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Football Leaves Arizona For Final Time in 2005
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 10/24/2005
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Some Game Themes

The Wildcats look to continue the balanced offensive attack and physical defensive play it showed against a ranked team last Saturday... UA is, in the parlance, getting close, but can it cross the hump in a venue where it's struggled for several years? Arizona works to snap a four-game nightmare up north, having dropped the last four decisions in Benton County by a combined deficit of 107 points... For Arizona, a victory pulls it out of the Pac-10 cellar and in position to battle for some respect with a strong finish, whereas a victory by the Beavers keeps them in shape for a potential bowl bid... The Beavs toss another top 10 passing attack (9) and conference receptions leader Mike Hass (8.3) against UA's No. 38 pass defense, and also put the nation's No. 12 rusher, workhorse Yvenson Bernard (67% of the carries), in the mix... UA works against an OSU defensive unit rated 109th in total and scoring D... Arizona gets its final crack at winning in October for the first time since 2000...

 

Last Week

A handful of big plays by the opposition proved too much for a showcase game by Arizona and the No. 15-ranked Ducks of Oregon snatched a 28-21 victory over the Cats before a crowd of 48,052 in Tucson. The Cats ran for 212 net yards, but two fumbles in the running game gave up an immediate touchdown once and closed a potential game-tying drive into UO territory late in the game on another. Two blocked punts and a 69-yard return on another took away one of UA's most consistent weapons, the kicking game, and knocked the Cats' principal (Danny Baugher) out for the year with an injury. Freshman quarterback Willie Tuitama debuted with a superb effort for a true freshman (18-for-34, 182 yards and two touchdown throws), helping the Cats post 411 yards in total offense, but had some jitters and threw an interception in Oregon territory with the game tied at 21 late in the third quarter. Arizona's defense held a vaunted Duck attack to 67 net rushing yards and their second-lowest season output in total offense (307), plus had interceptions by Darrell Brooks and Antoine Cason. Oregon started hot, scoring three touchdowns in the first quarter, then UA inserted Tuitama and came back to cut it to 21-14 at the half. The Cats scored on their first possession of the second half to tie, with Tuitama throwing to Mike Thomas for one of his eight catches. After five changes of possession one of the two fumbles by running back Mike Bell serendipitously bounced into the arms of UO linebacker Brent Haberly and he had an uncontested 34-yard jaunt for the eventual winning score. In the end, after injuries to their top two QBs, third-team Duck signal caller Brady Leaf completed a 17-yard throw on 3rd-and-12 to keep the ball with the yellow and green-clad squad as time ran out. Arizona held the ball for six more minutes, limited UO to a season-low 10 first downs and unveiled a new quarterback against a solid club. 

 

Quick Hits From Oregon

- The Wildcats established a season-high for longest run twice in the game (20 yards, 50 yards).

- The Arizona rushers had five plays over 20 yards, the first time this season UA has had “big plays” from the RBs.

- WR Syndric Steptoe paid for it, but he extended his streak to 14 straight games with at least one reception. Step was forced from the game after taking a vicious blow after hauling in the pass in the first quarter.

- Travis Bell and Brandon Lopez made their first career catches, the former for the Cats' first touchdown.

- Lopez made his first career start at fullback after switching over from LB.

- WR Mike Thomas tied his season high with eight catches. The true frosh has at least three receptions in all seven games this season.

- Mike Bell’s 50-yard TD run in the second quarter was the third-longest scoring run in his four year career (67 and 69 yards TD rushes vs. Washington in 2003).

 

The Cats and The Beavers ?- The All-Time Series

Arizona leads the all-time series 19-8-1 that dates back to 1966, but has lost the six straight to the Beavers ... The Wildcats hold a 7-5-1 advantage at Reser Stadium in Corvallis, but have not won there since 1998, four straight losses ... 2005 will mark the fourth time in the past five seasons Arizona will have traveled to Corvallis to take on the Beavers.

 

Arizona and Oregon State ?- The Last Time Out

Oregon State won its second straight game at Arizona Stadium with a 28-14 victory over the Wildcats on Oct. 30, 2005 ... Despite out-gaining the Beavers 331-310 in total offense, the Wildcats couldn’t overcome self-inflicted errors in the loss ... OSU scored 14 points (the difference in the contest) off of four Arizona turnovers (2 Int, 2 fumbles) ... Departed QB Derek Anderson threw for 249 yards and two scores and rushed for another TD in the win ... The Arizona defense limited OSU to just 61 yards rushing the game

 

Noting the Beavers

Oregon State hosts Arizona in newly renovated Reser Stadium for the fourth time in the last five years ... Oregon State enters the contest 4-3 overall and 2-2 in the Pac-10 ... The Beavers favor a pass-oriented attack, coming into the weekend ranked ninth in the nation is passing offense (323.0 ypg) ... OSU is averaging 31 points per game this year ... QB Matt Moore is 22nd in the NCAA in total offense (276.6 ypg) ... WR Mike Haas is a favored target, averaging 8.3 receptions per game, third-best in the NCAA this year ... Defensively, OSU gives up an average of 451.4 yards per game and are surrendering 35.7 points per contest.

 

Freshmen Under Center

Willie Tuitama became just the sixth true freshman quarterback in the last 30 years to play in a regular season game when he made his Arizona debut at the 8:14 mark in the first quarter of UA's 28-21 loss to Oregon on Oct. 22. He ended the contest against the Ducks 18 of 34 for 182 yards with two TDs and an interception. Tuitama passed for more yards then any other UA freshman QB in a debut performance and his two TD passes also set a frosh first appearance standard. 

A look at how Arizona's freshmen QBs performed in their first appearance

Player First Appearance Stats (Att-Comp-Int)
Marc Lunsford First game stats are unavailable, but finished the 1974 season 19-2-0, 15 yards
Jim Krohn 9/18/76 at UCLA (L, 37-9) 5-2-1, 10 yards
Tom Tunnicliffe 10/18/80 vs Washington State (L, 38-14) 20-11-2, 122 yards, Rush TD
Alfred Jenkins ^ 9/17/83 vs Washington State (W, 45-6) 6-4-0, 81 yards, TD
Ron Veal 9/19/87 vs. New Mexico (W, 20-9) 10-4-0, 96 yards
George Malauulu ^ 9/2/89 vs. Stanford (W,19-3) 3-1-0, 16 yards
Chuck Levy ^# 9/28/91 vs. Long Beach State (W, 45-21) 7-1-1, 50 yards, 
13 rushes, 93 yards, 2 TDs
Keith Smith ^ 8/31/96 vs. UTEP (W, 23-3) 5-3-0, 24 yards
Ortege Jenkins ^ 9/27/97 at UCLA (L, 40-27) 15-9-0, 96 yards, TD
Nic Costa ^ 8/31/02 vs. NAU (W, 37-3) 5-3-0, 26 yards
Ryan O'Hara ^ 8/30/03 vs. UTEP (W, 42-7) 16-8-2, 119 yards, TD
Kris Heavner 9/20/03 at Purdue (L, 59-7) 12-5-1, 55 yards, TD
Richard Kovalcheck ^ 10/16/04 at Oregon (L 28-14) 10-5-1, 77 yards, TD
Willie Tuitama 10/23/05 vs. Oregon (L, 28-21) 34-18-1, 182 yards, 2 TD
^ indicates redshirt freshman / # Levy had played RB prior to his first QB appearance

 

Gaining Experience Now for the Future

One of coaching's cherished dictums is that an experienced upper classman at quarterback can be a guy around whom hopes can flourish. The corollary, of course, is that you have to use a young guy in order to get him the experience. The playing of youngsters early has been Arizona's methodology of late, unfortunately the experienced upperclassman has not come to fruition from it. Freshman Willie Tuitama has no starts and only one game played under his belt. Before him, it was redshirt freshman Richard Kovalcheck, who put up some historically good numbers for a 12-start guy. Before him it was true freshman Kris Heavner, who had 14 career starts before he gave way to Kovalcheck. Before him it was redshirt freshman Ryan O'Hara, with a start each in his first two seasons. Before him it was redshirt freshman Nic Costa, with a total of six starts in his three years. Before him it was junior Jason Johnson, a shrewd fellow who pushed aside younger contenders and wrested control for his two full years of starting in 2001-02. One thing Tuitama and Kovalcheck can give Arizona is some continuity in the position for several years to come.

 

The Freshman Connection

The freshman class got together to post some fine numbers against Oregon last Saturday. Frosh QB Willie Tuitama hooked up with his classmates on both TD passes, on  nine of his 18 completions and for 105 of his 182 yards in the contest. Mike Thomas hauled in six Willie passes for 71 yards and a TD (he had two catches for minus five yards with Richard Kovalcheck), redshirt freshman Travis Bell pulled in two passes for 28 yards and one score and redshirt frosh Brandon Lopez chipped in with his first career grab for six yards.

 

Finding The Open Guy

QB Willie Tuitama did an excellent job of utilizing all the receivers at his disposal. The first-year signal caller hit eight different teammates for completions, including three players (Travis Bell, Ryan Kilpatrick and Brandon Lopez) for their first career receptions.

 

Buckling Down

After a slow start, the Arizona defense stepped it up against the Ducks last weekend. Surrendering 164 yards of total offense in the first quarter alone, the Wildcat defense limited the Ducks to just 143 total yards, an average of 48 yards per quarter, in the final 45 minutes of play. Not too shabby against an Oregon team that entered the game ranked 13th in the NCAA in total offense with an average of 487.3 yards per game. Additionally, the UA defense limited UO to just six first downs in the final three quarters.

 

Total D

After having played three of the current top five offensive squads in the Pac-10 (USC, Cal, Oregon), Arizona has held its own and is the No. 4-rated total defensive unit in the conference, one of the quartet to allow less than 400 yards per game. UA's at 379.4 while top-rated USC has seen opponents post a 347.3 figure. The two other teams ahead of UA  -- No. 2 Cal at 352.0 and No. 3 Oregon at 359.8 -- each played Arizona, which is averaging 323.1 yards per game on offense.

 

Stopping the Run

After experiencing the breadth of USC's running game (337 yards), Arizona tightened up and held Stanford (58) and Oregon (67) to well under half their season averages and posted two of the best run-stopping efforts under Mike Stoops. The Cats climbed 21 spots to No. 93 in rushing defense (180 ypg) in the two-game span. In the first five games the Cats gave up 227 rushing yards per game; in the last two -- 62.5 yards per game. UA has given up only eight first downs rushing in the last two contests (4.0 per game) compared to the 56 it gave up in the first five games (11.2 per game).

 

Accepting Applications

The Wildcat defense is looking for someone to step up in the tackles department. Despite missing three games due to injury, LB Dane Krogstad remains second on the team in total tackles for the year with 38. Two players that has stepped up in  the hits department have been JC transfer Michael Johnson and senor Copeland Bryan. Johnson, a physical SS, has 17 of his 29 total tackles in UA’s last three games, while DE Bryan has his season-total of 22 tackles in UA’s last four games, including a nine-tackle game against USC and a game-high seven stops against Oregon.

 

Double Duty For Folk?

With the injury to punter Danny Baugher, PK Nick Folk appears to be next in line for the punting duties. After Baugher went down against Oregon, Folk launched his first collegiate punt for 50 yards. Although bittersweet due to the loss of his injured teammate, the additional kicking duties might be welcome as Folk has attempted just six FGs all season long. In addition to losing a punter, Baugher also served as Folk’s place holder on PATs and FGs, a duty that will most likely fall to QB Adam Austin.

 

?'F’or’G’otten

Arizona's seven games have witnessed a total of 15 field goal attempts, six of those by the Cats, and only nine that have been successfully converted. UA 's season record for attempts is 29 in 1994 (Steve McLaughlin) and 1985 (Max Zendejas). The Cats tried a modern season-low 11 FGs in 2003, making only two. Nick Folk is 3-for-6 this year, with two of those blocked.

 

Running Game Getting Its Legs

Mostly absent for the first five games of the year, the Arizona rushing game has found it still has life in it. Paced by a 212-yard effort against Oregon, the Wildcats are averaging 161 yards on the ground over the last two games, nearly double the 81.0 average in the first five contests of the season. The Wildcat rushers have also equalled the three TD total from the first five games in the last two.

 

Hitting The Century Mark

Including a 158-yard effort against Oregon last Saturday, senior running back Mike Bell has rushed for 100 or more yards in a game nine times in his career. When doing so, he has amassed 1,306 rushing yards, 10 TDs and averaged 6.3 yards per carry.

Mike Bell’s 100-yard Games

Date Opponent (Result) Att Yards TDs Avg.
Aug. 30, 2003 UTEP (W, 42-7) 13 119 1 9.2
25-Oct-03 at Cal (L, 42-14) 19 182 1 9.6
Nov. 1, 2003 at Oregon State (L, 52-23) 25 106 1 4.2
Nov. 8, 2003 Washington (W, 27-22) 26 222 3 8.5
Sept. 4, 2004 Northern Arizona (W, 21-3) 30 124 2 4.1
Oct. 9, 2004 at UCLA (L, 31-17) 21 134 0 6.4
Nov. 26, 2004 Arizona State (W, 34-27) 23 139 0 6
Sept. 10, 2005 Northern Arizona (W, 31-12) 24 122 1 5.1
Oct. 22, 2005 Oregon (L, 28-21) 20 158 1 7.9
Totals 201 1,306 10 6.5

 

Dial M for Mike

Freshman wide receiver Mike Thomas had a career-best eight catches for the second consecutive game last week, and pushed his team-best season totals to 39 grabs for 460 yards. He's Arizona's all-time freshman receiver and with his 5.6 catches per game would hit the single-season receptions chart, peopled at No. 14 and No. 15 by Hank Stanton (50-820 in 1941) and Ron Gardin (48-892 in 1968), respectively. He passed Bobby Wade (30-454) for the freshman single-season lead a few games back. His two eight-grab games are just shy of the top 15 in that category.

 

Cope Land

It's on the edge of play. Senior defensive end Copeland Bryan notched his fifth sack of the year against a very mobile dude (Kellen Clemens) last week. With two more he'll have the most in this Millenium by a Wildcat, topping the 6.5 by linebacker Lance Briggs in 2001. He's also knocked down four passes, recovered and forced fumbles. All in four games played. He injured a leg on the first series of the season opener and missed NAU-Purdue.

 

Get the Bulbs Illuminated

Arizona is scoring 19.6 points per game. That makes it tough in a league where the mean is 34. UA has made some modest improvement over the past several seasons, but was hurt on paper this year with the shutout tossed by California.  The Wildcat defense is fourth in the league allowing 26.4 points per game, so it's clear that games have been close -- four losses by a touchdown or less.

 

Coverage

Arizona's pass coverage against Oregon was improved enough to hold the Ducks to nearly 20 throws under their average outing, and give front line defenders time to make some tackles. On 28 attempts, the Cats broke up five passes and intercepted two others -- rendering 25% of the action ineffective. With throw-happy Oregon State up next, UA’s Pac-10 top-rated pass defending unit will face another stiff test once again.

 

Paying the Price

Arizona's skill players have fumbled 11 times and lost nine of them. Most have produced some dramatic results. In the opener, a Chris Henry (RB) drop led to a Ute field goal in what turned in to a three-point loss.  Against Purdue, Syndric Steptoe missed a fair catch on a punt and set up a Boiler TD drive in a seven-point loss. Against Stanford, QB Richard Kovalcheck lost two balls on sacks, both leading to field goals, while receiver Mike Thomas lost a ball after a catch at the Stanford 24 yard-line, all in a four-point loss. Against Oregon, Mike Bell lost two balls; the first was returned for a tie-breaking defensive TD and the other ended UA's last possession in a seven-point loss.

 

Down Time

For the second straight week the Arizona defense post a Mike Stoops era low for opponent first downs. Seven days after holding Stanford to 11 chain-movers, the Cats allowed just 10 fresh set of downs to Oregon.  The Cats’ effort on third down played a large part as the Cardinal and Ducks went a combined 6 for 27 (22 percent) on third down.

 

Losing It

A season removed from leading the nation in fumbles recovered, the Wildcats have found their affair with the takeaway much different in 2005. Heading into the Oregon State game, Arizona has forced its opposition to turn over the ball just 10 times (five fumbles recovered, five interceptions) and has successfully converted just one of those giveaways into points (TD off an interception at USC). Meanwhile, the offense has been quite generous to the opposition in throwing 12 interceptions and fumbling the ball away nine other times for 21 total turnovers. UA’s opponents have been successful in converting Wildcat giveaways into points, scoring 10 times (seven TDs, three FGs) for 58 points this season.

 

Hang on to the Pigskin

UA's five turnovers against Stanford were its most since it had five against Arizona State in the 2002 season finale (3 INT, 2 lost fumbles). In that contest ASU turned the ball over three times, while the Cardinal did not cough it up. Arizona had four TOs against Stanford in the previous meeting between the teams, a 16-6 SU victory in '02.

           

Bell Moves Up

Mike Bell (2,819 career rushing yards) has quietly moved his way into the top five rushers in school history. In his final five regular season games this year he needs 278 more yards to move past Hubie Oliver and into fourth on UA’s all-time rushing yards list.

Arizona Top Five All-Time Rushers

1 Trung Canidate (1996-99) 3,824 yards (604 att.)
2 Ontiwaun Carter (1991-94) 3,501 yards (805 att.)
3 Art Luppino (1953-56) 3,371 yards (513 att.)
4 Hubie Oliver (1977-80) 3,096 yards (649 att.)
5 Mike Bell (2002-Present) 2,819 yards (604 att.)
 

Tossing to Thomas

Freshman wide receiver Mike Thomas had a career-best eight catches for a second straight week to extend his team-best season totals to 39 grabs for 460 yards. That also improved his freshman catch record to 39 for the year.

Here are the top freshman pass catchers in UA annals.

Player Rec Yds TD Year
Mike Thomas 39 460 3 2005
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