Cats, Huskies to Battle in Seattle
Oct. 5, 2009
Arizona (3-1, 1-0 Pac-10)
@ Washington (2-3, 1-1 Pac-10)
Saturday, Oct. 10 | 7:15 p.m. (PDT) | Husky Stadium
Television: Versus Network
Commentators: Tom Glasgow (play-by-play); Mack Strong (color); Jen Mueller (sideline); Jason Stiles (sideline)
English Radio: Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries, play-by-play; Lamont Lovette, color; Dana Cooper, sideline)
Spanish Radio: 990 A.M. ESPN Deportes (Abelardo Oquita, play-by-play; Marco Rincon, color)
Satellite Radio: SIRIUS 217; XM 194
Some Game Themes: Arizona completes a three-game road swing after a needed week off to mend early-season injuries... The Cats and their quest for upper-division stability take on a resurgent Huskies club on its home turf... A young Arizona quarterback in sophomore Nick Foles against the league's senior-statesman signal caller, Jake Locker, the league's top total offense generator... Arizona ventures into another hostile environment to measure the veracity of Foles' performance last time out... Arizona works to open league play at 2-0 for the second consecutive year... The Cats pit a quality rushing attack (No. 11 nationally per game) against a club that's struggled some in giving up five yards per rush... A match of UW's rated passing attack against an Arizona pass defense that's snagged six interceptions... UA puts Mike Stoops' 2-0 mark in Husky Stadium on the line... A compelling series dating to Ortege Jenkins' flamboyant flip for the winning TD in Seattle in 1998: UW holds a 6-5 edge since that night, with the combined score 314-308 in Arizona's favor and eight games decided by 10 points or less... Locker's savvy makes UW one of the league's top third-down clubs, while UA's defense has struggled some in that regard... The Cats will have to shake out the cobwebs early after a week off and sitting around all day in a hotel awaiting a 7:15 p.m. game...
The Coaches: Arizona, Mike Stoops, 47, (Iowa '86), sixth year at Arizona (28-35) and sixth year overall as a head coach. The 2009 season is his 24th in coaching. He's sixth on the Arizona career coaching victories list. Stoops took a 2-10 program and rebuilt the Wildcats into an 8-5 bowl champion last December. He carries a record of 18-26 in Pac-10 games and a 10-9 slate in non-conference games. His teams are 18-17 in home games and 10-18 on the road. The Wildcats have beaten a ranked team each of his 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. Washington, Steve Sarkisian, 34, (BYU '97), first year at Washington (2-3) and first year overall. After a three-year CFL playing career, Sarkisian began his coaching career at El Camino College before joining the USC staff for a seven-year run (2001-08, minus '04 with the Oakland Raiders) culminating in his final two years as offensive coordinator for Troy. He was a quarterbacks coach each of his nine years in coaching.
Last Week: (Arizona enjoyed a week off Oct. 3) The Wildcats turned in a team effort of considerable dimension Sept. 26 in Corvallis, dispatching the Oregon State Beavers, 37-32, behind an arsenal that primarily showcased the team's depth. Notable therein was first-time quarterback starter Nick Foles who completed 25 of 34 passes for 254 yards and three scores. He was not intecepted and also ran one in for six points. No. 3 running back Greg Nwoko rushed nine times for 44 tough yards and a score, plus had a team-high 76 receiving yards on four catches. Whether he played that substantially because starter Nic Grigsby (1 carry, seven yards) left early with a shoulder injury and backup Keola Antolin (12 totes for 46 yards) left with an ankle injury is subject to discussion; he looked at ease and in his element. The two teams combined for 53 first downs, just six shy of the school single-game record (58 vs New Mexico in 1968), although key defensive plays played a major role. Among those were interceptions by corners Trevin Wade and Devin Ross, the latter's a drive stopper with under two minutes remaining and UA up 35-32. That play started the final shutdown Arizona's determined squad came up with on OSU's four final plays in three possessions: interception, sack for a safety (by Earl Mitchell and D'Aundre Reed), and sacks by Mitchell and Ricky Elmore. Foles' leadership in a debut start was exceptional, posting a 165.40 pass efficiency rating, hitting nine different receivers. He helped spearhead a perfect 5-for-5 redzone touchdown performance, in part with nifty fade touchdowns to Delashaun Dean, Juron Criner and Terrell Turner. UA took the first lead, tied the game in the second quarter and took the lead for good in the third stanza. The Cats did not turn the ball over, did not give up a sack, weathered a combined 404 all-purpose yards by OSU playmakers Jacquizz and James Rodgers, and played tough when it mattered, despite some missing players. Keenyn Crier stuck three of his punts inside the OSU 3-yard line in the fourth quarter to make the Beavers face a long, long field with the game in the balance. Ross' big play helped him win Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week honors.
Back-to-Back in the Pac: The Wildcats are seeking a 2-0 record to open Pac-10 play for a second consecutive season. That is historically significant for several reasons. First, UA has won its Pac-10 opener just five times since 1992, and it has done so now in back-to-back seasons, which hadn’t been done since the 1993 and 1994 teams did so. Second, since joining the Pac-10 in 1978, the Wildcats have started 2-0 in conference play just nine times. Should the Wildcats find a way to defeat Washington and open 2-0, they would do so in back-to-back seasons for only the third time in school history (1993-94, 1983-85). Lastly, 2-0 starts in Pac-10 play have usually been solid predictors of winning seasons down the road. In the nine seasons that the Cats have opened 2-0 in Pac-10 play, they have amassed a 73-32-2 combined record, with only the 5-6 team in 2000 posting fewer than seven wins.
Year Opponents (Score) Final Record (Bowl)
2008 @ UCLA (31-10), Washington (48-14) 8-5 (Las Vegas Bowl)
2000 Stanford (27-3), @ USC (31-15) 5-6
1998 @ Stanford (31-14), @ Washington (31-28) 12-1 (Holiday Bowl)
1994 @ Stanford (34-10), Oregon St. (30-10) 8-4 (Freedom Bowl)
1993 @ Oregon St. (33-0), USC (38-7) 10-2 (Fiesta Bowl)
1989 Stanford (19-3), Washington (20-17) 8-4 (Copper Bowl)
1985 Washington St. (12-7), @ Cal (23-17) 8-3-1 (Sun Bowl)
1984 Cal (23-13), @ Oregon St. (27-8) 7-4
1983 Oregon St. (50-6), @ Washington St. (45-6) 7-3-1
Total Record: 73-32-2
UA's Winning Ways: Arizona's Mike Stoops has a career head coaching record of 28-35, but he has turned things around for the Wildcats in recent seasons. In fact, the Wildcats just had a four-game winning streak, the longest for UA since 2000, snapped at Iowa on Sept. 19. But even so, with a win at Oregon State the next week, the Cats have won 14 of their last 21 games, an impressive 14-7 mark (.667 winning %). Going back to the final half of the 2006 season, Arizona is 20-15 in its last 35 games. Stoops' eight-win Wildcat team a year ago was just the second to hit the eight-win benchmark since 1994.
Taking on the Pac: In 2008, Arizona posted its first plus-.500 season in Pac-10 play since the 1998 season with a 5-4 mark en route to a Las Vegas Bowl appearance. But, going back to the end of the 2007 season when UA won 3-of-4 Pac-10 games to end the year, the Wildcats have posted an 9-5 mark in their last 14league games following the ’09-opening win at Oregon State. Further, the five losses have come by a combined 23 points (4.6 ppg), including three of the losses by a FG or less (’07 at ASU, ’08 at Stanford, ’08 vs. No. 21 Oregon State). While the losses have been hard fought and oh-so-close, UA has handily defeated its opponents, winning by an average of 16.8 point per game in the nine wins.
Stoops in the NW: Under Mike Stoops, the Wildcats have enjoyed a run of success in trips to the Pacific Northwest. Against the Washington and Oregon schools, Stoops’ UA teams are 7-3 on the road in the Northwest, winning seven of the last nine and three of the last four games. Undoubtedly, offensive success has been key on the road, with the Wildcats scoring at least 37 points in its last four games in the Pacific Northwest. Included was a 48-41 come-from-behind win at Washington in 2007, a 59-28 rout of Washington State in 2008, and a second-half comeback against Oregon State two weeks ago. Here’s a look at all 10 games Stoops’ teams have played on the road against the fourth northern-most schools in the Conference:
Year Opponent Result/Score
2009 @ Oregon St. W, 37-32
2008 @ Oregon L, 55-45
2008 @ Washington St. W, 59-28
2007 @ Washington W, 48-41
2007 @ Oregon St. L, 31-16
2006 @ Oregon W, 37-10
2006 @ Washington St. W, 27-17
2005 @ Oregon St. W, 29-27
2004 @ Washington W, 23-13
2004 @ Oregon L, 28-14
UA Record: 7-3
UA PPG: 33.5
Opp. PPG: 28.2
Ground Control: Through four games, Arizona ranks in the Top 20 nationally in both rushing offense and rushing defense. The Cats are rushing for 223 yards per game, while limiting opposing teams to just 94.5 markers per game. That puts UA in some pretty elite company in the early part of this season as only six other teams can claim a spot in the offensive and defensive Top 20 charts. The others? Alabama, Florida, TCU, Kansas, West Virginia and USC. Combined record of the teams, including Arizona? A dominating 27-3. Obviously, teams that can control the ground game consistently over the course of the season should be in good shape in the end.
Just What D.R. Ordered: Sophomore inside receiver David Roberts has 10 receptions on the young season, the third best total on the team. His 119 receiving yards trail only senior Terrell Turner’s 133 for most on the squad. Roberts’ early-season breakout follows his redshirt season in which he tallied two catches for 15 yards. Most impressive about his 10 grabs this season are that half of them have resulted in first downs. Roberts is seeking his first career touchdown reception.
The Other Double D: Junior wide receiver Delashaun Dean is easily identifiable as a top threat in the passing game, but early in ’09 it has been a different DD – David Douglas – who has been a pest for opposing defense to defend. Through four games, Douglas has 12 receptions for 113 yards, improving upon his freshman total of three catches a season ago. Combined with the above-mentioned David Roberts, the Cats have 22 catches for 232 yards from their inside receivers. This has been welcomed contribution especially in the absence of Bug Wright, who has been slowed with shoulder and knee injuries in recent weeks and is out indefinitely.
Freshmen Breakouts: In the last three years, the Wildcats have relied heavily on freshmen running backs to spark them to early-season Pac-10 wins. In 2007, Nic Grigsby took over as the featured back in a 48-20 win over Washington State. Since, he’s been one of the Pac-10’s best and one of the nation’s most underrated players. In 2008, in the shadow of Grigsby, Keola Antolin burst on to the scene with a 149-yard, three-touchdown performance in a 42-27 victory over California. On Sept. 26 at Oregon State, Greg Nwoko stepped in for the injured Grigsby and Antolin and totaled 120 all-purpose yards. Nwoko, the only redshirt of the group, carried nine times for 44 yards and a score, but also added 76 receiving yards – the most for a UA running back since Grigsby’s 76 against WSU in that ’07 game.
Year Opponent Player Rush Att-Yds Rec-Yds
2009 @ Oregon St. Nwoko 9-44, TD 5-85
2008 vs. Cal Antolin 21-149, 3 TD 1-9
2007 vs. WSU Grigsby 30-186 9-76, TD
Gotta Get Off The Field: This week’s game features an interesting statistical matchup: Arizona’s No. 10 (Pac-10) defense in defending third down conversions (42%) against Washington’s No. 1 third down conversion offense (54%). It will be a crucial task for the Wildcats on the road, as UA has struggled in getting off the field in 2009. A season ago, opponents converted just 34 percent of third down plays against the Wildcats. Arizona showed improvement through the game at Oregon State, limiting the Beavers to conversions on just 3-of-10 third downs in the final three quarters, after allowing 4-of-5 conversions in the opening period.
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 34-17 in the first quarter of games and 23-3 in the third quarter. Combined with the 2008 season, those numbers are even more impressive. UA has outscored opponents 126-79 in the first quarter of its last 17 games, and 151-57 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.
Versus the Dawgs: A couple of Wildcats have some stats against Washington in the past several years. RB Nic Grigsby has a combined 27 carries for 137 yards, including a 14-113-TD performance last year, plus six catches for 41 yards as a freshman in '07. Receiver Terrell Turner has nine catches for 102 yards in two games, receiver Delashaun Dean has 5-70 in two games. Last year, quarterback Matt Scott ran six times for 58 yards, while RBs Nick Booth (5-33) and Keola Antolin (12-33) also had positive yardage.
Stingy Streak: With the exception of two games (at New Mexico 28-36, at Oregon 45-55) a year ago and the OSU game Sept. 26 (37-32), Arizona hasn't given up beaucoup points much since the Huskies dropped 41 on the Cats in Seattle in 2007 (and UA won that one, 48-41). In the 20 games since that late October game in Husky Stadium Arizona has given up 21.5 points per contest -- quite do-able with a commensurate Pac-10 offensive attack. It's not nationally top-drawer scoring defense, but it's helped create a span in which the Wildcats have given themselves every chance for victory. Not coincidentally, the Cats are an improving 13-7 in the stretch.
Post-Willie: Much was speculated about Arizona's quarterbacking in the aftermath of four-year starter Willie Tuitama's career. He left with a career completion percentage of 61.6 in setting school single-game, single-season and career passing marks in nearly all categories. Early signs show things are looking good. So far this year Nick Foles and Matt Scott have combined for a 62.7 completion rate, led by Foles' near 70 percent. Considering tight end Rob Gronkowski (back surgery) and Mike Thomas (Jacksonville Jaguars) aren't in the mix any more, that's pretty good stuff. Two guys who've stepped up are sophomore receivers David Douglas and David Roberts with a combined 22 catches.
Right On, Juron: Juron Criner has 16 career receptions and four touchdowns, a ratio better than tight end Rob Gronkowski's first-team All-Pac-10 figure of .213 (10 TD on 47 grabs) a year ago. This year Juron is 3-for-9. The 6-foot-4 basketball-talented outside receiver is a big weapon on a well-thrown fade or corner route down close, notably if he has to go up for the ball against typically smaller coverage personnel.
No PR for PRs: The Arizona team record for punt returns in a season is 5.4 per game (54 in 10 games in 1968). So far through four games the club has ONE (1). Opponents have punted 21 times, with seven of those requiring fair catches, two for touchbacks, six for more than 50 yards and nine inside the UA 20-yard line. David Douglas had one return for four yards at Iowa, and that's it. The school record for fewest per game is 1.0, with 10 returns in 10 games in 1966.
Go For It: Arizona has eschewed alternatives and gone for it on 4th down eight times this year. Five times it's been successful, three of those in the NAU game. The first try was a 4th-and-1 opportunity at the Northern Arizona 30-yard line, and Nic Grigsby rushed for 30 yards and a score. Thereby emboldened, UA later went for it on 4th-and-1 from the NAU 36-yard line, and Grigsby gained six. In the same drive, from the NAU 25-yard line, on 4th-and-5, Matt Scott completed a pass of 23 yards to Delashaun Dean to set up a score. The other tries:
NAU - 4th-and-1, NAU 5-yard line: Keola Antolin rush for no gain
Iowa - 4th-and 2, UI 23-yard line: Keenyn Crier rush, fake punt, no gain
Iowa - 4th-and-2, UA 45-yard line: Nick Foles pass to Grigsby for 7 yards
Iowa - 4th-and 1, Iowa 39-yard line: Antolin rush for 34 yards.
OSU - 4th-and-5, OSU 35-yard line: Foles pass incomplete
The totals for 4th-down plays: 5 rushes, 70 yards; 2-3 passes, 30 yards
Seeing Yellow: Hopefully the Cats can trim down mental mistakes a bit. The team has been penalized five times per game (20-169) this year after finishing in the nation's top five a year ago at a 4.0 rate. It's a slight difference, but always can be problematical if penalties prolong opponents' possessions or stall one's own drives. The breakdown of the 20 penalties: False Start (7) 35 yards; Pass Interference (4) 54 yards; Personal Foul (3) 45 yards; Delay of Game (2) 10 yards; Illegal Procedure (1) 5 yards; Holding (1) 10 yards; Illegal Forward Pass (1) 5 yards. Face Mask (1) 5 yards.
Folk Tales: Arizona faces Washington freshman kicker Erik folk, tied for 13th in the FBS with 1.80 field goals per game. His older brother, Nick, was a UA kicker from 2003-06, as a punter, place kicks and kickoff specialist, leading the Pac-10 with a 44.0 punting average in 2006 while booting home 15 of 20 field goals. Nick's now in his third year with the Dallas Cowboys. He had a career-best 61-yard punt against Washington his junior year, and kicked a 52-yeard field goal against UW in 2006 -- both in losing efforts.
Four-by-Four: Arizona's offense employs one running back at a time (although H-back Chris Gronkowski did get his first two carries of his career while sharing space in the backfield as a fullback against Oregon State). When feature back Nic Grigsby went down with a shoulder injury after one carry for seven yards in that game, Keola Antolin took over. When an ankle sprain put him on the sideline after 12 carries for 46 yards, Greg Nwoko took over. When a collision put him momentarily out of the game during nine carries for 44 yards, Nick Booth got a turn and toted once for 12 yards. It all added up to 23 rushes for 109 yards and a score (Nwoko's 19-yard run). That's a solid 4.7 yards per carry for the position, helping generate yards on the ground in an economical 388-yard offensive day that was good enough to win the game. Expect all four guys ready and on deck at Husky Stadium this week. It's a committee that stacks up against any in the league in the current statistical rankings.
Big Improvement: Keenyn Crier’s punting clinic in the fourth quarter at Oregon State is reflected in the latest national rankings for net punting. Prior to the OSU game, UA ranked No. 10 in the Pac-10 and No. 96 nationally with a 33.0 net punting average. Crier’s three punts downed at the 3-yard line in the fourth quarter in Corvallis, including two in excess of 60-yards, spiked the Cats’ net punting average to a respectable 37.4 yards per punt. That’s good enough for No. 5 in the league and No. 40 nationally. On a related note, Crier’s average of 3.5 punts per game is just shy of the required minimum of 3.6 punts per game to rank the top punter’s in the nation.
You’re Kidding, Right? Not only does Arizona open with a pair of road games to start Pac-10 action, but for the third straight year and the fourth in the last five seasons, Mike Stoops’ Arizona Wildcats will open Pac-10 play on the road. The one reprieve during that time? That was the 2006 season when the Wildcats hosted No. 3 USC in Tucson. Last year, Arizona opened on the road and played two of its first three away from home a year ago, picking up its first win in a Pac-10 opener since 2000 with a 31-10 victory at UCLA. The toughest start was likely the 2007 season, when the Cats began conference action at California and played three of their first four against league foes away from Arizona Stadium. But, 2005 was nearly as brutal, as UA’s first two league tilts were at California and at USC.
Yards Per Pop: Arizona running back Nic Grigsby has carried the ball an average of 16 times per game (in his three full games) and accumulated 8.1 yards per carry in 2009. That's school-record stuff that is improbable the rest of the way. Bobby Lee Thompson rushed 92 times and gained 732 yards to set the record at 7.96 yards per carry half a century ago in 1960. For Thompson it wasn't anomalous, as he finished his career with 195 carries for 1,484 yards and a 7.6 figure, also a school record. For guys carrying the ball a bit more than Thompson's two-year career, the Arizona record is 6.6 ypc, posted by UA Hall of Famer Art 'The Cactus Comet' Luppino with 513 rushes for 3,371 yards from 1953-56.
YPP Trivia: Quick! Which team gained more yards per play last week: Arizona or Iowa? If you guessed the Hawkeyes, you were wrong. The Wildcats actually outgained Iowa per play (5.0-4.6). The problem for UA, however, was that it only ran 51 plays to Iowa’s 74, and it couldn’t stop the Hawks on third down (10-of-19). But, interestingly, UA’s YPP stat in the Iowa game contrasts with a common predictor of outcomes in 2008. A season ago, the Cats won all eight games in which they outgained opponents per play. Predictably, they lost all five contests in which they were outgained per play by the opposition. Since the Iowa game, UA out-gained Oregon State per play – and won – to get back on track with the statistic.
IN“T” Wade: Sophomore cornerback Trevin Wade snagged his fourth interception of the year and eighth in his short 17-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. 2 nationally with his four interceptions (1.0 per game) while his eight passes defended (2.0 per game) rank No. 3 in the NCAA. He has two career double-pick games, one last year against Idaho and one against Northern Arizona this year. Additionally he is third on the team with 25 tackles. It will be fun to see how his ability to make the big play fares against Pac-10 offenses in the coming weeks.
Ocho-Cuatro: Terrell Turner's six grabs (55 yards) in the opener gave him 100 career receptions and he added five more against NAU. He leads the Cats with 15 receptions on the season and has bumped his career total to 109 – tying him with Terry Vaughn for 10th-most in program history.
All-Purpose Guys: Running backs Nic Grigsby and Keola Antolin make up a valuable percentage of UA’s all-purpose yards in games, and not just in the running game. Grigsby has been shouldering the load in the aforementioned running game with 102 rushing yards per game, while Antolin has 177 rushing yards on the season. But, Antolin has been impressive in the return game, tallying 256 yards on kickoff returns. With another 40 yards per game on the ground, the sophomore is averaging 107.5 all-purpose yards per game in 2009. Grigsby, meanwhile, has 26 receiving yards and is averaging 108.2 all-purpose yards per game. Combined, that’s 216 yards per game from two guys. Lastly, if you mix in veteran receivers Terrell Turner and Delashaun Dean, the Cats have four players with over 1,000 career all-purpose yards. Grigsby leads with 2,552 yards, followed by Turner (1,367), Antolin (1,310) and Dean (1,109).
Solid Protection: Arizona’s offensive line has paved the way for the nation’s No. 11 rushing unit (223.3 ypg), but it has also done a steady job in protecting UA’s quarterbacks. While the offensive game plan has become more run-oriented in the last year, protecting the QB on passing plays remains a top priority. To date, the Wildcats have yielded three sacks on the season, a figure that is No. 12 nationally and trails only Stanford in the Pac-10 for fewest per game.
Nic Is Ticking: Junior running back Nic Grigsby, who had just one carry at OSU after a first quarter shoulder injury, is quickly moving up the career rushing charts in several categories. Grigsby pushed his career total to 18 scores earlier this year against NAU, pushing him into ninth place all-time in career rushing touchdowns at Arizona. On the yardage side of the charts, Grigsby shattered the 2,000-yard barrier with his 207 rushing yards against NAU, moving into ninth place in career rushing yardage. Despite just 82 yards on 12 carries since the NAU game, Grigsby now stands at 2,264 career rushing yards. Grigsby has pushed his career yards-per-carry tally to an impressive 5.3, and his 94-yard carry earlier this year vs. the Lumberjacks is the second longest in UA history. In his last 25 games, Grigsby has rushed for 2,166 yards (5.3 ypc) and 17 touchdowns. Additionally, he has posted ten 100-yard games and has scored at least one touchdown in 12 of the last 17 games.
Return Game: One of the area's the Wildcats have shown significant early-season improvement is in the kickoff return game. A season ago, the Wildcats ranked 105th among all FBS teams. Through four games, UA has upped its 19.3 average from a year ago all the way up to 26.0 yards per return, good enough for No. 22 in the nation. Keola Antolin leads the charge with eight returns for an average of 28.4 yards. Against NAU, Terrell Turner returned his first career kickoff a season-long 49 yards. On the flip side, UA has limited opponents to just 20.1 yards per return.
Home Sweet Home: It won't matter again this week, but Arizona has been impressive at home in recent seasons. UA has treated the home faithful to a run of nine victories in the last 11 games played at Arizona Stadium. The only two losses came in gut-wrenching fashion, as UA dropped showdowns to No. 6 USC (17-10) and No. 22 Oregon State (19-17). Otherwise, the Cats have protected their turf as well as anyone can, posting the best stretch of home wins since Arizona won 11-of-13 home contests in the 1997-99 seasons. UA’s 2-0 home record in 2009 has pushed Mike Stoops’ home record to 18-17 in his five plus seasons in Tucson.
Visiting the Zoo? The Arizona student section - affectionately named the `Zona Zoo' - seats nearly 11,000 standing-room only seats from endzone-to-endzone behind the UA team bench on the east side of the stadium. It's been as raucous as any around, filling to capacity an hour before kickoff for opponents ranging from Idaho to USC. The in-game atmosphere has certainly picked up in recent years giving UA a decided home field advantage. The Wildcats have posted a 9-2 mark in their last 11 home games, with the two losses coming by a combined nine points to No. 6 USC and No. 21 Oregon State in 2008. In fact, during the 11-game span that dates back to the end of the 2007 season, Arizona has outscored opponents 380-178 in Arizona Stadium, or by an average score of 34.5-16.2. Additionally, Arizona won five home games in a season ('08) for the first time since 1998. Since 1950, the Cats have won five games at home 15 times. Arizona was perfect at home twice in that span, 6-0 in 1961 and 6-0 in 1993.
House of 'No Names': Arizona defensive players welcome the 'No Name Defense' nickname that they have earned since the start of the 2008 season. A young, talented and motivated group, the '08 unit didn't listen to pundits who dismissed the group and put UA's post-season aspirations firmly in the hands of a more proven offensive squad. Interestingly, as the offense continued to rank highly in scoring, the defense became the backbone of the team, emerging in the Top-25 and third in the Pac-10 in total defense following the Las Vegas Bowl Victory. The 'No Names' have taken a particular liking to playing in Arizona Stadium, shutting down some of the nation's best offensive teams. In the last nine games in Arizona Stadium, UA's defense has held opponents to a paltry 126 total points (14.0 points per game). The Wildcats have allowed just 56 points in the second half of those games (7.0 ppg), and only California (27) has broken the 20-point barrier for points in a game.
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.
Well Grounded: Arizona quarterback Matt Scott has some ability to get out of trouble in the backfield. On 46 career carries, many of the pull-it-down-and-go variety, he's accumulated 358 rushing yards in nineappearances. That's a heady 7.8 yards per carry. He's likely to seriously challenge some of the modern running totals by UA quarterbacks. Here's a look at what he's up against:
Ronnie Veal 1987 161-566, 9 TD
Keith Smith 1996 136-546, 8 TD
Chuck Levy 1993 126-567, 9 TD (primarily at TB)
Chuck Levy 1991 128-505, 7 TD (4 QB starts)
Jim Krohn 1978 141-335, 5TD
Ronnie Veal 1989 107-315, 5 TD
Ronnie Veal 1990 99-281, 8 TD
Ronnie Veal 1988 95-257, 5 TD
Keith Smith 1998 49-199, 3 TD
George Malauulu 1991 73-188, 5 TD
Bobby Watter 1988 54-175, 2 TD
Alfred Jenkins 1986 59-167, 2 TD
Arguably the most famous Arizona quarterback run was Ortege Jenkin's 'leap by the lake' in 1998 at Washington in the wanning moments, the flip for the victory. Jenkins has 56 totes for 156 yards that year. He rushed for 166 yards his senior year in 2000, the most recent 100-plus season by a QB. Chuck Levy posted a number of 100-plus games while taking some all-purpose duty off to play under center.
Kicking A to Z : Sophomore kicker Alex Zendejas' initial work in the season opener put his name in the UA record books for most field goals in a game, four, tying four others -- Doug Pfaff (1989 vs. Stanford), his uncle Max Zendejas (3 times), Charlie Gorham (1973 vs. Indiana) and Steve Hurley (1968 vs. UTEP). Max was 4-for-4 twice and Gorham and Hurley also made all their tries in those games. Max tried five in a game three times, the record Alex now shares for attempts. The miss against CMU also cost him the school record for most points scored by kicking in a game. His 13 points (1 PAT) were two behind his uncle's 15 at Cal in 1983 (3 PAT, 4 FG).
Sub-200: The Wildcats' defense has been a nightmare for opposing offenses, particularly when it comes to moving the football. In its last 15 games, the UA defense has held four opponents under 200 total yards in a game. 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.
Watchin' the Charts: The record-breaking careers of Willie Tuitama and Mike Thomas are now complete in the UA record books, but a handful of returning Wildcats are looking to etch their names into the UA annals this year ... Junior running back Nic Grigsby has 2264 rushing yards in his two-plus seasons to date, which puts him No. 9 in program history. Grigsby's 13 rushing TD's in '08 tied for third-most in a season, while his 1,153 yards rushing were ninth-best at UA for a single season. He stands No.9 at Arizona with 18 career rushing TDs... Sophomore running back Keola Antolin scored 10 rushing TD's in '08, which was tied for the sixth-highest single-season total at UA and leaves him just seven shy of breaking into UA's career top-10. Antolin's 24 points scored on four rushing TD's at Oregon in '08 is the third-highest total in UA history ... Senior wide receiver Terrell Turner currently has 109 career receptions, which ties Terry Vaughn for 10th-most at UA. Turner, who had 10 catches (t-13th-most in a game at UA) for 175 yards (t-11th-most in a game at UA) at Stanford in '08, has 1,279 career receiving yards. A modest 373 yards will move Turner into UA's top-10 for career receiving yards ... Junior wide receiver Delashaun Dean has 97 career receptions for 1,049 yards. He stands 12 receptions and 570 yards shy of breaking into UA's career top 10 in each respective category ... Senior cornerback Devin Ross, who broke up 13 passes a year ago and has 17 in his career, needs nine more to break into UA's top-10 chart in the category ... Junior punter Keenyn Crier, whose first two seasons each rank in UA's top-six for single-season punting, could challenge UA career leader Nick Folk for highest career punting average. Crier's average currently is 43.5 yards per punt, while Folk's career mark was 44.19 … Paced by his 10 receiving touchdowns in 2008 (tied for third-best in a single season at UA) Rob Gronkowski currently stands tied for seventh in UA history with 16 receiving touchdowns. The junior trails Theopolis `T' Bell, who snared 30 TD catches from 1972-75, but just eight more TD grabs for Gronkowski would tie him for second with Dennis Northcutt. Gronkowski, whose 12-catch game at Oregon in '08 tied for second-best ever at UA, has 75 total receptions in his two seasons, which stands 34 short of breaking UA's top-10 chart. Additionally, Gronkowski needs just 455 more yards to crack the UA career receiving chart ...
Driving It Home: Arizona had back-to-back scoring drives totaling 194 yards, in alarmingly different fashion, against Northern Arizona, albeit spanning the second and third quarters. The Cats' 99-yard scoring drive to close the first half against Northern Arizona was their longest since a single-play drive covering 99 yards against Idaho Sept. 8, 2001. (Jason Johnson threw a 99-yard pass to Brandon Marshall for a TD.) The 17 plays were the most on a march since a 16-play, 72-yard drive for a field goal against Oregon State last Nov. 22... On their first play of the third quarter, after an interception by Trevin Wade near the goal line, the Cats had a two-play drive for 95 yards keyed by Nic Grigsby's 94-yard run to the NAU 1 yard-line. The run was the second-longest in school history. (Trung Canidate pulled off a 96-yard against San Diego State in 1997, his for a score).
A New Way To Win: A season ago, Arizona scored at least 31 points in all eight of its wins. In fact, the Wildcats failed to reach 20 points only twice in 2008 (10 vs USC, 17 vs Oregon State). In UA's season-opening 19-6 win over Central Michigan marked the first time UA collected a win in a game that it didn't reach 20 points since a season-opening 16-13 victory against BYU in 2006, a stretch of 18 wins.
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.
Mark Your Calendars: If you're a Wildcat football fan, you better be in Arizona Stadium this Saturday. If not, you won't see Arizona play at home for another month. Due to a quirky schedule, Arizona not only plays three-consecutive road games, but a bye week is mixed in as well, keeping the Cats away from home for four straight weeks. The rabid fan will have to endure 35 grueling days without UA football in Tucson, one of the longest stretches away from home in the nation. Here's a look at some other teams that will be seeking a remedy for homesickness:
Most Days Between Home Games
36 - Hawai`i (Sept. 4-Oct. 10)
35 - Washington State (Oct. 10-Nov. 14)
35 - SMU (Sept. 5-Oct. 10)
35 - Middle Tennessee State (Sept. 12-Oct. 17)
28 - Colorado (Sept. 19-Oct. 17)
28 - Houston (Sept. 26-Oct. 24)
30 Is (Usually) The Magic Number: 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 107 games in which they have scored 30 or more points. Their record in those games? An astounding 97-9-1. That record included a streak of 18 consecutive victories prior to the Oregon game in 2008 (55-45 loss), and UA is now 18-1 under Mike Stoops in such games. Arizona was 8-1 in such games in 2008 and is 2-0 in 2009.
If Not 30, Try 40: 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 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.
Offensive Turnaround: Two years ago the Wildcats rated around 100 in the FBS in passing (94), total offense (115), rushing (110) and scoring (105). Ouch. Last year UA checked in at 16th in scoring (37 ppg), 33rd in total offense (402 ypg), 36th in passing (244 ypg), and 48th in rushing (153 ypg). The improvement coincided with the arrival of current offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes, line coach Bill Bedenbaugh, (former) inside receivers coach Michael Smith, outside receivers coach Dave Nichol (a grad assistant in 2007), and some increased influence lent by (former) tight ends/RBs coach Dana Dimel in the adoption of a different scheme. It's still evolving and will under a new quarterback and a pair of new coaches, but the system has definitely turned one corner - putting points on the board. UA averaged 17 points in 2006 and an average of 33 points the last two seasons.
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. Devin Ross, a second team All-Pac-10 honoree at CB, snared three INTs a year ago and he will team up with fellow corner and projected starter Trevin Wade, who led the Wildcats with four picks despite playing a backup role. Defensive end Ricky Elmore and '08 backup safety Joe Perkins each added an interception last year, which gives UA nine returning interceptions. Vuna Tuihalamaka picked off a deflected pass in the season-opener, putting the UA defense on the board to start 2009. Here's a look at the year-by-year numbers under Stoops:
Coaching Newcomers: Mike Stoops' staff has two new faces in 2009, with both on hand for spring ball -- running backs and tight ends coach Seth Littrell and inside receivers coach Garret Chachere. The former came from Texas Tech and the Mike Leach spread system, with an Oklahoma player background, while the latter arrived from Memphis with some recent special teams and an offense-defense hybrid background. They replaced Dana Dimel and Michael Smith, respectively, who both took jobs at Kansas State.
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.
Up Next: The Wildcats finally return home to host Stanford on Saturday, Oct. 17. The game has been selected for a live TV broadcast by Versus at 4:30 p.m. It will be Family Weekend on the University of Arizona campus.
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