Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
2007-09-24 Football Notes vs. Washington State
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: September 24, 2007
Related Links

Arizona Game Notes as a PDF

Opponent: Washington State
Kickoff: 7 p.m.
Site: Tucson, Ariz. - Arizona Stadium (57,400)
Television: Fox Sports Net Arizona
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.

Some Game Themes
A match of passing offenses that have generated a combined 600 yards per game through the air... Each team is coming off games against AP Top 10 squads, so call this a 'measurement' game about the clubs' prospects for the rest of the year... Arizona found the WSU game to be a stepping stone in 2006, starting a three-game November winning streak that put spark in the program; this time a victory would avert a three-game losing streak... WSU brings the No. 18 pass efficiency quarterback, Alex Brink, to test UA's secondary, with receiver Brandon Gibson checking in at 26th in receiving yards per game (90)... On paper the Cougs appear to be a patient running team, with a 154:133 ratio in the pass:run, and Arizona counters with its 35th-rated rushing defense... Also on paper, this is a 35-28 game coming to an Arizona Stadium near you, with both teams tracking at hitting and allowing each figure. But, it's also only Week 2 of Pac-10 play so the real trends have yet to be defined... The Cats close out September at home before a two-game road swing.

Last Time Out
California capitalized on some quick momentum and UA mistakes and the Golden Bears proved worthy of a No. 6 ranking in beating the Cats, 45-27, in Berkeley. After each team pulled off three-and-outs, an 18-yard Arizona punt put Cal at midfield and the open space led to plays of 27, 14 and nine yards for the first score. UA answered with an 8-play, 53-yard drive for a Jason Bondzio field goal (31 yards), but UC-Berkeley jumped back with four big pass plays to make it 14-3. Two Arizona penalties forced another UA punt, and the flags made the Keenyn Crier 40-yarder only good enough to reach midfield again. Another pair of UA penalties helped move the Bears into scoring position and four Justin Forsett runs put the ball in the end zone. Another UA penalty on the ensuing kickoff return pinned UA deep in its own territory and a sack by Thomas DeCoud forced a WIllie Tuitama fumble that Cal scooped for a four-yard TD: That made it 28-3 at the 2:12 mark in the first quarter. Tuitama and the Cats responded, and Willie commenced a nine-play drive capped by freshman halfback Nicolas Grigsby's first rushing touchdown to make it 28-10. The Bears tacked on a field goal and near the end of the second quarter got the first of two interceptions off Tuitama at the Cal 19 yard-line to thwart another Wildcat score. In the second half, a fumble gave Cal a short field again and it struck quickly to make it a four-TD lead, but Tuitama built much of his school-record passing and helped Arizona trim the lead to 38-27 two minutes into the fourth period. To the Bears' credit, they saddled up and rode Forsett on a 74-yard drive built by 68 rushing yards to put the game out of reach. In the end, Cal had 421 total yards on 68 plays, and won the turnover battle 4-2. The Cats managed 330 yards on a season-high 82 plays, but surely could have used scores on two red zone chances that proved awry. UA left Berkeley disheartened but not discouraged after noticing that moving the ball appears a strength and playing mistake-free football will result in some good things.

Notes from Cal
The Wildcats ran 82 offensive plays against Cal to mark the third straight game UA has taken 70 or more snaps ... Arizona scored its first rushing TD of the season when Nic Grigsby crossed the goal line after a three-yard rush in the second quarter. The TD was the first in the true froshˇ?s career ... QB Willie Tuitama established Arizona school records for passing attempts (61) and completions (42) ... Tuitama hooked up with 10 different receivers in the contest, the second time he has connected with double digit teammates on passes in a game this season (NAU) ... Tuitamaˇ?s one-yard TD run in the third quarter was the first rushing score in his three-year career ... Mike Thomasˇ? 12 catches tied for the second-most in a single game in school history (shared with three others) ... Thomasˇ? TD catch in the fourth quarter was his fourth score of the year and marked the third straight game he has found the endzone ... CB Antoine Cason picked off his first pass of the season and returned it six yards. It was Casonˇ?s second INT against Cal and the 11th of his UA career ... There's something about an Arizona-Cal game that brings out the flags. This year, there were 22 penalties, 14 of those by the Bears. Last year there were 13 combined penalties in the matchup. Two years ago, 16. The UA's school record for a most-penalized game is, of course, a California contest: the 1998 game featured 29 flags -- 15 by Cal and 14 by Arizona for a whopping total of 307 yards.

New Starters
True freshman running back Nicolas Grigsby became the second such classman to start this year, at Cal. He joined true freshman tight end Rob Gronkowski, who started his first career appearance at BYU and is the top tight end in formations calling for the role. Redshirt freshman Colin Baxter took over the starting left guard role in Game 2, and redshirt freshman receiver Delashaun Dean has three starts as an inside receiver. A number of other young guys have serious roles -- sophomore safety Cam Nelson (4 starts), sophomore offensive tackle Eben Britton (4), sophomore center Blake Kerley (4), sophomore nickel back Corey Hall (2), sophomore H-back Earl Mitchell (1). Sophomore kick returner/CB Devin Ross, sophomore DT Donald Horton, redshirt freshman receiver Terrell Reese, redshirt freshman TE A.J. Simmons, sophomore RB Xavier Smith, sophomore linebacker Xavier Kelley and sophomore safety Brandon Tatum also see action.?

Washington State and Arizona Fast Facts
First Meeting:
1963 (Washington State 7 - Arizona 2)
Last Meeting: 2007 (Arizona 27 - Washington State 17)
All-Time Series Record: UA leads 21-13
Arizona vs. Washington State All-Time: The 35th meeting between the Cougars and Wildcats ... UA owns a 21-13 advantage in the previous 34 games played ... The Wildcats snapped a series-high four-game losing streak to the Cougars last season with a 27-17 victory in Pullman ... Since joining the Pac-10 Conference in 1978 the Wildcats have enjoyed a 17-10 run against WSU ... Arizona is 11-7 against Wazzu in 18 games played in Tucson, but WSU has won the last three meetings in Arizona Stadium ... UAˇ?s largest margin of victory against WSU was a 39-point win in 1983 (45-6) ... WSUˇ?s largest margin of victory over Arizona is 27 points, accomplished in 2001 (48-21) ... The average margin of victory in the all-time series is 12.8 points, however in 10 of the last 14 meetings between the two schools, the game has been decided by 10 or fewer points, including two by six points, three by three points and two by a single point ... Two of those 14 contests have gone into OT, including a three-overtime game in 2000 (UAˇ?s last conference game to go extra frames).

Arizona-Washington State - The Last Time Out
Departed Arizona running back Chris Henry rushed a school record 35 times for 96 yards and two scores as the Wildcats dominated time of possession (35:27-24:33) in a 27-17 upset of No. 25 Washington State in Pullman last year. With a 10-point lead after the first 45 minutes, Arizona salted things away, owning possession of the ball for over 11 of the allotted 15 minutes in the fourth quarter? ... Despite getting out-gained 310-275 in total offense, the efficient Wildcats took advantage of their yards with scoring drives of 80, 80 and 52 yards (212 of the 275 yards of total offense resulted in touchdowns) ... Arizona QB Willie Tuitama attempted just 17 passes in the game, but connected on a career-best 78-yarder with Anthony Johnson for a TD on the gameˇ?s third play from scrimmage.

Noting the Cougars
The Cougars come to Tucson with a 2-2 overall record and an 0-1 league mark ... WSU dropped a 47-14 decision to No. 1 USC in Los Angeles in its Pac-10 opener last Saturday ... Heading into the game against UA, Wazzu has the No. 5-rated scoring offense (31.2 ppg), the eighth-ranked total offense (418.5 ypg) and the ninth-ranked total defense (429.8 ypg) in the Pac-10 ... The Cougars are allowing a conference-worst 33.5 points per game this season thus far ... Individually, QB Alex Brink ranks second behind UAˇ?s Willie Tuitama in passing average (278.0 ypg), while WR Brandon Gibson is the Pac-10 leader in receiving yards per game with a 90 yard average through four games ... Defensively, LB Greg Trent is seventh in the Pac-10 in tackles (9.5 tpg) and DE Kevin Kooyman is tied for fourth in the conference with three sacks ...? Bill Doba is in his fifth season as the head coach and is 27-24 overall as the Cougsˇ? main man heading into play this weekend.

Sonny's Daze
If you throw it, they will come -- prolific numbers, that is. The spread offense that UA offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes and staff have installed is a highwater machine, with 62 throws here, 42 completions there, 11 receivers in one game, three guys with more than 100 receiving yards in a game, etc. At times it's kind of like a flurry of five-yard handoffs, with many yards coming after the catch. The key for receivers is to turn up field and make the most of it. It's not finesse, but best if receivers play physically on the end of the action... No question the trend is two passes for every rush (201 to 93), but running backs aren't whining because they're catching the ball, too. UA backs have 25 grabs... Tuitama's 62 percent completion percentage rates as the best in UA history for a quarterback with more than 200 attempts (which he's close to at 194). The record is .583 by Jason Johnson (239-for-410) in 2002. Keith Smith has the overall season school record of .685 for a 113-for-116 shared season in 1998...? Head coach Mike Stoops and Dykes say more plays are being added, but the bread and butter staple is evident: put the ball in space and head toward the goal line... The Cats had 9, 19 and 10 receiving touchdowns in the first iteration of offenses under Stoops in the last three years. This year it's 10 and counting in just four games

Putting Up Points
The Wildcatsˇ? spread offense has improved their ability to put points up on the board. In four games this season Arizona has amassed 106 total points (26.5 points per game), over twice as many points through the same number of games last year. Last season the Cats had only 97 points through the first eight games of the year and did not eclipse the century mark until facing Washington State on the first weekend of November in their ninth contest. UAˇ?s 106 point total this season is the most for a UA club through the first four games of a year since scoring 118 in 2001.
Point Totals Through the First Four Games
2007?- 106
2006?- 50
2005?- 79
2004?- 53
2003?- 72
2002?- 84
2001?- 118

Los Tres Hombres
The pass-catching trio of Mike Thomas, Terrell Turner and Anthony Johnson have become favored targets in the Arizona offense. In UAˇ?s last three games, Money Mike, T.T. and A.J. have teamed up for 60 catches, 723 yards and seven touchdowns. Their combined effort has led to 61 percent of the receptions, 69 percent of the passing yards and 78 percent of UAˇ?s passing touchdowns scored during the three game stretch. Against New Mexico on Sept. 15 their three separate 100-yards receiving effort marked the first time in UA history that a trio of players had eclipsed the century mark in the same game.

Cash Money Mike
The biggest beneficiary of Arizonaˇ?s spread offense might be ˇ®Moneyˇ? Mike Thomas. The third-year Wildcat leads the Pac-10 and is tied for 12th nationally in receptions per game (7.75) ... Thomas has caught four TD passes and is just one score away from matching his career-high of five set in his freshman season of 2005 ... Thomas has gone over 100 yards receiving in back-to-back games for the second time at UA (2005) ... His next 100-yard game will be a career best for a single season ... After just four games he is only 21 catches and 425 yards away from his career highs of 52 receptions and 771 yards set in 2005 ... He has caught at least one pass in 36 of 37 career games played, with the one no-catch game coming against Arizona State when he had a full cast on his left hand and served the entire game as a decoy ... Thomas is already fifth on the career receptions list with 133 all-time catches. He needs just four more to take over sole possession of fourth ... Should Thomas continue at the pace he is on (7.75 receptions, 86.5 yards per game) he would finish the 12-game regular season with 93 catches and 1,038 yards for the year. The 93-catch? year would tie him with Boddy Wade for the most receptions in school history for a single season and the 1,038 yard total would be fourth all-time at UA and just the fifth 1,000-yard receiving season in school history.

Willie T and the Spread
UAˇ?s QB Willie Tuitama has taken a liking to the record-setting spread. After establishing UA single-game marks in both attempts (61) and completions (42) last weekend at Cal, Tuitama stands of 194 tries and 121 successes for the year (62%). In just four games Willie has already surpassed his career-high for completions (previous 118 in 2006) and is just 17 throws away from his single season high of 211 set last year as well. For the year the junior signal caller is averaging 48.5 attempts, 30.3 completions, 313.5 yards and 2.5 TDs per game. Should those averages hold up over the eight regular season games remaining, Willie will hold UA records in all four categories.

?Stat Record? Tui's Pace after four games
?Attempts ?410, Jason Johnson, 2002 ?582
?Completions ?239, Jason Johnson, 2002 ?363
?Yards ?3,327, Jason Johnson, 2002 ?3,762
?TDs ?20, Marc Reed, 1966 ?30

More on Willie
Tuitama has 1,254 yards in four games, a pace that puts him within two contests of reaching UA's single-season Top 10 chart: Here are the guys immediately in front of Willie:
No. 8??? 1,903 Keith Smith (131 for 228), 1999
No. 9?? ?1,855 Dan White (150 for 297), 1995
No. 10??1,814 Bruce Hill (133 for 249), 1974
No. 11??1,767 Alfred Jenkins (150 for 278), 1985
Willie:??1,254 (121 for 194), 2007

Lest We Forget
Defense wins games, the adage goes. Arizona will have to pay respect to that credo if it wants some good things out of the 2007 season. Mike Stoops' tenure has clipped 100 yards off the numbers allowed by UA before his arrival (a school-low 460 ypg in 2003), and the Cats currently are fifth in the league at 369 ypg and within striking distance of higher with eight games to go. The Pac-10 does not appear to be a circuit from which defenses will emerge as national leaders, but it's clear that the winning teams in the league summon the stopping power to put it together when games are on the line. The Cats appear willing and able. They need to hold a team to 150 yards and a dozen points or less in both halves instead of just the second half (as at Cal) for a chance at a ˇ®Wˇ?.

Not a Folk Tale
After four games last year, eventual Senior Bowl kicker and Dallas Cowboys starter Nick Folk had a 5-for-8 mark on field goal tries, with 5-5 PAT kicking. Junior Jason Bondzio has hit five of seven tries and is getting more of a workout on the chippers with a 13-for-13 mark on points after. Bondzio's solid from 36 yards and beyond (3-4) and has missed from 32 and 37 yards.

Fun 'N Stun
Shotgun formation has given UA some quick-strike capabilities. Arizona has had 18 scoring drives and the longest by duration was a 13-play, 69-yard effort covering 4:31 at California. The Wildcats have had only two other scoring drives over three minutes this year (4:24 and 3:27). The remaining 15 -- all under 2:55.

Offensive Improvements
The spread offense has improved Arizonaˇ?s numbers nearly across the board through the first four games. A look at this year vs. last year through four games.

?Stat ?2006 ?2007 ?Difference
?Points ?50 ?106 ?+56
?Points per game ?12.5 ?26.5 ?+14.0
?First Downs ?56 ?88 ?+32
?Rushing Offense ?87.2 ?71.5 ?-15.7
?Passing Offense ?154.2 ?318.2 ?+164.0
?Total Offense? ?241.5 ?389.8 ?+148.3

Week 5 of 10

With the opening of conference play left behind, the Wildcats still have their work cut out for them. UA still has six straight weeks of football to play. Starting with the season-opener at BYU Arizona will play 10 consecutive Saturdays without a break through the first weekend of November. After the non-stop 10-game stretch, 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).

Still Got Our Health
Heading into the fifth game of the season Arizona remains injury free. Save for a few of the regular bumps and bruises that go along with the game, the Cats again do not list a significant injury among its two-deep roster on either side of the ball for a fifth straight week.

Wildcat Captains
Team members elected captains for 2007 in late August. The group this year includes senior linebacker Spencer Larsen, senior cornerback Antoine Cason, senior receiver Anthony Johnson, junior quarterback Willie Tuitama and sophomore offensive tackle Eben Britton. Coach Mike Stoops said voting centered heavily on a number of other senior defenders who could be chosen for individual game-captain service. Cason and Larsen are repeat captains, also chosen as juniors in 2005.


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