000
5. Mike Metzler, 34-597, 6 TD, 1994-96
6. Bill Nettling, 29-451, 5 TD, 1977-80
Total Offense Rates: Arizona's offensive balance is good. 172 yards rushing, 240 yards passing per game. That 412.9 per-game figure would rate as the fourth best in school history behind 471.9 in 1999, 444.9 in 1998 and 424.2 in 1975... Passing effectiveness looks to be a key. In each of the losses UA averaged less than eight yards per pass attempt. When the Wildcats averaged more than eight yards per pass, they've won this year. When they didn't, they lost... Turnovers in those games were a combined nine for UA, seven for opponents, although the turnover differences at New Mexico (-4) and at Oregon (-2) were telling.
Conference Finish: The Wildcats have a chance to win six Pac-10 games if they take care of business. This is good stuff for the program. That's been accomplished by Arizona three previous times -- 6-2 in 1993 (Fiesta Bowl), 6-2 in 1994 (Freedom Bowl) and 7-1 in 1998 (Holiday Bowl). Arizona won five or more Pac-10 games a total of nine times in its 30-year affiliation with the league. They don't call it 'The Conference of Champions' because it's a simple walk in the park.
Zona’s Zone: The Wildcats have been particularly impressive in the Red Zone in 2008, posting a 94 percent success rate (46-49), a mark that ranks fifth in the nation. The three times UA has failed to score? Well, twice UA has ended the game with the ball in its hand inside the red zone while running out the clock in blowout wins over UCLA (31-10) and Washington (48-14). The third occasion was also at UCLA, where UA’s second string offense turned the ball over on downs while trying to convert late in the fourth quarter. Otherwise, UA has scored 38 touchdowns inside the Red Zone (27 rushing, 11 passing) and added eightfield goals. Incidentally, the only game UA has failed to score a Red Zone touchdown came at Stanford, a game it lost by one point and had to settle for three field goals instead.
Bowling a 400 Game: If you score 400 you go to a bowl... The Wildcats are a field goal away from scoring their 400th point of the year. The last time that happened -- 1998. (That is the most common answer to every recent last-time question.) But in UA history, only J.F. 'Pop' McKale's 1921 club also hit the 400 level with 418 points to 30 by opponents. The young football program that year -- when Warren G. Harding was president -- played a post-war schedule that included Bisbee Legion, Phoenix Indians and New Mexico Military Institute. Those 7-2 Cats of old did lose narrowly (17-14) to Texas A&M, beat UTEP 74-0, New Mexico State 31-0, New Mexico 24-0 and Whitter 7-0. They also made Arizona's first-ever bowl trip, playing in the East-West Christmas Classic in San Diego, losing to Centre (Ky.) College, 38-0.
First-and-10: Arizona has 223 first downs, an average of 22.3 per game, just off the school record of 22.4 set by the 1975 Wildcats with 246 in 11 games. It's not entirely new; last year UA had 239 in 12 contests (19.9). Those two figures in two years of a new offense show it has the capability to generate some moving chains. The 2007 club set the school mark with 12.2 passing first downs per game. This year's group has 117 through the air in 10 games.
Spread the Wealth: Arizona has had touchdowns scored by 15 different playeres, tied for seventh among FBS schools for the most participation in putting up six points. Miami, Georgia and Troy have had 16 players score TDs, while USC, TCU and Utah hae had 16. The Cats are in there with Florida and six other schools right behind. Getting another one or two on the board might take a defensive effort by the Cats. Pretty much everyone who plays a skill positions on offense is already on the books with the exception of some young receivers who get minimal reps.
Remember November: A common saying in college football is “you always remember the games you play in November”. That has certainly been the case for the Wildcats under Mike Stoops. Now in his fifth season, Stoops’ has led his UA squads to an 9-5 mark in games played in the 11th month of the year. Now the Wildcats hope they can remember their November games this season for another reason besides late-season momentum – because this year there is a lot at stake. The Wildcats entered November with five wins for the first time since 2000 and started of November ’08 with a 59-14 win at Washington State. UA now hopes to put last week’s 55-45 loss to Oregon on the backburner and close out this November (ASU game is in December) with a winning record if it can beat Oregon State.
Nic Antolin and Keola Smith? Every team can often do it to find some good numbers -- look at production from a position as a combined affair. In the case of UA's running back -- either 10-game starter Nic Grigsby (166-941) or backup Keola Antolin (83-398) -- the combined dude has 249 carries for 1,339 yards (5.4 ypc). They've scored 20 touchdowns including Antolin's highwater mark of four at Oregon, tying a school record. Throw in No. 3 back Xavier Smith (40-153) and his five scores, and you have one position providing 289 rushes for 1,517 yards and 25 touchdowns. These guys never play on the field at the same time in UA's system, so it's a realistic exercise to jot that down as RB production.
'Gronkowsk-td': The Wildcats' sibling duo -- tight end Rob Gronkowski and hybrid back Chris Gronkowski have shown a proclibity to score when the ball gets to them. Sophomore Rob has eight scoring catches in 34 grabs -- 24 percent of the time he snares a pass. Elder statesman Chris has two scores on three catches. They lead the way in yards per catch, too, with Chris at 25.8 and Rob at 14.7. UA has developed the motion-back blocking role that Chris plays into a dangerous open-space threat, and he has the hands and foot speed for a big guy to make it go. Big Rob simply can physically overmatch almost any coverage and is not a one-man tackle objective. It takes a few dudes to stop him. His 12-catch day against Oregon was a prime example. Both of their efforts in the running game are key, as well, one reason Chris has started six games including the last three consecutive.
It’s Not 1998 Anymore: For the past decade most benchmark look-backs have pointed at the Wildcats' 1998 season when it finished 12-1, beat Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl and ended up No. 4 in the final AP poll. Plenty of statistical measurements point to that year as well. ('...best since 1998, most since 1998, last time in 1998,' etc.) Arizona was ranked in the two years following that outstanding campaign, but ran into a wall behind which it's had difficulty emerging. Finally, the Cats won't have to say 'last bowl appearance since 1998...' Whether Arizona can put up a seventh victory -- its most since 1998 -- remains to be seen, but the Wildcats are in good position to do so with two games to play and have a talented club that's capable.
Still Searching for No. 7: Arizona plays to win a seventh game for the second time in the last three seasons. The 2006 squad fell short at ASU, finishing 6-6. The UA last won seven games in 1998 when it went 12-1. In the past 25 years Arizona has won seven or more games 10 times. The two heralded years in there are the '98 Holiday and 1993 (10-2) Fiesta bowls winners. Make no mistake, Arizona isn't striving to win only seven games this year; that just happens to be the next opportunity.
Point of Fact: Arizona has scored 397oints in its 39.7 points-per-game effort this year, more than the season total five of the last six years and on pace to challenge the school record of 38.5 in 1954 when Warren Woodson's UA club put up 385 in 10 games during a 7-3 season. That club had Art 'The Cactus Comet' Luppino, UA's halfback of national all-purpose renown and a guy who personally posted 166 points on 24 touchdowns and some 2-pointers. The Cats are on pace, as well, to challenge the school record of 439 points in a season -- scored by the 1998 team en route to its school-best 12-1 season. The 2007 Wildcats posted 28 points per game and 336 total to kick-start a serious scoring focus.
Sometimes The Stats Lie: As you will see in the subsequent notes, stats aren’t always the best predictors of how a game will play out. Arizona scored 45 points at Oregon last week, which marked only the fourth time in school history that Arizona lost a game in which it scored 40 points or more. The last time UA lost when posting 40 or more? Also against Oregon in a 44-41 loss to the Ducks in Tucson on Oct. 23, 1999. And for 30-point games, Saturday’s loss was a first for head coach Mike Stoops at Arizona.
30 Is (Usually) The Magic Number: So, despite last week, here it is … Football is a pretty simple game in that the team that scores the most points wins. For Arizona, 30 points is usually enough to do just that. Since joining the Pac-10 in 1978, the Wildcats have played 103 games in which they have scored 30 or more points. Their record in those games? An astounding 93-9-1. That record includes a streak of 18 consecutive victories when scoring at least 30 points, including a 14-1 mark under Mike Stoops. For the record, Arizona is 6-1 in such games this season.
If Not 30, Try 40: And again … If Arizona’s .910 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 108-4 when scoring 40 or more points in a game, something it has done in four of five home games this season. As you might expect, Arizona is 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.
Rush For the Century Mark: Looking for another key stat that separates wins from losses for the Wildcats? Usually it’s a 100-yard rushing game, but that wasn’t the case against USC and, you guessed it, it wasn’t the case against Oregon either. The typically pass-happy Wildcats (again, USC and Oregon games being the exception), who broke nearly every school passing record a year ago, often are victorious in games in which they rush for 100 yards or more. Under Head Coach Mike Stoops, Arizona is 16-10 when it rushes for 100 yards or more. But looking closer, the Wildcats have won 13 of their last 16 games when they reach the century mark, a streak that includes an 9-3 record in offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes’ spread offense installed at the beginning of the 2007 season. On the other hand, Arizona is 6-23 under Stoops when it fails to reach 100 yards on the ground, but two of those victories did come last season when UA used its passing attack to post some points. Bottom line numbers: UA has rushed for an average of 167yards per game in its 23 wins since 2004 and has rushed for an average of 56.8 yards per game in its 33 losses during the time period.
Third Down, Last Down: The Arizona defense has shown marked improvement in third down situations in 2008. A year ago, UA allowed opponents to convert 43 percent (86-199) on third down plays. This season, the Wildcats have held the opposition to a 33 percent success rate (45-137). The Cats showed their ability to buckle down in key situations against Cal, holding the Bears to only 2-15 on third down. Looking deeper at that stat, the Bears converted their first two third down plays of the game, meaning Arizona limited them to zero third down conversions the rest of the game, including 0-8 in the second half.
More Third Down Facts: The main reason why UA”s defense has shown marked improvement in stopping teams in third down situations is because it is winning the battle for tough yards. In third-and-short situations (four yards to gain or less), UA is limiting teams to a 34% success rate (16-47) – or nearly on par with its total third down defense number. On the other hand, Arizona’s offense has been having success in those same situations, converting 72% (33-46) third-and-short situations.
Defensive about Defense: Few of them go in the Arizona record book, but the Ducks' success against Arizona (411 first-half yards, 45 points at the break) included a couple of zingers. Oregon exceeded the passing game's golden plateau of double digits, averaging 11.0 yards per attempt, and averaged 8.8 yards per rushing attempt. The latter wasn't a function of saddling up and beating Arizona into the ground -- they had a half dozen big plays, gaining 179 on six carries alone, two of those for scores. Anytime the cornerback, such as UA's Devin Ross with 10, leads the squad in tackles, there is too much happening beyond the line of scrimmage. This week against Oregon State, Arizona can't afford the Rogers brothers operating in space.
98 Snaps: After a season- and Mike Stoops-high 98 plays at Oregon, the Cats have 713 for the year. If they hit that average in the last two games it still will fall short of the 904 snaps the Arizona offense took in 1977 in 12 games. The most per game is 79.6 by the 1974 club with 876 in 11 contests. The latter was a Jim Young multiple-approach squad with the '1-2-3' backfield (jersey numbers for QB Bruce Hill and running backs Willie Hamilton and Jim Upchurch), plus receivers Theo Bell and Scott Piper. The '77 club, Tony Mason's second at Arizona, was a pound-it veer-ish group that rushed 663 times in 12 games to cap Arizona's Western Athletic Conference affiliation.
Streaking: Mike Thomas has caught a pass in 34 consecutive games. Had he not played the ASU game as a freshman in 2005 with an injured hand (and a cast), he'd have a streak of 44 consecutive games with a catch, which would rate him third nationally behind Jarett Dillard of Rice (46) and Casey Flair of UNLV (46. Juaquin Iglesias of Oklahoma (42) is next. Mike's on the chart with 34 consecutive games with a catch, tied at 11th... Sophomore receiver Delashaun Dean is building his own streak. He has a catch in each of the 22 games he's played, the next best consecutive mark among UA receivers. Soph tight end Rob Gronkowski is next at 13 such games since not grabbing one at Oregon State a year ago.
X-Factor: Junior linebacker Xavier Kelley waited patiently behind Spencer Larsen in his first two seasons at Arizona. With Larsen now starting on both sides of the ball for the Denver Broncos in the NFL, Kelley has earned his playing time at UA’s “Will” linebacker position. Kelley started UA’s first two games at the spot, but then missed two games due to an ankle injury. During his time to heal, backup Sterling Lewis assumed the starting role and impressed the coaches, keeping the job even as Kelley healed up. But then it was Lewis who suffered an ankle injury and has missed playing time in recent weeks. Kelley has regained his starting spot, and performed solidly at Oregon last week. He recorded a career high nine tackles, including six solo stops – another career mark. He also added a sack to his résumé for a second-consecutive week, and set a career-high with two tackles for loss. For good measure, he also recorded a pass breakup.
Quick Strikes: Arizona has developed a reputation as a quick-strike offense, scoring on touchdown drives under two minutes throughout the season. But, interestingly, UA did not have such a drive against Oregon, although one drive just missed the mark – by three seconds. Even so, Arizona still ranks in the top 10 nationally in scoring drives under two minutes. Here’s the list:
Rank Team # of Touchdown Drives
1. Tulsa 39
2. Oklahoma 34
4. Missouri 28
5. Rice 27
6. Oklahoma State 26
7. Florida 25
8. La.-Lafayette 22
9. Houston 21
10. Arizona 19
Doubles and Quarters: Arizona scored in double digits in each quarter to help it build 59 points and take over the Pac-10 scoring offense lead at Washington State. Ironically, the last time the Cats put up 10 or more in every stanza was against WSU last year when it won 48-20.
A Thousand Yards: UA sophomore running back Nic Grigsby needs 59 yards in two games to give him his first 1,000-yard season. UA's last 1000-yard rusher was Clarence Farmer in 2001, with 1,229 yards on 209 attempts. Trung Canidate set the school record with 1,602 yards on 253 carries in 1999, and also eclipsed the barrier with 1,220 in 1998. Mike Bell had decent shots at the level with 920 yards in 2003, 950 yards in 2004 and 952 in 2005, thwarted the last by injury that knocked him out of action in the second half of the season finale -- and, say it again, no bowl games to help. Grigsby's had four 100-yard games this year, topped by the career-best 189 yards on 28 carries at Washington State. His 704 rushing yards as a true freshman in 2007 give him a career total of 1,589 yards, just 284 yards shy of the 12th-best career total in UA history, 1,873 by Vance Johnson from 1981-84.
What a Difference a Year Makes: In 2007, the Wildcats rushed for an average of 2.9 yards per carry. One year later – with four of five starters back (Eben Britton, Colin Baxter, Joe Longacre and Blake Kerley), UA’s offensive line has helped pave the way for a 1.5 ypc improvement to this year’s current average of 4.4 yards per carry. The Wildcats lost Kerley to a knee injury earlier in the year, and first-year starter Adam Grant missed a few starts due to a thumb injury. Depth has helped keep the Cats rolling, as James Tretheway has filled in for Grant, while Mike Diaz has stepped in at guard for Baxter who has replaced Kerley under center.
YPA: No, it's not a disco song. Willie Tuitama's outstanding 14.3 yards-per-attempt passing at Washington State helped give him a 201.84 pass efficiency rating for the game, the second time this year he's passed the 200 level. He hit 205.30 against Washington with that one fueld by three touchdown throws and an 81 percent completion rate. His next best was a 199.70 mark in the season opener against Idaho. All three games have the same thing in common -- high percentage passing, not high volume passing. Willie's current PER of 144.31 would be the fourth-best in school history if it held up. It's clear that his personal physical arsenal includes all the routes and throws, but his mental game and choices have been quite good this year. You don't have to know much about football to realize that if you can run the ball, everything else becomes much easier. Tuitama's three best pass efficiency games were supported by the Wildcats doing this: rushing a combined 157 times for 838 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Just Run It: Arizona ran the ball 57 times at Washington State, the most this year and the most in Mike Stoops' tenure in Tucson. Most previously before that, UA ran the ball 60 times at Washington State in 1999. The school record is 80 rushes against Oregon in 1993. In that game UA passed the ball once, incomplete. Ontiwaun Carter (28-127) and running back Chuck Levy (27-126), starting at QB in place of injured Dan White, led the way on 55 plays.The Cats ran for 389 yards in the game and won. 31-10. Of course, the Cats also had the full might of a young Desert Swarm, at the time tops in the nation in rushing and total defense.
Special Teams Stars: Trevor “Tito” Foster and Orlando Vargas received some high praise from coaches earlier in the season for their efforts on special teams, but the Wildcats have received excellent efforts from other players as well. Last week at WSU, it was Joe Perkins who stepped up. Perkins recorded six tackles in the game – a career high for the sophomore defensive back – but five of those tackles came on the kickoff coverage team. His tackles helped limit WSU to only 19 yards per return on nine attempts.
Keen on Kicking: Arizona opened the season with a freak two-yard punt against Idaho by Keenyn Crier in his first boot in live action after missing much of fall camp after off-season back problems. Since, Crier's been climbing back kick after kick and the squad now boasts an average of 43.5 yards per punt. The school record for a team season total is 44.9 behind the leg of All-American Danny Baugher (1st team Pro Football Weekly, 3rd team AP) in 2005. Baugher's individual mark of 47.5 that year was a school record. Crier hit the UA chart at No. 5 last year with an individual mark of 43.7 and UA had a team mark of 43.6. This year he's shown a broader arsenal -- sky, rugby, boomers, pooches -- and has kept improving each week. The team's net punting figure of 36.65 is rated 32nd in the FBS, while Cirer checks in at No. 14 with an average of 43.5 on the season. Arizona's special teams were revamped some in the offseason with the hiring of former Wildcat player and coach Jeff Hammerschmidt as special teams coordinator. Nearly all of UA's kicking units are doing well, continuing the effort led by coordinator Joe Robinson for the preceding four years before him.
Conversion Surge: Arizona has a third-down conversion rate of 44 percent. It's considerably better than last year's 35 percent rate. Look at it this way: over the course of the season if the 2007 team had been making 43 percent of its third down tries, it would have meant another 15 conversions -- equating to another 45 plays and more opportunities to keep moving the ball. The better conversion rate this year has done one thing --reduced punts. The Cats had 62 punts last year. After 10 games this year UA has 37 punts. UA also has over to more minutes of possession per game this year than last. Arizona also has reached the red zone one more time per game than last year's club. And down there, the Cats are vastly improved.
The Second Brigade: The Wildcats have scored 143ints in the second quarter this year. Arizona had 102 in the frame a year ago. Those two are the most in that or any period since the 1998 squad put up 137 second-quarter points. The UA's minimum scoring period this year is the opening stanza, with 78- still a touchdown per game. On the flip side, Arizona has allowed only 41 fourth-quarter points this year, including a stubborn whitewash against USC this year when both teams were scratching for something in a scoreless fourth of a seven-point game.
Special K: Backup running back Keola Antolin's 149-yard rushing effort (21 totes) against California was the fifth-best effort by a true freshman in UA history. His three scores matched three by true frosh Ontiwaun Carter in 1991. It came a year after Nic Grigsby tied the UA mark with 186 yards against Washington State. Former Philadelphia Eagle power back Hubert 'Hubie' Oliver carried 29 times for 186 yards against UTEP in 1977 a week after he broke on the scene with a 141-yard day against New Mexico. Here are a half-dozen outings by true freshmen Wildcats, plus one more from the last time Arizona beat USC:
True Freshman Wildcats' Top Rushing Games
1. Hubie Oliver UTEP, 1977 29-186, TD
2. Nic Grigsby WSU, 2007 30-186 (receving TD)
3. Vance Johnson Fresno State, 1981 24-183
4. Ontiwaun Carter Oregon State, 1991 15-160, 3 TD
5. Keola Antolin California, 2008 21-149, 3 TD
6. Hubie Oliver New Mexico, 1977 21-141
7. Clarence Farmer USC, 2000 22-134, TD
Four Bills: Arizona's improved running game and more precision- rather than bombs-away passing attack has helped the team complete nine games with an average of 412 yards in total offense. The Wildcats of 1999 (QB Keith Smith, RB Trung Canidate, WR Dennis Northcutt, QB Ortege Jenkins, TE Brandon Manumaleuna and a young WR Bobby Wade) set the school record of 471.9 per game. This year the Cats have been balanced, with more rushes (395) than passes (318) UA has good quick-strike capability in the passing game but the guts to saddle up for some punch-it-out drives on the ground. The offense plays well enough to keep the defense off the field, and the defense plays well enough to get the ball back for the offense. It's a pretty good deal.
Thomas and the Charts: With his six receptions against USC, Mike Thomas became UA’s all-time receptions leader, moving past Bobby Wade. Thomas (22), who stands at No. 4 on UA”s all-time touchdown receptions list, trails Wade by one touchdown grab. On the career all-purpose yards chart, Thomas has moved into No. 5 all-time with 4,614 yards. He trails – you guessed it – Wade at No. 4. UA’s leader in the category is Dennis Northcutt at 5,392 yards.
Err-Zona? Some pundit has called it the 'Air Zona' offense since UA adopted a form of the spread attack. This year UA has rushed for 1,724yards and thrown for 2,405, to make that moniker a bit off the mark -- an err(or). On the season, the Wildcats have rushed the ball 395 times compared to only 318 pass attempts.
A New Leader: Willie Tuitama became the UA career leader for passing yards (7,814), total offense (7,365) and attempts (1,092) against California. With his 27 completions against New Mexico, Tuitama (596) surpassed Tom Tunnicliffe as UA’s all-time leader in completions (574).
Continuity on the Line: Arizona has played the season with basically two offensive line substitutions, Mike Diaz at guard and James Tretheway at tackle. LT Eben Britton and RG Joe Longacre have started and played each game. Center Blake Kerley injured a knee in the UCLA game and was replaced by LG Colin Baxter, who has three center starts to go with his four guard starts. Diaz took over at guard. RT Tretheway has started the last five games in favor of Adam Grant, whose hand injury against the Huskies has limited him in those three contests. The relative steadiness in this unit has been one reason for Arizona's success on offense. Contrast that with Washington State, where coach Paul Wulff had started the same OL group (two different groups) in back-to-back games only twice this year entering the Stanford game.
Wading In: Backup cornerback Trevin Wade, a redshirt freshman, leads the club with four interceptions. Two came in the season opener against Idaho, the third came on a tipped ball against California and the fourth at Washington State in which he showed impressive closing speed. That's some nice work for a reserve and for his efforts he leads the Pac-10 (tied) in the category and ranks tied for No. 21 in the country. Former UA wide receiver Dennis Northcutt broke into the trade as a freshman (true) cornerback in 1996 and had two INTs against Illinois in the third game of the year before switching to offense. 2007 Jim Thorpe Award winner Antoine Cason had two interceptions (4 for the year) against Cal in his freshman year in 2004. This isn't to compare Wade to those guys, but he's doing a nice job when needed, such as his first career start at Stanford for a banged up Devin Ross. Also, in place of Ross for only one play against USC, Wade broke-up a pass in the endzone.
Tossing at Ross: Sophomore cornerback Devin Ross is getting tested more and more as Pac-10 teams unleash their goods. He shut things down on the boundary in the first three or four games, and then has had interceptions against Washington, Stanford and at Washington State, and six passes broken up, in the last four games as things heated up. While Oregon got some yards through the air, Ross was able to record a career-high 10 tackles. He ranks in the Top 20 nationally in passes defended.
Brooks is Bringing It: Arizona sophomore defensive end Brooks Reed has made a big impact on the UA defensive line in his first season as a starter. Through eight games, Reed has recorded 24 tackles, but leads the team with five sacks. Perhaps most impressive about his sack total is the fact that four of them have come in UA’s last three games – against No. 24 California and No. 6 USC nonetheless, and at Washington State. His crushing hit on Mark Sanchez forced a fumble at the USC 15-yard line, which set up UA’s lone touchdown in the game. In addition, Reed has broken up a pair of passes on the season and has forced two fumbles.
Money Receptions: Despite tough economic times, Money Mike Thomas is proving his worth to the Wildcats. Now No. 1 all-time at Arizona in career receptions (240), Thomas doesn’t just rack up catches to fill the stat sheet; rather, his receptions are usually ones that matter in the game. Of his 55 receptions in 2008, a whopping 32 of them have resulted in a first down (56 percent) and four have gone for touchdowns. In addition, Thomas has five first down carries and one touchdown on the ground.
Big Play Robbie: Need a big play? Dial up No. 48. Rob Gronkowski. The sophomore tight end has played in only seven games this season after missing the first three with an illness. But Robbie is doing his best to make up for lost time and he has hauled in 34 receptions for 500 yards in his seven games. That is an average of 14.7 yards per catch – second on the team behind brother, Chris. Even more impressive, though, is that eight of those catches have gone for touchdowns and 24 of them have resulted in first downs. Against Oregon, eight of 12 catches resulted in a first down, while a ninth catch resulted in a touchdown.
Big Days from the WR’s: Junior receiver Terrell Turner's 10 catches for 175 yards against Stanford were career bests. It was the second 100-yard game of his career (7-109 against New Mexico in 2007). Since UA adopted the spread offense, Arizona has posted 100-yard games by receivers on 15 occasions -- Turner's pair, Mike Thomas with nine, tight end Rob Gronkowski with a pair, Delashaun Dean with one, and former receiver Anthony Johnson with one. Thomas has four double-digit catches games while Turner added a fifth.
Touchdown Trends: Arizona has scored 48 offensive touchdowns in 2008 (4 non-offensive) with a split of 29 rushing scores and 19 passing strikes. Since 1978, when UA joined the Pac-10, only seven UA teams (this year included) have balanced at least 15 rushing TD’s and 15 passing TD’s in a season. The last Wildcat team to accomplish the feat was the 2001 squad that notched 16 rushing touchdowns and 21 passing scores. In the span, no UA team has ever rushed for 20 touchdowns and passed for 20 scores in the same season.
Getting Picky: The Cats have 14 interceptions through seven games,one shy of 2007’s total. The Cats are in good position to continue their year-by-year trend of increasing interceptions under the Stoops defense. Sophomore corner Devin Ross had his second career INT against Washington on Oct. 4 and then returned his third for a TD against Cal, while Nate Ness returned his seventh career interception 75-yards for his first score at Stafnord. Redshirt freshman Trevin Wade leads with four, including one against Cal in the fourth quarter.
Put Your Money in Bonds: Or, Bondzio. Arizona's senior kicker Jason Bondzio has scored 78 points just through the year, a potential second straight 100-pointer for the only kicker who ever hit the century mark in an Arizona uniform. Wanting that success is an approach-avoidance problem: who wants to give up TDs for FGs? Nonetheless, Bondzio has connected on his last seven of his last eight field goal tries spanning four games and is 11-for13 overall, with 45 PATs. Three treys at Stanford matched his career best against Oregon State a year ago. Overall he is 31 of 37, a sparkling 83 percent, which would be an Arizona record better than his Arizona record .807 mark a year ago.
Quarter Scores: Arizona has played 40 quarters of football in 2008 and has scored at least a field goal in 33 of those quarters. Here’s a look at how Arizona has spread its points around by quarter:
1 2 3 4 Total
Arizona 78 143 86 90 397
Opponents 62 84 40 41 227
In a Rush For TD’s: No, this is not another note on Arizona’s track recording of quick scoring drives; rather, this note about the 25 rushing touchdowns that the Cats have scored this season. A year ago, the Wildcats rushed for seven (7) touchdowns on the entire season, a figure that sophomore Nic Grigsby has surpassed single-handedly with 11 TD’s this year. The 25 ground scores also surpasses the total rushing touchdowns scored by each of the last four Arizona squads (2004-2007). Of the 25 rushing scores in 2008, 14 of them have come in goal-to-gain situations.
Double D: Sophomore receiver Delashaun Dean posted his first career 100-yard receiving game with a 6-106 effort and a score at Albuqurque in September. His previous high for yards was his debut game at BYU last year with four snares for 88 markers. His single-game high for catches is an 8-for-51 game against Stanford a year ago. He has a reception in each of his 17 career games and a total of 61.
2 X 100: Receivers Mike Thomas (136 yds) and Delashaun Dean (106 yds) each surpassed the 100-yard receiving mark against New Mexico, becoming the first UA receiving duo to accomplish the feat in 2008. The last time two Cats went over the 100-yd mark in the same game came against, interestingly, New Mexico in 2007, when three players tallied 100 yards or more (Mike Thomas 7-137, Terrell Turner 7-109, and Anthony Johnson 3-117).
They’re Taking Notice: Antoine Cason won the Jim Thorpe Award last year, now a host of other Wildcats are on the early watch lists for major college football awards. Eight different Wildcats are on pre-season watch lists for awards:
QB Willie Tuitama – Maxwell Award (College Player of the Year)/Davey O’Brien Award (Top QB)
WR Mike Thomas – Maxwell Award (College Player of the Year)
OT Eben Britton – Outland Trophy (Top Interior Lineman), Rotary Lombardi Award (Top Lineman)
P Keenyn Crier – Ray Guy Award (Top Punter)
Jason Bondzio – Lou Groza Award Semi-Finalist(Top Kicker)
C Blake Kerley – Rimington Trophy (Top Center)
TE Rob Gronkowski – John Mackey Award (Most Outstanding Tight End)
LB Ronnie Palmer – Butkus Award (Top Linebacker)
One of the Pac-10’s Best: Like the other half of the TNT connection (Tuitama and Thomas), “Money” Mike Thomas is moving up the Pac-10 charts. With 83 receptions in 2007, he ranks No. 15 in single season receptions and his 11 touchdown grabs also place him No. 15 in a single season. Thomas is within striking distance of some career marks, including career receptions. The senior playmaker, who has 240 receptions in three-plus years (currently No. 4 all-time), is only 19catches away from becoming the Pac-10’s all-time receptions leader (Derek Hagen, ASU, 258). Lastly, with four more touchdowns, he will find himself among the top-10 all-time leaders in receiving touchdowns (currently t-No. 21 with 22 TDs).
Decoys are for Hunting: Senior receiver Mike Thomas has played in 44 games and caught a pass in 43 of them. His one miss – the final game of his freshman year on Nov. 25, 2005, at Arizona State. In that game he wore a soft but cumbersome cast on a hand, courtesy of an injury a couple weeks earlier. No passes went in his direction, but he drew coverage as expected anyway. Otherwise, Thomas could challenge for the Arizona record for consecutive games catching a pass. That’s held by Dennis Northcutt, who posted 42 successive games with a grab after he was switched from true-freshman cornerback to receiver in late October of 1996, through his senior year in 1999. The 34 consecutive games with a reception rates Thomas 12th nationally and first in the Pac-10 (tied with Brandon Gibson of WSU). Had he caught one against ASU in 2005 he'd be third in the country behind Jarrett Dillard of Rice (43) and Casey Flair of UNLV (42) with 41 .… Northcutt (223) and Thomas (240) join leader Bobby Wade (230) in the all-time threesome for career pass receiving at UA. Northcutt was on the Arizona squad that posted the top two Wildcat per-game offense averages of 471.9 yards (’99) and 444.9 (’98), Wade was part of John Mackovic’s passing makeover of the UA attack, and Thomas is now part of Mike Stoops’ and Sonny Dykes’ system that topped the historical chart with 308 yards passing per game last year. Thomas should emerge as Arizona’s all-time pass receiver with anywhere near his 83 grabs from a year ago (55 to date in ’08), and if he can match his 1,000-yard junior season he’ll push for the career figure in yardage as well. (See ‘Charting Some Cats’ elsewhere in this release for the numbers.) Clearly, there’s little doubt you can say ‘Mike Thomas’ in the same Arizona historical context as Northcutt, Wade or Jon Horton and the late Theopolis T. Bell -- among others: playmakers all.
Close Calls: Arizona played six games in 2007 that were ultimately decided by seven points or less, including wins at Washington (48-41) and on Homecoming against UCLA (34-27). Unfortunately, UA was on the losing end of such close ball games twice as many times. The Wildcats dropped heartbreakers to New Mexico (29-27), USC (20-13), Stanford (21-20) and Arizona State (20-17). That is four games lost by a combined 13 points (3.25 points per game). In 2008, UA’s UA three losses have come by a combined 16 points (5.3 per game) to USC, New Mexico and Stanford.
The Graduates: Two Arizona players already have received degrees, placekicker Jason Bondzio in finance and offensive lineman James Tretheway in mathematics. J.B.'s working on a master's degree, while Tretheway is taking an additional bachelor's degree program in economics. Three other letterwinning Wildcats are anticipated to graduate in December -- H-back Brandon Lopez, offensive guard Joe Longacre and offensive lineman Bill Wacholz.
Records Check: As one might expect in a 70-0 romp, Arizona broke several school records for offensive scoring output against Idaho. The first record to fall was the 28 year old record for most points scored in a single half (42 points against Pacific in 1980 and against UTEP in 1976) as the Wildcats tallied 49 first-half points.In doing so, UA posted 35 second quarter points, breaking the previous high mark set in 1954 when the Cats scored 29 in the third quarter against New Mexico State.
Cloud 9: UA scored 10 – yes, 10 – touchdowns against Idaho on Aug. 30. What can be more impressive than scoring 10 touchdowns in a single game? How about nine (9) different players scoring those touchdowns. Nic Grigsby (2), Mike Thomas, Marquis Hundley, Chris Gronkowski, Keola Antolin, Terrell Turner, Matt Scott, Nick Booth and Xavier Smith all found the endzone in what is believed to be the most individual touchdowns in a single game in UA history.
Opening Day Rosters: Arizona had 16 former players suit up for NFL opening-week games as active roster members. They included linebacker Lance Briggs-Bears, Tedy Bruschi-Patriots, defensive lineman Copeland Bryan-Ravens, defensive lineman Lionel Dotson-Dolphins, cornerback Antoine Cason-Chargers, kicker Nick Folk-Dowboys, running back Chris Henry-Titans, safety Michael Johnson-Giants, linebacker Spencer Larsen-Broncos, tight end Brandon Manumaleuna-Chargers, offensive lineman Edwin Mulitalo-Ravens, cornerback Chris McAlister-Ravens, receiver Dennis Northcutt-Jaguars, receiver Syndric Steptoe-Browns and receiver Bobby Wade-Vikings.
MOV: Not that any team can or should expect 70-0 performances to be the norm, but UA’s 70-point margin of victory last Saturday was a long time coming. It was the largest MOV since 1921 and the third largest in school history. Here’s a look at the Top 5 MOV’s in UA history:
Point Margin Opponent Year Score
1. 74 UTEP 1921 74-0
2. 73 New Mexico St. 1916 73-0
3. 70 Idaho 2008 70-0
4. 60 South Dakota St. 1956 60-0
5. 59 Arizona St. 1919 59-0
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