Arizona On The Air
Radio: Wildcat Sports Properties/Host Communications (Flagship - KCUB, 1290 AM, Tucson, Ariz.) ?- Brian Jeffries (Play-By-Play), Lamont Lovett (Color), Sean Mooney (Sidelines), Ryan Radtke (pregame/halftime/postgame)
Television: FSN ?- Barry Tompkins (Play-By-Play), Petros Papadakis (Color)
Some Game Themes
Arizona takes its first road trip under Mike Stoops... There's bound to be something different afoot: the two teams meet for the fourth consecutive time with one side or the other under new management -- Stoops and Karl Dorrell this year, Dorrell and Mike Hankwitz last year, John Mackovic and Bob Toledo in 2002, Toledo and Dick Tomey in 2000... Arizona's offensive unit faces a defense against which it had decent success (519 yards) a year ago when UCLA was rated 16th in total defense... The Cats' young secondary takes on some noted skill in receiver Craig Bragg and tight end Marcedes Lewis, while UA's rushing defense faces record-setting tailback Maurice Drew... The Cats work to shake off a three-game losing streak and a 10-31 slump in league play the past five seasons. One of the victories in that skein was a 33-7 decision over the Bruins in Pasadena in 1999... UCLA's ability to score (31.2 ppg) vs. the Cats' No. 21 rated scoring defense (13.0)... The UA rushing attack against a unit rated No. 113 nationally vs. the run...
A late turnover proved definitive and kept Arizona from taking its Pac-10 opener under Mike Stoops, as Washington State pounced on the opportunity and scored with less than a minute remaining for a 20-19 victory over the Cats. A sun-baked crowd of 43,579 and a regional ABC audience saw Arizona drive 80 yards to take the lead, 19-14, with under four minutes left, then get a defensive stop and a big first down to own the ball at 1st-and-10 with 90 seconds left. Running back Gilbert Harris hit the middle with the ball covered, but a two-sided hit by one defender Pat Bennett sent the ball skyward and into the hands of Hamza Abdullah at the Wildcat 30 yard-line. Three plays later Josh Swogger's 15-yard pass to Jason Hill put WSU on top with six. No matter that the Cougs missed the two-point conversion -- or that Arizona had tried and missed the same minutes earlier. It didn't matter that Arizona owned the ball by a 34 to 26-minute edge, nor that it improved its third-down efficiency dramatically from the previous week, nor that the Cats recovered four of WSU's six fumbles, nor that UA led entering the fourth quarter, etc. In the end the one play turned the game and kept a resilient Arizona team from enjoying more than its hard-working reputation. The Cats proved they're a different breed but had nothing to show for it.
Hitting The Road
Arizona’s journey to Pasadena marks the first road trip of the season for the Wildcats. The Oct. 8 date of the game is latest in a calendar year that the Wildcats have waited to play a road game since playing the No. 8-ranked Bruins to a 24-24 tie at the Rose Bowl on Oct. 9, 1982. Since joining the Pac-10 in 1978, the Wildcats are 14-9-2 in their first road game of year.
The Cats and the Bruins - The Series
The Bruins and the Wildcats will meet up on Oct. 8 for the 29th time ... UCLA owns a 17-9-2 advantage in the all-time series and has won the last three meetings ... Two of the three consecutive Bruin victories have been come-from-behind three-point wins at Arizona Stadium. UCLA rallied for a final-minute 27-24 win on a Cary Paus 13-yard TD run in 2000 and UCLA capitalized on a fourth quarter 55-yard interception return for a TD in a 24-21 win last season ... The Wildcats are 2-6-1 in the Rose Bowl against the Bruins, but have not traveled to Pasadena since 1999 ... In fact Arizona’s last victory over UCLA came that season with a 33-7 victory at the Rose Bowl ...
Noting the Bruins
The Bruins (3-1, 1-0) will enter the game vs. Arizona riding a three-game winning streak ... After dropping the season opener 31-20 to Oklahoma State, UCLA has reeled off consecutive victories over Illinois, Washington and most recently San Diego State ... The Bruins boast the No. 10 total offense in Division I thus far, averaging 470 yards per game, and the seventh-best rushing offense with an average of 273.25 ypg ... Sophomore tailback Maurice Drew powers the Bruin offense with a Pac-10-best 167.25 rushing yards per game average. Drew broke a UCLA record with 322 yards rushing while equalling the Pac-10 record with five touchdowns on Sept. 18 at Washington ... Quarterback Drew Olson has completed 53 percent of his passes for 740 yards and four TDs this season ... Craig Bragg is UCLA’s leading receiver this year, snatching 12 balls for 217 yards and two TDs ... Defensively the Bruins rank No. 96 in Division I in total defense, allowing an average of 431.5 yards per game ... Linebacker Spencer Havner leads the Pac-10 with 60 total tackles ... The junior returned an interception 52 yards for a touchdown in UCLA’s win over San Diego State last weekend ... Head coach Karl Dorrell is in his second season in Westwood and has a 9-8 overall record heading into the game with Arizona.
UCLA and Arizona - The Last Time Out
UCLA posted 14 second-half points while keeping the Wildcats scoreless in the final two frames to overcame a 21-10 halftime deficit for a three-point win at Arizona Stadium on Oct. 11 last season ... Arizona jumped out to an 11-point half time lead on a pair of TD passes by Nic Costa and one by Kris Heavner, but three interceptions in the second half, including one returned 55-yards for the game-winning TD early in the fourth quarter, proved to be too much to overcome as UCLA rallied to steal the victory ... Arizona posted 519 yards of total offense to UCLA’s 333 ... UA running backs Clarence Farmer (122 yds) and Mike Bell (94 yds) teamed up to rush for 216 yards on 33 carries, an average of 6.5 ypc ... UCLA’s Craig Bragg tallied 105 yards on six receptions in the game.
UCLA assistant coach Dino Babers spent six seasons (1995-2000) on the sidelines for Arizona as the running backs, receivers and quarterbacks coach and eventually as the offensive coordinator.
Through The First Four
The 1-3 record through four games might not be any different from last season, but it’s a fact that the Wildcats are a much different team in 2004. While the program refuses to use last season a crutch for any success or failure on the field, the expectations of Mike Stoops and the whole Arizona coaching staff has the players believing in the system and led them to a higher level of performance on the field. With basically the same lineup on both sides of the ball from last season, the Wildcats have posted vastly superior numbers through the first four games this season then they did just 12 months ago. Offensively, Arizona has amassed just under 100 more yards of total offense this season then it did during the first month last year (1081 to 982). Both rushing and passing yards have improved on offense, as well as the total number of first downs. Defensively, Arizona is a far cry from where it was in 2003. Scoring defense is down nearly 30 points per game, the rushing yards surrendered per game are down 80 yards from the first four games of last year. Teams have passed for 330 less yards against UA's defensive backs this season, and the total offense of opponents has gone from an average of 457.2 per game last year to 294.5 in 2004, a difference of over 162 yards per game.
Making the Fourth Meaningful
Perhaps the most telling figure for UA in 2004 is the difference in its opponent’s second and third quarter scoring. Through the first four games in 2003, the Wildcats had surrendered 52 points in the second quarter alone, a figure that nearly matches the sum total of points given up by UA in all of its games this season (55). When added to the 2003 third quarter scoring of 42 points, the 94 points given up in the middle of the games made the fourth quarter irrelevant last season. This season Arizona has given up just nine points in the middle half of games (three in the second and six in the third), allowing the Wildcats to have placed themselves in position to win games in the fourth quarter. While the victories haven't come just yet, Arizona is certainly making the fourth quarter of games meaningful again.
The teams that have beaten Arizona this season are good. How good? Combined, Utah, Wisconsin and Washington State have posted an impressive 13-1 record over the first five weeks of the season. The No. 11 Utes have the No. 12-ranked total offense and a perfect 5-0 record. No. 15 Wisconsin, which has given up just two touchdowns in five games this year, has the No.2-ranked total defense in the nation while matching Utah’s unblemished record. The unranked Cougars tout a defense that ranks 16th in nation and the No. 12 passing attack in D-IA. While no one in the program is satisfied with a 1-3 start, the fact that UA is a handful of plays away from winning at least two of the games provides hope for the future.
Stopping the Run
Maybe they didn't feature it, but they tried it 35 times and netted 28 yards. Rushing, that is, by Washington State against UA's defense. It was the fewest rushing yards allowed by the Wildcats since the Cats held UCLA to 54 yards rushing in 2000, and the lowest total since UA held USC to 10 net rushing yards on 27 carries earlier in 2000. Against WSU, the figure was a bit skewed by some bad snaps that skittered away for team losses of 32 yards, but it still was a sign of progress that will help win games.
Hanging On To It
Opponents are making the most of Wildcat turnovers this season. Three fumbles and an interception have been turned around into two field goals and a pair of touch downs for the opposition. In fact, of the 55 points surrendered by Arizona in its four games, 18 of them have come off of turnovers (32.7 percent). A significant number considering that UA has lost its three games this year by a combined 20 points.
The Wildcats have kept their noses relatively clean this season in regards to flags on the field. Through the first four games, Arizona is averaging just four penalties per game for an average 34 yards, a figure that ranks fourth nationally behind only Oklahoma State, Illinois and Michigan. Opponents, meanwhile, have been flagged twice as much (eight per game) for nearly double the amount of yards (64.2 yards).
Just for Kicks
Sophomore place kicker Nick Folk's first of two field goals Sept. 25 gave him three for the year and helped the Cats eclipse last year's season total of two. For the year he's 4-for-6, with the two misses at 43 and 47 yards. A bad snap/hold made the Cats miss on another attempt from 35 yards. After four games with some up and downs, it's evident Folk's demeanor and confidence give Arizona a shot at the three pointer when needed... Meantime, in the punting game, junior Danny Baugher is close to the pace that saw him post the No. 7 single-season figure (42.6 yards per punt) in Arizona history last year. He's at 41.6 on 24 kicks, with six stuck inside the opponents' 20 yard-line
First Half Scoring
Through the first three games, Arizona has posted points in the first 30 minutes of play in each game. While the tally of 27 total first half points is a modest sum, it should be noted that Arizona failed to score in the first two quarters in eight of its 12 games in 2003. The inability to produce early points last season left the Wildcats with an average first half deficit of just under 14 points. Arizona has led at the midway point twice this season, equaling the total of 12 games last year.
A Nose For The Ball
Linebacker Sean Jones has taken to his new position. Moving over from fullback in the spring, Jones has been around the ball on a consistent basis enough to tie him with strong safety Lamon Means for the team lead in total tackles (31). In addition, he has scooped up a Pac-10-best three fumbles this year, the most for any Wildcat player in a season since Keoni Fraser recovered five fumbles in 2000.
Heavner’s On Target
In addition to completing 65 percent of his passes, sophomore Kris Heavner has significantly cut down the number of interceptions he has thrown this season. In his first four games last year (Purdue, TCU, WSU and UCLA) Heavner had already thrown eight picks in 96 attempts. In his first four games this season, he has thrown only one in 94 attempts.
Odds and Ends
Receiver Ricky Williams extended his streak of consecutive games with a reception to 12-straight with a fourth quarter 38-yard grab against Washington State ... Biren Ealy kept pace in his first action of the year with his 12th consecutive game with a reception against the Cougars, grabbing two passes for 18 yards ... Kris Heavner’s 47-yard TD to Syndric Steptoe against Washington State was that longest play from scrimmage this season for Arizona ... Darrell Brooks recorded his first sack in 25 career games against Washington State ...
The Wildcat players voted on their team captains at the beginning of the year and selected offensive players Mike Bell, Steve Fleming and Keoki Fraser, as well as defenders Andre Torrey, Carlos Williams and Darrell Brooks.
The offensive line at Arizona has strung together a pretty impressive list of starts. Center Keoki Fraser leads all Wildcat players on both sides of the ball with 33 career starts, including 27 straight. Joining him along the front five are tackle Chris Johnson (24 starts), guard Kili Lefotu (23 starts) and tackle Brandon Phillips (17 starts). Add in tight end Steve Fleming’s 15 starts, tackle Tanner Bell’s seven and guard John Abramo’s six and the group has combined for 125 career games started.
The Sports Group in Dallas, Texas, has announced that senior Keoki Fraser has been added to the Rimington Award Watch List. The award will be presented to the top collegiate center in the country at the conclusion of the 2004 season. The award is named in honor of Dave Rimington, a consensus All-American at Nebraska in 1981 and ?'82 ... Fraser has also been named to watch list for the Outland Trophy. The award has been presented to the top interior lineman on either side of the ball by Football Writers Association of America at the end of the year since 1946, making the Outland the third-oldest award presented in collegiate football behind only the Heisman Trophy and Maxwell Award ... Others added to watch lists early on are Mike Bell for the Doak Walker Award, presented to the top running back in the nation, and Danny Baugher for the Ray Guy Award, given to the top punter at the conclusion of the season.
Fling It To Fleming
After snagging just three balls for 30 yards in his first two season, senior tight end Steve Fleming is coming off an impressive 2003 campaign that saw him record 24 receptions for 252 yards and two touchdowns. His reception total from last season was the third-most in a year for any UA tight end since the Wildcats joined the Pac-10. A duplication of his numbers from last year in 2004 would place him among the top tight ends in school history. Currently Mark Keel (1981-82) holds the school record for both receptions (59) and yards receiving (856 yards) by a tight end, while former Wildcat Ron Beyer (1975-78) holds the record for the most touchdown receptions by a TE with seven.
Fans catching the Wildcats for the first time in 2004 might not recognize the team when they take the field for the first time this season. The reason? Arizona has changed the color of its helmets from primarily all white to a solid blue. The "Academic A" remains on the side, but it has no other markings or stripes and a blue face mask. The change marks the first time since 1980 that UA will be wearing a helmet that is a different primary color than white.
The solid blue helmet is the first time in school history that Arizona will take the field with head gear so colored. In looking back through photos in Arizona’s Heritage Hall, it has been found that former Wildcat great Art Lippino, UA’s "Cactus Comet", and his 1955 Wildcat teammates took the field in a helmet that featured blue around the sides with a red top. All other color photos over the years have shown that the Wildcat gridders have donned either primarily red or white bonnets.
Cat’s Picked To Finish 10th
The Wildcats have been picked to finish 10th in the Pac-10 this season, but that doesn’t mean Arizona has to like it. Head coach Mike Stoops made that point at Pac-10 Media Day in Los Angeles.
"Expectations here (at Pac-10 Media Day) aren’t high. As a staff and as a team, our expectations are much higher. When I think of the past seven or eight months, I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished. When I took this position, I knew it would be a challenge in the beginning. The players have made it very easy for me and they’re excited about having some success on the football field again ... We feel we’re a stronger football team than we were back in December."
Who’s Up and Who’s Down
The following coaches will be on the sidelines during the game - head coach Mike Stoops, defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, tightends Steve Spurrier Jr., defensive ends/special teams Joe Robinson, receivers Charlie Williams, and offensive line Eric Wolford. Offensive coordinator Mike Canales, linebackers Tim Kish and running backs Kasey Dunn are all up in the press box along with GAs Travis Ochs and Kevin Patullo.
Cats To Face Tough Slate in 2004
After a 2003 season that saw the Wildcats play both national champions (LSU and USC) and seven other teams that participated in bowl games, the 2004 schedule couldn’t get any harder, right? Well the early forecast predicts another tough slate for the Cardinal and Navy. Right from the start the Wildcats have been tested, as opening day opponent NAU (2-2) played the Wildcats tough in a 21-3 loss. Utah (5-0) is the early pick to win the Mountain West Conference after rolling to a undefeated start. Wisconsin remains unblemished as well with a 5-0 mark. Arizona will face four straight games against 2003 bowl teams, including No. 10 Cal (3-0) and at UCLA (3-1). Arizona’s final month features a road trip to Seattle to face the Huskies (0-3), a jaunt to LA to face top-ranked USC (4-0) and match up with No.22-ranked rival Arizona State (5-0) in the final game of the year for the Territorial Cup. Combined, Arizona’s 2004 opponents posted an 89-52 record last year, including a 5-3 mark in bowl games.