Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
Football Closes Out Home Slate vs. Washington
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: November 10, 2005
Photo Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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A delayed, on-demand video webcast will be available online through beginning at approximately 5 p.m. (MST) Sunday for subscribers to All-Access, Arizona's premium online multimedia service. Subscribers can also listen to live audio of the radio broadcast. The cost for All-Access is $6/month for audio only, and $9/month for audio and video. Free live statistics of the game are also available.

Note: The delayed webcast will not be available immediately following the game due to FSN Arizona's delayed broadcast of the game on Sunday at 2 p.m. (MST).

Some Game Themes

The Wildcats work to keep momentum of recent weeks, in a game that will help shape the Cats' chances for a league upper-division finish... The Cats hung on for a close road victory two weeks distant, and then romped over a highly ranked unit last Saturday, and now need to take care of business in a game in which they will be favored... UA faces the lone team it's beaten each of the last two seasons, and one that has dropped 14 consecutive league contests... Washington looks to set up its season finale as an opportunity to avoid repeating a 10th place finish, unheard of after 15 consecutive seasons in the top five... UA's quarterback situation is settled on true freshman Willie Tuitama after his two successive starts while the Huskies gave soph transfer Johnny Durocher a relief shot last week at Oregon State and might, too, change direction... Another test of Arizona's November surge (3-1) ability under Mike Stoops in the last two campaigns... UA plays its final home game of the year, hoping to finish with an even 3-3 mark at Arizona Stadium...


Last Week

Arizona clicked on all cylinders from the get-go and buried UCLA -- a team considered No. 5 in the BCS poll -- 52-14, before an aroused Homecoming crowd of 55,775 in Arizona Stadium. The Cats gave up a combined 48 yards to UCLA on its first four possessions and answered with four consecutive touchdown drives covering 285 yards, and the tone was set. The halftime lights read 31-7 and UA proved it wasn't electronics alone, coming out and pouring it on with scores on its first two second-half possessions. With four minutes left in the third quarter, an errant UCLA lateral was covered by UA nickel back Marcus Hollingsworth in the end zone and it was 52-7. The fourth quarter was used for some practice work by the UA defensive reserves. Tailbacks Mike Bell (16-153) and Gilbert Harris (16-113) made the running look easy in helping Arizona to its best rushing total in six years, 315 yards. Freshman Willie Tuitama moved to 2-0 as the QB starter of record, completing 14 of 24 passes for 204 yards and two scores, including a scintillating 48-yarder to freshman Mike Thomas, who also added a 17-yard end-around running touchdown. Arizona played its second turnover-free game of the Mike Stoops' era, smothered UCLA's offense for three quarters and was inspired on special teams -- with a 63-yard punt return for a score by Syndric Steptoe and sparkling all-purpose kicking by Nick Folk and the accompanying coverage to make UCLA's renowned return game nonexistent. It was over quickly, really. Arizona scored on seven of its first eight drives and discounting two end-of-game get-it-over possessions, hit pay dirt on eight of 11 total. The outcome ruined UCLA's perhaps over-anticipated pending showdown with No. 1 USC and dropped the Bruins to 8-1. Arizona took pride in its modest two-game winning streak and the manner with which it was built -- complete across-the-board solid play by everyone in uniform ... The Cats' 519 yards in total offense was the most in two years -- since it pinned the same total on the Bruins in a 24-21 loss in Tucson in October 2003.


Quick Hits From UCLA

- Arizona scored on its first four straight possessions of the game and on five of its first six to take a 31-7 lead at half time.

- UA’s 31 points in the first half equalled the highest scoring output in a full game this season (31 against NAU).

- The 52 points scored in the contest were the most ever for a UA team against UCLA and the most in a game since putting up 54 points in a win at Cal in 2002.

- The Wildcats posted a season-high 519 yards of total offense in the win.

- Arizona played turnover-free football for the first time in 2005.

- Arizona recorded a season-high nine tackles for loss against the Bruins.

- Mike Bell rushed for 100 yards for the 10th time in his UA career. He finished the contest with 153 yards on the ground and an acrobatic  TD.

- Bell caught a career-long 51 yard pass on the opening play of the game.

- Gilbert Harris rushed for a career-best 113 yards and a TD.

- Harris and Bell became the first UA players to each go over the rushing century mark in the same game since Clarence Farmer and Ortege Jenkins did the trick against UCLA in 2000.

- QB Willie Tuitama completed his first seven straight passes and finished the game 14 for 24 for 204 yards and two TDs.

- WR Mike Thomas finished with 104 yards receiving, his second straight 100+ yard game.

- WR/KR Syndric Steptoe returned a UCLA punt 63 yards for a TD, the first scoring punt return for Arizona since 2000.

- The Arizona defense limited Maurice Drew to just 66 yards of total offense. Drew entered the game fourth nationally in total offense with an average of 184.3 yards per game.

- Marcus Hollingsworth scored a defensive TD on a fumbled lateral to mark the second straight game that the ?'D’ has put six points up on the scoreboard for the Wildcats.


Doing The Streak

Some noteworthy active streaks for Arizona:

- Arizona has won two straight games, the first winning streak since 2002.

- Arizona has not thrown an interception in two straight games, notable because the Wildcats had thrown at least one pick in the previous nine consecutive games.

- QB Willie Tuitama has attempted 76 straight passes without an interception.

- Syndric Steptoe has at least one reception in his last 15 games played (14+1 - he sat out the OSU game on Oct. 29 with a concussion).

- WR Mike Thomas has scored at least one TD in his last three games and four out of the last five.

- Arizona has scored at least one rushing TD in four straight games.

- After going sackless in the season opener at Utah, the UA defenders have gotten to the opposing QB at least once in eight straight games.


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

Arizona and Washington will meet up for the 22nd time this Saturday in Tucson ... UW leads the all-time series 14-6-1, but Arizona currently enjoys a program-best two-game winning streak ... The Huskies’ trip to Tucson is just their second in the last six seasons, scheduling quirks sent UA to Seattle three straight seasons from 2000-2002 ... Washington owns a 5-4-1 lead in Arizona Stadium, but UA won the last contest between the two in the Old Pueblo, a 27-22 Homecoming victory in 2003.


Arizona and Washington ?- The Last Time Out

Wilrey Fontenot’s fumble return in the third quarter helped Arizona overcome a four-point halftime deficit as Arizona snapped a seven-game losing streak with a 23-13 win over Washington in Seattle last season. Arizona jumped out to a 9-0 lead on a Mike Bell 1-yd TD run and a safety on a blocked punt in the first quarter. UW responded with 13 unanswered points to take a four-point lead into the break. Fontenot’s 33-yd fumble return at 3:58 in the third gave Arizona back the lead at 16-13. Bell added his second TD at the end of the third and the UA defense recorded three of its five sacks on the day in the fourth quarter to hand UA its first Pac-10 win of the year


Noting the Huskies

Washington comes to Tucson with a 1-8 overall record and still in search of its first league win (0-6) ... UW is currently 79th nationally in total offense, averaging 346.8 yards per game (117.2 rush/229.6 pass) ... The Dogs are giving up an average of 420.1 yards per game defensively, but have fared better against the run (140.7 ypg, 51st nationally) then the pass (279.4, 104th nationally).


Scoring without the Ball

For two consecutive games Arizona has put some points on the board without the ball. Safety Michael Johnson highlighted his first career start with a 40-yard interception return at Oregon State, and some defenders in the backfield swarmed a bad lateral by UCLA quarterback Drew Olsen and nickel back Marcus Hollingsworth recovered the fumble in the end zone against UCLA. Syndric Steptoe chipped in with Arizona's first punt return for a score in 57 games, taking one back 63 yards to punctuate a 21-point third quarter against the Bruins. Earlier this year, Stanford took a voluntary 4th-down safety in the fourth quarter with its punter. A year ago UA's 34-yard fumble return by Wilrey Fontenot at Washington was the Cats' lone defensive touchdown. It's not a plethora this year, but in the Cats' winning streak it's been a threatening feature.



Not the World Wide Web, but three consecutive victories. The Washington game represents that opportunity for Arizona, and it hasn't happened since UA opened the year 3-0 under John Mackovic in 2001. That team went 2-6 the rest of the way. Arizona hasn't won three successive Pac-10 games since Dick Tomey's final UA club in 2000 beat Stanford, No. 22 USC and Washington State (triple OT). That team dropped its last five decisions.


500 Club

Since 1999 gaining 500 yards of total offense for Arizona has been a rare thing. UA’s 519 total yards against UCLA were the most since posting the same tally against the Bruins in 2003. Since 1999, when UA had six games with over 500 yards of total offense, the Wildcats have eclipsed the mark but just four times including last Saturday.



Total Offense



vs. UCLA

519 (315 rush/204 pass)



vs. UCLA

519 (276 rush/243 pass)



vs. NAU

510 (103 rush/407 pass)



vs. Stanford

578 (163 rush/415 pass)



You See L.A.

The Bruins' rushing defense has been a puzzling feature against the Arizona ground game in recent years. The Cats posted 276 yards rushing against UCLA in 2003 and last year rushed for 258 markers against the boys in powder blue. Add in the 315 yards on the ground this season and the total comes to a staggering 849 yards on 124 totes, a whopping average of 6.8 yards per carry in three games. Last week alone it came at a season-high 7.3 yards per attempt rate.


Getting to the Point

Checking the Wildcats' improvement from Year One to Year Two under Mike Stoops, one of the most readily identifiable factors is rather important -- putting points on the scoreboard. Last year Arizona finished its 11 games with a scoring average of 14.7 points per game. This year that has been boosted to 24.2 entering the final two games. In just nine games this season, Arizona has scored 29 touchdowns (10 rush, 16 pass, 2 defensive, 1 punt return) a nine TD improvement over 2004’s 11-game total of 20 scores (9 rush, 10 pass, 1 defensive).


Patience and Pounding

With freshman quarterback Willie Tuitama a proven big-play thrower  -- 9.0 yards per attempt, close to the magical two-digit zone -- Arizona settled back and let him hand the ball off on first down against the Bruins. It was a smart choice to keep at it. Running backs (and wide receiver Mike Thomas) carried the ball 25 times in 1st-and-10, while Willie completed six of nine passes on 1st-and-10. UA picked up some 6.7 yards per try on those 25 rushing attempts, and there's not much better than 2nd-and-short for play-calling versatility. The effective running game gave UA some other options, too -- the Cats faced 3rd-and-4 or less five times.


Run for Daylight

UA's backs had a pile of nice runs last week. Mike Bell had runs of 39, 22, 21, 14, 13 (twice) in building his 153 total. Gilbert Harris had runs of 21, 18, 16, 13 and 12 yards in building his 113 total. Chris Henry had a scamper of 21 yards. Receiver Mike Thomas ran for 17 and 7 yards on end-arounds. That's 13 runs of a dozen or more yards, and six of them came on first down.



That's what Mike Bell needs to hit the 1,000-yard rushing plateau for the first time in his career, 202 more yards. He has 798 on 157 totes. On paper he'll face a tough go this week, with Washington checking in at No. 51, giving up 140 yards per game on the ground. Arizona State, the Cats' final opponent, is rated 95th this week in rushing defense, allowing 187 per contest. Mike's career best is 950 last year. Last Saturday Bell became the fifth player in school history to eclipse the career 3,000 rushing mark, with 3,009 yards. He needs 88 more rushing yards to pass Hubie Oliver (1977-80, 3,096 yards). Trung Canidate (1996-99, 3,824) and Ontiwaun Carter (1991-94, 3,501) are Nos. 1 and 2. Art Luppino (1953-56, 3,371) is No. 3.

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)          3,009 yards (635 att.)


Thomas Time

Freshman receiver Mike Thomas is pushing for postseason honors in his first year. His 48 receptions for 726 yards put him at No. 15 on UA's single season chart, the best ever for a freshman. He needs 73 more yards to hit the single-season yardage chart. Nine more receptions this year and he could post the No. 10 figure in Arizona history, displacing Richard Dice (56-969 in 1994). He's had back-to-back 100-yard receiving games and his yardage total is the most for a Cat in three years.







Dennis Northcutt





Jeremy McDaniel   





Richard Dice    





Keith Hartwig   





Theo Bell   





Jay Dobyns   





Hank Stanton  





Ron Gardin   





Mike Thomas





Home Sweet Home

Arizona has taken a liking to playing at home this season. UA’s numbers are vastly superior at Arizona Stadium then on the road.

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