Opponent: Arizona State
Kickoff: 6 p.m.
Site: Tempe, Ariz. - Sun Devil Stadium (73,379)
Television: ESPN2 (Mark Jones, Bob Davie, Stacey Dales)
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 national ESPN television audience gets to share in a truly great rivalry ... The Duel in the Desert means more than just in-state bragging rights. On the line - a possible berth in the BCS (Arizona State), a possible bowl game for the first time since 1998 (Arizona), the first three-game win streak in the series in over a decade (Arizona State) and maybe the Thorpe Award (Arizonaˇ?s Antoine Cason) ... A ranked ASU squad looking for redemption after a Thanksgiving Day loss to USC ... UA looks for its first four-game winning streak since 2000 ... The Pac-10ˇ?s No. 2 passing offense (Arizona, 311.8 yards/game) against the leagueˇ?s No. 3 pass defense (ASU, 230 yards/game) ... The game takes a hiatus from the Thanksgiving weekend for the first time since 1996, courtesy of Pac-10 TV contracts... None of that really matters in the game -- records, potential marks, historical precedent, individual matchups, etc.? It's Arizona-Arizona State.
The Territorial Cup
The Little Brown Jug (begun 1909, Michigan vs. Minnesota) and others may draw more attention, but the Territorial Championship Cup was first presented to Tempe Normal School after its 11-2 victory over Arizona at Tucson's Carrillo Gardens Field on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 30, 1899. The field was in a downtown park on a site south of the current Tucson Community Center in the Barrio Historico district, near South Main Avenue and West Simpson Street. The cup has been registered with the NCAA and thereby sanctions the game as the oldest trophy game. Early origins of the piece are unclear, but the cup itself is silverplated over Britannia base metal and was manufactured by Reed and Barton of Taunton, Mass., according to some reports, which also indicate its catalog price at $20. The lone inscription reads ˇ?Arizona Foot Ball League 1899 Normal.ˇ± The cup's whereabouts for the next eight decades remain unclear until its discovery among items found in the basement of a church near ASU in the early 1980s, and then displayed in various ASU collections. In 2001, then ASU president Lattie Coor led the move to have it presented to the game winner. Over the years, the Governor's Trophy (1953-1979) and a 'Victory" sculpture by artist Ben Goo (1979 to 1997) were presented. The Saguaro Trophy, a bronze piece commissioned from artist Dora Perry in 1998 also has been in the mix, and now goes to the winning coach each year. The Most Outstanding Player earns the? Ben Goo sculpture for his school's hall of fame. The Cup on the sideline at the game itself is a replica; glove-treatment transfer by curators -- if necessary -- goes for the original piece, which also is a hall of fame display artifact. The games themselves are not atypical of a state where the Territorial Legislature awarded one city (Phoenix) the initial economic prize, the state hospital, while the other town (Tucson) got the first state university. They're competitive, territorial and a huge matter of pride more than hardware.
Sorry About That
A look back at what a dozen years of the Big Game can mean... A year ago, ASU's 28-14 victory knocked Arizona out a bowl appearance and made ASU a bowl team. In 2005, ditto.? In 2004, Arizona's victory spoiled No. 18 ASU's chances at a 10-victory season. In 2003, ASU's victory doomed Arizona to its worst record in history, and Mike Stoops was hired to rebuild the program a few days later. In 2002 the Sun Devils' victory over Arizona put it in the Holiday Bowl. In 2001, Arizona's victory was part of ASU's late-season slide to finish 4-7. In 2000, the Sun Devils' victory cost Arizona a bowl game and probably Dick Tomey his job, but didn't save Bruce Snyder's, either. In 1999, ASU's victory similarly kept UA at home at 6-6 while ASU went bowling at 6-5. In 1998, Arizona knocked ASU from bowl contention en route to its best-ever year at 12-1. In 1997, Arizona earned a bowl bid and cost ASU a piece of first place, dropping the Devils into the Sun Bowl. In 1996 Jake Plummer went ape and ASU went to the Rose Bowl while UA stayed home at 5-6. In 1995, Arizona knocked ASU from bowl contention but also stayed home with an identical 6-5 mark in a different bowl era. In 1994, Arizona joined in giving ASU its worst record in 49 years. This year ... weˇ?ll see on Dec. 1.
There isnˇ?t a group that likes to see Halloween come-and-go like Mike Stoops and the Arizona Wildcats. Since arriving in 2004, Stoopsˇ? Troops have enjoyed the majority of their success in November, posting an 8-4 overall record, including a 5-1 mark against teams ranked in the top 25. Arizona has dashed some lofty postseason hopes late in the year by knocking off No. 18 Arizona State 34-27 in 2004, No. 7 UCLA 52-14 in 2005, No. 25 Washington State (27-17) and No. 8 Cal (24-20) last season before most recently derailing No. 2 Oregonˇ?s BCS title game hopes, 34-24, on November 15.
The Cats had a bye week Nov. 24... A week earlier in Tucson on ESPN national television, CB/PR Antoine Cason's 100-yard night proved one key in Arizona's rousing 34-24 victory over No. 2 Oregon on Thursday, Nov. 15. Cason's 42-yard interception return for a score gave Arizona the lead for good five seconds into the second quarter, 17-11, and his 56-yard punt return for a score 10 minutes later capped a Wildcat 24-0 splurge in just over 15 minutes. UA took a 31-14 lead into the locker room, a bit of additional daze for an Oregon squad that suffered through the loss of quarterback Dennis Dixon to a knee injury 10 minutes into the game. He opened the scoring with a 39-yard run and through 20 plays under his direction the Ducks had 183 yards in total offense. Afterward: a whopping 77 more plays for a respectable 240 more yards but only sporadic success on the scoreboard. Cason's interception, two others by safety Nate Ness and a fumble play by Cason and safety Corey Hall helped UA get four takeaways to thwart any UO continuity. Linebacker Spencer Larsen had 16 tackles to help make the point in the middle of things, three of those for losses, plus forced a fumble. LB Ronnie Palmer had 11 tackles to give that pair its first double-digit double of the year. Cason broke up five passes (of UA's nine PBUs) to help make Dixon's sub, Brady Leaf, ineffective with a 22-for-46 evening. On the other side of things, the Ducks' feared sack attack reached UA's Willie Tuitama just once, and he enjoyed a modest but more effective 21-for-39 for 266 yards and two scores -- big catches of 34 yards by Mike Thomas for the Cats' first score and 46 yards by Money Mike for the second. UA sacked Leaf three times and was credited for a sack on Dixon's injury play. UO running back Jonathan Stewart was as advertised, pounding for 131 yards, but the Duck offense was that: predictable, without Dixon at the reins. Not to be measured by one player alone, Oregon did recover enough to draw within a score a 31-24 with just under eight minutes remaining, but the Cats had enough verve to put together the longest drive of the night -- 4:26 -- on 11 plays for 38 tough yards that put them in position for a 46-yard field by Jason Bondzio to cap the scoring and provide some cushion. It was JB's second goal of the night, his ninth consecutive double-dip. In the end the Cats had enough offense (322) to score some points, had the special teams' plays to boost that effort with more points, and had the defensive spine to notch another six and stop the Ducks when it counted. No one in the green helmets likely felt warmed by the 238 yards rushing or 463 yards in total offense.
Notes from Oregon
The Wildcats knocked off a top 10 team in November for a third straight season ... After an interception on their first possession, the Wildcats scored on five of their next six possessions (including a punt return and an INT return) ... Willie Tuitama (passing yardage), Mike Thomas (TD receptions) and Nic Grigsby (freshman rushing yards) all set or tied single season school records in UAˇ?s 11th game of the year ... Spencer Larsen and Antoine Cason were named the Pac-10 Defensive and Special Teams Players of the Week following the contest. Larsen racked up 16 tackles, including a career-best 12 solo stops, and finished with a sack and three TFL in the upset win ... Cason returned a punt for a TD and added a scoring pick, five PBUs and seven tackles ... Jason Bondzio became just the fourth PK in school history to make 20 or more field goals in a single season with a pair of successful kicks, including a game-sealing 46-yarder in the fourth quater ... Nate Ness picked off a pair of passes in the game to tie him with Cason for the teamˇ?s season lead.
Jim Thorpe Award Candidate - Antoine Cason
Senior cornerback is one of three national finalists for the Jim Thorpe Award, which is presented annually to the top defensive back in the nation. The fourth-year starter has put together an impressive final season in Tucson with 69 total tackles, including a sack and four for losses, 11 passes broken up and a team-best five interceptions, including two for touchdowns. Career-wise, Cason has started every single game - 45 straight - for the Wildcats leading up to the Arizona State contest and has taken off only a handful of snaps during that time. He is currently fourth all-time at UA with 15 career interceptions, has the most career INT return yards in school history (349), is the current school leader in average yards per interception (23.3 yards per pick) and has tallied three scores off interceptions (vs. Cal in 2006, at Oregon State and vs. Oregon this season). Casonˇ?s 164 return yards on his five picks this season is just 28 markers shy of Darryll Lewisˇ? single season school record of 192 set back in his Thorpe Award winning season of 1990
The UA and the Thorpe Award
Antoine Cason's finalist status for the Jim Thorpe Award continues a pretty good tradition the University of Arizona has built. Safety Chuck Cecil was a two-time semifinalist for the award as a junior in 1986 and senior in 1987, cornerback Darryll Lewis won the honor as a senior in 1990, senior cornerback Chris McAlister was a finalist in 1998, senior safety Darrell Brooks was a semifinalist in 2005 and Cason repeated this year as a semifinalist and became the third finalist in school history. The award honors the nation's top defensive back but also pays credit to a student-athlete's comportment as an ambassador for the game.
Arizona State and Arizona Fast Facts
First Meeting: 1899 (Arizona State 11 - Arizona 2 in Tucson, Ariz.)
Last Meeting : 2006 (Arizona State 28 - Arizona 14 in Tucson, Ariz.)
All-Time Series Record: Arizona leads 44-35-1
Arizona vs. Arizona State All-Time
The 81st all-time meeting between Arizona and Arizona State dating back to the first game in 1899 ... Arizona holds a 44-35-1 edge in the all-time series, but the Sun Devils have won six of the last eight meetings between the two ... The Devils have an opportunity to pull off a feat neither school has been able to accomplish since 1993-95 - win three in a row in the series. Neither UA or ASU has been able string together more than two straight victories since the Cats won three in a row in the mid 1990s ... ASU is 14-9-1 all-time against Arizona in Sun Devil Stadium and has won two straight there ... Known as ˇ?The Streakˇ±, Arizona did not lose a single contest against Arizona State from 1982 to 1990, going 8-0-1 during that span ... ASU won nine straight games against Arizona 1965-1973, when the two were members of the WAC
Arizona-Arizona State - The Last Time Out
The Sun Devils raced out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and went on to dash the Wildcats postseason hopes with a 28-14 win in Tucson last season. The ASU victory snapped UAˇ?s three-game win streak and dropped the Cats to 6-6 overall - bowl eligible but still on the outside looking in ... ASU posted a balanced attack, rushing for 215 yards and throwing for 214 for 429 yards of total offense in the game. The Cats were able to muster just 168 offensive yards in the loss ... ASU QB Rudy Carpenter threw for 214 yards and three TDs in the victory, while UA signal caller Willie Tuitama missed the majority of the game after taking a blow to the head and reaggravating a season-long concussion ... ASU running back Ryan Torain rumbled for 139 yards on 24 carries, an average of 5.8 yards per pop.
Arizona and the Ranked Devils
The 2007 game is the first time Arizona has faced an Associated Press-ranked ASU squad in Tempe since 1997, when the 5-5 Wildcats topped No. 12 ASU, 28-16. The Cats went on to beat New Mexico in the Insight.com Bowl to cap a 7-5 season while ASU went on to beat Iowa in the Sun Bowl for a 9-3 mark. Arizona has won the last four games against AP-ranked ASU squads -- 2004 (ASU 18th) in Tucson; that 1997 game in Tempe; a 34-17 victory over No. 4 ASU in Tucson in 1986 when Arizona was ranked No. 14; and a 28-18 victory over No. 6 ASU in Tucson in 1982. A ranked Sun Devil squad (No. 18) last beat Arizona in 1981, 24-13, in Tempe. UA also beat the Devils 16-13 behind a Max Zendejas kick in Tempe in 1986, when ASU was ranked No. 20 in the coaches poll. But the men from Tempe were 7-0 against Arizona while ranked from 1968 to 1977.
The Big Four-Oh
Forty seems to be the magical number for the Wildcats this season. As would be expected, when scoring 40 or more points Arizona is a perfect 3-0 this year. Excluding this season, UA has scored 40 or more points in a game three times in a single year only four times since joining the Pac-10 in 1978 (1982, 1983, 1988 and 1998) and has not had four games of 40 or more points since 1954. Including this season, Arizona is 103-3 all-time when scoring 40 or more points, with the three loses coming in a 1999, 44-41, defeat to Oregon, a 56-55 triple overtime game at Cal in 1996 and a 48-41 loss to USC in Tucson in 1982.
Quarterback Willie Tuitama has found Mike Thomas and Terrell Turner most often among his receivers. The wideouts have combined for 118 catches. Thomas' success -- 73 grabs -- is typical of his career, with the junior working on a combined 175 receptions. Turner lettered as a true freshman in 2006, but finished the year with one reception. This year he has 45, still somewhat modest but also within reach of UA's single-season Top 15 chart. He'd need six against ASU to get there, a level he's hit in four games this year. It's clear that barring injury he's on schedule to eventually join Thomas in the UA career top 10 pass receptions list. Mike T. already is No. 3 and should be No. 1 some day.
Freshman tight end Rob Gronkowski already owns the UA single-game receiving yardage record for a tight end with his 4-115 effort against WSU this year. Now he's put himself in reach of the UA's top spot for season tight-end yardage. Mark Keel has the record with 513 yards on 32 catches as a junior in 1980. He had 343 yards on 27 catches his senior year in 1981, now the No. 3 spot. Steve Fleming posted 332 yards on 23 catches as a senior in 2004. Gronk has 496 yards on 26 snares this campaign, leaving him just 18 yards shy of the Arizona single season record (basically one catch away). Keel had the only other tight end 100-yard game with an even 3-100 effort vs. Stanford in 1982. Keel also owns the single-game receptions mark for a tight end with seven catches for 88 yards vs. Washington State in 1981. Gronk set a personal high for receptions with six against UCLA on Nov. 3.
When Will Willie?
It appears evident the new offensive style will take junior quarterback Willie Tuitama to the top of the Arizona charts. When? Stay tuned.
--Has the single-game pass attempts (61) and completions (42) records (at Cal)
--Has the No. 1 single-game passing yards total with 510 (at Washington)
--Is No. 1 in single-season pass completions (299)
--Is No. 1 in single-season TD passes (26)
--Is No. 1 in single-season passing attempts (472)
--Is No. 1 in single-season passing yards (3,411)
--Is No. 2 in career completions (499)
--Is No. 4 in career passing attempts (826)
--Is No. 4 in career touchdown passes (42)
--Is No. 4 in career passing yards (5,851)
Willie Tuitama and the Yardage Factory
Junior quarterback Willie Tuitama's 517 yards in total offense at Washington on Oct. 27 is tops in the Pac-10 this year, Dennis Dixon and Jake Locker notwithstanding. Matter of fact, Willie's number is the No. 3 figure in Pac-10 history behind Jeff Van Raaphorst's 532 yards in a loss against Florida State in Tempe in 1984 and Pat Barnesˇ? 528 yards posted in a three overtime game against the Cats in 1996. The 510 passing yards Tuitama put up against the Huskies -- helped by a 247.6 pass efficiency rating in the fourth quarter alone -- gave him the No. 5 single-game passing yardage in Pac-10 history. You're talking about matching his effort against a boatload of guys with revered names and jerseys at some schools of note.
It Came Close
The shoot-out between Arizonaˇ?s Willie Tuitama (517 yards of offense) and Washingtonˇ?s Jake Locker (493) in Seattle on Oct. 27 came up just 20 yards shy of breaking UAˇ?s all-time duel. In a contest at Cal in 1996 UAˇ?s Keith Smith came up with 502 yards of total offense and Berkeleyˇ?s Pat Barnes had 528 for 1,030 combined yards between the two. Tuitama and Lockerˇ?s total? 1,010 yards of total offense. The difference? Well besides the 20 yards, Tui and Locker did it in a regulation 60 minutes, while Smith and Barnes had the benefit of three overtime periods.
Getting Up Field
Arizonaˇ?s six primary receivers - Mike Thomas (12.7), Terrell Turner (11.5), Anthony Johnson (11.6), Delashaun Dean (11.6), Terrell Reese (10.1) and Rob Gronkowski (19.1) - are all averaging better than 10 yards per catch this season. In an offense that relies heavily on the short passing game, the Wildcatsˇ? ability to turn up field and pick up YAC has been impressive.
The Wildcatsˇ? spread offense has shown the ability to strike quickly. On 33 offensive TDs this season, the Wildcats have needed two minutes or less to score 16 times and less than three minutes 22 times. One might suppose that the brevity of UAˇ?s scoring success this season would be the result of short fields, however UA has had to go 60 or more yards 24 times to score this year and are averaging 66.3 markers per TD. Arizona shortest TD drive of the season took just 19 seconds (at Washington, Mike Thomas 66 yard TD catch from Willie Tuitama), while the longest TD drive time is a ˇ?ploddingˇ± 5:33 against Washington State way back on Sept. 29. The Cats are averaging 2:23 per TD drive this season.
Adding it All Up
Antoine Cason has scored four ˇ?non-offensiveˇ± TDs this season. The senior CB/PR has two picks for six this year and a pair of punt returns have been taken to the house. Casonˇ?s 24 points tie him with WR Terrell Turner for fourth on the team thus far and would have made him UAˇ?s third-leading scorer for the year just a season ago.
Newbies Make Impact
Arizona has seven newcomers starting in key roles, and each has been a success. At the top of the list are true freshmen in tight end Rob Gronkowski and running back Nic Grigsby. Gronk has 26 catches, five of those for scores (19%). He could set an Arizona tight end season yardage record with 18 more yards. Grigsby took over the starting job in the fourth game and has already established the highwater mark for true freshman RBs with 682 yards on 152 carries. Redshirt freshman punter Keenyn Crier was one of 12 national semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award as the nation's top punter. He's averaging 43.4 yards and his season high marks are noted here elsewhere. Junior place kicker Jason Bondzio never had a game kick until this year. Now he's 20 of 24 in field goals and was Pac-10 Special Teams Player of the Week Nov. 3. He's 8-for-8 from 40 to 49 yards, so his question-mark leg (prior to the year) has answered the call. Redshirt freshman guard Colin Baxter took over the starting job in the second game and has not let go. The feature he brings is tough-guy play, according to coaches. Redshirt freshman inside receiver Delashaun Dean has taken to the spread and posted 34 catches for a solid 11.6 yards per catch and a score. Redshirt freshman Terrell Reese has contributed 20 catches in four starts. He's also a physical player like Robbie G. and Baxter. Juco redshirt free safety Nate Ness has done an impressive job filling in for injured Dominic Patrick in the last six games. He's tied for the team lead with? Antoine Cason with five interceptions, has knocked down a pair of passes and recovered a fumble. Assuming starting roles after lettering as true freshmen a year ago are sophomore receiver Terrell Turner (45 receptions, 4 TDs) and sophomore strong safety Cam Nelson (49 tackles, 4 TFL).
Itˇ?s Becoming the Norm
Arizonaˇ?s spread offense has made what once was a rare occurrence at Arizona almost commonplace. Used to be that a 300-yard passing game at UA was a once or twice a season treat - a 370-yard day by Dan White in 1994 still remains the No. 10 single-game effort. Junior Willie Tuitama has five of them this season alone, tying him with Jason Johnson for the single-season school record (2002). Multi-TD pass games? Again a rarity in previous years. This season Tuitama would have owned the school single-season record in just five games (He has three five-TD games and two three-TD games this year). A 10-or-more catch game? Well itˇ?s happened three times in a season only once previous to this year when Bobby Wade did so in 2002. Mike Thomas has matched that record with two 12-grab games and one 10-catch game.
Money Mike Notes
Junior WR ˇ®Moneyˇ? Mike Thomas is quickly making his way up both the single-season and career receiving charts (see left) ... First in the Pac-10 in receptions per game (6.64) and is second in the conference in receiving yards per game (84.5) ... Is fourth in the Pac-10 in all-purpose yards (139.0) ... Has caught 11 TD passes this season, which ties the single season school record, to surpass his previous career high of five set in 2005 ... Has already caught a career season-high 73 passes this year ... Has passed his previous single-season high for reception yards (771 in 2005) with 929 this year, which is sixth all-time at UA ... He recorded back-to-back 100-yard receiving games against New Mexico and Cal earlier this season, his career-best third 100-yard game at Washington on Oct. 27 (10 for 165 yards) and went over the century mark again against Oregon on Nov. 15 (6 for 125) ... He caught at least one TD in four straight games (NAU-WSU) ... Tied the school record for TD receptions in a single game with three at Washington on Oct. 27 and has twice caught two TD passes in a game (NAU and WSU) ... Has at least one reception in each of the last 23 games played ... Has caught at least one pass in 43 of 44 career games, with the one no-catch game coming against Arizona State in 2005 when he had a full cast on his left hand and served the entire game as a decoy ... If he stays on his current pace of 6.64 receptions, 84.5 yards and 1.0 TD per game, heˇ?ll wrap up the 12-game regular season with 80 catches for 1,014 yards and 12 scores ... He has 3,035 career all-purpose yards largely on the strength of pass receiving. He should end up in the Arizona career Top 10 all-purpose leaders at his current pace. He needs 760 yards to supplant Chuck Levy at No. 10 (3,795 from 1991-93).?
Take it to the Bank
Mike Thomasˇ? 74 points scored this season are the most for any position player since former RB Kelvin Eafon posted 96 points in 1998. Since then only current teammate Jason Bondzio (95 points in 2007 all on kicks) has scored more in a single season.
ˇ®Moneyˇ? Mike Thomasˇ? 338 all-purpose yards against Washington on Oct. 27 were the third-most by a single player in school history. Had UA tossed in one or two of Mikeˇ?s patented end arounds - good for 15 yards a pop - he could have displaced UAˇ?s ˇ®Cactus Cometˇ? Art Luppino as the top all-purpose runner for a single game.
Spencer for Hire
All-American candidate Spencer Larsen, the heart and soul of the linebacking corps, has turned up an already impressive game the last five weeks. Against USC, Stanford, Washington, UCLA and Oregon the senior has posted 67 total tackles, including 48 solo stops and 10.5 for losses, and he has recorded two sacks, forced three fumbles, recovered two fumbles and picked off a pass - his second career INT. Larsen currently leads Arizona in both tackles (116 TT - 74 ST, 42 AT) and tackles for loss (12.5). His 10.5 tackles per game average thus far leads the Pac-10 and his projected 126 tackle-year would make him the first Wildcat defender to reach 120? for a season since Marcus Bell posted 124 total stops in 1999 ... Larsenˇ?s 12 tackles at Washington on Oct. 27 helped him eclipse his previous career season-high of 89 tackles established last year ... He has established single game career highs for both total tackles (17 at USC) and solo stops (12 (vs. Oregon) this year ... Larsen needs a trio of tackles to hit the 300 level for his career. One season, his sophomore campaign in 2005, was marred by a knee injury that caused him to miss three games and parts of others. Since then, 23 consecutive starts in good health and 205 tackles to show for it during the span. If Spencer manages to collect 11 tackles at ASU, he'd tie current Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs for 15th on Arizona's career chart.?
Spencer's career resume:
43 games, 36 starts; 297 tackles; 29 TFL; 7 sacks; 7 FR; 5 FF, 12 PBU; 2 INT
The L-Train Line
Senior tackle Lionel Dotson has more sacks, 6.5, than any interior defensive lineman at Arizona since eventual edge-rusher Joe Tafoya played inside as a junior in 1999 and notched 10. Since then, no tackle had more than four. The L-Train's overall 46 tackles are a career season-best for him, eclipsing the 31 he notched a year ago. Dotson had a career-high nine hits against Stanford on Oct. 20, with two tackles for loss and a sack. That came on the heels of his then career-high of seven at USC on Oct. 13. Lionel's season total of 46 tackles is the most by a DT since Joe Salave'a in 1997, with 46 and 11.5 sacks. Joe earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors that year as a fifth-year senior.
Redshirt junior Nate Ness has an impressive job in filling in for injured Dominic Patrick. He's tied for the team lead with five interceptions and has 25 tackles in the last five games, including a career-high 10 against Washington on Oct. 27. Patrick, one of the team's top hitters, has a torn MCL and is available on a limited basis.
G-Man Catches C-Farm
True freshman Nic Grigsby has rushed for an Arizona freshman school record 682 yards this season, tallying a solid 4.5 yards per carry figure (152 tries) and scoring twice0. Grigsby moved past former record holder Clarence Farmerˇ?s prior mark of 666 set in 2000 in UAˇ?s last contest against Oregon. With a 124-yard performance against UCLA on Nov. 3, Grigsby joined Farmer and Ontiwaun Carter as Arizona's only true freshmen to have three 100-yard rushing games as first-year players. Carter ran for 606 yards on 113 carries in a rushing-dominated offense (528 runs, 198 passes) in 1991.
Nic the Quick
True frosh Nic Grigsby etched his name into the lore of Arizona history with 186 rushing yards on 30 carries (6.2 ypc) against Washington State on Sept. 29. The ground-pounding total equaled the true freshman rushing mark posted by former UA great Hubie Oliver in 1977. Oliver, who broke on to the scene when he rushed for 141 yards on 21 carries against New Mexico, followed up? with 186 yards on 29 carries (6.4 ypc) a week later against UTEP.
The Wildcats have scored 319 points in 11 games thus far, which has already far surpassed the 12-game total of 199 last year and is the most for a UA squad since putting up 320 points in 2001 ... Three of Arizonaˇ?s six losses this season are by a touchdown or less, including a two-point loss to New Mexico and a one-point defeat to Stanford ... Each year under the Stoops' brothers defensive scheme the team has improved its interceptions number, starting with 11 in 2004, 12 in 2005, 13 in 2006 and the 15 picks this year. That's the highest total since Michael Jolivette-led secondaries notched 16 in 2000 and 14 in 2001. The 1998 club led by Chris McAlister also had 16... UA's average of 71 plays per game this year contrasts with an average of 61 a year ago (albeit under different clock rules in '06). One reason: UA has 49 more first downs in one less game played. UA got quite a few of the chain-movers on 1st or 2nd down: only 56 of its 222 first downs came via 3rd-down conversions... One thing that appears to have held true for UA in Pac-10 games: turn it over less and your chances of winning improve. Three league victories came with fewer turnovers, one came with the same number, and its four league losses came with more turnovers...
Bondzio, James Bondzio
Actually his name is Jason and the only nifty gadget he has is a deceptively strong leg, but UA place kicker Jason Bondzio has been on point this season. He is just one of four kickers all-time at Arizona to convert 20 or more field goals in a single season and is making a run at becoming just the third player in school history to amass 100 or more points in a year. Making 20 of 24 field goal attempts (83%) and successfully converting 35 of 36 PAT tries, he has racked up a team-best 95 points scored. In 11 games played he has already surpassed departed PK Nick Folkˇ?s team-high 67 points from last year and is currently tied for seventh all-time in a single season at Arizona? (see chart to left) ... Bondzio has made two or more field goals in 10 straight games and needs just one successful kick against Arizona State on Saturday to tie Max Zendejasˇ? school record for most consecutive games with a make at 11 straight.
Cason for the Defense
Senior cornerback Antoine Cason continues to show why he's been rated among the top defenders at his position nationally. He has 15 career interceptions, fourth on the UA career Top 10 chart, and is tied for fifth in PBUs on UA's career chart with 29 passes destroyed. Including a game-clinching pick in the waning seconds at Washington on Oct. 27 and a ˇ?pick sixˇ± against Oregon on Nov. 15, Cason has picked off a pass in four of UAˇ?s last six games. In addition to his INT for a score against Oregon, he also returned an interception 60 yards for a score at Oregon State this year, second-longest in the conference thus far, to run his career total to three scoring interceptions after a game-winning 39-yard return against No. 8 Cal last year.
Youˇ?re Going the Wrong Way
On a 27-yard pickoff return against USC on Oct. 13? Thorpe Award finalist Antoine Cason not only moved into the top six all-time in career interceptions, but he also took over the top spot in career interception return yardage. The fourth-year starter has now racked up 349 yards on 15 career interceptions to move him past former all-time leader Darryll Lewis (252 on 14 returns, 1987-90). For the time being, Lewisˇ? single-season mark of 192 INT returns yards on seven picks from 1990 appears to be safe, but Antoine, who has 164 INT return yards on five picks this season, still has a game and a lot off passes thrown his way to catch up. Should Cason maintain his career average of 23.2 yards per return he would easily slide into the top spot at Arizona, which is currently held by Dennis Anderson who averaged 13.16 yards per return on 12 career interceptions from 1972-75.
Making Them Cry
Redshirt frosh punter Keenyn Crier has made returners do just that. The first-year kicker leads the Pac-10 and is 15th nationally with a 43.4 yards per punt average, not too shabby for a newcomer. Crier has placed 19 of his 53 punts inside the oppositionˇ?s 20 yard-line this season and has had 11 kicks fair caught. At USC on Oct. 13 he placed five of his seven punts inside the 11-yard-line (the 11, 10, 4, 2 and 1 to be exact) and booted the second-longest punt in school history when he boomed an 83-yarder in the fourth quarter en route to being named the Pac-10 Special Teams Player of the Week. That punt was the longest at Arizona since 1930.