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Cats, Cougs Face Off For First Time Since 2010
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 11/11/2013
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Nate Phillips
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics

Game 10
Washington State (4-5, 2-4 Pac-12) at Arizona (6-3, 3-3 Pac-12)

Date: Saturday, Nov. 16         Time: Noon (MST)
Location: Tucson, Ariz. (Arizona Stadium -- 56,037)
Television Broadcast: Pac-12 Networks
TV Broadcasters: Kevin Calabro (pxp), Yogi Roth (analyst), Jill Savage (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)
UA Spanish Radio: 990 AM (Francisco Romero, pxp; Marco Rincon, analyst)
Satellite Radio: Sirius 93, XM 192

Washington State-Arizona Series History
All-Time: Arizona leads, 25-13
First Meeting: Oct. 5, 1963 (Washington State 7, Arizona 2 -- at Spokane, Wash.)
Last Meeting: Oct. 16, 2010 (Arizona 24, Washington State 7 -- at Pullman, Wash.)
Streak/Note: Arizona has won last five meetings

Some Game Themes: Pac-12 North meets South for a high noon kickoff at Arizona Stadium … Arizona is bowl eligible and Washington State is just a couple victories shy of claiming that same distinction, and so begins the jockeying for positioning in the Pac-12 bowl pecking order … The Wildcats try to shake off their first home loss of the year as they remain at home for consecutive games for the first time this season … The Cougars are coming off a bye and are eager to snap a three-game losing streak … In fact, when Saturday arrives, WSU will have played only one game in the last 27 days. That’s a scheduling quirk the Wildcats also experienced when they played once in 25 days in a September-October stretch … These schools have not met since the league split into two divisions, but it’s a series the Wildcats have controlled quite easily over the last five meetings … However, since they last met each program is led by a new head coach, and that provides an intriguing subplot to the matchup … Mike Leach’s spread offense has the Cougars among the nation’s top passing teams, while Rich Rodriguez trots out a dynamic rushing duo in running back Ka’Deem Carey and quarterback B.J. Denker … The Wildcats have shown more balance on paper than WSU, but they certainly want to establish the run game early … From a defensive standpoint, Arizona has been sound defending the pass, but it gave up a couple big plays last Saturday to the Bruins, something the Cougars will surely try to exploit … The Cougs rarely try to run the ball, but perhaps will test it out against a UA defense that has allowed five yards per attempt the last two games. Or maybe they will continue to sling it as many times as they can … Another point of focus will be getting off the field on third downs. The Wildcats allowed UCLA to maintain too many drives last week, and this week the two schools rank near the middle of the Pac-12 in the third-down defense … Arizona will honor the men and women of the armed services on Military Appreciation Day.

Last Week: The 16th-ranked UCLA Bruins held on to spoil Arizona’s Homecoming with a 31-26 victory in Tucson last week. Bruin quarterback Brett Hundley made plays with his arm and his legs, accounting for 283 yards of offense and three touchdowns. Hundley and the Bruins quickly erased an early 3-0 deficit by hitting Shaquelle Evans for a 66-yard pass on their first offensive play of the game to take a 7-3 lead. Hundley added 15-yard touchdown run later in the second quarter and then led a 16-play, 90-yard touchdown drive that took up six minutes of clock to end the first half and give UCLA a 21-10 halftime edge. Ka’imi Fairbairn added a 34-yard field goal to open the third period, but the Wildcats answered back with nine straight points to cut the deficit to 24-19 early in the fourth quarter. The Bruins wasted no time extending their lead when Myles Jack converted a third-and-one with a 66-yard touchdown burst. B.J. Denker led the Wildcats back on a 75-yard drive and found Nate Phillips for his second touchdown of the fourth quarter to cut it to a one-possession game. Arizona twice got the ball back with a chance for the go-ahead touchdown, but UCLA forced a punt and intercepted Denker on fourth down deep inside Wildcat territory to seal the game. Jack, a starting linebacker who had eight tackles and recovered a Ka’Deem Carey fumble in the endzone to thwart a UA scoring threat, finished with 120 rushing yards on six totes in two-way duty. For the Wildcats, Carey topped 100 rushing yards for the 12th-straight game as he totaled 149 on 28 attempts. Denker added 82 yards of his own on the ground to go with 186 passing, while Phillips had career highs with eight reception for 97 yards. In the end, Arizona was unable to stop UCLA enough on third down (9-for-18), and two 66-yard plays broke the back of the Wildcat defense. Arizona saw a three-game overall winning streak snapped, while UCLA won in Tucson for the first time since 2003.

The Coaches: Arizona - Rich Rodriguez (West Virginia '86), second year at Arizona (14-8) and 19th as a head coach overall (134-92-2). At Arizona, Rodriguez’s teams are 9-3 at Arizona Stadium, 4-5 on the road, 1-0 at neutral sites, 7-8 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 14-8 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 … Washington State – Mike Leach (BYU ‘83), second year at WSU (7-14) and 12th year overall as a college head coach (91-57). Spent most all of coaching career on offensive side of the ball. Leach’s spread offense attack helped lead Texas Tech to 10-straight bowl appearances and a school-record 84 victories from 2000-2009. In 2008, he led the Red Raiders to 11 wins and garnered several national coach of the year honors. Prior to being named Tech’s head coach for the 2000 season, Leach served as offensive coordinator at Oklahoma (1999), Kentucky (1997-98), Valdosta State (1992-96) and Iowa Wesleyan (1989-91). His first head coaching gig was with Pori, Finland of the European League in 1989, which followed a year as a linebackers coach at the College of the Desert (Calif.) and a year as O-line supervision at Cal Poly (1987). Obtained a Juris Doctor degree from Pepperdine in 1986 and a master’s degree from the U.S. Sports Academy in 1988.

The Last Meeting (2010 Arizona at WSU): Arizona proved it could win without some of its principals and turned in a team effort on the road to outpace Washington State, 24-7, in Pullman, Wash., on Oct. 16, 2010. With junior star Nick Foles sent to the sideline with a knee injury, Matt Scott came on in the second quarter and helped lead the Cats to three scores with modest stewardship built of little previous 2010 playing time. Arizona's defense, though, stepped forward and kept WSU one dimensional enough to limit the Cougs' scoring opportunities, helped by four takeaways. The one dimension, WSU quarterback Jeff Tuel, hurt UA some including one big 83-yard toss to the Arizona 12-yard line, but two plays later the man who got beat on the long throw, freshman corner Shaquille Richardson, got his second interception of the game in the end zone to kill the threat. Arizona accumulated a sub-par 352 yards in the game but got some key running from Keola Antolin (92 markers, two touchdowns) and Nic Grigsby (66, one score) to provide some thrust along with Scott's (139) and Foles' (71) throwing yardage. It was clear the change in generals affected the passing game, though, with UA held scoreless through the air for the first time in 2010. The UA had seven sacks in the game led by Ricky Elmore with 2.5, but suffered six of their own trying to block for the new guy. Arizona scored a touchdown in each of the first three quarters to take a 21-0 lead before Tuel hit Marquess Wilson for a 23-yard score at the end of the third stanza. Alex Zendejas kicked a 40-yard field goal four minutes into the fourth period for the final score of the game. Richardson, a true freshman, started for injured junior Trevin Wade and learned a lot. He finished with a team-high tying seven tackles, the two picks and a game-high three pass break-ups. Arizona totaled 13 tackles for losses to keep WSU off balance and mostly out of the end zone with its 297 yards in total offense. Knocked out of the game along with Foles were freshman defensive tackle Justin Washington (knee) and freshman receiver Richard Morrison (shoulder). But the injuries proved another strength of the UA program – improved depth. Backup DTs Sione Tuihalamaka (RS-Fr) and Willie Mobley (soph) filled in with a pair of tackles apiece, for example, and UA simply played 55 guys who found ways to win the game.

Home Again: Arizona is playing back-to-back home games for the first time this season and will make it three-in-a-row next Saturday (against Oregon). The Wildcats are 3-1 at home this season and 9-3 the last two seasons under Rich Rodriguez. The three losses have come by a total of 15 points, while the victories have been decided by an average of 24.2 points. Since the start of 2007, Arizona is 30-14 at home (.682).

Snapped Streaks: Arizona saw its three-game Pac-12 winning streak snapped in last week’s lost to No. 16 UCLA. The Wildcats also had a three-game home win streak broken in the defeat and now will try to keep another streak from being broken. Arizona has not lost consecutive home games under Rich Rodriguez (9-3 in home games), and last did so against nationally-ranked Oregon and Stanford squads in September of 2011.

Bowl-Eligible: The Wildcats have themselves bowl-eligible with still three regular season games remaining. The bowl picture is unclear and 10 conference teams still have solid hopes of holiday plans, so there is plenty of work left to do. Even so, Arizona has positioned itself for a bowl bid and should it play in a postseason game this year, will do so for the fifth time in six years. The only other time the Wildcats have gone bowling five times in six seasons was from 1989-1994 under head coach Dick Tomey.

Game of 31: The winning team in Arizona’s nine games this season has scored 31 or more points, and only once (Arizona at USC) has the losing team scored reached 31 points. It seems to be a pretty good breaking point to indicate success this season, and is something that historically matches up with Rich Rodriguez’s teams. His squads are 71-8 all-time when scoring 30 or more points in his 12 seasons as an FBS coach at West Virginia, Michigan and now Arizona.

Ka’Deem Chasing Rushing Lead: Junior running back Ka’Deem Carey ranks No. 2 nationally with 152.6 rushing yards per game, trailing Boston College’s Andre Williams, who is averaging 163.4 yards per game. Carey is the nation’s reigning rushing champ (148.4 ypg in 2012) and owns the longest streak of 100-yard rushing games (12) by any active FBS player. He also leads all active FBS players by averaging 111.7 yards per game in his career.

Carey Chasing School Record: Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey, only a junior, is nearing the school’s all-time rushing record, which is held by Trung Canidate (3,824 yards from 1996-99). The Tucson, Ariz., native has 3,575 career rushing yards and is now 249 yards shy of matching the mark and 250 yards away from establishing a new school record. Carey also ranks No. 2 in school history with 40 career rushing touchdowns (four away from Art Luppino’s school record) and 43 total touchdowns (five away from Luppino’s school record).

The Streak: Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey has rushed for 100 yards in a school-record 12-consecutive games, which also leads all active FBS players. In the 12 games, Carey has gained 2,135 yards on 320 carries with 21 touchdowns. That’s a heady 177.9 yards and nearly two touchdowns per game, while averaging 6.7 yards per carry. He has collected at least 130 all-purpose yards in each of those 12 games, and has 2,324 yards from scrimmage with receiving factored in. 

Dynamic Duo: Running back Ka’Deem Carey and quarterback B.J. Denker have formed quite a tandem in the backfield. The duo has accounted for 31 of Arizona’s 37 offensive touchdowns, with Carey tallying 11 rushing scores and Denker also scoring 11 on the ground and nine through the air. They have combined to rush for 1866 yards on 373 attempts, while Denker’s 1,688 passing yards give him 2,333 yards of total offense this season.

Denker Dashes to a Record: Senior quarterback B.J. Denker ranks as Arizona’s second-leading rusher with 645 yards on 121 attempts this season. That’s a 71.7 yards per game clip that actually ranks seventh individually in the Pac-12. The Torrance, Calif., native has set a modern day school record for rushing by a quarterback with his 645 yards, which is nearly 100 more than the next-best total turned in by Ronnie Veal (566) in 1987. The lefty also has 11 rushing touchdowns this season, which is another top mark, and he set the school’s single-game record for rushing by a quarterback with 192 yards on 15 carries at Colorado (Oct. 26). Here’s where Denker’s still young season ranks compared to other running quarterbacks at Arizona:

Quarterback Year Att-Yards, TD
B.J. Denker 2013 121-645, 11 TD
Ronnie Veal 1987 161-566, 9 TD
Keith Smith 1996 136-546, 8 TD
Matt Scott 2012 113-506, 6 TD
Chuck Levy 1991 128-505, 7 TD (4 QB starts)

 

A High Five to Nate Phillips: True freshman receiver Nate Phillips has emerged as one of the Wildcats go-to targets in the passing game. The rookie from Chandler, Ariz.., has caught a touchdown pass in five-consecutive games and turned in his best effort of the season last week against 16th-ranked UCLA. He set career single-game highs for receptions (8), yards (97) and touchdowns (2) against the Bruins, with both scores coming at key times in the fourth quarter. The performance improved Phillips’ season totals to 29 grabs for a team-leading 409 yards to go along with another team-best six touchdown receptions. At 5-foot-7, 177 pounds, Phillips has proven to be a mismatch in the slot when matched up on safeties and linebackers, and he’s gaining 14.1 yards per catch. He’s also gained a better understanding of reading defenses and finding the soft spots in coverage, which has allowed him to become a go-to target in pressure situations. So far this season, 21 of Phillips’ 29 receptions have resulted in a first down or touchdown.

Grant’s Grabs: True freshman receiver Samajie Grant leads Arizona with 36 total receptions this season, a consistent threat whether he lines up inside or outside. The Compton, Calif., native has at least three receptions in each of the last seven games, which no other receiver on the roster can say. In nine games, Grant has 36 total receptions and has scored one touchdown. He’s been an excellent complement to fellow true freshman Nate Phillips, who leads the team with 409 receiving yards and six touchdowns. Together, the freshman duo has combined for 65 receptions, 680 yards and seven touchdowns.

Offensive Evolution: There is no mistaking the improvement Arizona’s offense made in the second half of this season after a somewhat inconsistent opening stretch of games. 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 increased 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 5.4 over four October/November contests. Here’s a close look at some of the trends:

Stat First 4 Games Last 5 Games
Total Offense Per Game 402.8 503.8
First Downs Per Game 20.8 25.4
Avg. Gain Per Play 5.6 6.1
Scrimmage Plays 20+ Yards 14 27
Rushing Plays 20+ Yards 10 10
Passing Plays 20+ yards 4 17

 

#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 (34 career starts) and Fabbians Ebbele (33 starts), along with versatile guard Chris Putton (27 starts) for nearly all of his 3,575 career rushing yards. This year, junior college transfer Steven Gurrola has steadily stepped in to start nine games at center, while sophomores Cayman Bundage (10 starts) and Lene Maiava (2 starts) have also been a part of the rotation the last two seasons. Added up, it’s 115 career starts for Arizona’s offensive linemen, and that continuity is a big reason why Arizona is No. 12 nationally with 271.3 rushing yards per game.

Behind Enemy Lines: Arizona’s defense is finding itself in the opponent’s backfield more frequently, and last week’s 10 tackles for loss were the second-most this season (11 vs. NAU on Aug. 30) and the most against a Pac-12 opponent since tallying 13 at Washington State on Oct. 16, 2010. Junior “spur” safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant led the charge against the Bruins with a game-high 2.5 tackles for loss last week. The Wildcats have registered 15 tackles for loss over their last two games after combining for 15 in their previous four contests. So far this season, Arizona has 53 tackles for loss in nine games (5.9 per game) after collecting 67 over 13 games (5.2 per game) a season ago. True freshman linebacker Scooby Wright has a team-best 7.5 TFLs this season, while seniors Sione Tuihalamaka (7.0) and Marquis Flowers (6.5) are right behind him.

Sack Attack: Last week against the Bruins, Arizona’s defense registered a season-high four sacks of quarterback Brett Hundley. It was the first time this season the Wildcats recorded four sacks in a game and was their most since also collecting four last season against Washington (Oct. 20, 2012). Combining for the sacks were Tra’Mayne Bondurant (1.0), Marquis Flowers (1.0), Sione Tuihalamaka (1.0), Keoni Bush-Loo (0.5) and Derrick Turituri (0.5). The Wildcats have totaled eight sacks over their last four games (2.0 per game), after averaging just 1.2 sacks per game in their first five contests this year. Bondurant is tied with Reggie Gilbert for the team lead with 2.0 sacks apiece this season. A total of 11 players have recorded at least 0.5 sacks this season.

Not to be Picky: For only the second time this season, Arizona’s defense did not intercept a pass last week. Over their first eight games, the Wildcats had already matched their 13-game season total from a year ago with 12 picks this season. That will be the tally they bring into this week’s game against Washington State, a squad that has thrown 20 interceptions (second-most in FBS). Arizona has eight players with an interception this season and three have returned a pick for a touchdown (Tra’Mayne Bondurant – twice, Jake Fischer and Marquis Flowers). In fact, the Wildcats’ four pick-sixes are tied with Nebraska, Northwestern and Tennessee as the most for any FBS team to date. Bondurant is the club leader with three interceptions this season, while Shaquille Richardson and Jourdon Grandon have two apiece. Richardson will be facing the same school that he collected his first two career interceptions against. Along with two INTs, Richardson added a season-high seven tackles and career-best three PBU against the Cougars on Oct. 16, 2010, to earn Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week honors and a national nod as the Jim Thorpe Defensive Back of the Week.

Defensive Improvement: In terms of yards allowed per game, Arizona’s defense currently ranks as the third-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. 53 with just 384.3 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 306.1 502.2 196.1
Louisiana Tech 386.0 526.1 140.1
Arizona 384.3 499.0 114.7
Tulane 369.5 482.6 113.1
Texas State 378.0 484.8 106.8

 

No Free Pass: Arizona will get a test from the pass-happy Cougars this week, who average 365.0 passing yards per game (seventh nationally, second in Pac-12). It will be strength on strength as the Wildcats rank in the top 30 nationally in several pass defense categories and are allowing 80 fewer passing yards per game than they did a season ago. The group is also tied with Northwestern, Nebraska and Tennessee 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 213.9 (29th) 292.8 (121st)
Defensive Pass Efficiency 114.02 (18th) 137.45 (85th)
Completion Percentage 55.3 (28th) 61.8 (84th)
Interceptions 12 (23rd) 12 (58th)

 

Miller Time: The versatile Terrence Miller is making the most of his final games as a Wildcat. The fifth-year senior, who was granted a medical hardship waiver in the spring, has 20 receptions for 298 yards in the last five games. Miller is comfortable at any of UA’s receiver positions and doubles as a tight end when necessary. He has 23 catches for 326 yards on the year, a 14.2 yard-per-catch clip that is second-best on the team. The two-longest receptions of his career have come in recent games against Colorado (43 yards) and California (60), respectively. The reception against the Buffaloes converted a 4th-and-2 and set up a touchdown, while the big play against the Bears converted a 3rd-and-10 to set up a touchdown to open the second half.

The Way He Drew It Up: Sophomore punter Drew Riggleman has turned in his two best efforts of the season the last two weeks, helping flip the field when needed in the field position battle. Riggleman has punted 13 times for 590 yards in the last games, a healthy 45.4 average. Most impressively, he placed nearly of those kicks (six) inside the opponent’s 20-yardline. He also matched his career-high with a 58-yarder last week against UCLA. For the season, Riggleman is averaging 40.1 yards per punt and has 15 inside the 20-yardline. Arizona’s team net punting average has risen to 37.9, which now ranks fourth in the conference after checking in ninth just a couple weeks ago.

Jake’s Makes: Senior placekicker Jake Smith has turned in a steady string of games. The Philadelphia, Pa., native has made 6-of-7 field goal attempts during his last three games, with the lone miss being a 55-yarder at Cal that ended up one-yard too short. Otherwise he’s hit a career-long 53-yarder and the others, ranging from 26 yards to 44 yards, and connected all 10 PATs for a total of 28 points in three games. On the season, Smith is 11-for-15 on field goal tries, 36-for-28 on extra points and has scored a team-high 69 points. He also handles kickoff duty and is averaging 61.4 yards per kick with 30 touchbacks on 61 kickoffs.

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 309 career starts. Senior lineman Sione Tuihalamaka and senior cornerback Shaquille Richardson lead with 33 career starts apiece, while senior linebackers Marquis Flowers and Jake Fischer boast 32 and 29 starts, respectively. Junior “spur” safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant has tallied 26 starts, including 25 of Arizona’s last 27 games (only missed 2012 New Mexico Bowl and at Colorado last month), while junior free safety Jourdon Grandon now has 22 career starts.

It Starts Up Front: The starting defensive line trio of Reggie Gilbert, Tevin Hood and Sione Tuihalamaka may be the most overlooked and most improved unit on either side of the ball for the Wildcats. Each has started all nine games this season, with Tuihalamaka leading the way with 35 tackles, 7.0 for loss and a sack. Hood has added 32 stops, 5.0 for loss, and a sack, while Gilbert has 24 tackles, 4.5 for loss and 2.0 sacks. Combined, that is 91 total tackles including 16.5 for loss along with four sacks in nine games. A season ago, the trio combined for 74 tackles, 11.0 for loss, and 4.0 sacks over a 13-game season. Tuihalamaka shared time with Hood at nose guard a year ago, but this year switched to an end position. The move has paid dividends for Tuihalamaka and the Wildcats, who are much strong up front.

Disciplined Cats: Arizona ranks as the second-least penalized team in the Pac-12 having been flagged for only 4.67 times per game. It’s resulted in only 43.3 penalty yards per game, a figure that ranks No. 43 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 59.3 yards per game – which is the 22nd-most nationally for opponent penalty yards.

Classroom Cats: Arizona senior defenders Jake Fischer and Tevin Hood earned CoSIDA Academic All-District honors last week, and both will now be on the ballot for CoSIDA Academic All-America voting. Fischer, a linebacker from Oro Valley, Ariz., holds a 3.36 cumulative GPA as a marketing major and has 51 tackles this season. Hood, a defensive lineman from Chandler, Ariz., holds a 3.46 cumulative GPA as a general studies major and has 32 stops, including 5.0 for loss, this year.

Turning Points: Perhaps no statistic is more indicative of Arizona’s success in recent seasons than the turnover battle. The Wildcats have won 17-consecutive games, including all eight 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 73 games), Arizona is 20-2 when it wins the turnover battle, 13-10 when it ties and 8-20 when it loses the turnover battle. That adds up to a 33-12 mark when Arizona wins or ties the turnover battle. Under Rodriguez, the Wildcats are 11-2 when winning or tying the turnover battle.

Turning Points Part II: The Wildcats enter play this week with a plus-five turnover margin for the season, which is good enough for No. 34 nationally. The Wildcats have only turned the ball over 10 times while they have secured 15 takeaways in nine 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 68-19 advantage in points off turnovers.

First Strike: Rich Rodriguez pioneered the fast-tempo spread offense that is prevalent in college football today. And if history is any indication, it’s not just about playing fast, but starting fast. Rodriguez boasts an 89-56 record in 12 seasons as an FBS coach at West Virginia, Michigan and Arizona, but no matter the school, his teams have been dominant when they strike first. Here’s a look at the record breakdown:

  Scores First Opp. Scores First
All Games 64-18 (.780) 25-38 (.397)
Home 40-9 (.816) 13-16 (.448)
Road 22-7 (.759) 11-20 (.355)
Neutral 2-2 (.500) 1-2 (.333)
     
Arizona 8-2 (.800) 6-6 (.500)
Arizona (Home) 5-2 4-1
Arizona (Road) 3-0 1-5
Arizona (Neutral) 0-0 1-0

 

In a Rush to Win: Arizona has won 11 of its last 16 games dating to last season, a trend that may or may not coincide with a dominant rushing attack. Over their last 16 games, the Wildcats have gained 4,305 yards on 748 rushing attempts, a 5.8 yards per carry clip good enough for 269.1 yards per game. The Wildcats have rushed for 300 or more yards in six of the 15 contests with a perfect 6-0 record in those games. Arizona is 8-1 when it rushes for 250-plus yards and 9-2 when it tops the 200-yard mark.

Carey Tops 1,000 Yards: Ka’Deem Carey (216-1,221) has secured his second-consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season at Arizona, something only three other players have done in school history (Trung Canidate, 1998-90; 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 11 (eleven) 1,000-yard rushers over 12 seasons as an FBS head coach for Rodriguez.

What Can Scooby Doo? He can tackle, that’s for sure. The true freshman linebacker from Windsor, Calif., has made a strong case for freshman All-America honors. He leads Arizona in both total tackles (68) and tackles for loss this season (7.5), while registering 0.5 sacks, and a pass breakup in nine starts. He is second nationally among all true freshman defenders with his 68 tackles, and has been turning in some of his strongest performances as the season progresses. Over his last three games, Wright has 28 total tackles. At California two weeks ago, he turned in his best collegiate game as he registered career-highs for total tackles (11) and tackles for loss (3.0). He also recorded his first career sack, splitting it with Justin Washington.

Steady Seniors: Arizona has received strong play from two of its senior leaders on defense – Marquis Flowers and Jake Fischer. They each turned in 100-tackle seasons as juniors and have picked up where they left off as tackling machines this year. Flowers is second on the squad with 61 total tackles, and he has 6.5 for loss, a sack, an interception (returned for a touchdown vs. Utah) and two fumble recoveries. Fischer ranks fourth on the club with 51 tackles, including one for loss, along with an interception return for a touchdown (at UNLV). Along with true freshman linebacker Scooby Wright, three of UA’s top four tacklers are at the linebacker position.

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 13-straight contests (last time failed to do so: at UCLA, 11/3/2012) … Under Rodriguez, a Wildcat has rushed for 100 yards 20 times in 22 total games, including 17 of the last 18 … Ka’Deem Carey (18), Daniel Jenkins (1), B.J. Denker (1) and Matt Scott (1) have combined for the 20 100-yard performances in the 22 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).

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.

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-Grigsby and receiver Trevor Ermisch were put on scholarship in fall camp. 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.

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 closes its home schedule on Saturday, Nov. 23, against Oregon. The Pac-12 has announced its television partners will exercise a six-day selection window for kickoff time and broadcast information. The time slots available include (all MST): 1:30 p.m. on an ESPN network, 2 p.m. Fox Sports 1, 5 p.m. FOX, and 7:30 p.m. on the Pac-12 Networks.

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