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)?- Spanish Language Broadcast (XENY 760 AM in Nogales/KXEW 1600 AM in Tucson) ?- Francisco Romero (Play-By-Play)
Some Game Themes
Arizona continues to harbor team-wide optimism for the near and distant future despite a most formidable foe in town this week ...The Cats and head coach Mike Stoops continue their quest for a first league victory, against one of the top teams in the league and nation... California brings its effective array of weaponry, nation-best offense and 42 points-per-game scoring power into a game against an Arizona team that has struggled to keep points off the board in its past two games. .. UA's offense tries its hand against the Pac-10's leading defense, spearheaded by a unit that holds opponents to 86 yards rushing, Arizona's main strength to date... How will Arizona's quarterback situation play out this week -- a best-man rotation, or a career-first start for redshirt freshman Richard Kovalcheck?... It's Family Weekend on the UA campus...
Arizona responded to adversity but discovered again that it takes 60 minutes of that urgency in falling, 28-14, to Oregon in Eugene. Oregon took the opening drive and marched down the field in 11 plays before a hit by linebacker Kirk Johnson caused an apparent fumble UA recovered near the goal line, but the call didn't get made and UO pushed it across on the ensuing play. Arizona answered, using rushing by Mike Bell and Gilbert Harris to hold a second down at the Oregon 10 yard-line, but the Cats came away empty including a 4th-and-3 incompletion at the 3 yard-line. The teams traded possessions for awhile until a 17-yard punt return helped the Ducks set up shop at the UA 37 yard-line, leading to an eight-play scoring drive. UA replied with a drive to the Oregon 5 yard-line, but Kris Heavner's throw was tipped and picked at the goal line to thwart a second red-zone possession. In the second half, Justin Phinisee ripped off another punt return -- this one 61 yards -- to give UO the short field for a 22-yard scoring drive and a 21-0 lead. UA stopped the Ducks short on another goal-line stand with a fumble caused and recovery by Wilrey Fontenot, but with eight minutes remaining in the game Oregon mustered an eight-play drive, keyed by a 24-yard pass from Kellen Clemens to Marcus Maxwell on 3rd-and-22, and made it 28-0 with five minutes left. Syndric Steptoe returned the ensuing kickoff 44 yards and UA woke up. Redshirt freshman quarterback Richard Kovalcheck, in only his third series, helped drive the Cats the remaining 49 yards for the score, with a big 25-yard toss to Steve Fleming aiding the effort. Harris put UA on the board with a two-yard run, then UA got the ball right back when Anthony Johnson recovered an on-side kick. Kovalcheck threw 20 yards to Harris, was sacked but roughed, then drilled a strike on a seam route up the middle to H-back Brad Wood for the final score. Clemens' 336 passing yards, nine catches for 153 yards by Demetrius Williams and three rushing touchdowns by Terrence Whitehead were the offensive keys for the Ducks. Kovalcheck's debut was modest, but threw some intrigue into the coaching staff's future planning. Bell and Harris continued to run the ball well, but UA had accumulated only 46 offensive plays entering the fourth period. Fontenot finished with a team-high nine tackles while Johnson added eight. UA was disciplined with only four penalties, yet the Ducks overcame a season-high 11 flags for 114 yards because of their 6.8 yards per play and 492 total yards in offense.
The Cats and the Bears - The Series
Saturday will mark the 24th all-time meeting between Cal and Arizona ... The Wildcats currently hold a one-game advantage (11-10-2 vs. Cal) in the closely contested series ... Cal won the last meeting between the two last season in Berkeley, but the Wildcats have triumphed in seven of the last 10 contests ... The Golden Bears are 5-5 all-time at Arizona Stadium, but are making their first trip to the Old Pueblo since 1997 ... The Wildcats defeated Cal 41-38 in overtime the last time the Golden Bears visited Arizona Stadium (11/15/1997) ... UA has averaged 24.7 points against Cal, while the Golden Bears have averaged 23.7 against the Wildcats in the all-time series ... 13 of the 23 previous meetings have been decided by seven points or less, including two games decided in overtime, and the two have battled to a pair of ties as well ... Arizona has not lost back-to-back games to Cal since the 1990-91 seasons ...
Noting the Golden Bears
Seventh-ranked Cal enters the weekend fresh off a 45-28 homecoming victory over UCLA in Berkeley last weekend ... The win over the Bruins came on the heals of a disappointing 23-17 loss at No. 1-ranked USC the previous weekend ... The No. 7 Golden Bears are the highest-ranked opponent Arizona will have faced so far this season ... Offensively, Cal will bring the nation’s top-ranked unit (518.2 yds/game) to the desert this weekend ... The Golden Bears are averaging 41.6 points per game, third in the nation, and 256.2 yards rushing per game, seventh in all of Division I-A ... Running back J.J. Arrington, the top-rated rusher in the Pac-10 and fourth nationally, averages 156.6 yards per game on the ground ... Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is third in the nation in passing efficiency (181.11) and 29th in total offense (234.4 yds/game) ... The Bears will be without the services of injured leading receiver Chase Lyman who is ninth in the nation in receiving yards per game with an average of 103.5 ... On the defensive side of the ball, Cal finds little drop-off in terms of national respectability ... Ranked 10th in the country in total defense, the Bears are giving up an average of just 17.2 points per game and a meager 86 yards rushing per contest ... Senior safety Matt Giordano paces the defensive effort for Cal with 32 total tackles, including 22 solo stops ... Senior defensive end Ryan Riddle has posted a Pac-10-best six sacks this season for minus 41 yards ... Head coach Jeff Tedford is in his third season in Berkeley and has posted 20-12 record heading into the weekend.
Cal and Arizona - The Last Time Out
The Golden Bears defeated the Wildcats 42-14 for their largest margin of victory ever against Arizona last season on Oct. 25 ... Cal roared to a 21-point halftime lead on three rushing TDs in the second quarter before adding three more rushing TDs in the second half ... Cal rushed 59 times in the contest for 327 yards, the most ground yards surrendered by the Wildcats since 1996 ... Adimchinobe Echemandu rushed for 201 yards and three TDs on 30 attempts to pace the Cal ground attack ... Cal’s leading rusher this season, J.J. Arrington, tacked on 92 more yards and two TDs on 11 carries ... The Wildcats got 182 yards rushing and a TD on 19 carries from Mike Bell, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the outstanding rushing effort by Cal.
Strength of Schedule
While the No. 7-ranked Golden Bears might be the highest ranked team Arizona will have faced to date, the Wildcats’ schedule has been anything but easy. Of the 117 Division IA teams, there are seven that have made it this far into the season with an undefeated record and Arizona has faced two of them (No. 6 Wisconsin 7-0 and No. 9 Utah 6-0) with a third slated for later in the season (No. 1 USC 6-0). Combined, Arizona’s six opponents thus far have put together a very impressive 25-11 record (.694) with the remaining five teams on the schedule having teamed up for a 18-11 combined record thus far. The competition this season has been on par with the brutal schedule the Wildcats took on last season when they faced both national champions (LSU and USC) and seven other bowl teams in 12 games.
Stopping the Run
The Pac-10’s leading rusher J.J. Arirington comes to town this weekend, but that might not be such a bad thing for the Wildcats. The past two weeks Arizona has faced the No. 2 and No. 3 rushers in the conference in UCLA’s Maurice Drew and Oregon’s Terrence Whitehead and it held both of them to under 100 rushing yards. Drew, who entered the game against Arizona averaging a Pac-10-best 167 yards on the ground, was limited to a season-low 22 yards on 11 attempts, while Whitehead was held to 74 yards after averaging 95 yards per game heading into the contest. Toss in the 28 yards rushing allowed to Washington State on Sept. 25, and UA’s last three opponents have been held to just 106.3 rushing yards per game.
Third Down Frustrations
Arizona and third down seem to be at odds this season. A 4 for 15 effort against Oregon last weekend marked the fourth straight game the Wildcats have been under 40 percent on conversions. In fact, Arizona has converted just 16 of its 55 third down opportunities (29%) in the last four games after opening the season 13 for 28 (46%) in the first two contests.
Punching It In
Arizona’s failure to capitalize deep inside an opponent’s territory cost it dearly last weekend. Twice the Wildcats had the ball inside Oregon’s 10-yard line in the first half of the 28-14 loss, and twice Arizona was left with no points. Trailing 7-0 on their first possession of the game, the Wildcats had the ball first-and-10 at the Oregon 11. The Duck defense denied the Wildcats the end zone and a first down on the next four plays to preserve the lead. Then trailing 14-0 with time winding down in the second. UA had first and goal at the Oregon five. Kris Heavner’s pass attempt to Ricky Williams with 48 seconds left in the frame was tipped and picked off at the goal line by Aaron Gipson. The two missed opportunities stung as the half ended with UO leading by a two touchdown margin. Including two times last Saturday, Arizona has converted five of eight first and goal opportunities (4 TDs, 1 FG) this season, but have also turned the ball over on two fumbles and an interception in the three failures. Arizona has scored just six touchdowns on 16 trips inside the red-zone this season.
Scoreless in the First Half
As noted above, Oregon held the Wildcats off of the scoreboard in the first half last weekend, the first team this season to do so. Arizona previously had managed to post points in the first two quarters of play in the first five games of the season, a notable accomplishment due to the fact the Arizona failed to score in the first half of the game in eight of their 12 contests last season.
It’s An INT Drought
The Wildcat defense started the year off hot, picking off three passes in a 21-3 win over NAU in the season opener. Since that time however, opposition QBs have lofted 138 pass attempts over the last five games without a single one falling into Arizona’s hands.
Opposition Is Bootin’ It
For some reason, opposition punters have decided to have a field day against Arizona. So far this season, five of the six opposition punters has kicked above their season average against UA. Wisconsin’s Kenne DeBauche (57 yards), Washington State’s Kyle Basler (87 yards) and UCLA’s Chris Kluwe (61 yards) have all punted season-long kicks against the Wildcats. Basler’s 87-yard boot on Sept. 25 was the longest in WSU history and just two yards shy of the Pac-10 record of 89 yards.
Stopping Them Early
It has become apparent that the Wildcats need to stop their opponents early on. For the season, the Wildcats are being out-scored 40-13 in the first quarter, while playing their opponents nearly even in the following three stanzas. The past two weeks have amplified this need, as both UCLA and Oregon took their opening possessions of the game down the field for touchdown drives of 71 and 86 yards, respectively, to hand Arizona an early deficit.
Thrown In The Fire
Quarterback Richard Kovalcheck picked a tough place to find himself under center for the first time in his UA career, extremely hostile Autzen Stadium. Called in to relieve struggling starter Kris Heavner, the redshirt freshman and the Wildcat offense were in possession of the ball backed up at their own five yard line in the fourth quarter trailing 28-0. Although his first series resulted in an incompletion and an interception, Kovalcheck found his stride to rally Arizona to a pair of touchdown drives late in the game to help stave off a shutout loss to the Ducks. He finished the contest 5 for 10 for 77 yards, one interception and a 21-yard TD pass.
Wood Makes Good
Sophomore tight end Brad Wood made his first catch as a Wildcat a memorable one. The JC transfer from Pima snatched Richard Kovalcheck’s 21-yard pass for a TD on Arizona’s last offensive play in the 28-14 loss at Oregon last Saturday. Wood had participated in UA’s five previous games this season without getting his hands on a single pass.
Dotson Steps In
Redshirt freshman Lionel Dotson made his first career start at Oregon last weekend in place of injured starter Paul Philipp. Dotson finished with three tackles and posted his first career sack in the third quarter. Philipp remains questionable for the upcoming game against Cal, meaning the Wildcats will most likely call upon Dotson to fill in for a second straight week.
Kirk Knocks ?'Em Down
Since moving into the starting lineup two weeks ago against UCLA, senior linebacker Kirk Johnson has posted a team-best 15 tackles, including 11 solo efforts. Junior Randy Sims moved into the starting lineup along with Johnson against the Bruins and has put up nine tackles in the last two games to go along with fellow linebacker Dane Krogstad’s 11 stops.
Bell Passes Beasley and Billy
Junior running back Mike Bell has a crack at UA's all-time career Top 10 rushing chart this year. Last week he moved past former UA backs Billy Johnson and Don Beasley into 12th place on the Wildcats' list. Bell has 1,729 yards on 378 carries. Johnson had 1,669 in the early 1990s and Beasley had 1,680 in the early 1950s. Next up for Mike is former Denver Bronco wide receiver Vance Johnson, who rushed for 1,873 at UA as a running back in the early 1980s.
Those immediately ahead of Bell:
No. 8 Bob McCall (1970-72) 473-2074
No. 9 Ken Cardella (1951-53) 336-2060
No. 10 Eddie Wolgast (1945-50) 387-2022
No. 11 Vance Johnson (1981-84) 471-1873
No. 12 Mike Bell (2002- ) 378-1729
UA junior free safety Darrell Brooks found himself on the field with freshmen corners Wilrey Fontenot and Antoine Cason and freshman safety Domnic Patrick for considerable fourth-quarter action at Oregon.... Starting strong safety Lamon Means, a junior, and senior nickel back Tony Wingate were the only other DBs in the rotation during the game.
Behind the Line
Arizona doesn't want its safeties to lead the team in tackling, but it's so. Strong safety Lamon Means has 40 and free safety Darrell Brooks has 36. Those numbers are good for defensive backs six games into a season, but linebackers or others on the front seven should be leading the way.
Darrell Brooks has broken up seven passes and intercepted another. The seven PBUs is the most for a UA player since cornerback Michael Jolivette knocked out a school-record 20 in 2001. Brooks has 13 in his career including first-year action as a corner in 2002. He needs 11 more to hit the UA all-time chart.
A Spring In His "Step"
Wide receiver/kick returner Syndric Steptoe has been the big play guy for Arizona this season. The sophomore is second on the team behind Mike Bell in all-purpose yards at 85.5 yards per game. Steptoe is averaging a team-best 48.8 yards per game receiving and 21.8 yards per kick off return.
Steptoe has six of Arizona’s 15 receptions of 20 or more yards this season, including a team season-high 47-yarder against Washington State, while also tallying six kick returns over 20 yards, including a 44-yarder last weekend at Oregon. Steptoe has led Arizona in receptions in four of the six games Arizona has played this season and has a team-best 18 receptions for 293 yards and three TDs.
Odds and Ends
The 14 points in the fourth quarter at Oregon matched a season high for a single period this season ... Receiver Ricky Williams extended his streak of consecutive games with a reception to 14 straight with a pair of catches for 21 yards at Oregon ... Punter Danny Baugher booted a season-high 60-yard punt at Oregon last weekend. Baugher’s 44.9 yards per punt average against the Ducks was a season-best for a single game ... Eight different receivers caught at least one pass at Oregon ... For the season 12 different players have caught at least one pass ... Wilrey Fontenot took over the punt returning duties from Ryan Eidson against the Ducks, but managed just one return for three yards ... In his defensive back duties, Fontenot tallied a season-high nine total tackles, including eight solo stops ... Syndric Steptoe ripped off a season-high 44-yard kick return at UO to help set up Arizona’s first touchdown of the game. He finished the game with 101 all purpose yards (35 rec. yds., 66 KOR yds.)
Los Tres Hombres
Arizona’s three-pronged running attack of Mike Bell, Gilbert Harris and Chris Henry have rushed for 836 combined yards on 189 carries for an average of 4.4 yards per rush. The trio has teamed up to score five of UA’s 10 touchdowns, including three of Arizona’s last four TDs scored. All three of the running backs posted season-high numbers against UCLA on Oct. 9 when Bell rushed for 134 yards and Harris and Henry chipped in with 74 and 55 yards, respectively. Henry also rushed for a pair of TDs against Bruins.
Cleaning It Up
A week after committing a season-high nine penalties in the first half at UCLA, the Wildcats were flagged just four times for 25 yards against Oregon in Eugene last weekend. The cleaner game pushed the Wildcats to 11th in the nation in the fewest average number of penalties per game (4.83) and 14th in Division I-A in the fewest average penalty yards per game (40.67).
A Field Goal Streak
After watching his 47-yard field goal attempt for the win against Wisconsin sail just wide left on Sept 18, kicker Nick Folk has made his last three consecutive field goal attempts. The streak is noteworthy due to the fact that Arizona converted just two field goal attempts in 11 tries last season and hasn’t seen a kicker make three in a row since Oct. 26-Nov. 2, 2002 when former Wildcat Bobby Gill was successful on three straight attempts against Washington State and Oregon State. Folk is 5-for-8 on the year and converted the longest field attempt of his career last Saturday against UCLA, hitting from 41 yards out.
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 35 career starts, including 29 straight. Joining him along the front five are tackle Chris Johnson (26 starts), guard Kili Lefotu (24 starts) and tackle Brandon Phillips (19 starts). Add in tight end Steve Fleming’s 17 starts, tackle Tanner Bell’s seven and guard John Abramo’s seven and the group has combined for 135 career games started.
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.