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Wildcats, Bruins Face Off in Pasadena

Nov 23, 2020

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TUCSON, Ariz. — The Arizona Wildcats (0-2) hit the road for the second consecutive week and face the UCLA Bruins (1-2) this Saturday, Nov. 28 at the Rose Bowl. The game is slated to kick off at 6:00 p.m. MST with a television broadcast on FOX.

The Wildcats, looking for their first win of the shortened 2020 season, finished with a red hot fourth quarter against Washington last weekend. Arizona posted 27 points in the final 15 minutes in Seattle, the most points the Wildcats had scored in a single quarter since dropping 30 in the second quarter in last year's home opener against Northern Arizona.

The Bruins nearly defeated the No. 11 ranked Oregon Ducks last weekend, narrowly falling by a final score of 38-35 to drop to 1-2 on the year. 

A complete game preview is below.
ARIZONA NOTES & NUMBERS

  • Arizona heads to UCLA, following Saturday's 44-27 loss at Washington, for a second consecutive road game. The Wildcats hold an all-time mark of 17-25-2 versus the Bruins and have not won at the Rose Bowl since a 29-21 decision in 2010. After winning six of seven meetings from 2005 to 2011, Arizona has lost six of their last eight against the Bruins.
  • The Cats won last year's meeting, 20-17, in Tucson in Grant Gunnell's first career start. The quarterback earned Pac-12 Freshman of the Week for his performance after completing 29-of-44 passes for 352 yards and a touchdown. His 352 passing yards marked the second most by a Wildcat in a conference opener since 2000.
  • Freshman WR Ma'jon Wright's 11-yard touchdown grab in the fourth quarter of the Washington game was the first of his career. He became the first Wildcat freshman to catch a touchdown pass in his first or second career appearance since Jamardre Harris-Cobb caught a touchdown pass as a redshirt freshman in his second career game versus Nevada on Sept. 12, 2015.
  • Entering Saturday, Arizona was one of four teams a top the Pac-12 in red zone offense with a perfect scoring percentage of 100. The Wildcat offense has scored on all five possessions inside the opponent's 20-yard line with three touchdowns and a pair of field goals.
  • Running back Gary Brightwell's 83.5 rushing yard average after two games ranks seventh in the Pac-12. Brightwell, who eclipsed 1,000 career yards versus USC, is averaging 5.2 yards per carry and ranks fifth among all conference backs with at least 25 carries this season.

66.1 — Sophomore Grant Gunnell's career completion percentage entering Saturday's game is 66.1%. The Texan is one of only three active Pac-12 quarterbacks, with at least 10 career appearances, to have a completion percentage above 65 percent. Kedon Slovis of USC and Tyler Shough of Oregon are the others.

11,588 — The Wildcats have rushed for 11,588 yards since 2016, the best mark in the Pac-12 Conference. Arizona has led the conference in rushing three times over that stretch, and are one of just two teams (also: Oregon) with a rushing total north of 11,000 in the last four-plus years.

26 — Junior offensive lineman Donovan Laie has started in 26 consecutive games entering Saturday's meeting at UCLA. He's just outside the top 10 of the program's longest starting streaks by an offensive lineman since Arizona began tracking starts in 1993.

11 — Through the first two games of the season, 11 different Arizona receivers have caught at least one pass. Five different receives have caught at least five passes through the first two games of 2020.

SOME GAME THEMES:

  • Sophomore quarterback Grant Gunnell has thrown for three touchdowns and 250+ yards in each of the Wildcats first two games this season. On the year he is completing passes at a 68.0% clip, the second-best mark in the Pac-12 Conference behind only USC's Kedon Slovis (70.7%).
  • Gunnell has attempted 73 consecutive passes without throwing an interception, 20 attempts shy of his career-best mark of 93.
  • Despite this being only the third year in Tucson for head coach Kevin Sumlin, this will be the seventh time in his career facing a UCLA squad he has an all-time record of 3-3 against. Sumlin also faced the Bruins twice while at Texas A&M (1-1) and twice while at Houston (1-1). Sumlin's 2016 Aggies topped the No. 16 ranked Bruins, 31-24, in College Station to open their season.
  • Wildcat kicker Lucas Havrisik has shown his powerful leg on kickoffs. He has neutralized opposing return units this season as only one of his 12 kickoffs has been returned.
  • Arizona is set for a FOX broadcast for a third consecutive week to open the season. The Cats have not appeared in three FOX games in a single season since appearing on the network three times in four games to close the 2014 season.
  • The Wildcats hold a nine-game losing streak entering Saturday at UCLA, which is the program's longest winless streak since the 1956 and 1957 seasons. Arizona ended 1956 with a pair of losses, tied BYU in the 1957 opener, and then lost seven straight games. The 2016 Wildcats lost their first eight Pac-12 games of the season before winning the Territorial Cup.

VERSUS UCLA:

  • Though the Wildcats trail the Bruins in the all-time series, 17-25-2, they have come away victorious in two of the last three contests. Arizona has historically fared much worse in the series when the game is in Pasadena/Los Angeles, posting a 4-15-2 record on the road and a 13-10 record at home in Tucson.
  • Arizona's defense held UCLA's offense to just 17 points in the 2019 match-up, which was the fourth time in the Kevin Sumlin era that the Wildcats held a conference opponent to 17 or fewer points. Arizona had held a conference opponent to 17 or fewer points a total of four times from 2013 to 2017. 
  • Sophomore quarterback Grant Gunnell made his first career start against UCLA in 2019; he finished the game going 29-of-44 passing with 352 yards and one touchdown with zero interceptions in the win.
  • Senior running back Gary Brightwell was the only Wildcat with a rushing touchdown the last time Arizona and UCLA met in 2019. Brightwell picked up 33 yards on seven carries in the win over the Bruins.
  • On their last trip to Pasadena, the Wildcats dropped a 31-30 thriller in 2018. Quarterback Rhett Rodriguez made the start in place of Khalil Tate and threw for 231 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Gary Brightwell ran for 121 yards on 15 carries in the loss, marking the second of his four career 100-yard games. 
  • Arizona defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads joined the Wildcats this season after spending two seasons as head coach Chip Kelly's defensive backs coach at UCLA.
  • The state of California has not been a kind host to the Wildcats, with one win in its last 10 games played in the neighboring state with its lone victory coming in a double overtime thriller at Cal in 2017. All but one of those 10 games have been conference match-ups with the exception being Arizona's loss to Purdue in the 2017 Foster Farms Bowl in Santa Clara.

CHARTING THE CATS (CAREER):

  • Redshirt senior defensive back Lorenzo Burns has notched nine career interceptions in four seasons, putting him just three picks shy of breaking into the Wildcats all-time top 10 leaderboard.
  • Burns is also on the verge of cracking into Arizona's career top 10 in pass breakups. Through four years he has picked up 25 PBU, just three shy of tying Trevin Wade (2008-11) and Randy Robbins (1980-83) for 10th all-time.

GRANT LAND: Sophomore quarterback Grant Gunnell entered the 2020 season as the Wildcats clear-cut No. 1 signal caller after splitting time during his freshman campaign with Khalil Tate. Gunnell's collegiate debut came in blowout duty against Northern Arizona in week two of 2019; he threw for 151 yards and three touchdowns on 9-for-11 passing. His first career start came in game four, the Wildcat's Pac-12 opener against this week's opponent, UCLA – in the game, Gunnell completed 29-of-44 pass attempts for 352 yards, one touchdown, and no interceptions while leading Arizona to a 20-17 victory. His effort against UCLA earned him Pac-12 Freshman Player of the Week honors. He also saw playing time against Washington, at USC, at Stanford, against Oregon State, at Oregon, and against Utah. When it was all said and done, Gunnell threw for 1,239 yards, nine touchdowns, and suffered just one interception on 101-of-155 passing in his freshman campaign. His 65.2% completion percentage ranks fourth all-time in Arizona program history with a minimum of 100 attempts and was the best ever effort by a freshman passer. Prior to the season, Gunnell was selected as one of five Arizona captains – he is the only underclassmen among the five captains.
 
Grant Gunnell 200+ Yard Passing Performances

Date Opponent Cmp-Att % Yds TD
11/21/20 at Washington 27-39 69.2 259 3
11/14/20 USC 24-36 66.7 286 3
11/02/19 Oregon State 19-29 65.5 269 2
09/28/19 UCLA 29-44 65.9 352 1

FAB FIVE: Grant Gunnell has built a prodigious opening to his career through his first five starts with the Wildcats. Across his first five starts behind center, Gunnell has gone 98-for-149 passing for 1,075 yards and seven touchdowns with just one interception. His 1,075 yards are the most by an Arizona QB through their first five starts since Anu Solomon opened his career with 1,741 yards through the air. Even more impressive is Gunnell's sparkling 65.8% completion percentage, which stands as the best mark by a Wildcat passer in their first five starts since Nick Foles posted a mark of 72.3%. Gunnell has tallied 200+ yards three times in five starts and passed the 200-yard mark in each of his starts this season.
 
Recent Arizona QBs Through First Five Career Starts

QB (Years) Cmp-Att % Yds TD INT
Grant Gunnell (2019-current) 98-149 65.8 1075 7 1
Khalil Tate (2016-19) 50-94 53.2 793 7 5
Brandon Dawkins (2015-17) 69-118 58.5 941 5 3
Anu Solomon (2014-16) 131-206 63.6 1741 14 2
B.J. Denker (2012-13) 57-104 54.8 581 4 2
Matt Scott (2008-12) 79-122 64.8 954 4 4
Nick Foles (2009-11) 138-191 72.3 1436 10 5
Willie Tuitama (2005-08) 83-147 56.5 1109 8 5

I'M MR. BRIGHTWELL: After two years of serving the Wildcats as an effective backup running back, senior Gary Brightwell finally gets his time in the spotlight as Arizona's primary tailback in 2020. He opened the year with a 112-yard performance against No. 20 USC, giving him four career 100-yard rushing performances and putting him over the 1,000-yard career mark. He has also added pass catching to his repertoire in 2020, pulling in seven receptions for 32 yards during the Wildcats first two games after logging just six catches for 59 yards in his first three seasons. During his time in Tucson, Brightwell has always been productive, averaging 5.7 yards per carry and 29.2 yards per game. His five touchdowns in 2019 were a career high after scoring three times during his sophomore years in 2018. Brightwell's biggest career game to date on the ground came against Northern Arizona last season, as he rushed for 141 yards on just five carries. Included in his NAU onslaught was a 94-yard rushing touchdown, the longest of his career and tied for the second-longest rush in school history (also: Nic Grigsby, 2009, NAU). The next week against Texas Tech, Brightwell posted his first career multi-score game after going for 85 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. He also scored twice against Oregon State, with one of his touchdowns coming through the air for his first career receiving touchdown.
 
Gary Brightwell 100-yard performances

Date Opponent Yards Yds/Att
11/14/20 USC 112 5.3
09/07/19 Northern Arizona 141 28.2
10/20/18 at UCLA 121 8.1
09/22/18 at Oregon State 113 8.7

IN A RUSH: Despite doing much of their damage through the air recently, Arizona's rushing attack still remains dangerous. The Wildcats finished the 2019 season third in the Pac-12 with an average of 174.0 yards per game on the ground. Prior to that, the Wildcats had strung together four consecutive years of averaging north of 200 yards per game rushing. Arizona's ability to run the ball often ties to the success of the team. Over the past five seasons, when the Wildcats have rushed for 200 or more yards, the team has posted a record of 26-11. In games where Arizona hasn't reached the 150-yard mark as a team, they are 6-19. The Wildcats have dominated the Pac-12 rushing scene since the start of the 2016 season and is one of only two programs to top 11,000 yards in that span (also: Oregon).
 
Total Rush Yards by Pac-12 Schools (2016-current)

School Yards
1. Arizona 11,588
2. Oregon 11,456
3. Utah 10,368
4. Washington 10,046
5. USC 8,780
6. Stanford 8,358
7. Colorado 8,232
8. Oregon State 8,191
9. Arizona State 8,106
10. California 7,292
11. UCLA 6,831
12. Washington State 4,668

INSTANT IMPACT: Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Jamarye Joiner impressed for the Wildcats in 2019, ultimately leading the receiver corp with 552 yards and five touchdowns through the air in his first go-around at the position. The Tucson native and Cienega High School product joined the Wildcats in 2018 as a quarterback and made the transition to wide receiver during Arizona's 2019 fall camp. In his first collegiate action at wideout against Hawai'i in week one of 2019, Joiner pulled in four receptions for 72 yards and his first career receiving touchdown. His best outing of last year came at Arizona State in the Territorial Cup, in which he pulled in career highs in receptions (7), yards (140), and touchdowns (2). His 140 yards against the Sun Devils were the most by an Arizona receiver since Cayleb Jones had 182 versus New Mexico in 2015. Joiner also reeled in touchdowns against Washington and Stanford last year. Joiner immediately impacted the Wildcats again in 2020, wasting no time and pulling in two receptions for 42 yards and a touchdown against USC in the season opener.

THE PANDY MAN CAN: Senior linebacker Anthony Pandy steps into a leadership role for the Wildcats defense in 2020 after three years of steady improvement. He is expected to serve as Arizona's primary "Will" inside linebacker in first-year defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads' new base 3-4 scheme. During his three-plus-year career to date, Pandy has tallied 111 total tackles, 11.0 tackles for loss, four sacks, and one interception. The best season of his career came in 2019, his junior campaign, during which he collected 66 tackles, five tackles for loss, and two sacks while playing in all 12 games. Pandy's 66 tackles in 2019 are the most among all of Arizona's returning defensive players. The best tackling performance of his career came against Utah last season – in a home game against the Utes in 2019, Pandy notched a career-high 11 tackles.
ZO SAYS NO: Redshirt senior defensive back Lorenzo Burns is the Wildcats most experience secondary player, having seen time in 39 games with 37 starts since 2016. Last season he was named the Wildcats Team Defensive MVP and earned Pac-12 All-Conference Honorable Mention recognition after tallying 47 tackles, four interceptions, and seven pass breakups across 12 starts at cornerback. Burns' four interceptions led the team and were tied for the most by a single Pac-12 player. He currently boasts nine career interceptions, putting him three shy of breaking into the programs all-time top 10 leaderboard. Burns is also just three pass breakups short of breaking into the Arizona top 10.
 
Arizona Career Pass Breakups Leaderboard

Player (Pos.) PBU Years
10. Trevin Wade (CB) 28 2008-11
Randy Robbins (S) 28 1980-83
12. Chris McAlister (CB) 27 1996-98
Kelvin Hunter (CB) 27 1996-99
14. James DeBow (S) 26 1985-88
15. Lorenzo Burns (CB) 25 2016-current
Jonathan McKnight (CB) 25 2011-14
17. Marton Rudolph (CB) 24 1984-86

NEW ROLE, SAME JALEN: Redshirt junior linebacker Jalen Harris is making the transition from a "hand in the ground" pass rush specialist to full-time outside linebacker under Arizona's new defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads. He was the Wildcats leading returner in both tackles for loss (6.5) and sacks (4.0). During three-plus seasons and 30 games in the cardinal and navy, Harris has compiled 64 total tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 7.0 sacks, and one forced fumble. Harris played in all 12 of the Wildcats games in 2019 with eight starts on the defensive line and notched multiple tackles in seven different games. He began thriving instantly in his new role in 2020, posting career-best marks in tackles (6) and tackles for loss (2.0) in the Wildcats season opener against USC.

SPEED KILLS: Senior wide receiver Tayvian Cunningham has put his wheels to good use in Tucson, establishing himself as the primary speed threat among the Wildcats talented receiving corps. He transferred to Arizona after two years at Sacramento City College, where he competed in both football and track. In 2019 Cunningham hauled in 35 receptions for 383 yards and two touchdowns – he also saw time in five indoor meets with Arizona Track, posting a personal-record time of 6.81 seconds in the 60-meter dash and a 21.19 second mark in the 200-meter. He came out of the games strong in 2020, leading the Cats with 110 yards on five catches against No. 20 USC – a large chunk of his yards came on a 75-yard scoring catch from Grant Gunnell.