Some Game Themes
The Cats (3-7, 2-5) took a week off with a final bye on Nov. 19, and geared up for the Big Game at Arizona State (5-5, 3-4) Nov. 25, in the annual battle for the Territorial Cup... The prize is recognized by the NCAA as the nation's longest-standing traveling trophy for a rivalry game... The match-up will be featured nationally on Fox Sports Net with a 1 p.m. kickoff the day after Thanksgiving... Arizona looks to win consecutive contests against ASU for the first time since 1997-98... ASU needs a victory to earn a bowl bid for the second consecutive season, while the Wildcats want one to punctuate an improved season... The game is a match of a national Top 3 passing unit (ASU) and Top 5 total offense against a team with a personality geared by a head coach with a defensive secondary background... UA's headliners in the defensive backfield face top-tier receiver Derek Hagan... A pair of freshmen quarterbacks showcase their skills, each with a modest string of career starts under their belt -- UA's Willie Tuitama and ASU's Rudy Carpenter... The Cats might want to saddle up and run the ball against a club in the bottom 10 percent of Division I-A in rushing defense, or take their crack at a similarly rated pass defense... The kicking game and field position look to be keys, with returners Syndric Steptoe (UA) and Terry Richardson (ASU) capable threats, adept punters on both sides and mixed results on special teams by both clubs at times this year... Basically, though, all the trends and the guesswork about who-can-do-what rarely relate to the game at hand -- it's a rivalry game with home-state bragging rights on the table, and always plays out like such.
Last Time Out
Arizona played as if it had forgotten its verve of the previous week and the Washington Huskies took advantage to decisively win their first league game in two seasons, 38-14, before a crowd of 52,505 in Arizona Stadium. UA drove 66 yards for a score on its first possession, then later took a 14-7 lead with a 10-play, 80-yard drive shortly before the half, but seemed to deflate when UW quarterback Isaiah Stanback heaved up a twisting 69-yard hail-Mary throw that hit Craig Chambers for six as time expired. In the second half, four of Arizona's five turnovers, including three interceptions by Willie Tuitama, ruined the Wildcats' chances. Three of the miscues led directly to 21 Husky points, including a final score on a 42-yard interception return. Washington, however, truly set the stage with an invigorated rushing attack that saw it amass 333 yards on the ground to go with some aerial success for a 490-yard total, averaging 6.9 yards per play. Tuitama threw for 235 yards and a pair of scores but the turnovers destroyed any offensive continuity. Washington dominated things up front, running 24 times on first down with a success of 7.6 yards per try including 13 runs of six yards or more. Arizona's faithful -- full of bliss and hyperbole after Tuitama's first two starts -- came crashing down to Earth as the true freshman played like one. It was not one man's effort that told the tale, however. The inspired team that did all the little things right won the game.
Quick Hits From Washington
- QB Willie Tuitama threw two TD passes for the fourth straight game.
- Tuitama attempted the most (41) and completed the most passes (22) in his young UA career.
- WR Anthony Johnson pulled in a career-best seven passes.
- WR Syndric Steptoe caught at least one pass for the 16th straight game.
- K Nick Folk booted a career-high 61-yard punt.
The Wildcats and Sun Devils ?- The All-Time Series
In a series that dates back even longer then Arizona has been a part of the United States (hence the “Territorial Cup”), 1899 to be exact, the UA owns a 44-33-1 advantage over ASU in 78 meetings with its neighbor to the north ... Arizona has won seven of the past 12 games between the two, including a 34-27 victory over the No. 18-ranked Sun Devils in Tucson last season, but ASU is 4-2 over the last six meetings ... Arizona is 9-13-1 all-time in games played in Sun Devil Stadium ... Since becoming members of the Pacific-10 Conference in 1978-79, Arizona owns a 16-10-1 lead in series ... Should UA earn a second straight victory over Arizona State, it would match the longest winning streak for either school since the Wildcats won three straight between 1993-95.
Arizona and Arizona State ?- The Last Time Out
The No. 18-ranked and bowl-bound Arizona State Sun Devils rolled into Tucson with an 8-2 overall record and a 5-2 mark in the Pac-10. Laying in wait for the Devils was not only a 2-8 and 1-7 Arizona team, but a 239-yard, three TD and MVP performance from QB Richard Kovalcheck, 139 rushing yards by Mike Bell and a Wildcat defense that recovered four fumbles and picked off a pass in a 34-27 UA upset win. The Wildcats jumped out to a 30-17 lead at halftime, added a TD apiece in third and fourth quarters, and held on as the Devils mounted a late drive inside UA’s territory to snap a two-game losing streak in the series.
Noting the Sun Devils
The Sun Devils enter the game hungry for a second-straight bowl berth ... Checking in with a 5-5 overall record, ASU will need a win over Arizona to make its bowl hope a reality ... The Devils boast a high caliber offense that ranks among the best in the nation in total offense (518.1 yds/game) and passing yards (376.8 yds/game) ... ASU is averaging an impressive 37.4 points per game ... Defensively, the Devils are surrendering an average of 471 yards per game an allowing 29.9 points.
“What's the Big Deal?”
Arizona will feature a number of players who could log their first action in the rivalry game. Among them on offense are (or potentially if injuries heal): freshman quarterback Willie Tuitama, freshman wide receiver Mike Thomas, redshirt freshman guard Joe Longacre, redshirt freshman back Brandon Lopez, redshirt freshman tight end Travis Bell, redshirt freshman receiver Bobby McCoy, junior transfer tight end Brandon McCall, junior center Erick Levitre and junior tackle Tanner Bell. On defense, Cats new to the Big Game are freshman linebackers Ronnie Palmer and Adrian McCovy, redshirt freshman ends Johnathan Turner and Michael Shelton, sophomore tackle Jason Parker, junior transfer safety Michael Johnson and junior transfer tackle Rickey Parker. Special teams players who would see their initial action against ASU are freshman Brandon Tatum (S); redshirt freshmen James Alford (LB), Dillon Hansen (OL) and Gerold Rodriguez (WR); sophomores Dominic Patrick (DB) and Matt Richards (TE), redshirt junior Dramayne McElroy (DB), junior transfer Adam Hawes (OL) and junior transfer Sy Tomerlin (LS). That's two dozen players who in some cases have never seen an Arizona-Arizona State game much less played in it.
Arizona is in the middle of the national pack in drawing 6.8 penalties per game, rated No. 52 in Division I-A with an average of 55.3 yards penalized per game. Ten schools with the same or fewer victories are rated better. ASU is one of the division's most penalized teams, having drawn 82.1 yards per game (No. 115) in penalties, on an average of 9.4 flags per contest. Three squads have more penalties -- Arkansas State (106), Texas Tech (103) and Colorado (98). It's not always the defining factor in games, but each of the winners in the ASU-UA game the past three years has had the fewest number of penalties.
When Push Comes to Shove
One factor might be fun to watch this week -- how ASU's capability on third down, rated No. 7 nationally and second in the Pac-10 at 49.7 percent, works against the best third-down conversion defense rating in the league. Arizona is No. 28 in Division I-A in allowing a 34.0 success rate, giving up only 48 third-down conversions all year. The Sun Devils have moved the chains 74 times on third down among their 260 total first downs. That's 68 more chain-gang relocations than Arizona (192) has compiled.
On The Injury Front
The Wildcats appear to be nearly at complete strength heading into the ASU game. LB Dane Krogstad is still questionable with a knee injury suffered against USC and WR Mike Thomas will look to make a go of it despite a hand injury suffered two weeks ago against Washington. OL Kili Lefotu is back among his linemates after an ankle sprain suffered vs. Oregon and QB Willie Tuitama is a go after bruising his throwing hand against UW.
Saving the Best For Last
As is the hope, Arizona has played some of its best football at the end of the season under Mike Stoops. The Wildcats have knocked off a pair of top 25 teams in the last two Novembers (No. 18 ASU in 2004 and No. 7 UCLA in 2005), something it had not accomplished since beating No. 22 USC in 2000. Here’s a look at Stoops’ two UA teams in Sept. and Oct. vs. Nov.
||2004 & 05 in Sept. & Oct.
||2004 & 05 in Nov.|
A Season’s Worth Of Improvements
Having already matched last year’s win total, the 2005 Wildcats have also improved in a number of other categories over last season’s team.
Getting To the Point
In 10 games this season, Arizona has scored 31 touchdowns (10 rush, 18 pass, 2 defensive, 1 punt return) an 11 TD improvement over 2004’s 11-game total of 20 scores (9 rush, 10 pass, 1 defensive).
Take Your Pick
Arizona's 12 interceptions this year give the Cats a Stoops' era 20 picks -- this on the heels of seven apiece for the two preceding years. UA is up against a decent ratio in Tempe. ASU quarterbacks have had 11 passes intercepted in 421 attempts, just 2 percent. UA is led this year by junior safety Michael Johnson with four and sophomore corner Antoine Cason with three. Cason has seven career interceptions and looks capable of reaching UA's career chart where six players are tied for ninth with 12 picks each, the latest among those cornerback Michael Jolivette (2000-03). Johnson's season total is a pair shy of the chart, where eight former guys had six. The most recent of those was Chris McAlister with a half dozen in 1996 as a sophomore. He's the most recent player on the entire list.
The Cats' defense employs some young players, with only senior starters in safety Darrell Brooks and end Copeland Bryan. It's made for a learning curve that will pay dividends but has sometimes yielded chunks of yardage. UA has surrendered more than 400 yards four times, more than 600 twice and more than 700 yards once. The season average of 412 yards per game rates in the bottom 25 percent of Division I-A. That's skewed by the Trojans' 724 yards Oct. 8, in a game that basically was close for 50 minutes, and 654 yards by a team the Cats beat -- Oregon State. ASU will test every concept and strategy the Cats employ, as the Devils sport a 518-yard ball-moving machine.
A similarity from a year ago... Entering the 2004 ASU game, Arizona's quarterback, freshman Richard Kovalcheck, came with 63 completions in 137 attempts for 800 yards. This year it's to be freshman Willie Tuitama, who brings 67 completions in 121 attempts for 956 yards. Tuitama has three starts, eight scoring throws and four interceptions while Kovalcheck had five starts, three TD tosses and six picks. The year before Richard's debut ASU game, it was then true freshman Kris Heavner starting for UA. Like Heavner, Willie's a bit raw, without the redshirt year under his belt, otherwise it's a bit of the same -- a new Arizona quarterback to be introduced into the rivalry in three successive years. The not quite guesswork in UA's camp is that Tuitama will be around for a few more show downs with the Devils.
Something Clicks in the Rivalry Game
UA junior receiver Mike Jefferson of El Paso, Texas, has four receptions for 64 yards this year. Against Arizona State in two games, he has 11 receptions for 164 yards and three of his five career touchdowns. His redshirt freshman game in Tempe in 2003 saw him snag nine catches for 115 yards and a score, while last year he caught two scoring throws including the eventual winning points on a 47-yard grab.
Brooks is Breaking Off
Arizona’s unquestioned leader on defense, FS Darrell Brooks will wrap up his Wildcat playing days on Friday at Arizona State. UA’s leading tackler each of the last three seasons, Darrell is 17th all-time at Arizona in total tackles with 288 and is within striking distance of Glenn Perkins’ 291 total stops for No. 16 on the list. His 198 solo tackles fall just outside the all-time top 10 at UA, trailing Mark Jacobs and Lance Briggs’ 205 solo stops by just seven. Brooks is slated to start his team-best 41st game in the Cardinal and Navy against the Sun Devils. His career totals to date:
||3 PBU, 1 FR, 2 FF|
||3 PBU, 1 FR, 1 INT|
||9 PBU, 1 FF, 1 INT|
||1 PBU, 2 FF, 2 INT|
||16 PBU, 5 FF, 2 FR, 4 INT|
Cope Comes On
UA senior defensive end Copeland Bryan joined the team in the fall of 2001 as a recruited walk-on in August. Five years later he's No. 10 nationally and No. 2 in the Pac-10 with .94 sacks per game as the Cats' top edge rusher. He missed two full games and most of the Utah opener after a leg injury on the opening series. He's also a soon-to-be four-year letterman and a scholarship player. His redshirt freshman season earned the paperwork -- 26 tackles, 7.5 for losses including five sacks. Bryan's 14 career sacks are the most since defensive end Joe Tafoya finished his career in 2000 with 24.5 sacks. It's the highest single season mark since Joe Siofele finished with 13 in 2000. Arizona's Tedy Bruschi is the UA record holder -- and was tied for the NCAA career lead at the time -- when he finished in 1995 with 14.5 to give him 52 career quarterback sacks. Defense is kind of a family deal this year for the Bryans. His brother, Courtney, a junior at New Mexico State, is listed No. 10 nationally with 13 passes defensed.
Running for 1,000
Senior running back Mike Bell needs 165 yards on the ground in his final game as a Wildcat to eclipse the 1,000 yard mark for the first time at Arizona. His career best single season mark is 950 yards set in 11 games last year. Should Bell reach the 1,000 yard mark against Arizona State on Friday, he’d become the first UA player to do so since Clarence Farmer rushed for 1,229 yards in 2001. Bell will finish his career as UA’s leading rusher each of the four seasons he suited up.
Mike Bell’s Four Year Career
Not Taking the Fifth
With 153 yards on the ground against UCLA on Nov. 5, senior Mike Bell became just the fifth player in school history to eclipse the career 3,000 yard rushing mark. He needs 51 more yards in his final UA game to pass Hubie Oliver for fourth on the all-time list.
Arizona Top Five All-Time Rushers
||Trung Canidate (1996-99)
||3,824 yards (604 att.)|
||Ontiwaun Carter (1991-94)
||3,501 yards (805 att.)|
||Art Luppino (1953-56)
||3,371 yards (513 att.)|
||Hubie Oliver (1977-80)
||3,096 yards (649 att.)|
||Mike Bell (2002-Present)
||3,046 yards (651 att.)|
Hitting The Century Mark
Including a 153-yard effort against UCLA on Nov. 5, senior running back Mike Bell has rushed for 100 or more yards in a game 10 times in his career. When doing so, he has amassed 1,459 rushing yards, 11 TDs and averaged 6.7 yards per carry.
Mike Bell’s 100-yard Games