Arizona Game Notes vs. New Mexico
Opponent: New Mexico
Kickoff: 7 p.m.
Site: Tucson, Ariz. - Arizona Stadium (57,400)
Television: FSNA (PLEASE SEE NOTE BELOW REGARDING BROADCAST SCHEDULE)
English Radio: 1290 AM The Source (Brian Jeffries, Lamont Lovett, Pedro Limon)
Spanish Radio: 990 AM ESPN Deportes (Francisco Romero, Marco Rincon, Pedro Limon)
Please see Page 3 of the notes for Arizonaˇ?s radio affiliates.
Arizona-New Mexico Television Coverage
The UA/New Mexico game will be available live in the Tucson and Yuma markets at 7:00 p.m. on Fox Sports Net Arizona and will then be seen on a tape-delay basis at 10:30 p.m. in the Phoenix/Flagstaff markets. DISH customers in Tucson, Yuma and New Mexico will get the game on an alternate channel ?C channel 446. The normal DISH channel that carries FSN Arizona (415) will be showing the ASU/SDSU game. DirecTV will also put the game on an alternate channel for its viewers in these areas, but the alternate channel will not be known until early this week. Like DISH, its normal FSN AZ channel, 649, will be airing the ASU/SDSU game. Once the alternate channel for the UA/UNM becomes available FSNA and the UA athletic department will make an announcement. UA fans in Phoenix and Flagstaff who are DirecTV or DISH customers will be able to see the game live on these alternate channels. Same thing goes for fans around the country who subscribe to the out-of-market sports packages on both systems. Additionally, NPG cable in Flagstaff will make the game available live on an alternate channel ?C channel 46.
Some Game Themes
Two familiar foes from WAC, Border and earlier days meet again, teams that first met in 1908. UA has played only one other opponent -- ASU -- more times (80) than the Lobos (64)... Arizona ratchets up the measuring stick for its offensive rebirth, against a program that's been to four bowls in the last five years including 2006... The Cats test the spread against a program led by a head coach (Rocky Long) with a strong background in defense including Pac-10 coordinator stints at OSU and UCLA for seven years... Arizona will further reveal whether its pass-oriented attack (48 tosses) of last week is the norm... UA's defense, rated No. 30 this week against the run, faces a top 20-rated back in Rodney Ferguson (125 ypg), plus a quarterback (Donovan Porterie) with the 30th best efficiency rating... Lobo receivers Marcus Smith (17-205) and Travis Brown (12-131) will test UA's secondary... UA tries to have a second-consecutive winning year in non-conference play.
Last Time Out
Arizona put some serious spread into its attack and gained its biggest output in 11 games, dominating visiting Northern Arizona, 45-24, before a crowd of 52,638 in Arizona Stadium. In round numbers UA rushed for 200 and threw for 300 markers on more plays than it had run -- 81 -- since 2003. The actuals were 195 rushing yards and 295 passing yards. Jim Thorpe Award candidate Antoine Cason, senior corner, added some other yards -- 70 stripes on a punt return for a score, and 41 miscellaneous yards on a missed field goal 'return.' Arizona's defense held NAU to 243 net in total offense and allowed only one lengthy scoring drive of 79 yards, with the Lumberjacks picking up some great field position on another drive after UA's Willie Tuitama was intercepted for the first time on the year, and on another drive after a squib kick went untouched as a free ball and the 'Jacks jumped on it at the Arizona 22 yard-line. Most of the rest of the time the Cats forced 3-and-out (or better) -- 10 times, plus recorded nine tackles for losses. But the offense was the news. Tuitama hit 10 different receivers in throwing five scoring passes, one shy of the school record six by Tom Tunnicliffe in 1982 against Pacific. Tuitama completed 23 of 44 throws for 283 yards. Backup Kris Heavner connected twice with another receiver and the 11 guys snagging a ball was the most in head coach Mike Stoops' tenure, topping a previous best of nine twice previously. Speaking of receivers, UA's leading rusher was wideout Mike Thomas, who garnered 80 yards on four reverses, plus caught four passes including the first score of 20 yards, on the Cats' opening drive. Arizona's 24 points in the third quarter was more productive than things have been in the program for years. Only a 52-point outburst against UCLA in 2005 eclipsed the point total against NAU in Stoops' four years. UA last hit 24 points in one quarter (2nd) at California in November 2002. Superlatives were abundant but the most notable was the impression that it was only a sign of things to come. No one was oblivious to Northern Arizona's I-AA status, but the breadth of the spread's weaponry was underlined nonetheless.
Notes from NAU
The Wildcats scored 24 points in a quarter (3rd) for the first time since 2002 ... The 45 points scored were the second-most for a UA team under head coach Mike Stoopsˇ? guide (52 vs. UCLA in 2005) ... Arizona won its 19th home opener in its last 20 tries (2000 was the lone loss) and improved to 4-0 under head coach Mike Stoops in the first game of the season at Arizona Stadium ... NAU was flagged for 15 penalties for 152 yards, putting the 'Jacks in some bad company -- the 1998 Cal Bear squad that drew 15 penalties for 154 yards -- the record yardage for a Wildcat opponent... The record-high penalty total is 17 by Oregon State in 2003 ... Willie Tuitama attempted a career-high 44 passes despite sitting out nearly the entire fourth quarter ... The Cats averaged 5.9 yards per carry on the ground, the fourth-highest single game average in the Mike Stoops era (7.3 YPC vs. UCLA in 2005, 6.6 YPC at UCLA in 2004, 6.4 YPC vs. SFA in 2006) ... The 48 pass attempts in the game were the most under Stoops (previous high was 42 at UCLA in 2006 and at Utah in 2005) and just eight shy of the school record of 56 set in 1966 ... The Cats racked up 30 first downs in the game (12 rush, 13 pass, 5 penalty) the most for any game under Stoops and just four away from the school record of 34 set against New Mexico in 1969.
Big Play Day
Including Antoine Casonˇ?s 41-yard return of a missed field goal by Northern Arizona, the Wildcats posted 12 plays of 20 or more yards against the Lumberjacks last Saturday. The Cats stretched the field with the passing game and recorded receptions of 39 (Gronkowski), 34 (T. Turner, TD), 27 (Dean, TD), 26 (Gronk, TD), 25 (Johnson) and 20 yards (Thomas, TD) against NAU, scoring on four of those six passes. Multi-threat Mike Thomas added to the offensive tally with a pair of rushes (39 and 27 yards) to help lift him to a game-high 80 rushing yards on just four carries. The special teams chipped in with a 70-yard punt return for a TD (Cason) and kickoff returns of 52 (Ross) and 35 yards (Thomas). The four long scoring passes against NAU nearly eclipsed UAˇ?s big play score total from last year. In 12 games in 2006 the Cats posted just five offensive scores of 20 or more yards (78 pass, 61 rush, 37 pass, 22 pass, 21 pass).
New Mexico and Arizona Fast Facts
First Meeting: 1908 (Arizona 10 - New Mexico 5)
Last Meeting: 1997 (Arizona 20 - New Mexico 14 - Insight Bowl, Tucson, Ariz.)
All-Time Series Record: UA leads 43-18-3
Arizona vs. New Mexico All-Time
One of Arizonaˇ?s oldest rivalries is renewed against New Mexico. Dating back to 1908, UA and UNM have played 64 games leading up to this weekend, with the Cats owning a 43-18-3 advantage all-time ... Arizona has won the last four contests between the two dating back to 1977 ... Always a closely played game in the all-time series, the last 10 games played between the two have been decided by just 8.1 points per game. In the 64 games played the winning team has pulled off the victory by seven or less points 21 times, including six one-point wins, and there has been the three ties as well ... As charter members of the Border Conference (1931-60) the Wildcats went 18-6-2 against the Lobos ... In the WAC days (1962-77) the two schools posted an even 8-8 record against each other in 16 games ... Since UA moved to the Pac-10 in 1978 the Cats are 3-0 in non-league games vs. the Lobos ... In 1910 Arizona won a 1-0 game on a UNM forfeit.
New Mexico-Arizona - The Last Time Out
Arizona and New Mexico last met in 1997 in the Insight Bowl here in Tucson. The Cats scored a 20-14 win over the Lobos in the bowl game ... The Cats picked off four passes in a hard fought game, including one by Kelly Malveaux in the fourth quarter as UNM approached midfield and down by six points ... Offensive totals for the game: Arizona 298 yards; New Mexico 290 ... ... The Cats rushed 59 times in the game for 209 total yards to help them dominate the time of possession in the game (35:45) ... UNM posted a balanced attack with 140 yards rushing and 150 yards passing ... UAˇ?s all-time rushing leader Trung Canidate was named the most outstanding offensive player after rushing for 97 yards and a TD on 24 carries ... Jimmy Sprotte garnered the games top defensive honors with nine tackles including four for losses ... Former head coach Dick Tomey rewarded senior QB Brady Batten with the start in the game. An injury earlier in the season cost Batten a shot at the everyday spot.
Noting the Lobos
New Mexico heads to Tucson with a 1-1 record after winning its first game of the season over in-state rival New Mexico State 44-34 in Albuquerque last weekend ... The Lobos bring a balanced offense, averaging 173 yards rushing and 266 yards passing in the two games played this year ... UNM has thus far yielded an average of 388 yards of offense to it opposition. Last weekend, playing against NMSUˇ?s spread offense under Hal Mumme, the Lobos surrendered 581 yards of total offense, including 473 yards passing ... UNM head coach Rocky Long is 53-58 all-time with the Lobos. Long was a three-year letterwinner at QB (1969-71) for New Mexico.
Thanks for Coming
The crowd of 52,638 in the home opener against Northern Arizona last weekend marked the sixth straight game at Arizona Stadium in which attendance was over 50,000. The loyal Arizona fans have shown their faith in Mike Stoops and his rebuilding of the Wildcat football team. In 21 home dates since Stoops took over the reigns of the UA program prior to the 2004 season the Wildcats have drawn 1,115,667 fans for an average of 53,127 fans per game. Including a boisterous 10,000 ZonaZoo fanatics and near-record season ticket sales the past two years, Arizona Stadium capacity is listed at 57,400.
All six of UAˇ?s offensive TDs this season have come through the air. QB Willie Tuitama has hooked up with six different receivers for scores (Earl Mitchell, Mike Thomas, Terrell Turner, Anthony Johnson, Rob Gronkowski and Delashaun Dean). Tuitamaˇ?s six scoring passes in UAˇ?s first two games is just one shy of his 10 game total of seven from last year, three away from his career-high nine TDs in 2005 and 14 away from tying the school record on 20 set by Marc Reed in 1966.
A Bakerˇ?s Dozen
Arizona saw a total of 11 players haul in at least one pass last Saturday against Northern Arizona. That single game output against the Jacks nearly equaled the 12-game season total from last year. In 2006 UA had 13 different players catch a pass during the season. Toss in Earl Mitchell's seven-yard TD score and Chris Jennings' nine grabs on opening weekend at BYU on September 1 and the Cats have already matched last yearˇ?s season total.
The 'Last Time'
Such charts, relating when such-and-such last happened, are boring unless some of the stuff changes. With Arizona's new offensive attack, a few other items no doubt might be added: The last time 10 players caught balls in a game (vs. NAU -11 last week), the last time UA threw 45 passes (48, vs. NAU), the last time a receiver rushed for 50 yards (Mike Thomas, 4-80 vs NAU), the last time UA scored 40 points (45 vs. NAU last week), the last time six players scored TDs in a game (6 -- 5 WR, 1 PR, vs. NAU), the last time UA had 30 first downs (vs. NAU), the last time UA averaged 6.0 yards per play (vs. NAU, 6.0), etc.
Pretty Special on Returns
The Wildcat special teams continues to deliver in the return game. On Saturday against Northern Arizona Antoine Cason went 70 yards for a TD on just his second career punt return, Devin Ross recorded a 52 yard kickoff return and Mike Thomas added a 35-yard KOR in the contest. Add in Casonˇ?s 41-yard return on a missed NAU 58-yard FG attempt (filed under miscellaneous yards) and the Cats special teams delivered 208 yards on returns alone against the Jacks. For the year, UA is seventh nationally in both punt return avg (25.5) and kickoff return avg. (29.67)
Five for Five
Actually, seven different Wildcats scored points last week -- five receivers, a punt returner (Antoine Cason) and a kicker (Jason Bondzio). The touchdown receptions from quarterback Willie Tuitama were, in order, by wide receiver Mike Thomas (20 yards), wide receiver Terrell Turner (34 yards), small tight end Anthony Johnson (4 yards), tight end Rob Gronkowski (26 yards) and small H-back Delashaun Dean (27 yards). Bondzio hit a 36-yard field goal and six PATs to lead all scorers with nine markers. The scores were career firsts for Turner, Gronk and Dean. Thomas' was his eighth career TD grab (fourth from Willie) and Johnson snared his seventh.
Junior WR Mike Thomas had a memorable night against NAU on Saturday. The third-year Wildcat amassed a career-best 171 all-purpose yards on just 10 touches. Money Mike rushed for a career- and game-high 80 yards on four carries, extended his streak to 14 games with at least one reception with five grabs for 56 yards and one score and added to his tally with a 35-yard kickoff return. Thomasˇ? previous career-high for all-purpose yards was 162 (all receiving yards) at Oregon State on Oct. 29, 2005. Saturdayˇ?s effort against NAU marked Thomasˇ? fourth career 100+ all-purpose yardage game (two in 2005, one in ˇ®06)
Itˇ?s all Adding it up
Junior quarterback Willie Tuitama's 17 career starts have generated some solid numbers. His 283-yard day on Saturday against NAU moved him 49 career yards from the No. 12 spot on the UA career chart. He has 2,939 yards on 249 completions in 433 attempts (58%). Willie's 22 career scoring throws rank No. 10 among UA career passers (two away from tying Marc Reedˇ?s No. 9 career total of 24). Here are the yardage leaders within his range at a 250 ypg clip:
No. 10 Marc Reed, 3,127 yds 1966-67
No. 11 George Malauulu, 3,111 yds 1989-92
No. 12 Ralph Hunsaker, 2,988 yds from 1955-61
Welcome to the Show
After having 12 different players participate for the first time in the season opener at BYU on Sept. 1, five additional Wildcats took the field for the first time last Saturday against NAU. Redshirt freshman Colin Baxter earned his first start at left guard against NAU, true freshman running back Nicolas Grigsby gained 56 yards on nine rushes and caught a pass for a yard. Other Wildcats seeing their first action against NAU included redshirt junior offensive lineman James Tretheway, sophomore offensive lineman Adam Grant and junior college transfer receiver Derick Barkum (2 catches, 7 yards). Redshirt junior receiver B.J. Dennard saw his first action after sitting out last year with a medical hardship, snaring one reception for 12 yards.
Helmets in Hand
An odd pose for UA senior cornerbacks Antoine Cason and Wilrey Fontenot, some iron men of note for the past three seasons. In the fourth quarter against NAU, the two 36-game starters took a rare couple of series off while understudies Devin Ross (soph) and Marquis Hundley (junior transfer) worked the corners. It was part of some careful substitution by secondary chief and defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, and some good live experience for the younger pair. Hundley originally was a mid-year potential redshirt candidate, but took over almost exclusively in spring ball while Fontenot was sidelined with a shoulder rehab. Both he and Ross figure on some kicking units, too. The latter ranks 23rd nationally with a 28.6 KOR average. Cason has taken over punt return duties as a nice hobby and clocks in at No. 4 on this week's NCAA rankings after his 70-yard TD boatrace against NAU.
JT, the L-Train and D Ross
Defensive end Johnathan Turner and defensive tackle Lionel Dotson teamed up to sack NAU quarterback Lance Kriesien a total of three times (1.5 sacks each for the two down linemen) and CB Devin Ross posted another for four total sacks in the game against the Jacks. The triosˇ?s sack attack ups UAˇ?s season total to?five for the year (2.5 per game) and marks back-to-back games with a QB sack (something UA did just once last season). A modest start indeed, but an improvement over the 1.25 sacks per game average that the Cats posted in 12 contests last year.
Playing Behind the Chains
Head coach Mike Stoops has stressed that the UA offense cannot play behind the chains. Weˇ?re pretty sure he doesnˇ?t mind it when the opposition has to. The Wildcats recorded nine tackles for a loss against NAU on Saturday, tying for the second-most by a UA defense under Stoops (10.0 at Washington in 2004). Johnathan Turner led the charge against the Jacks with two TFL, including 1.5 sacks. Lionel Dotson added 1.5 TFL on a pair of sacks, while Cory Hall, Devin Ross, Ronnie Palmer and Yaniv Barnett all met a ball carry behind the LOS once for a negative yardage play. Spencer Larsen, Cam Nelson and Louis Holmes all chipped in with a half TFL against the Jacks. All totaled the nine TFL pushed NAU back a total of 35 yards.
Freshman tight end Rob Gronkowski has shown he'll be putting some stretch into opposing defenses. In just five-plus weeks in the program, he has shown the learning curve can be hastened by physical talent. His 27.5-yard reception average (3 catches) leads the team and he has one of the half dozen receiving TDs after his 26-yarder against NAU. The 6-foot-6, 250-pound athlete's been heard to have been called 'Drago,' by a teammate, in reference to fictional Ivan of "Rocky IV" fame. To others, it's "Gronk." UA partisans just hope Sonny Dykes keeps calling his number and Willie keeps finding him open.
Just do it Devin
UA sophomore cornerback Devin Ross has seven career kickoff returns for a 29.4-yard average, including a four over 30 yards. He nearly broke one against NAU last weekend after a 52-yard burst. With a solid special teams resume under coach Joe Robinson, if Arizona has one bug-a-boo it would like to fix, it has to be a KOR for a score. All-Pro cornerback Chris McAlister of the Baltimore Ravens last did it for UA when he went 100 yards on the opening kickoff in the season opener at Hawaii in 1998.
Most Consecutive Games Without Returning A Kickoff For A Touchdown
1 Missouri 270
2 Air Force 255
3 Rice 250
4 UAB 140
5 Iowa State 133
6 Cincinnati 130
7 Memphis 118
8 Navy 110
9 New Mexico 109
10 BYU 107
Georgia Tech 107
12 Arizona 106
Week 3 of 10
With two games down the Cats still have eight straight weeks of football to play. Arizona will play 10 consecutive Saturdays without a break through the first weekend of November. After the 10-game stretch with out a rest, the schedule makers have slated the Cats to play just one more game in the entire month of November and have placed the annual Duel in the Desert against Arizona State on December 1. The late season rest will probably be much needed after the early long haul but the Wildcats have made a living in November in Mike Stoopsˇ? first three season (6-4 overall and 4-1 vs. Top 25 teams).