Some Game Themes
Season Two of the Mike Stoops era kicks off with a road trip to Salt Lake City ... Both Arizona and Utah will be opening their respective seasons to a nationally televised audience on ESPN ... After matching the high-flying Utah offense nearly yard-for-yard in 2004, can a more experienced and effective Arizona offense take advantage of scoring opportunities after kicking just a pair of field goals in five red zone chances against the Utes a season ago ... What look will Utah show after losing its head coach, offensive coordinator, starting QB and its top two productive wideouts from last season ...
In a series that dates back to 1924, Utah owns a 18-15-2 advantage against Arizona in 35 all-time meetings ... Thirteen games in the 35-game series have been decided by seven points or fewer ... Utah’s 23-6 victory over Arizona in Tucson last season snapped a two-game winning streak in the series for the Wildcats and a seven-game UA winning streak over the Utes in Tucson ... In games played in SLC, Utah owns a slight 9-7 lead in the series and an 8-7 mark against Arizona in Rice-Eccles Stadium ... Arizona’s last trip to its neighbor to the north in 2000 resulted in a 17-3 Wildcat win ... As members of the Western Athletic Conference, Arizona tallied a 9-4 record against Utah from 1965 to 1977 ... Since UA joined the Pac-10 in 1978, Arizona and Utah have played five times, including three times in the last five years, to a 3-2 Arizona advantage
Two costly turnovers and an inability to post points inside the red zone doomed Arizona to a 23-6 loss to Utah at Arizona Stadium in Tucson last season ... The Wildcats matched the Utes nearly yard-for-yard on offense (326 UU to 312 UA), but a fumble on the first play of the game at the UA 27 and a Kris Heavner interception inside the Arizona 20 twice gave Utah a short field to work with and an easy 10 points ... UA’s Nick Folk ended Arizona’s eight-game streak without a field goal conversion with a pair of successful attempts in the game, but the six points fell well shy of what could have been as Arizona penetrated Utah’s red zone five times in the contest and came up scoreless thrice ... Utah’s Marty Johnson led all players with 105 yards rushing and a TD and UU’s Alex Smith posted 170 yards passing and two TDs to receiver Steve Savoy ... While a small consolation, Arizona held Utah to its lowest scoring output of what turned out to be an undefeated and Fiesta Bowl championship season in Mike Stoops’ second game as head coach at UA.
Noting the Utes
Utah enters its season-opening game against Arizona with a 16-game winning streak in tow after winning the final four games of the 2003 campaign and capping off the most historic season in Ute history in 2004 with a 12-0 record and a championship in the Fiesta Bowl ... Since the 35-7 victory over Pitt in Tempe last Jan. 1 a lot has changed for Crimson and White. Gone are head coach Urban Meyer (to Florida), offensive coordinator Mike Sanford (to UNLV), quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist Alex Smith (to the NFL), leading rusher Marty Johnson (graduation) and leading receivers Steve Savoy and Paris Warren (both to the NFL) ... Despite all the offseason turnover in the Beehive State, the cupboard wasn’t exactly left bare for former Ute defensive coordinator and current head coach Kyle Whittingham. The Utes return five starters on both offense and defense, including three-fifths of the offensive line, their leading tackler from 2004, linebacker Spencer Toone, and defensive back Eric Weddle, who intercepted four passes and broke up five others in 2004 ...
Arizona will attempt to tie the school record for consecutive seasons with a victory in the opening contest of the year at six straight against Utah on September 2 ... UA has won six straight season-openers four times in school history, with the latest coming from 1971-76 ... The Wildcats extended their winning streak in season openers to five straight after defeating Northern Arizona 21-3 last year ... Dating back to 2000, UA has beaten Utah (2000), San Diego State (2001), Northern Arizona (2002, 2004) and UTEP (2003) to open each respective year ... The Utah game in 2000 and the San Diego State contest in 2001 were on the road ... Dating back to 1899, Arizona is 73-23-5 all-time in season-opening games.
Wildcats Picked To Finish Eighth
No Let Up On The Schedule
Just like the previous two seasons,
In The Second Year
Mike Stoops is looking to join predecessors Larry Smith and Dick Tomey as the two
1977* - 5-7, 3-4
1980 - 5-6, 3-4
1987 - 4-4-3, 2-3-3
2001 - 5-6, 2-6
2004 - 3-8, 2-6 1978 - 5-6, 3-4
1981 - 6-5, 4-4
1988 - 7-4, 5-3
2002 - 4-8, 1-7
* In Tony Mason’s first year
* In Tony Mason’s first year
Stoops Named Pac-10’s Rising Star
Something To Build Off Of
Although the Wildcats suffered through their sixth-straight non-winning season last year, the improvement over the course of the year could be seen both on the field and the stats sheet.
Defense On The Rise
Not quite on par with the nationally renowned “Desert Swarm” defenses of the mid-90’s, last year’s defensive squad did take significant strides towards reestablishing UA’s reputation on that side of the ball. Opponents gained 1,347 less yards on offense in 2004 as they did in 2003 and scored 154 fewer points. With a full year in the Stoops system, even more improvements are expected out of the group this year.
Stat 2003 2004 Difference
Opp Scoring 429 275 -154
Opp Pts/Game 35.8 25.0 -10.8
Opp 1st Downs 284 220 -64
Opp Rushing 2,169 1,363 -806
Opp Rush Yds/Game 180.8 123.9 -56.9
Opp Passing 3,351 2,810 -541
Opp Total Offense 5,520 4,173 -1,347
Opp Total Yds/Game 460.0 379.4 -80.6
Start Me Up
The Wildcats have a number of players on both sides of the ball with considerable starting experience on the resumes. Led by senior free safety Darrell Brooks’ 30 starts, the UA defense has seven different players with 11 or more career starts (SS Lamon Means 25, DE Marcus Smith 17, DE Copeland Bryan 13, DT Paul Philipp 12, CB Antoine Cason 11 and CB Wilrey Fontenot 11). On offense, lineman Kili Lefotu paces the Cats with 29 career starts, including 10 in 2004. Others with significant starting experience include RB Mike Bell (25), OL Peter Graniello (11) and WR Syndric Steptoe (11).
Freshmen Looking To Make an Impact
A number of first-year Wildcats are looking to earn their way on the field this season. Michael Thomas, Blake Kerley, Brandon Tatum, Xavier Smith, Adrian McCovy and Garrett Fields headline a freshman class that made a strong a impression during fall camp. Thomas is pushing for playing time in
Run GMC Season Totals
Firstly, They’re Hardly Secondary
Led by senior team captain Darrell Brooks, the
The “Js” are Okay
There seems to be a trend developing among UA’s wide receiver corps: B.J., B.J., M.J., A.J., S..., well it doesn’t quite work across the board, but the depth among UA’s pass-catchers will most certainly be a strength for the UA offense in 2005. Returnees Anthony Johnson, Mike Jefferson, B.J. Dennard and Syndric Steptoe have been joined by newcomers B.J. Vickers and Michael Thomas to form a potent offensive threat that will help to keep opposing defenses honest. Offensive coordinator Mike Canales and receivers coach Charlie Williams are counting on the group to not only help improve last year’s average of 170.5 yards per game through the air, but to free up running space around the line of scrimmage for UA’s running backs as well.
Injury Bug Bites LBs
The Wildcat linebacking corps has been the lone victim of the injury bug during the preseason. Projected starters Ronnie Palmer (foot), Randy Sims (ankle) and Spencer Larsen (knee) will all miss UA’s season opener against
Kovalcheck’s the One Under Center
Incumbent starting QB Richard Kovalcheck has shown no ill effects from a spring surgery on his back. The second-year starter took over the reigns of the
D-Line Has Some Depth
Unlike a season ago when UA was forced to use players out of position and throw true freshmen into the starting lineup, the 2005 D-line appears to be well stocked with capable run stoppers and pass rushers. At end, three-year starter Marcus Smith will team up with senior classmate Copeland Bryan and sophomore Jason Parker and redshirt freshman Johnathan Turner. Inside JC tranfer Byron Smith has the edge for the starting nose tackle position while Paul Philipp returns to his starting tackle slot. Also in the mix inside are sophomores Yaniv Barnett and Lionel Dotson and JC transfer Rickey Parker.
Booting Danny Baugher
Nick Can Kick
A year ago at this time, the
Replay Comes Into Play
Beginning this season the Pac-10, along with nine other Division I conferences, will have instant replay on questionable plays on the field. The head coaches in the Pac-10 will have no say on whether a play should be reviewed or not, instead the conference will assign an observer in the press box that will make the calls. “Indisputable video evidence” must be present in order for a call to be overturned by the replay official in the booth. There is no limit on the number of plays that can be reviewed by the observer during the course of a contest.
Reviewable plays are as follows:
- A runner breaking the plane of the goal line.
- Pass complete/incomplete.
- Runner/receivers/interceptor in or out of bounds.
- Recovery of a fumble.
- Touching of a pass by an ineligible receiver.
- Touching of a pass by a defensive player.
- Ruling on forward pass/fumble.
- Forward or backward pass thrown from behind the line of scrimmage.
- Runner not ruled down.
- Forward progress in relation to first-down marker.
- Touching of a kick.
- Number of players on a field.
- Resetting of the game clock after a reversal.
Non-reviewable plays are: Holding, offside, illegal blocks, illegal formations, encroachment, pass interference, personal fouls, facemask, taunting/excessive celebration, false starts, roughing the passer/kicker, fighting participants.
A Change of Clothes
The Wildcats will debut a new set of duds in its season opener at
Lining Up Against Them
A Couple of Familiar Faces
Standing on the opposite sideline in the series opener will be a pair of faces that most UA fans will recognize.
All Access From arizonaathletics.com
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Arizona Football Depth ?- at Utah 2005 WR 2 B.J. Vickers 6-2 217 Jr. 9 Anthony Johnson 6-2 205 So.* 4 B.J. Dennard 5-11 194 So. LT 76 Peter Graniello 6-5 296 So. 74 Adam Hawes 6-4 302 Jr. LG 69 John Abramo 6-4 301
Arizona Football Depth ?- at Utah 2005
2 B.J. Vickers
9 Anthony Johnson
4 B.J. Dennard
76 Peter Graniello
74 Adam Hawes
69 John Abramo