Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Cats, Bears Renew Series on the Gridiron
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: October 28, 2013

Game 8
Arizona (5-2, 2-2 Pac-12) at California (1-7, 0-5 Pac-12)

Date: Saturday, Nov. 2           Time: 12:30 p.m. (PDT)
Location: Berkeley, Calif. (Memorial Stadium -- 62,467)
Television Broadcast: Pac-12 Networks
TV Broadcasters: Ted Robinson (pxp), Glenn Parker (analyst) and Drea Avent (sideline)
UA Radio: Arizona IMG Sports Network, 1290 AM and 107.5 FM in Tucson (complete list of affiliates on page 4)
UA Radio Broadcasters: Brian Jeffries (pxp), Lamont Lovett (color analyst), Dana Cooper (sideline analyst)
Satellite Radio: SIRIUS 139, XM 190

Arizona-California Series History
All-Time: Series tied, 14-14-2
First Meeting: Oct. 14, 1978 (California 33, Arizona 20 -- at Tucson)
Last Meeting: Sept. 25, 2010 (Arizona 10, California 9 -- at Tucson)
Streak/Note: Arizona has won three of last five

Some Game Themes: The calendar turns to the final month of the regular season with much at stake for Arizona … Bowl eligibility looms with the Wildcats’ next win, but don’t count out the Golden Bears who are eager to snap a six-game skid … Arizona finds itself on the road for the fourth time in five games to open conference play, yet is firmly in the mix in the Pac-12 South … This weekend, it’s a team from the North Division, that welcomes in the Wildcats … The teams have not faced each other since the conference expanded and split into two divisions, but the schools have an entertaining, if not sometimes wacky, history against each other in a series that is split evenly, 14-14-2 … On the home sideline will be Cal head coach Sonny Dykes, who began Arizona’s offensive surge in the mid-2000s when he served as coordinator in Tucson before moving into the head coaching ranks elsewhere … It’s on that side of the ball that the Wildcats have showed marked improvement in recent weeks becoming a more balanced attack … The presence of the pass has complemented a persistent rushing attack, which could bode well against the banged-up Bears who rank at the bottom of the conference defensive statistics … The nation’s leading rusher, Ka’Deem Carey, carries a streak of 10-in-a-row with 100 yards on the ground and has a 1,000-yard rushing season in sight … On the flip side, Cal can sling the ball around and freshman quarterback Jared Goff has a stable of playmakers to target downfield … It will be a formidable test for an Arizona defense that is one of the most improved in the nation, but has been susceptible to big plays at times … Expect fast tempos and a lot of snaps in this one, which might make the early kickoff time something for which to be thankful … Hereafter, the Wildcats will not leave their home state, including a stretch of three-consecutive games at Arizona Stadium … Can the Wildcats make it a November to remember?

Last Week: Arizona roamed into Boulder and ran away, quite literally, with a 44-20 victory to spoil Colorado’s homecoming last Saturday. Senior quarterback B.J. Denker turned in a career day with 457 total offense yards (sixth-most in school history) and All-American candidate Ka’Deem Carey added 119 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. Carey got the Wildcats on the board with a touchdown on UA’s opening possession, but Colorado answered back with a 75-yard touchdown pass from Sefo Liufau to Paul Richardson to tie up the game. A Jake Smith 37-yard field goal was answered by Colorado’s Will Oliver, who hit 53 and 48-yarders to give the Buffs a 13-10 edge in the second half. From there, it was all Wildcats. Carey scored again from seven yards out with 2:28 to play, and following a three-and-out, Denker hit Nate Phillips on a 44-yard touchdown strike to give Arizona a somewhat comfortable 24-13 edge at halftime. After the break, Denker broke off a 54-yard run – the longest of his career – and Smith added his second of three field goals to extend the lead to 14 points. Micha Adkins’ 1-yard run brought the Buffs within a touchdown on the next possession, but the Wildcat defense pitched a shutout the rest of the way. Meanwhile, Denker continued to tear up the CU defense with his arm and his legs as he finished with a quarterback school-record 192 rushing yards to go with 265 yards through the air. Carey added a 1-yard touchdown in the third quarter to extend UA’s lead to 34-20 and, after Trevor Ermisch stuffed a fake punt attempt deep inside CU territory, Carey capped a short-field drive with a 6-yard score to put the game away. Smith’s final field goal late in the fourth set the score at its final and punctuated by a dominant second-half effort in all phases – perhaps the Wildcats most complete game. Arizona finished with 670 yards of total offense, which is the third-most in program history and its most ever scored in a Pac-10/12 contest.

The Coaches: Arizona - Rich Rodriguez (West Virginia '86), second year at Arizona (13-7) and 19th as a head coach overall (133-91-2). At Arizona, Rodriguez’s teams are 9-2 at Arizona Stadium, 3-6 on the road, 1-0 at neutral sites, 6-7 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 13-7 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 … California – Sonny Dykes (Texas Tech ’93), first year at California (1-7) and fourth overall as a head coach (23-22). Arrived in Berkeley following three seasons as head coach at Louisiana Tech, where he led the Bulldogs to a 22-15 record, including the school’s first conference title in a decade and a nine-win season last fall. Served as Arizona’s offensive coordinator from 2006-09 after seven years at his alma mater in various offensive roles under Mike Leach at Texas Tech. Also coached under Hal Mumme at Kentucky and broke into collegiate coaching at Navarro College in 1995 … Son of legendary Red Raider coach Spike Dykes.

2010 Cal at Arizona Flashback: These two schools last played when Arizona pulled out a gritty 10-9 victory over California on Sept. 25, 2010, at Arizona Stadium. Against the Bears, Arizona's longest drive of the night was the winning one and the UA held Cal's offense out of the end zone all evening to move to 4-0. California held UA scoreless in the first half but could only build a 6-0 lead on a pair of Giorgio Tavecchio field goals. UA managed 160 yards in offense in the first two quarters, but could not find many big plays and also turned the ball over inside the red zone when Chris Conte intercepted a Nick Foles pass in the end zone. UA got its first points off an Alex Zendejas' 46-yarder five minutes into the second half. Arizona's defense held UC-Berkeley to 2-for-12 on third down and 262 net yards, much of the credit for the victory. Tavecchio had two more chances to create more scoreboard space, but bounced one field goal try off the upright in the third quarter, and then up 9-3 with just under three minutes left, pulled one wide-right to give UA the ball at its own 27-yard line. UA used all of its timeouts during that Cal drive and faced a 72-yard field with 2:37 left. This time Foles hit a short pass, Nic Grigsby rushed for nine yards and then Foles connected with Juron Criner for a 51-yard bomb deep into Cal territory. Grigsby gained six, Cal was called for offsides and Foles found Criner on a slant for the go-ahead score with 1:06 left on the clock. Cal's Kevin Riley connected on a couple of throws following the ensuing kickoff but his third attempt was picked off by UA safety Joe Perkins -- who tacked on an 18-yard return and then fumbled, but CB Robert Golden covered the ball. Take a knee, game over. The game marked the third in four that Arizona held the opponent to no touchdowns and helped UA close September with a 4-0 mark and a nice grip on its No. 14 AP ranking. In the end the Cats managed 311 yards of offense, Foles had a sub-par 64 percent throwing night (25 for 39, 211 ayrds), the Cats made the most of 99 net rushing yards (Grigsby at 5.4 per tote, 12-65) and showed Criner's toughness (turf toe) in snagging five important catches for 68 yards. The Cats overcame 10 penalties for 99 yards, and came from behind for a second consecutive victory.

On the Road Again: It’s a classic tune all too familiar to Arizona football these days. The Wildcats are set to play their fifth game away from home, including an amazing fourth Pac-12 road game out of five to open the conference slate, this Saturday at Berkeley. Arizona is the only FBS team from a BCS automatic qualifier conference that has been welcomed by four-out-of-five road games to begin conference play. So far, it’s a 2-2 start in league action for the Cats. Getting on the winning side of the ledger before three straight home games would behoove the young Wildcats who have fared well at Arizona Stadium in recent years (9-2 under Rich Rodriguez).

Leading the Nation: Junior running back Ka’Deem Carey, the nation’s leading rusher and a consensus All-American a year ago, is once again the FBS leader with an average of 153.3 rushing yards per game entering play this week. Carey also happens to be the active FBS leader for consecutive 100-yard rushing games (10) and he has taken over the FBS lead among active players for career total touchdowns (42). The Tucson, Ariz., native also leads all active players by averaging 109.1 rushing yards per game. Plus, Carey is tied with two players for the career rushing touchdown lead in the FBS (39). For more notes and statistics regarding Carey, see pages 8-9 of this release.

Denker Named Pac-12 POW: A career day for B.J. Denker resulted in one of the most prolific offensive games in school history and the senior quarterback hauled in his first Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week accolade for the effort. Denker collected 457 total offense yards (sixth-most in school single-game history) and established a new school record for quarterbacks with 192 rushing yards on 15 carries (12.8 ypc). His rushing total was the fourth-highest this season for an FBS quarterback. The senior was equally as dangerous in the passing game as he completed 21-of-32 passes for 265 yards with a touchdown and an interception (only third in 196 attempts this season). He accounted for eight plays that gained 20 or more yards, including six pass completions (44, 43, 29, 25, 24 and 22 yards) and two rushes (46 and 54 yards). Denker’s 457 yards of offense paced the Wildcats to 670 total yards in the game, which ranks third-most in program history. It was also the most yards gained for the school in a road game and any Pac-10/12 contest. Arizona finished the game with 405 rushing yards on 50 attempts – it’s most rushing yards in a game since last Nov. 10 against Colorado.

Offensive Evolution: There is no mistaking the improvement Arizona’s offense made in October after a somewhat inconsistent opening month. B.J. Denker has developed a rhythm with his receivers, the ground game continues to click and the tempo has improved seemingly each week. One key statistical trend that jumps out is the fact that the Wildcats have doubled the number of big plays per game that offense is producing. The result, not surprisingly, is more offense. Arizona averaged 3.5 big plays (20-plus yards) per game during four August/September games, while increasing that average to 7.0 over four October contests. Here’s a close look at some of the trends:

Stat First 4 Games Last 3 Games
Total Offense Per Game 402.8 548.7
First Downs Per Game 20.8 25.7
Avg. Gain Per Play 5.6 6.5
Scrimmage Plays 20+ Yards 14 21
Rushing Plays 20+ Yards 10 7
Passing Plays 20+ yards 4 14

Defensive Improvement: In terms of yards allowed per game, Arizona’s defense currently ranks as the fourth-most improved unit in the nation. In 2012, the Wildcats ranked No. 122 out of 125 FBS teams by allowing 499.0 yards per game. Entering Saturday’s contest, the Wildcats sit at No. 33 with just 366.3 yards per game in 2013. Here’s a look at where Arizona stands with the other most improved defensive (total defense yards listed):

School 2013 2012 Improvement
Baylor 316 502.2 186.2
Miami (Florida) 342.3 486.4 144.1
Louisiana Tech 389.6 526.1 136.5
Arizona 366.3 499 132.7
Marshall 339.1 456.8 117.7

No Free Pass: Sure to get a test from the pass-happy Golden Bears this week, Arizona will see if it can maintain its impressive pass defense numbers. The Wildcats rank in the top 25 nationally in several pass defense categories and are allowing more than 90 fewer passing yards per game than they did a season ago. The group is also tied with Northwestern for the national lead with four interception returns for touchdowns. Here’s a look at where Arizona’s pass defense stands and where it was last season (FBS rank in parenthesis):

Category 2013 2012
Yards Allowed Per Game 201.3 (18th) 292.8 (121st)
Defensive Pass Efficiency 106.39 (12th) 137.45 (85th)
Completion Percentage 52.4 (16th) 61.8 (84th)
Interceptions 10 (22nd) 12 (58th)

#TeamKaDeem and the Running Machine: Yes, Ka’Deem Carey is arguably the most complete running back in the nation, but he would not have his gaudy statistics without some horses up front leading the charge. Carey has reaped the benefits of an experienced offensive line that has included tackles Mickey Baucus (32 career starts) and Fabbians Ebbele (31 starts), along with versatile guard Chris Putton (25 starts) for nearly all of his 3,274 career rushing yards. This year, junior college transfer Steven Gurrola has steadily stepped in to start seven games at center, while sophomores Cayman Bundage (8 starts) and Lene Maiava (2 starts) have also been a part of the rotation the last two seasons. Added up, it’s 105 career starts for Arizona’s offensive linemen, and that continuity is a big reason why Arizona is No. 11 nationally with 288.0 rushing yards per game. Oh, and the big guys have allowed only nine sacks (tied with Stanford for fewest in Pac-12) through seven games in 2013.

How Do You Do, 5-2? By itself, Arizona’s current 5-2 mark isn’t anything special. The Wildcats have opened several recent seasons with that mark or better, including 2010 (6-1), 2009 (5-2) and 2008 (5-2). But for a second-year coach like Rich Rodriguez, it is quite noteworthy. Rodriguez, who is 13-7 in his first 20 games as UA’s coach, is the first coach since Jim Young in 1974 to have the Wildcats at 5-2 in his second season. Young’s team went on to finish 9-2 as part of one the best three-year stretches in program history. Meanwhile, Rodriguez’s immediate predecessors didn’t fare so well in their second years on the job. Mike Stoops posted a 1-6 mark to open the 2005 season and John Mackovic went 3-4 in 2002. The school’s all-time winningest coach, Dick Tomey, found modest success with a 4-3 opening to the 1988 campaign, as did Larry Smith before him during the 1981 season. One can go back a couple more decades to find the most successful second-year coach of the last 50 years, Darrell Mudra. In 1968, the Wildcats opened the season 6-1 en route to an 8-3 season for what was Mudra’s second and last year in Tucson.

20-Game Checkup: Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez has led Arizona to a 13-7 (.650) record in his first 20 games as head coach. That’s as good as any coach has done since National Football Foundation College football Hall of Famer Jim Young (1973-76) led the Wildcats to a 15-5 mark (.750) in his first 20 contests. Otherwise, Rodriguez has the other modern era coaches beat. His 13-win total matches some coaches from decades gone by like Miles W. Casteel (1932-42, and 1945-48), who went 13-7, and G.A. Tex Oliver (1933-37), who was 13-6-1. Arizona’s most successful pioneer coach was J.F. “Pop” McKale (1914-17 and 1919-30), who was 14-6 over 20 games to start his 118-game Wildcat career.

A New Record: Senior B.J. Denker rushed for 192 yards on 15 carries last week against Colorado, which established a new school record for rushing yards in a game by a quarterback. There is no such list in the UA records, but considering single-game top-10 charts over the years have never listed a quarterback with 192 yards or more, Denker tops a new category. His yardage total is the fourth-highest for an FBS quarterback this season behind Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch (316 vs. Central Michigan), BYU’s Taysom Hill (259 vs. Texas) and Kansas State’s Daniel Sams (199 vs. Baylor).

Century City: The 192 rushing yards turned in by B.J. Denker are solidly a school record for a quarterback, at least in the modern era. Considering games in this century, Matt Scott (15-100, TD in 2012) and Ortege Jenkins (11-104 vs. UCLA in 2000) are the only Arizona quarterbacks to reach the 100-yard mark in a game. While there is no true school record chart for single-game quarterback rushing, the No. 2 single-game output figures to come from Chuck Levy, who gained 156 yards on 19 carries with a touchdown against Oregon State on Nov. 2, 1991. For Levy, a running back, it happened to be the first of four consecutive starts at quarterback to end the season (yes, he did throw the ball some). Two years later, Levy would again get a start at quarterback in place of the injured Dan White in a 31-10 win at Oregon on Nov. 6, 1993. The result was 126 yards on 27 carries. The catch here is that there was no catch – hardly a throw. Levy and the Wildcats attempted only one pass the entire game, and it was incomplete. Regressing back to the current significance, the last true quarterback to post numbers remotely close to Denker’s was Keith Smith who, on Sept. 14, 1996, ran the ball nine times for 143 yards and a touchdown in a 41-0 shutout over Illinois.

QBs in a Hurry: Just seven games into the season, B.J. Denker has thrown himself among the school’s all-time leaders for quarterback rushing proficiency. Denker ranks second on the team with 519 net rushing yards and eight touchdowns. It’s a 5.8 yard per carry clip that also churns out 74.1 yards per contest – the seventh-best mark in the Pac-12. Here’s where Denker’s still young season ranks compared to other running quarterbacks at Arizona:

Quarterback Year Att-Yards, TD
Ronnie Veal 1987 161-566, 9 TD
Keith Smith 1996 136-546, 8 TD
B.J. Denker 2013 90-519, 8 TD
Matt Scott 2012 113-506, 6 TD
Chuck Levy 1991 128-505, 7 TD (4 QB starts)

That’s A Lot of Yards: The Wildcats totaled 670 yards of offense last week against Colorado, which set two new top marks in the school record books. The yardage is the most Arizona has ever posted in a road game and also the most it has ever collected in a Pac-10/12 contest (617 yards at Stanford in 2012 was previous high for both categories). Last Saturday’s 670 yards are the third-most in school history and the second-highest under head coach Rich Rodriguez. View page 82 of the 2013 Arizona Football Media Guide for a complete list of top total offense performances.

Sturdy Thirty: Arizona is tied with Oregon and New Mexico for the most 30-plus yard rushing plays among all FBS teams. Five different Wildcats have combined to produce 15 runs of 30 or more yards led by quarterback B.J. Denker, who has six such plays. Denker is tied for fifith individually for the most 30-plus yard runs, including second-most among quarterbacks (Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch has eight). Running back Ka’Deem Carey has added five such runs (tied for ninth in FBS), while backfield mate Daniel Jenkins has two, including UA’s longest of the season (91 yards vs. NAU on Aug. 30). Reserve quarterback Javelle Allen and reserve running back Jared Baker each have one apiece.

Ahead at the Half: Arizona took an 11-point lead to locker room at halftime against Colorado, which turned out to be quite noteworthy. In the previous 13 conference road games, the Wildcats enjoyed a lead just twice (17-14 at Utah in 2012 and 19-14 at Oregon in 2010). The last time Arizona jumped out to a double-digit halftime lead was Oct. 30, 2010, at UCLA (19-7) in what resulted in a 29-21 Wildcat victory.

Sudden Change: Turning the ball over on the road is not a recipe for winning, but the Wildcats were able to overcome a pair of first-half turnovers thanks to a stingy defensive effort at Colorado. Both times Arizona’s offense turned the ball over, the defense answered the bell by holding the Buffaloes to a field goal instead of momentum-changing touchdowns. Following a fumble late in the first quarter, Colorado mustered only 19 yards on seven plays and needed a 53-yard field goal from Will Oliver to covert the miscue into points. Later in the second quarter, B.J. Denker was intercepted and Colorado took over at the UA 49-yardline. The Buffs gained 18 yards on seven plays and again had to settle for an Oliver field goal to take a three-point lead (13-10) instead of a full touchdown edge. The Wildcats outscored Colorado 34-7 the rest of the game.

Phillips Fills a Void: All season, Arizona has been without All-Pac-12 receiver Austin Hill (81-1,364 yards, 13 TD in 2012), who is recovering from offseason ACL surgery. It has taken some time for the passing game to come around, but recent games have shown considerable progress. Not only is B.J. Denker more comfortable with the reads and throws, but he has developed better timing and consistency with his mostly young receiving corps. Perhaps no one has improved than true freshman Nate Phillips, a guy that has emerged as a big-play threat, if not a go-to target for Denker. Phillips has 17 receptions for a team-leading 268 yards and three touchdowns this season, but most of his damage has come in the last three contests. In games at USC, against Utah and at Colorado, Phillips has 10 catches for 203 yards and a touchdown in three-straight games. He has three receptions of 30 yards or greater (including two for scores), and eight of 10 grabs have resulted in a first down or touchdown. Added up, it’s a 20.3 yards-per catch average that will make any quarterback look his direction more often.

Just What D.R. Ordered: Sophomore receiver David Richards missed the first three games of the season and played sparingly in his return at Washington Sept. 28. The 6-fo0t-4, 214-pounder has seen his workload increase each game since, and made his first start of the year at Colorado last week. He has nine catches for 94 yards and a touchdown in those games. Richards’ return to the lineup has allowed the Wildcats to use freshmen Nate Phillips and Samajie Grant in the slot more frequently to create mismatches, while giving the Wildcats a big target on the outside.

D.J. Turns Up the Volume: If you think the Wildcats are a one-man rushing force, think again. Senior Daniel Jenkins, often referred to as a co-starter by Rich Rodriguez, actually has a better yards-per-carry average than Ka’Deem Carey. Jenkins has rushed for 368 yards and a touchdown on 54 attempts this season, a nifty 6.8 yards per tote. At Colorado a week ago, Jenkins gained 87 yards on nine carries.

What Can Scooby Doo? He can tackle, that’s for sure. True freshman linebacker Scooby Wright is making a claim to become a freshman All-American if his first seven collegiate games are any indication. A native of Windsor, Calif., Wright was not a high-profile recruit, but he has become a high-impact player for the Wildcats. The 6-foot-1, 230-pounder currently leads Arizona with 49 tackles, including 4.5 for loss, to go with a pass breakup. He ranks tied for second nationally among all true freshman defenders with 7.0 tackles per game, a figure that ranks 14th overall in the Pac-12. Wright has shown a willingness to shed blockers in the run game and has also been a pest causing pressure and hurrying quarterbacks, while his first career sack seems imminent one of these days as he locks in on opposing quarterbacks.

Carey Nearing 1,000 Yards: Ka’Deem Carey is 80 yards shy of another 1,000-yard rushing season, something done only 13 previous times in Arizona history (including Carey’s school-record 1,929 yards last year). Carey is trying to become the fourth Wildcat to produce multiple 1,000-yard seasons led by Trung Canidate (1998-99), Art Luppino (1954-55) and Jim Upchurch (1973-74). In 2012, Carey became the first running back to post a 1,000-yard season under head coach Rich Rodriguez since Steve Slaton did so at West Virginia in 2007. At Michigan, only dual-threat quarterback Denard Robinson (2010) mounted a 1,000-yard season during Rodriguez's three seasons. At West Virginia, Slaton had three-straight 1,000-yard campaigns, including in 2007, 2006 and 2005. His quarterback during those years, Pat White, also turned in 1,000-yard seasons in 2006 and 2007. Prior to the Slaton-White years, running backs Avon Cobourne (2001 and 2002) and Quincy Wilson (2003) had 1,000-yard seasons under Rodriguez. Added up, and with Carey included, that's 10 (ten) 1,000-yard rushers over 12 seasons as an FBS head coach for Rodriguez.

Carey Closing In: Junior running back Ka’Deem Carey is closing in on a few milestones (For more notes and statistics regarding Carey, see pages 8-9 of this release):

- 107 rushing yards away from No. 3 in UA history (Art Luppino, 3,381)
- 227 rushing yards away from No. 2 in UA history (Ontiwaun Carter, 3,501)
- 21 rush attempts away from No. 6 in program history (Nic Grigsby, 572)
- 269 all-purpose yards away from No. 5 in program history (Bobby Wade, 4,745)
- 5 rushing touchdowns away from No. 1 in school history (Art Luppino, 44)
- 6 total touchdowns away from No. 1 in school history (Art Luppino, 48)

Quarter Scores: Arizona scored at least 10 points in all four quarters of last week’s 44-20 win at Colorado. While it’s the fourth time this season the Wildcats have scored in each quarter of a game, it marks the first time they have tallied double-digits in each period since a 59-38 romp over No. 18 Oklahoma State last September 8, 2012. Arizona has scored points in 24 of 28 quarters to open the season.

Busy ‘Backers: One indication of Arizona’s defense success this season is the fact the its three starting linebackers – Scooby Wright, Jake Fischer and Marquis Flowers – rank as the top three tacklers on the team. It means the Wildcats are making more plays near the line of scrimmage instead of downfield. Wright leads the way with 49 total tackles (4.5 for loss), while Fischer is on his heels with 47 (1.0 for loss) and Flowers has added 43 stops (5.0). Last year Fischer (119) and Flowers (100) led the club in tackles, but Wright’s emergence as a true freshman has balanced the defense and take pressure off of the safeties, including Jared Tevis and Tra’Mayne Bondurant who were third and fourth in tackles last season.

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 freshmen or sophomores. This year, things have shifted in his favor with more depth and more experience. In fact, Wildcat defenders have combined for 287 career starts. Senior lineman Sione Tuihalamaka and senior cornerback Shaquille Richardson lead with 31 career starts apiece, while senior linebackers Marquis Flowers and Jake Fischer boast 30 and 21 starts, respectively. Junior “spur” safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant has tallied 24 starts, including 24 of Arizona’s last 26 games (only missed 2012 New Mexico Bowl and last week at Colorado), while junior free safety Jourdon Grandon now has 20 career starts.

Turning Points: Perhaps no statistic is more indicative of Arizona’s success in recent seasons than the turnover battle. The Wildcats have won 16-consecutive games, including all seven under Rich Rodriguez, when they win the turnover battle (last loss was vs. USC on Oct. 25, 2008). Considering all games since the start of 2008 (last 71 games), Arizona is 19-2 when it wins the turnover battle, 13-10 when it ties and 8-19 when it loses the turnover battle. That adds up to a 32-12 mark when Arizona wins or ties the turnover battle. Under Rodriguez, the Wildcats are 10-2 when winning or tying the turnover battle.

Turning Points Part II: The Wildcats enter play this week with a plus-four turnover margin for the season, which is good enough for No. 32 nationally. The Wildcats have only turned the ball over eight times while they have secured 12 takeaways in seven contests. It’s a positive trend for Arizona, which has not finished a season with a positive turnover margin since 2008 (+6). In 2012, the Wildcats turned the ball over 28 times and gained 27. The net result was a 122-104 deficit in points scored off turnovers. So far in 2013, Arizona enjoys a 58-19 advantage in points off turnovers.

In a Rush to Win: Arizona has won 10 of its last 14 games dating to last season, a trend that may or may not coincide with a dominant rushing attack. Over their last 14 games, the Wildcats have gained 3,879 yards on 650 rushing attempts, a 5.97 yards per carry clip good enough for 277.1 yards per game. The Wildcats have rushed for 300 or more yards in six of the 14 contests with a perfect 6-0 record in those games. Arizona is 8-1 when it rushes for 250-plus yards and 9-1 when it tops the 200-yard mark.

100-Yard Rushing Nuggets: Arizona has rushed for 100 or more yards in all but one game under Rich Rodriguez (89 at Oregon, 9/22/2012). Prior to Rodriguez’s arrival, the Wildcats gained 100 rushing yards only five times in 2011 … An Arizona player has rushed for 100 yards in a game in 11-straight contests (last time failed to do so: at UCLA, 11/3/2012) … Under Rodriguez, a Wildcat has rushed for 100 yards 18 times in 20 total games, including 15 of the last 16 … Ka’Deem Carey (16), Daniel Jenkins (1), B.J. Denker (1) and Matt Scott (1) have combined for the 18 100-yard performances in the 20 games under Rodriguez … Arizona had gone 17-straight games without a 100-yard rusher prior to Rodriguez’s arrival (last was Keola Antolin, 111 yards, at UCLA on Oct. 30, 2010).

Disciplined Cats: Arizona ranks as the second-least penalized team in the Pac-12 having been flagged for only 43.1 yards per game. That figure also ranks No. 25 nationally and is a healthy improvement from a season ago when the Wildcats finished No. 77 (55.1 per game). Interestingly, Arizona’s opponents have been penalized for 63.0 yards per game – which is the 16th-most nationally for opponent penalty yards.

Special Teams Standouts: One of the most underappreciated aspects is not just the kicking game, but those who are on coverage units whether it be the kickoff or punt teams. Arizona has several players who excel on coverage teams and the last two games have been perfect examples. Trevor Ermisch, a reserve receiver, stuffed a fake punt attempt deep inside Colorado territory last Saturday to thwart any chance of a fourth quarter comeback by the Buffs. A week earlier, Ermisch added two tackles against Utah (10/19). Terris Jones-Grigsby, a running back/slot receiver, is another regular on kick coverage and had a career-high four tackles, including three solo stops, against Utah (Oct. 19). Jones-Grigsby, who took on the block to free up Ermisch to stop the fake punt last week, is tied with corner back Shane Wilson for the team-lead with five special teams tackles. Wilson was named a special teams game captain for the Utah game.

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.

Up Next: Arizona will not leave its own state the rest of the regular season as three-straight home games and an end-of-season rivalry showdown at Arizona State are on tap. Arizona’s homecoming game against UCLA has been set for an 8 p.m. (MST) kickoff Saturday, Nov. 9, with a national television broadcast on ESPN. Kickoff times and television information for the final three games will be announced in the coming weeks.

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