Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
20070903 2007 NAU Notes
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: September 03, 2007
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Opponent: Northern Arizona
7 p.m.
Site: Tucson, Ariz. - Arizona Stadium (57,400)
Television: None
English Radio: 1290 AM The Source (Brian Jeffries, Lamont Lovett, Pedro Limon)
Spanish Radio: 990 AM ESPN Deportes (Francisco Romero, Marco Rincon, Pedro Limon)
Please see Page 3 of the notes for Arizonaˇ?s radio affiliates.

Last Time Out
Arizona re-visited an emotion it felt it had left behind after dropping a 20-7 decision in Provo to Brigham Young: disbelief. Nine months of hard work and determination did not prepare the squad for the realities of facing a team capable of protecting its home turf, playing with poise and savvy, and winning 11 consecutive games (BYU now has). The Cats had some notable questions answered -- two new kickers proved capable, the defense can keep the team in a game, the offense can work turnover-free, and young receivers appear ready to step up. But the new spread offense didn't click on all cylinders and UA nearly was shut out. Quarterback Willie Tuitama and backup Kris Heavner completed 74 percent of their throws including the former's touchdown toss of seven yards to tight end Earl Mitchell at game's end. UA wanted to run the ball but found it an ineffective weapon, averaging only three yards per attempt (with two sacks subtracted). Arizona's continuity didn't gain early momentum. After a 19-yard drive to open the game the Cats used four or less plays on their next seven possessions. Toward the end of the third quarter, a 12-play drive and penetration inside BYU's 20 yard-line was thwarted by a procedure penalty and a personal foul to force a retreat, a 4th-and-20 and a short punt. The final 80-yard drive was more like it, using 10 plays and 2:25 for the TD inside the final minute. BYU had a long drive to open the scoring in the first quarter, added another score after pinning UA near its goal line toward the end of the half, and took another field-position bonus after a failed UA fourth-down play with a 43-yard drive for its final score in the fourth quarter. The Cougars out-gained UA 392 yards to 255, converted seven of 15 third down plays to UA's four of 14, and controlled the clock with a seven-minute margin.

Some Game Themes
A match of FBS vs. FCS squads after a weekend where that distinction appears to have little bearing... A meeting of in-state rivals, the fourth in the past six years... Arizona enters phase two of its spread offense in game situations, a week after learning the new system does not turn on with a switch... The 'Lumberjacks bring an offense rated No. 6 in the FCS at 519 yards per game -- split down the middle after 262 rushing yards and 257 through the air against Western New Mexico in their opener... UA strives to continue its success over the 'Jacks, with an 8-1 mark in the infrequent series that began in 1931 but took a 47-year hiatus after World War II... The Cats work to win a fourth consecutive home opener under Mike Stoops and seventh consecutive overall.

Home Openers
Saturday marks Arizonaˇ?s first game at Arizona Stadium this season ... The Cats have won six straight home openers dating back to 2001 and have won 18 of the last 19 home openers dating back to 1988 (The lone loss during the stretch came from Ohio State in 2000).

Northern Arizona and Arizona Fast Facts
First Meeting:
1931 (Arizona 19 - Northern Arizona 12)
Last Meeting: 2005 (Arizona 31 - Northern Arizona 12)
All-Time Series Record: UA leads 8-1

Arizona vs. NAU All-Time
In a series that dates back to 1931, Arizona owns an 8-1 advantage over NAU ... The Wildcats have won the last seven last meetings between the two, including a 31-12 victory in the most recent matchup in 2005 ... Eight of the nine previous meetings between the two schools have been in Tucson with the lone game played in Flagstaff coming in 1931 ... Prior to 2002 Arizona and NAU had not met on the gridiron since 1945 ... Since 2002 the Cats and Jacks have played three times leading up to this weekend ... Arizona is a perfect 7-0 vs. NAU in Tucson, 1-0 in Flagstaff and 0-1 when meeting in the middle in Phoenix ... NAU has never scored more than 12 points in a contest against Arizona, while the Wildcats game-high against Jacks is 52 (1945).

No Fear
Northern Arizona has not shied away from playing teams on the Division I-A level. Since 1999 the Jacks have taken on a I-A opponent in each of the last eight straight seasons. While it is 0-8 in the contests, NAU has provided plenty of nightmares for the "upper division" squads, including 35-28 loss to New Mexico in 2000 and taking a 14-14 tie with Arizona State into the fourth quarter last season in Tempe.

NAU-Arizona - The Last Time Out
Arizona and NAU last met in 2005 with the Wildcats scoring a 31-12 victory over the Jacks ... Arizona amassed 442 yards of total offense (187 rush/255 pass) to NAUˇ?s 274 in the game ... Former Wildcat Mike Bell rumbled for 122 yards and one TD on the ground , while departed QB Richard Kovalcheck threw for 255 yards and two scores through the air ... Anthony Johnson caught his first career TD pass in the game ... The Arizona defense sacked former NAU QB Jason Murrietta five times in the game ... The Wildcats scored 24 points in the first half and led 24-3 at the break ... NAU scored its first TD against Arizona since 1945 in the third quarter and tallied a safety on a botched punt attempt ... NAUˇ?s 12 points in the game match the highest point total against Arizona in school history.

Noting the Jacks
NAU (1-0) heads to Tucson after throttling Western New Mexico 47-0 in its season opener last weekend in Flagstaff ... NAU put up 519 yards of total offense in its season opener, while limiting WNM to just 188 ... RBs Alex Henderson and Lionel Scott combined to rush for 189 yards and two scores on just 24 carries ... QB Lance Kriessien tossed two TD passes and threw for 188 yards ... PK Robbie Dehaze was 4-for-4 in FG tries including a 52-yarder ... The NAU defense picked off four WNM passes and returned a fumble for a score ... The Jacks return 14 starters from last seasonsˇ?s 6-5 team, including nine on the offensive side of the ball ... Head coach Jerome Souers is in his 10th season as NAUˇ?s main man and has posted a 50-54 record in Flag.

Some Positives
Arizona did not turn the ball over in the game against BYU to mark the third time in the last four contests that UA has not lost a fumble or thrown an interception dating back to last year. In that stretch Arizona is +10 in turnover ratio. The start this year puts the Cats tied for No. 24 nationally at +1.0 ... Willie Tuitama (7-for-7) and Kris Heavner (2-for-2) completed their first nine consecutive pass attempts in the second half ... Delashaun Dean caught the first four passes in his UA career and led the Cats with 88 yards receiving ... Earl Mitchell hauled in his second career TD pass on just his 10th career reception ... Willie Tuitama completed a career-high 26 passes and recorded the second-highest completion percentage (.722, 26 of 36 vs. BYU) in a single game during his three-year career (.889, 8 of 9 at Oregon in 2006) ... Tuitama fell just three successfully completed passes shy of bettering Tom Tunnicliffeˇ?s UA completion percentage record of .780 set in 1982 ... Chris Jenningsˇ? nine receptions in the contest tied for the fourth-most by a UA player in a single game and were the most individually in a contest since Mike Jefferson caught nine balls at Arizona State in 2003.

Itˇ?s all Adding it up
Junior quarterback Willie Tuitama's 16 career starts have generated some solid numbers. His 226-yard day at Provo in the opener moved him within 332 career yards of the No. 12 spot on the UA career chart. He has 2,656 yards on 22 completions in 389 attempts (58%, 124.22 efficiency rating). Willie's 17 scoring throws rank No. 11 among UA career passers. Here are the yardage leaders within his range at a 250 ypg clip:

No. 10 Marc Reed, 3,127 yds 1966-67
No. 11 George Malauulu, 3,111 yds 1989-92
No. 12 Ralph Hunsaker, 2,988 yds from 1955-61

Following Folk
Redshirt frosh Keenyn Crier and junior Jason Bondzio drew rave reviews in their first contest after replacing departed do-it-all kicker Nick Folk. Crier put to rest any concerns about UAˇ?s punting game with a 46.1 yard average on eight punts. He placed a pair of kicks inside the BYU 20 yard line, boomed a game-high 63-yarder on just his second career boot and had some serious hang time on all eight of his kicks. Meanwhile, Bondzio sent the opening kickoff into the endzone for a touchback despite being five yards deeper with the NCAA mandated change. Bondzio did not attempt a field goal, but was perfect on his one PAT try in the game.

First Time for Everything
A list of firsts for Arizona in the season opener vs. BYU:
Delashaun Dean - First career catch - 15 yards for a 1st down in the 3rd quarter
Terrell Reese - First career catch - 11 yards for a 1st down in 4th quarter
Terrell Turner - First career start
Cam Nelson - First career start
Rob Gronkowski - First career catch - 17 yards in the 3rd quarter
Keenyn Crier - First career punt - 50 yards inside the BYU 20
Antoine Cason - First career sack - 6 yards with a forced fumble
Antoine Cason - First career punt return - 22 yards
Jason Bondzio - First career kickoff - touchback to open the game
Jason Bondzio - First career PAT

Welcome to the Show
Arizona saw 12 players take the field for the first time last weekend at BYU. Tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was the lone true frosh to see playing time, was joined by redshirt classmates WR Mike Turner, WR Terrell Reese, WR Delashaun Dean, DB Trevor Foster, DE Ricky Elmore, P Keenyn Crier, TE A.J. Simmons and DT Lolomana Mikaele. Junior PK Jason Bondzio, DB Marquis Hundley and DB Nate Ness all made their initial UA appearances as well.

Take it to the Bank
Including a seven-grab game in the season opener against BYU last Saturday, wide receiver "Money" Mike Thomas has proven that he is more than capable of catching passes. The junior has at least one reception in 23 of 24 career games played. The one game without a catch you ask? At Arizona State in 2005 when the true freshman played the entire game as a decoy with a broken hand encased in plaster. UA did not attempt to pass his way in that game against the Sun Devils, but the "game played" stat puts a wrinkle in his streak of consecutive games with a catch. Thomasˇ? seven receptions against the Cougars last Saturday fell one shy of tying his career-high of eight set against Stanford and Oregon in 2005, but still upped his streak to 13 straight games with a reception.

PBU Patrol
Same guys, mostly, and they've done a decent job of knocking down passes. Since a whitewash against Oregon State last year, Arizona has broken up 29 passes and intercepted seven others in five games. Cornerbacks Antoine Cason and Wilrey Fontenot led the way with six apiece -- plus a pick by AC. Linebackers Spencer Larsen and Ronnie Palmer had four each, plus an interception by Larsen and two by Palmer. Safeties Michael Klyce and Corey Hall had two each and Klyce had three interceptions. LB Dane Krogstad and DEs Johnathan Turner and Jason Parker had one PBU apiece. Departed safeties Marcus Hollingsworth and Michael Johnson knocked down the other two throws.

Spencer For Hire
Last weekend at BYU senior LB Spencer Larsen demonstrated why the opposition should keep on an eye on No. 51. Making his 26th career start, Larsen led all players for either team with 14 total tackles. He finished the contest with 1.5 tackles for loss, a fumble recovery and a PBU. The Gilbert, Ariz., native has taken a liking to playing against the Cougars. In two career games against BYU Larsen has racked up 26 total tackles, three TFL, a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovered.

Just do it Devin
UA sophomore cornerback Devin Ross has six career kickoff returns for a 25.6-yard average, including a trio over 30 yards. He nearly broke one against BYU last weekend after a 31-yard move. With a solid special teams resume under coach Joe Robinson, if Arizona has one bug-a-boo it would like to fix, it has to be a KOR for a score. All-Pro cornerback Chris McAlister of the Baltimore Ravens last did it for UA when he went 100 yards on the opening kickoff in the season opener at Hawaii in 1998.

Most Consecutive Games Without Returning A Kickoff For A Touchdown
1. Missouri 269
2. Air Force 254
3. Iowa State 132
4. Cincinnati 129
5. Memphis 117
6. Navy 109
7. New Mexico 108
8. BYU 106
9. Arizona 105

Week 2 of 10
Starting with the season opener at BYU last weekend Arizona will play 10 consecutive Saturdays without a break through the first weekend of November. After the 10-game stretch with out a rest, the schedule makers have slated the Cats to play just one more game in the entire month of November and have placed the annual Duel in the Desert against Arizona State on December 1. The late season rest will probably be much needed after the early long haul but the Wildcats have made a living in November in Mike Stoopsˇ? first three season (6-4 overall and 4-1 vs. Top 25 teams).

Healthy and Happy
Heading into the home opener against NAU Arizona remains injury free. Save for a few of the regular bumps and bruises that go along with the game, the Cats again do not list a significant injury among its two-deep roster on either side of the ball.

Theyˇ?re Watching You
A pair of defensive standouts, DB Antoine Cason and DE Louis Holmes, and one of Arizonaˇ?s offensive linemen, sophomore Eben Britton, have been named to watch lists for the 2007 campaign. Cason, a preseason All-American and 2006 Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist, has been identified as a player to keep an eye on by the Thorpe Award, the Bronko Nagurski Award, the Ronnie Lott Trophy, as well as the Chuck Bednarik Award. Holmes, UAˇ?s sack leader in ˇ®06, has been keyed on by the Bednarik Award staff as well and additionally to the Rotary Lombardi Trophy. Britton joins Holmes on the Lombardi Trophy watch list, given annually to the top lineman in the country on either side of the ball.

Wildcat Captains
Team members elected captains for 2007 in late August. The group this year includes senior linebacker Spencer Larsen, senior cornerback Antoine Cason, senior receiver Anthony Johnson, junior quarterback Willie Tuitama and sophomore offensive tackle Eben Britton. Coach Mike Stoops said voting centered heavily on a number of other senior defenders who could be chosen for individual game-captain service. Cason and Larsen are repeat captains, also chosen as juniors in 2005.

Student-Athlete Leaders
Junior wide receiver Mike Thomas and sophomore offensive tackle Eben Britton are members of the UA's Student-Athlete Advisory Board, or SAAB -- which last year had as co-president junior cornerback Antoine Cason. The two younger Wildcats are on a program-wide panel of student-athletes who meet monthly with athletic director Jim Livengood, senior associate AD Kathleen LaRose and other department leaders to foster policies and strategies that improve the lot of athletes. It's a nice piece of citizenship by the athletes involved, who serve as spokespersons for their fellow students on all teams.

Where You at?
Arizonaˇ?s coaching staff will have the following game day positions

Mike Stoops - Head Coach
Mark Stoops - D-Coord/DBs
Sonny Dykes - O-Coord/QBs
Bill Bedenbaugh - O-Line/Run Game Coord
Joe Robinson - DEs/ST
Mike Tuiasosopo - DTs
Michael Smith - RBs
Darrell Wyatt - WRs/Pass Game Coord

Press Box
Dana Dimel - TEs
Tim Kish - LBs
Dave Nichol - Off GA
Brandon Shelby - Def GA

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