Wildcats Return Home to Host San Diego State
TUCSON, Ariz. — The Arizona Wildcats (0-1) return to Tucson for their 2021 home opener versus the San Diego State Aztecs (1-0) this Saturday, Sept. 11 at Arizona Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. MST with a television broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks.
Arizona enters Saturday's game hot off an encouraging performance against BYU last weekend in Las Vegas. The Wildcats will look to build on that success and level their record on Saturday evening in front of a friendly crowd at Arizona Stadium.
Critically-acclaimed country music artist Phil Vassar will perform as part of the pregame festivities on Saturday. Vassar will perform on the University of Arizona Mall and perform from his catalogue of signature songs that features 10 number one singles and 26 top-40 hits, including "Carlene", "Just Another Day in Paradise", "Sick-Pack Summer," and "When I Love You" among others. The two-time ASCAP Songwriter of the Year and Top New Male Vocalist award-winner will take the stage at 4:30 p.m. MST as part of the "Community Day" promotions on gameday.
A complete game preview is below.
ARIZONA NOTES & NUMBERS
- Coming off a hard-fought game vs. BYU in Vegas in week one, Arizona will face San Diego State in the home opener on Saturday, Sept. 11.
- Saturday's game will kick off at 7:07 p.m. MST on the Pac-12 Network. Roxy Bernstein and Yogi Roth will be on the call.
- The Wildcats dropped the season opener to BYU 24-16 at Allegiant Stadium after Arizona mounted a second-half comeback that that came up just short.
- Gunner Cruz set Arizona records for completions (34) and pass attempts (45) for a quarterback making their first career start since at least 1980. His 336 yards was Arizona's first 300-yard passing performance since Khalil Tate threw for 404 yards vs. Colorado on Oct. 5, 2019.
- The Arizona defense held BYU to just 207 passing yards, marking its fewest allowed since holding Colorado to 92 yards in the air a season ago.
- For the second-straight season, an Arizona receiver finished the season opener with over 100 yards as Stanley Berryhill III set a career high in receiving yards with 102. He also set a career high with 12 receptions. Last season, Tayvian Cunningham went for over 100 in the opener vs. USC.
- Arizona returns 33 different players who have started at least one game for the Wildcats in their career. Donovan Laie leads the way with 30 career starts. Last week Laie, who has started every game of his career, became the ninth offensive lineman to have started 30 or more consecutive games since Arizona began tracking game-by-game starters in 1993.
8 — Arizona finished Saturday's game with eight TFLs, tied for the most since Arizona had 10 vs. Colorado on Nov. 2, 2018.
17 — Head coach Jedd Fisch brought in 17 FBS transfers to Tucson, with some of them arriving for spring practice and the rest during the summer/fall. Of those 17 transfers, they combined to start 81 games at their previous schools. Linebacker Treshaun Hayward leads the way with 18 career starts.
30 — Offensive lineman Donovan Laie has started the first 30 games of his career. Only eight other offensive linemen have started 30 or more consecutive games since Arizona began tracking game-by-game starters in 1993.
34/45 — Gunner Cruz's 34 completions and 45 attempts vs. BYU were both high marks for an Arizona QB making their debut since at least 1980.
WRAPPING UP SATURDAY AND LOOKING AHEAD: Jedd Fisch will be coaching his first game in Arizona Stadium on Saturday … Arizona is 91-20-5 all-time in home openers … Arizona is looking to snap its 13-game losing streak … Gunner Cruz set Arizona records for completions (34) and pass attempts (45) for a QB making their debut since at least 1980 … Stanley Berryhill III set career highs in receptions (12) and yards (102) last week vs. BYU … The Wildcats got applied the pressure against BYU and recorded eight TFLs, the most since November 2018 … Trevon Mason and Rashie Hodge Jr. got into the backfield to record Arizona's first safety since Sept. 7, 2019 vs. NAU … Running backs Michael Wiley and Drake Anderson combined to rush for 4.3 yards per carry vs. BYU … The first touchdown during the Jedd Fisch era was a 29-yard pass from Cruz to BJ Casteel … The Arizona defense held BYU to just 207 passing yard, marking its fewest allowed since holding Colorado to 92 yards in the air a season ago.
VERSUS SAN DIEGO STATE: Arizona holds a record of 10-5 overall vs. San Diego State … Arizona has won the last four contests vs. SDSU and are 7-2 all-time vs. the Aztecs in Tucson … The Wildcats haven't faced the Aztecs since Aug. 30, 2001, when Arizona won in San Diego by a score of 23-10 … Arizona hasn't allowed SDSU to score 30 or more since before 1980 … The last time Arizona faced San Diego State, Clarence Farmer ran for 91 yards and one touchdown on 21 carries … Brandon Marshall caught one touchdown pass from Jason Johnson and Bobby Wade had five catches for 44 yards … Michael Jolivette and Lance Briggs each led the way with six tackles.
CRUZIN': Redshirt freshman Gunner Cruz made his first career start and was out there gunning it. The Gilbert, Ariz. native set Arizona records for completions (34) and pass attempts (45) for a QB making his first start since at least 1980. Both Anu Solomon and Grant Gunnell threw 44 passes in their debuts. Cruz finished the game with 336 passing yards and one touchdown to BJ Casteel. From the second quarter and on, Cruz was 32-40 for 328 yards.
Gunner Cruz in National Rankings
|Completions per game||34.0||2nd|
|Passing yards per game||336.0||8th|
Gunner Cruz in Pac-12 Rankings
|Passing yards per game||336.0||1st|
STAN THE MAN: Stanley Berryhill III had a tremendous fall camp and picked up right where he left off against BYU on Saturday. The Tucson native set career highs in both receptions (12) and yards (102) as he was targeted 13 times on Saturday night. His 12 receptions is the second-most of any receiver in the nation thus far.
THE PANDY MAN CAN: Senior linebacker Anthony Pandy is back for his fifth year as a Wildcat and will be assume a large leadership role under first year head coach Jedd Fisch as he was named a team captain. During the 2020 season, Pandy led the Wildcats in both tackles (30) and interceptions (2). Both of his interceptions came in the same game vs. Colorado. He tied the team-high in tackles with eight vs. BYU while never coming off the field.
DR. BLITZ LIVES UP TO HIS NAME: As expected, Arizona applied the pressure on defense vs. BYU and finished the game with eight TFLs, the most since Arizona had 10 vs. Colorado on Nov. 2, 2018. Not only that, eight different players had a hand in a tackle for a loss with Trevon Mason and Rashie Hodge Jr. leading the way with 1.5 The Mason/Hodge Jr. duo changed the momentum of the game in the third quarter breaking through for a safety after a brilliant punt by Kyle Ostendorp that was downed at the 1-yard line.
ADDING A PRE: Linebacker Treshaun Hayward comes to Arizona with already boasting a very successful career. The 2019 MAC Defensive Player of the Year played 39 games for Western Michigan and totaled 229 tackles, 16 TFLs and 5.5 sacks. Hayward was flat out dominant in 2019 as he was named an All-American by Sporting News and Phil Steele. The Ypsilanti, Mich. native finished the season with a conference-high 142 tackles and added in 10.5 TFLs. His 142 tackles was the third-most in the country and was one of five players to post 130+ tackles and 10+ TFLs. Against BYU, Hayward had a team-high eight tackles and also have 0.5 TFLs.
KICKIN' KYLE: Sophomore punter Kyle Ostendorp enjoyed a strong performance against BYU, including a trio of punts downed inside the 20, one of which pinned the Cougars at, their own 1-yard line, which eventually resulted in a safety. He would end the night with a 42.2 average on five punts.
O CAPTAIN! MY CAPTAIN!: Much like the NFL, head coach Jedd Fisch named team captains from the offense, defense and special teams unit… two from each unit to be exact:
Arizona 2021 Team Captains
|Stanley Berryhill III (WR)||Offense|
|Josh McCauley (OL)||Offense|
|Jalen Harris (DL)||Defense|
|Anthony Pandy (LB)||Defense|
|Lucas Havrisik (K)||Special Teams|
|Thomas Reid III (WR)||Special Teams|
I AM #1: At the beginning of camp, Jedd Fisch announced he would be holding a competition for who gets to wear the No. 1 jersey for the season. The Monday of week 1, it was announced that team captains and Arizona natives Stanley Berryhill III and Jalen Harris would each don the No. 1 jersey. Berryhill III is Arizona's leading returning wide receiver while Harris registered 18 tackles and 2.5 for a loss last season.
FRESH FACES: Of Arizona's 45 newcomers, 17 of them are transfers from other FBS schools. Of the 17 transfers, eight of them started at least one game at their previous school and combine for 81 starts. Treshaun Hayward, the 2019 MAC Defensive Player of the Year, leads the group with 18 starts.
Transfers from FBS Schools
|Player (Pos.)||Previous School (career starts)|
|Drake Anderson (RB)||Northwestern (4)|
|Gunner Cruz (QB)||Washington State|
|Mo Diallo (DL)||Central Michigan (8)|
|Davis DiVall (OL)||Baylor|
|Jason Harris (LB)||Colorado|
|Treshaun Hayward (LB)||Western Michigan (18)|
|Kenny Hebert (LB)||Vanderbilt (7)|
|Rashie Hodge Jr. (LB)||New Mexico State (11)|
|Alex Lines (TE)||UNLV|
|Gunner Maldonado (S)||Northwestern|
|Clay Markoff (RB)||Washington State|
|Jordan McCloud (QB)||South Florida (17)|
|Malik Reed (LB)||Wisconsin|
|Jerry Roberts (LB)||Bowling Green (15)|
|Isaiah Rutherford (CB)||Notre Dame|
|Leevel Tatum III (DL)||Fresno State (1)|
|Ma'jon Wright (WR)||Middle Tennessee State|
STATE 48: The Wildcats roster features 34 players that call the state of Arizona home, including five players who stayed home in Tucson to continue their football careers. Arizona's 34 in-state players make up over 29% of the total roster. Among the notable Arizona natives are freshman safety Jaydin Young, sophomore running back Drake Anderson, redshirt freshman quarterback Gunner Cruz, redshirt sophomore wide receiver Jamarye Joiner, freshman quarterback Will Plummer, freshman running back Stevie Rocker Jr., junior linebacker Rashie Hodge Jr., redshirt junior defensive lineman Jalen Harris, redshirt senior offensive lineman Josh McCauley and sophomore offensive lineman Jordan Morgan.
Arizona Players from Arizona
|3 Jaydin Young||Peoria, Ariz.|
|6 Jason Harris||Gilbert, Ariz.|
|8 Drake Anderson||Chandler, Ariz.|
|9 Gunner Cruz||Gilbert, Ariz.|
|9 Gunner Maldonado||Chandler, Ariz.|
|10 Jamarye Joiner||Tucson, Ariz.|
|13 Luke Ashworth||Phoenix, Ariz.|
|15 Will Plummer||Gilbert, Ariz.|
|17 Regen Terry||Florence, Ariz.|
|17 Jaden White||Scottsdale, Ariz.|
|19 Kyle Ostendorp||Phoenix, Ariz.|
|20 Treydan Stukes||Litchfield Park, Ariz.|
|23 Stevie Rocker Jr.||Tucson, Ariz.|
|26 Jaden Clark||Phoenix, Ariz.|
|30 Anthony Gonzales||Phoenix, Ariz.|
|31 Trey Cartledge||Scottsdale, Ariz.|
|32 Jacob Meeker-Hackett||Tucson, Ariz.|
|35 Rashie Hodge Jr.||Phoenix, Ariz.|
|40 Ammon Allen||Mesa, Ariz.|
|46 Victor Zayas||Gilbert, Ariz.|
|47 Rourke Freeburg||Scottsdale, Ariz.|
|49 Jalen Harris||Gilbert, Ariz.|
|50 Josh McCauley||Mesa, Ariz.|
|51 Chandler Kelly||Chandler, Ariz.|
|52 Aaron Blackwell||Peoria, Ariz.|
|53 Malik Reed||Chandler, Ariz.|
|67 David Watson||Tucson, Ariz.|
|71 Jaxon McBride||Queen Creek, Ariz.|
|77 Jordan Morgan||Marana, Ariz.|
|79 Davis DiVall||Scottsdale, Ariz.|
|80 Connor Hutchings||Phoenix, Ariz.|
|84 Tristen D'Angelo||Anthem, Ariz.|
|86 Stanley Berryhill III||Tucson, Ariz.|
|88 Alex Lines||Gilbert, Ariz.|
NO LONGER WALK-ONS: On the evening of Aug. 18, Arizona natives Viper Rourke Freeburg, CB Treydan Stukes and S Jaydin Young were all awarded scholarships during a team meeting. Last season, Freeburg started all five games for the Wildcats at outside linebacker and ranked fifth on the team in tackles and second in TFL. Stukes and Young came on strong during fall camp, making the decision easy by head coach Jedd Fisch to award them scholarships.
BRINGING BACK THE TIGHT END: It's no secret that Jedd Fisch intends to use the tight end more often than the Wildcats have done so in the past few years. This year's tight end room, which is led by coach Jordan Paopao, consists of Connor Hutchings, Stacey Marshall, Roberto Miranda, Colby Powers, Zach Williams and Bryce Wolma. Back in 2017, Wolma caught 28 passes for 241 yards and two touchdowns, but only has 10 catches for 131 yards and one score since then. Williams has caught three career passes for 34 yards. Look for this group of tight ends to make a big impact on Arizona's pro style offense this season.
A HALL OF FAME PEDIGREE: Safety Isaiah Taylor enters his freshman season at Arizona with something in his back pocket that you don't see very often… a pro football hall of famer for a father. Taylor, who is the son of 15-year pro and 2017 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Jason Taylor, won a state championship and was named All-State in the 7A division while playing at St. Thomas Aquinas. He holds his school record for the longest touchdown with a 103-yard interception return for a touchdown. Taylor impressed in the final scrimmage of fall camp as picked off a pass and made a few key plays throughout the night.
DR. BLITZ MAKES HIS WAY TO TUCSON: Of all the newcomers to the Arizona Football program, defensive coordinator Don Brown is near the top of the list when it comes to instant impact. Brown, long known for his aggressive and blitz-heavy attacks, has earned the nickname "Dr. Blitz". Widely considered one of the top defensive coaches in college football, Brown joined Arizona after five successful seasons leading the Michigan Wolverines defense. Brown, who brings nearly 45 years of coaching experience to Tucson, was a five-time nominee and a 2016 finalist for the Broyles Award that is annually awarded to the nation's top assistant coach. Over the last decade, 29 defensive players who played under Brown have been selected in the NFL Draft. After orchestrating a miraculous turnaround of the Boston College defense over the course of three seasons, Brown was tabbed as the American Football Coaches Association Assistant Coach of the Year in 2015.
#ITSPERSONAL: The No. 1 message Jedd Fisch has been pushing since he arrived on campus in December 2020 is 'Its Personal.' It's not just a catchy slogan that gets printed on shirts and that you see on social media, it is how the Arizona Football program is approaching every aspect of the 2021 season. From how the team plays on the field to how the coaches work on the recruiting trail… Its Personal.
WE GRADUATE: Of the 117 players currently on Arizona's roster, 26 have already graduated with a bachelor's degree. Below is a list of the student-athletes who have already earned their degree.
|Stanley Berryhill III||Literacy Learning & Leadership|
|JB Brown||Literacy Learning & Leadership|
|Edgar Burrola||Economy & Industry|
|Brian Casteel||Literacy Learning & Leadership|
|Mo Diallo||Community Development|
|Josh Donovan||Sports & Society|
|Paiton Fears||Science, Technology, Health & Society|
|Rourke Freeburg||Business Management|
|Jalen Harris||Criminal Justice Studies|
|Malik Hausman||Social Behavioral & Human Understanding|
|Lucas Havrisik||Literacy Learning & Leadership|
|Treshaun Hayward||Criminal Justice Studies|
|Rashie Hodge||Individualized Studies|
|Clay Markoff||Business Administration|
|Tre Mason||Social Behavioral & Human Understanding|
|Josh McCauley||Criminal Justice Studies|
|Jacob Meeker-Hackett||Animal Sciences|
|Anthony Pandy||Social Behavioral & Human Understanding|
|Thomas Reid III||Psychology|
|Jerry Roberts||Education & Human Development|
|Rhedi Short||General Studies - Economy & Industry|
|Leevel Tatum III||Agricultural Business|
|Bryce Wolma||Business Management|
WE EDUCATE WEDNESDAY: Every Wednesday, Jedd Fisch brings in a guest speaker to talk to the team either in person or virtually about a myriad of subjects during We Educate Wednesday. Below is a list of a few speakers that have led We Educate Wednesday discussions.
- Dr. Richard Carmona – former United States Surgeon General
- Steve Kerr – Wildcat alum and Golden State Warriors Head Coach
- Jim Caldwell – Former NFL Head Coach
- Sean McVay – Los Angeles Rams Head Coach
- Pete Carroll – Super Bowl Champion and Seattle Seahawks Head Coach
WILDCATS IN THE NFL: As of the conclusion of preseason action, the Wildcats are once again well represented in the National Football League with nine former letterwinners active across the league. One of Arizona's most prestigious alums, tight end Rob Gronkowski, returned from retirement in 2020 to rejoin his longtime quarterback Tom Brady with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Over 10 seasons in New England and Tampa Bay, Gronkowski has hauled in 8,484 yards and 86 touchdowns. Quarterback Nick Foles is in his 10th NFL season after rewriting the Wildcats record books during his time in Tucson. The most recent Wildcats to make the transition to the NFL are running back Gary Brightwell (New York Giants) and defensive end Roy Lopez (Houton Texans). For a complete list of former Wildcats in the NFL, see the comprehensive chart below.
Current Wildcats on NFL Rosters
|Nick Foles||QB||Chicago Bears|
|Rob Gronkowski||TE||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|Jace Whittaker||CB||Arizona Cardinals|
|Gary Brightwell||RB||New York Giants|
|Nick Folk||K||New England Patriots|
|J.J. Taylor||RB||New England Patriots|
|Roy Lopez||DL||Houston Texans|
|Dane Cruikshank||DB||Tennessee Titans|
|Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles||LB||San Francisco 49ers|