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Friday Night Football Pits 'Cats vs. 'Jacks
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 08/26/2013
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Rich Rodriguez
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics

Game 1
NAU (0-0, 0-0 Big Sky) at Arizona (0-0, 0-0 Pac-12)

Date:
Friday, Aug. 30     Time: 7 p.m. (MST)

Location: Tucson, Ariz. (Arizona Stadium – 56,037)
Television Broadcast: Pac-12 Networks
TV Broadcasters: Ted Robinson (play-by-play), Glenn Parker (analyst), Drea Avent (sideline)
UA Radio: Arizona Radio Network, 1290 AM and 107.5 FM in Tucson
UA Radio Broadcasters: Brian Jeffries (pxp), Lamont Lovett (color analyst), Dana Cooper (sideline analyst)
UA Spanish Radio: 990 AM – Samuel Sandoval (pxp), Marco Rincon (analyst)
Satellite Radio: SIRIUS 94, XM 192

UA-NAU Series History
All-Time: Arizona leads 11-1
First Meeting: 1931 (UA 19, NAU 12 at Flagstaff)
Last Meeting: Sept. 3, 2011 (UA 41, NAU 10 at Tucson)
Streak: Arizona has won 10 straight meetings

 Some Game Themes: Football fever takes over in the Old Pueblo as an August opener pits the Wildcats against their Lumberjack neighbors to the north in a season full of newness for the home side … A first-ever weekday opener at Arizona Stadium which unveils its new look following an 18-month makeover … The Lowell-Stevens Football Facility opened its doors in July to the Wildcat football operations, but awaits its first full-throat crowd to test the acoustics of a 360-degree bowl effect for the first time in the 85-year old venue …  Also new is the turf – FieldTurf CoolPlay to be exact – installed this summer which replaced the fine natural grass surface that had been a staple of the stadium for so many years … Taking to that new field will be the Wildcats who will debut redesigned uniforms … Rich Rodriguez closed his second training camp without publically naming a starting quarterback, but no matter who gets the nod, it will be a newbie to take the full-time controls … Senior B.J. Denker entered camp as the leader and on-lookers assume he will take the first snaps. He has one game of starting experience under his belt, which is more than his competitors – Javelle Allen and Jesse Scroggins … The Wildcat defense returns all but 11 starts from a year ago and believes it has added depth and talent to be a stingier unit … Meanwhile, NAU comes to town for its biennial visit seeking to snap a 10-game losing streak in the series … Coach Jerome Souers, in his 15th season at the school, returns 18 starters off an 8-3 team poised for bigger success this year … Fall classes commenced on the UA campus on Monday.

 The Coaches: Arizona - Rich Rodriguez (West Virginia '86), second year at Arizona (8-5) and 19th as a head coach overall (127-89-2). At Arizona, Rodriguez’s teams are 6-2 at Arizona Stadium, 1-3 on the road, 1-0 at neutral sites, 4-5 in Pac-12 games and 1-0 in bowl games (2012 Gildan New Mexico). Rodriguez was introduced as the 30th head coach of the UA football program on Nov. 22, 2011. He carries Division I records of 8-5 at Arizona, 60-26 at West Virginia (2001-2007) and 15-22 at Michigan (2008-10). He began his head coaching career at Salem University (W.Va.) in 1988 and then coached at Glenville State (W.Va.) from 1990-96. Rodriguez's West Virginia teams were Big East Champions in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2007 while appearing in two BCS bowls, the 2005 Sugar Bowl with a victory over Georgia for an 11-1 record and a victory over Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl to finish 10-2 shortly after Rodriguez had left for Michigan. His teams have appeared in bowls in eight of 11 seasons an FBS head coach … Northern Arizona - Jerome Souers, 16th year at NAU (84-85) and overall as a head coach. His background is defense, with an eight-year run as coordinator at Montana preceding his NAU appointment in 1998. He was a finalist for the 2003 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award with his best club (9-4).

Last Time Out: Arizona capped Rich Rodriguez’s first season in thrilling fashion behind a furious late rally to win the Gildan New Mexico Bowl, 49-48, in Albuquerque on Dec. 15, 2012. Arizona dug itself a 21-0 hole early, rallied to the tie the game and yet still found itself down by 17 in the fourth quarter. Even bleaker, only 1:48 remained when Nevada kicked a field goal and gave the Wildcats the ball back, down 13. Matt Scott led a 7-play, 75-yard drive that ate up only 1:02 of clock to get UA within a score. A successful onside kick recovery set up a quick 3-play, 51-yard drive which required just 21 seconds as the Wildcats tied the game. The ensuing extra point gave Arizona its only lead of the game, and Marquis Flowers’ interception sealed the win in the waning seconds to give the Wildcats their first bowl victory since 2008. Scott finished a remarkable season – and career – with 382 yards passing and three fourth quarter touchdowns. Running back Ka’Deem Carey rushed for 172 yards and three-first half touchdowns to win the nation’s rushing title, an exclamation point on a consensus All-American season. Nevada signal caller Cody Fajardo was sensational keeping the UA defense off balance as he passed for 256 yards and ran for 140. In fact, the Wolf Pack tallied 659 yards of offense to Arizona’s 578, but in the end it was a resilient, refuse-to-lose Wildcat squad that had the fire power to polish off an eight-win campaign.

A Comeback for the Ages: Arizona overcame deficits of 21 points (first quarter) and 17 points (fourth quarter) to defeat Nevada, 49-48, at the Gildan New Mexico Bowl on Dec. 15, 2012. After falling behind 21-0 in the opening quarter, Arizona tied the game in the second period but saw things slip away again in the second half. Trailing 48-35 with 1:48 remaining, the Wildcats marched 75 yards in 1:02 for a touchdown. Following an onside kick recovery, Arizona needed just three plays and 21 seconds to cover 51 yards for the tying touchdown, which set up the game-winning extra point with 19 seconds left in the game. The 21-point comeback tied the school record for largest deficit overcome in a game. The last such occurrence was also a 21-point deficit in the second quarter against San Diego State in 1997 before UA rallied to win 31-24. The first occurrence was in 1950 when the Wildcats trailed Hardin Simmons 21-0 in the second quarter before rallying to win 32-28.

For Openers: Arizona is 79-25-5 all-time in the first game of the season, winning five consecutive and 11 of the last 13 ...The Cats open the season at home for the fifth time in the last six seasons (opened at Toledo in 2010) ... UA is 14-0 since its last season-opening defeat in Arizona Stadium, which was a 15-14 decision against Iowa on Sept. 12, 1987 ... UA has given up a grand total of 35 points over the last five season openers (7.0 ppg). The Cats have outscored those foes 195-35 over the five games … Rich Rodriguez is 8-3 all-time in season openers at West Virginia, Michigan and Arizona.

Auspicious August Openers: Arizona begins a season in the month of August for the first time in five seasons since it thrashed Idaho, 70-0, on Aug. 31, 2008, under coach Mike Stoops. It was the latest in a small handful of comfortable season-opening victories that has the Wildcats unbeaten this century in August. Previous romps over UTEP (2003, 42-7), Northern Arizona (2002, 37-3) and at San Diego State (2001, 23-10) came under coach John Mackovic. Now, Rich Rodriguez will look to keep the streak perfect in his first try at Arizona. The last – and only loss – in the month of August for Arizona football was a 41-7 setback at Penn State on Aug. 28, 1999. Otherwise, a 23-3 win over UTEP in 1996 marked the first in six all-time August tilts for the Wildcats. In the five victories, Arizona owns a 39-4.6 scoring advantage and has allowed only two total touchdowns.

Labor Day Weekend: The Labor Day weekend has been kind to UA football over the years when the Wildcats play at home. Since the college football season began opening on (or before) Labor Day weekend back in 1983, the Wildcats have played 15 home games on the holiday weekend. UA's record in those contests is 14-1, including 13 straight wins dating back to 1985 (only loss was to Fresno State in 1984). More impressive, though, is the fact that the Cats have outscored opponents 498-116 over the 15 games. Additionally, UA has allowed an opponent to score double-digit points just four times in those games (27 to Fresno St. in 1984, 13 to BYU in 2006, 10 to NAU in 2011 and 17 to Toledo in 2012). Traditionally the holiday weekend has resulted in a lower attendance figure since many local families have used the time for one final summer vacation. But since 2006, the Wildcats have averaged just under 52,000 fans at the five Labor Day weekend games, a nice increase over the school's 46,651 average in the 15 such games.

Weekday Openers: For the seventh time in program history, the Wildcats open a season on a weekday. However, 2013 marks the first time Arizona has opened a season on a Thursday or Friday at home. Previous weekday openers include 1994 at Georgia Tech (Thursday – W, 19-14), 1997 at Oregon (Thursday – L, 16-9), 1998 at Hawaii (Thursday – W, 27-6), 2001 at San Diego State (Thursday – W, 23-10), 2005 at Utah (Friday – W, 27-24) and 2010 at Toledo (Friday – W, 41-2).

Friday Night Lights: Arizona will play its second-straight Friday home game looking to shake off last year’s 41-34 setback to Arizona State the day after Thanksgiving. That holiday weekend has pitted the rivals against each other a dozen times on a Friday, but otherwise the Wildcats have little history playing on Friday nights. In fact, Arizona has never opened a season at home on a Friday night, though it has played two recent season-openers on Fridays (at Utah in 2005 and at Toledo in 2010. The only other Friday games in UA history include a 1978 October tilt at UCLA and a 2010 clash at Oregon the day after Thanksgiving.  All-time, Arizona is 8-8 playing on Friday nights.

Turf Wars: For the first time in the 85-year history of Arizona Stadium, the Wildcats will play on an artificial surface. After decades of playing on one of the finest natural grass fields in the country, Arizona installed a FieldTurf Revolution CoolPlay system this summer. The benefits include a playing surface that is game-ready 365 days a year, providing use for in-season games and practices, as well as offseason workouts if necessary. The CoolPlay system reduces surface temperature without any reduction in field performance, and players have already noticed its cooling benefits relative to other artificial surfaces. Indeed, it looks and plays like natural grass and will be a year-round showcase.

Sophomore Surge: Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez knows how to build a program. In simple terms, program-building starts with a firm foundation put in place in Year 1 and grows from there. His track record is one that has produced improvement in his second year at a school where players and coaches alike are fully bought into his program. Here are the first and second year records by school for Rodirguez-coached teams:

            School                  Year 1              Year 2          Improvement
           Glenville State      1-7-1                 4-5-1             +3 wins
           West Virginia         3-8                    9-4               + 6 wins
           Michigan                 3-9                    5-7               + 2 wins
           Arizona                     8-5                   ???                 ???

Replacing Matt Scott: Arizona concluded fall camp without naming a starting a quarterback, but returner B.J. Denker, transfer Jesse Scroggins and redshirt freshman Javelle Allen give the Wildcats some notable options. Denker boasts the most experience among the trio after playing in six games in 2012. The lefty started UA’s homecoming game against Colorado last November and was an efficient 12-for-14 passing for 136 yards and a pair of touchdowns while engineering the offense in a 56-31 rout. Regardless of who takes the first snap this year, filling the shoes of starter Matt Scott will be difficult. Here are some of the highlights of Scott’s 2012 campaign:

- Scott finished with 3,620 passing yards (No. 3 in UA single season history).
- Scott completed 301 passes (No. 3 in school history) on 499 attempts (also No. 3).
- Scott's 27 passing touchdowns in 2012 fell one shy of matching the school record set by Willie Tuitama (28 in 2007) and Nick Foles (2011).
- Scott accounted for 4,162 total offense yards in 2012 (No. 2 in school history behind Nick Foles' 4,231 in 2011).
- Scott finishes his career with 6,059 yards of total offense (No. 5 in school history).
- Scott finished his career with 4,921 passing yards (No. 10 in school history).
- Scott finished his career with 33 passing touchdowns (No. 9 in school history).
- Scott finished his career with 1,138 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.

An All-American Campaign: Running back Ka’Deem Carey broke out in a big way as a sophomore to lead the nation with 1,929 rushing yards. Along with his 24 total touchdowns, Carey earned the praise of experts across the country who voted him a consensus All-American. Here are some of the highlights of his 2012 season:

- Led the nation in both rushing yards (1,929) and yards per game (148.38). Became first Wildcat to lead the nation in rushing since Art Luppino in 1955 (also 1954).
- Finished the season with 303 rushing attempts for 1,929 yards (both single-season school records). The yardage total ranks as the fifth-most in Pac-12 single-season history.
- Set an Arizona program record with 23 rushing touchdowns.  
- Led the Pac-12 with 10 100-yard rushing games and matched Trung Canidate (1999) for the school record for 100-yard games in a season.
- Finished the season with 2,248 all-purpose yards, falling one yard shy of Dennis Northcutt's single-season school record of 2,249 set in 1999.
- Carey finished the season with 24 total touchdowns to tie Art Luppino (1954) for the most individual touchdowns in school single-season history.

Bookend Tackles: Junior tackles Fabbians Ebbele and Mickey Baucus account for 50 of Arizona’s 70 career starts along the offensive line. With each registering 25 consecutive starts, the bookend duo was a significant part of the Wildcats’ record-breaking offensive in 2013. They helped pave the way 227.8 rushing yards per game and the offense yielded only 18 sacks in 13 games while tallying 298.4 passing yards per game. Both Ebbele and Baucus are penciled in as starters at right and left tackle, respectively, for this week’s opener.

Mr. Versatility: One of Arizona’s offensive leaders is the ever versatile Chris Putton, a fifth-year senior who has mastered all five positions on the offensive line. Putton doesn’t claim a natural position – he willing says he will play wherever coaches need him – but his skills are perhaps best suited at guard where he has made 19 career starts. In a pinch, he can slide out to tackle if needed behind starters Fabbians Ebbele and Mickey Baucus, or take the controls at center. His experience and versatility will pay dividends in the trenches this season.

Offensive Trends: Arizona has boasted one of the Pac-12’s top offenses in recent years, but head coach Rich Rodriguez accelerated the development in his first season. The Wildcats have shown steady improvement in both total offense and scoring per game over the last four seasons. Here’s a look with the NCAA and Pac-12 statistical ranks in parenthesis:

            Year     Tot. Offense (NCAA/Pac-12)      Scoring (NCAA/Pac-12)

            2012     526.2 ypg (7th/2nd)                     38.2 ppg (15th/3rd)

            2011     465.3 ypg (16th/3rd)                    30.8 ppg (38th/6th)

            2010     439.4 ypg (24th/3rd)                    28.2 ppg (53rd/5th)

            2009     384.5 ypg (58th/6th)                     27.4 ppg (61st/5th)       

Senior Encore: Arizona welcomes back senior wide receiver/tight end Terrence Miller for a fifth season. The Moreno Valley, Calif., native was granted a medical hardship waiver in the spring and his return to the Wildcats gives Arizona a proven target in the offense and a leader on and off the field. Miller, who also received his degree in the spring, caught 13 passes for 143 yards and two scores in four games last year despite battling a series of injuries. His season was cut short for good after sustaining an injury on a touchdown at Stanford last October. Now healthy again, Miller can play any of UA’s receiver positions in the slot or on the outside. He will also put his hand down as a tight end, so expect the Wildcats to move him around early and often.

 Don’t Forget DJ: Arizona thinks it has one of the premier backfields in college football, but not just because of All-American Ka’Deem Carey. Senior Daniel Jenkins returns as a proven commodity and coach Rich Rodriguez has even called him a “co-starter” along with Carey. In his career, Jenkins has gained 495 yards on 106 carries including four touchdowns. Last season, he tallied 293 yards on the ground and two scores, providing a 4.4 yards per carry mark to complement Carey. Expect both Jenkins and Carey to play together this season and perhaps become more involved in the passing game, too.

Freshmen Playmakers: Arizona entered fall camp rather thin at the receiver positions, but a pair of freshmen turned some heads and could crack the starting lineup. Chandler, Ariz., native Nate Phillips and Compton, Calif., native Samajie Grant both find themselves on the season-opening depth chart.  Both have shown consistency in catching the ball and running crisp routes, all while displaying an eagerness to learn. Phillips likely will get a chance to return punts and kickoffs, too. The Wildcats are looking for more explosiveness in both areas this season.

Local Stars: The Wildcats’ marketing slogan this season is: “Our State, Your Wildcats”. It’s a phrase to connect with fans all across the state, but also a staple in recruiting to keep the best players coming to Arizona. Perhaps no better credibility can be added to such a campaign than to have current local players starring on the field, and three hail from the Tucson area. All-American running back Ka’Deem Carey played with safety Jared Tevis at Canyon del Oro High School, where the duo won a state championship. Starting middle linebacker Jake Fischer, an All-Conference honorable mention selection last year, starred at Ironwood Ridge High School and has continued his stellar play with the Wildcats entering his fifth season in the program.

Defensive Development: What a difference a year makes for defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel. In his first season implementing the 3-3-5 stack at Arizona, Casteel inherited one of the thinnest and youngest defenses in the nation evidenced by more than half of his depth chart comprising freshman or sophomore. This year, things shift in his favor with more depth and more experience. In fact, Wildcat defenders have combined for 210 career starts entering this season paced by senior lineman Sione Tuihalamaka and senior corner Shaquille Richardson each chipping in 24 starts apiece. Senior linebacker Marquis Flowers has 23 starts to his credit and his fellow backer Jake Fischer has 21 of his own. Plus, the Wildcats feel they added talent and depth in their freshman class, with some expected to contribute immediately.

Welcome ‘Backers: Defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel, who coaches linebackers, benefits from added depth this season thanks to an influx of talent at the linebacker positions. The Wildcats return senior leaders Marquis Flowers and Jake Fischer, along with Sir Thomas Jackson and C.J. Dozier. That trio started every game a year ago, with Flowers and Fischer playing nearly every snap of every game regardless of score. That won’t be the case this year. Freshmen Scooby Wright, Derrick Turituri, DeAndre’ Miller and Jake Matthews each impressed during fall camp and figure to earn playing time. Wright is a contender for a starting position at the SLB position with sophomore Keoni Bush-Loo. Should Wright or one of his classmates earn a start as true freshmen, they’ll be one of just a handful in recent years. Other true freshmen linebackers to earn starting nods include Rob Hankins and Hank Hobson, who each made one start in 2011. Previously, the last true freshman starting linebacker was Spencer Larsen, in the fifth game of his first year at UA in 2002. He started the final six games and seven of the last eight alongside eventual Pro-Bowl stalwart Lance Briggs (Chicago Bears). Larsen, who took the next two years off on a Mormon mission before returning for three years in 2005-07, now toils as a combo back for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Desert Bloom: It was this time a year ago when Marquis Flowers was shifted from safety to linebacker to add depth at a position of need. Now, 12 months later, Flowers figures to be one of the top linebackers in the Pac-12 Conference. As a junior, he was second on the squad with exactly 100 tackles and led the team with 13 tackles for loss and a team-high 5.5 sacks. He also proved to have a nose for the football, intercepting three pass, forcing three fumbles and recovering another. A full year of experience and an offseason to study the defense in the film room should benefit Flowers even more.

Tackling Machine: Senior middle linebacker Jake Fischer returns as one of the top tacklers in the Pac-12. A year ago, Fischer led Arizona with 119 stops and ranked third in the conference with 9.2 tackles per game. A physical, yet slightly undersized player, Fischer uses his high football IQ to put himself in position to make plays. He had 6.5 tackles for loss, four fumble recoveries, three forced fumbles and three passes defended a season ago as he returned to full strength after missing the 2011 campaign with an ACL injury. His perseverance paid off as he was a Pac-12 honorable mention selection in 2012 and could contend for higher honors this season. Fischer is on the Lott IMPACT Trophy Watch List and the Bednarik Award Watch List.

Shaq is Back: Senior cornerback Shaquille Richardson returns for his fourth season as a starter or key contributor in the Wildcats’ secondary. In his career, the Carson, Calif., native has played in 36 games, including 24 starts. His resume includes 134 tackles, seven interceptions, 26 pass breakups, three forced fumbles and a pair of fumble recoveries. With another pick he’ll be among the nation’s top 10 active leaders for interceptions, and another PBU will put him in the school’s all-time top 10 for the category.

Scholarships Earned: Several walk-ons earned the praise of head coach Rich Rodriguez, who rewarded them with scholarships this offseason. Nose guard Tevin Hood, linebacker Sir Thomas Jackson and receiver Johnny Jackson earned scholarships in the spring, while running back Terris Jones and receiver Trevor Ermisch were put on scholarship last week. Rodriguez values a strong walk-on program and benefitted such a program himself. At West Virginia, Rodriguez started as a walk-on in 1981 and became a three-year letter winner as a defensive back from 1982-84.

Gridiron Graduates: Eight Wildcats have earned their degrees from the University of Arizona, a tally that ranks fifth nationally for FBS programs. Included are running backs Daniel Jenkins and Kylan Butler, receivers Terrence Miller and Richard Morrison, defensive backs Derrick Rainey and Justin Samuels, offensive lineman Eric Bender-Ramsey and defensive lineman Sione Tuihalamaka.

The Bear Down Story: Arizona’s new FieldTurf playing surface features the school motto “Bear Down” in ghost lettering behind the prominent block “A” logo at midfield. The rally cry, which predates “Win One For the Gipper” by two years, was coined by John “Button” Salmon – a quarterback, baseball catcher and student body president – all the way back in 1926. In early October that year, after the Wildcat varsity defeated the freshman squad in an annual match at the time, Salmon and several friends were returning from a visit to Phoenix, and an automobile crash north of Tucson near Florence left the young athlete critically injured. Two weeks later, Salmon died from his injuries. The coach at the time, J.F. “Pop” McKale, had visited Salmon in the hospital regularly before his death, and later told the squad the young athlete’s last message to his teammates was, “Tell them... tell the team to bear down.” When word spread, the UA student body drew to the phrase swiftly, and among other uses painted the slogan on the roof of the university gymnasium shortly thereafter, known since as Bear Down Gym. An airplane view of that huge-lettered phrase caused eventual long-time band director Jack K. Lee to write the song, “Bear Down, Arizona” during his application for the UA band job. Now – 87 years since – “Bear Down” remains UA’s most enduring tradition. In addition to the rally cry on the field, a bust of Salmon stands outside the entrance to the Lowell-Stevens Football Facility where Wildcat fans can read his final words. Arizona players also will pass by the statue on the “Wildcat Walk” as they enter the facility before every home game.

Up Next: Arizona will hit the road next week for a non-conference contest at UNLV. The Wildcats and Rebels are set for a 7:30 p.m. (PDT) kickoff at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, Nev. The game will be televised on the CBS Sports Network.
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