Some Game Themes
Arizona picked up a rock and dropped it on its foot again, this time in the form of a poorly played first half, and it led to a 37-17 loss at UCLA. The Cats had their first punt blocked for a safety, broke coverage to allow three scoring throws, could not convert on third down, and committed nine penalties that thwarted their own success or aided the Bruins with second chances -- all helping lead to a 23-3 UCLA lead at the break. UA stopped Pac-10 rushing leader Maurice Drew (24 yards in the first half and -minus two in the second half), but couldn't put a muzzle on Bruin quarterback Drew Olson, who ended the day with four TD throws, three of those to tight end Marcedes Lewis over the middle. The Cats played even-up ball in the second half, and rushed for a season-high 258 yards, but three dropped or misjudged fly balls thrown on the money by quarterback Kris Heavner didn't get home and UA finished with only 93 passing yards. UA found some punch with the running game, scoring three times on three red-zone trips (one a field goal after a delay-of-game penalty wiped out a measurable 4th-down plunge), but the defense also let the Bruins scored four times -- all TDs-- in its four trips. The last was a meaningless score after UA tried a fake punt and gave the Bruins a short field -- but that failed try hurt, too. Running backs Mike Bell (21-13), Gilbert Harris (9-74) and Chris Henry (8-55) ran well, with a combined 6.9 yards per carry. And UA had its linebacking corps combine for 21 tackles, many near the line of scrimmage. But football victories require clicking on all cylinders and the Cats left the Rose Bowl looking for more answers to the fundamental concepts that drive the game -- execution and sound play.
The Cats and the Ducks - The Series
Arizona and Oregon will meet for the 30th time on Saturday ... UO holds a 17-12 advantage in the all-time series and has won nine of the last 10 meetings between the two, including the last five straight ... Arizona’s five-game losing streak to the Ducks is the longest for either school in the all-time series ... UA’s last win over Oregon came in 1998, a 38-3 victory in Tucson ... Arizona is 3-9 all-time in Eugene and 3-7 in Autzen Stadium. UA has not won there since 1986 ... This season’s trip to Autzen is the first since 2000 and just the second since 1997 ... UO head coach Mike Belloti is 7-1 all-time against UA
Noting the Ducks
The Ducks (2-3, 1-1 Pac-10) will enter the game revitalized after a 27-point fourth quarter rally in their 41-38 win over Washington State last weekend ... A week after facing UCLA’s outstanding offense, the Wildcats will take on a Duck unit that ranks 16th nationally in total O with an average of 445.6 yards per game ... UO is 19th among all Division I-A teams in passing offense with a 268.0 ypg average and 39th in rushing at 177.6 ypg ... Quarterback Kellen Clemens is 16th in the nation in total offense with an average of 277.80 yards per game, a figure that leads the Pac-10 Conference, while running back Terrence Whitehead is 27th in D-IA in rushing and third in the Pac-10 with 98.4 ypg. Whitehead is also 20th nationally in all-purpose yards with 147.2 per game ... Defensively, Oregon is 32nd overall this season, surrendering an average of 310.8 yards per game this season ... The Duck defenders are allowing an average of 27.4 points per game and 132.6 rushing yards ... Senior linebacker Jerry Matson is the driving force behind the Duck defense with 24 total tackles, including seven for losses ... Junior defensive end Devan Long has tallied a team-high four sacks in Oregon’s five games this season ... Mike Belloti, the Dean of Pac-10 coaches, has tallied a 78-36 overall record at Oregon heading into the weekend.
Oregon and Arizona - The Last Time Out
The Ducks soared to 48-10 win over the Wildcats in Pac-10 opener for both schools in Tucson last season ... Oregon added to a 20-0 halftime lead with 21 points in the third quarter to help hand UA its second consecutive loss of 30 or more points ... Quarterbacks Kellen Clemons and Justin Fife combined for 283 yards and four touchdowns on 22-of-32 passing ... Receiver Demetrius Williams was the favored target of the QB combo, snatching five balls for 139 and three scores ... Arizona’s offense struggled throughout the night, as the Wildcats mustered just 180 yards of total offense and 11 first downs ... The Oregon defense limited UA to 34 yards rushing on 25 carries.
Saturday’s contest at Oregon marks the first of two back-to-back road trips for Arizona this season. The Wildcats will also face consecutive road games in November when they travel to Washington and USC. The last time Arizona had back-to-back road games twice in a single season was in 1999 when UA opened the year at Penn State and TCU and closed the season at Oregon State and Arizona State.
D Is Holding Its Own
It’s no secret that the Wildcats have faced a tough schedule. Combined UA’s five opponents thus far are 20-6 overall this season, including undefeated Big Ten leader Wisconsin at 6-0 and Mountain West favorite Utah at 5-0. While Arizona has failed to garner a breakout victory just yet, the Wildcat defense has more than held their own in the contests. Using the averages through last weekend’s games, UA’s D has surrendered fewer yards of total offense in its games this season then its opponents have averaged overall. In fact, the Wildcats have held Utah (No. 12 in total offense), UCLA (No. 16 in TO) and Wisconsin, to the fewest offensive yards in a game for each respective team so far. It hasn’t translated into wins just yet, but it’s an improvement for a team that gave up an average of 460 yards per game in 2003 and saw three teams establish single-game season-high numbers against the Wildcats in total offense last season.
In addition to the team numbers above, Arizona’s defense has put the clamps on a pair of the top offensive threats in the country as well. UCLA’s Maurice Drew, who is No. 8 in the NCAA in rushing so far this season, entered last weekend’s game against Arizona averaging 167.2 yards per game as one of the top backs in the nation. The Wildcat 11 limited him to a season-low 22 yards on 11 attempts and held him to just two carries in the second half. Meanwhile, Utah’s Alex Smith, the 21st-rated overall player in total offense this season, was held 98 yards under his season average for total offense against the Wildcats on September 11.
Los Tres Hombres
Arizona’s three-pronged running attack served notice last weekend against UCLA. Combined, Mike Bell, Gilbert Harris and Chris Henry pounded the Bruin defense for a season-high 263 yards on 38 attempts (6.9 ypc) and two touchdowns. Both Harris (74 yards) and Henry (55 yards) rushed for career highs against UCLA, while Mike Bell rushed for a season-high 134 yards. Henry pounded in both touchdowns on the goal line for his first two career scores. For the year the three runners are averaging 145 yards per game, amassing 723 yards on 161 attempts (a 4.5 ypc avg.) and four touchdowns. The trio has also snagged 20 passes out of the backfield for an additional 82 yards.
Bell Hits Chart
UA junior running back Mike Bell's 134 rushing yards at UCLA moved him past David Eldridge (1985-88, 1,621 yards) into the No. 14 spot on Arizona's career rushing chart. He has 1,664 yards on 362 carries, an average of 4.6 yards per pop. On paper, Arizona's best chance this week is to give Mike and his mates -- Gilbert Harris and Chris Henry -- the ball. Oregon's pass defense is rated 31st nationally while its rushing defense checks in a 53rd.
The all-time Wildcat rushing leaders immediately ahead of Mike:
11. Vance Johnson (1981-84) 471-1873
12. Don Beasley (1951-56) 277-1680
13. Bill Johnson (1990-93) 333-1669
14. Mike Bell (2001- ) 362-1664
A Field Goal Streak
After watching his 47-yard field goal attempt for the win against Wisconsin sail just wide left on Sept 18, kicker Nick Folk has made his last three consecutive field goal attempts. The streak is noteworthy due to the fact that Arizona converted just two field goal attempts in 11 tries last season and hasn’t seen a kicker make three in a row since Oct. 26-Nov. 2, 2002 when former Wildcat Bobby Gill was successful on three straight attempts against Washington State and Oregon State. Folk is 5-for-8 on the year and converted the longest field attempt of his career last Saturday against UCLA, hitting from 41 yards out.
Third Down Woes
The good news is that the Wildcats posted a season-high 20 first downs at UCLA last weekend, 17 of which were accomplished on first and second down. The bad news is that the Wildcats were just 3 for 10 in converting on third down against the Bruins, marking the third straight game UA has been below 40 percent in the category. The Wildcat struggles on third down stem from the fact that of the 68 times UA has faced third down this season, it has needed six or more yards 36 times, including 15 times at 3 and 11 or more. Arizona has been successful at converting 3 and 6 or longer just seven times or 19 percent of the time. When faced with 3 and 5 or closer, Arizona is a much better 18 for 32 (56%).
Providing Some Relief
Heading into the UCLA contest last weekend, linebackers Sean Jones, Dan Krogstad and Pat Howard had taken the majority snaps for Arizona this season. However, Randy Sims and Kirk Johnson’s effort against the Bruins provided some much needed relief. With Howard out for the game nursing an ailing hamstring, Johnson led all Arizona tacklers in the game with seven stops, while Sims added six of his own. The UCLA game marked the first contest this season that UA’s linebacking corps recorded the three top tackle totals in a game.
D-As in Diminished
Injuries and a suspension have put a dent in the Cats' depth on the defensive front, with tackles Paul Philipp and Johnathan Turner banged up and Yaniv Barnett suspended indefinitely. Redshirt freshman defensive end Lionel Dotson saw duty inside after Philipp went down with a shoulder problem at UCLA and finished with a pair of tackles close to the line of scrimmage. Tackle Carlos Williams and ends Marcus Smith and Andre Torrey played the whole game. Whatever the combination of guys UA puts out there Saturday against Oregon, it will face a veteran unit that averages 6-foot-4, 313 pounds from tackle to tackle.
Heavner’s Streak Ends
Quarterback Kris Heavner saw his streak of 78 pass attempts without an interception come to an end on Arizona’s final offensive snap of the game against UCLA. The Bruins’ Eric McNeal picked off Heavner’s final attempt of the game during the waning minutes of the 37-17 loss, the first interception of a Heavner pass since the third quarter of the Utah game on Sept. 11. Still, Heaver’s streak, in which he went 45-for-78 (58%) for 467 yards and three TDs, lasted nearly 13 quarters and marked the longest stretch in his career without throwing an interception.
The Cats' current predicament of 0-2 in league play unfortunately is not unheard of in recent years. UA was 0-5 last year, 0-6 in 2002 and 0-5 in 2001 before breaking through with victories in conference action. The truth be told: since the Cats' superb 12-1 season (7-1 in Pac-10) and final No. 4 ranking in 1998 the program has posted an 11-31 record in league action.
Through The First Five
The 1-4 record through four games might not be any different from last season, but it’s a fact that the Wildcats are a much different team in 2004. While the program refuses to use last season a crutch for any success or failure on the field, the expectations of Mike Stoops and the whole Arizona coaching staff has the players believing in the system and led them to a higher level of performance on the field. With basically the same lineup on both sides of the ball from last season, the Wildcats have posted vastly superior numbers through the first four games this season then they did just 12 months ago. Offensively, Arizona has amassed just 141 more yards of total offense this season then it did during the first month last year (1,432 to 1,291). The rushing yards have improved on offense, as well as the total number of first downs. Defensively, Arizona is a far cry from where it was in 2003. Scoring defense is down nearly 20 points per game, the rushing yards surrendered per game are down 82 yards from the first five games of last year. Teams have passed for 342 less yards against UA's defensive backs this season, and the total offense of opponents has gone from an average of 456.2 per game last year to 305.2 in 2004, a difference of over 151 yards per game.
Stopping the Run
A week after limiting Washington State to just 28 yards, the Wildcat defenders again rose to the challenge and held the vaunted UCLA rushing attack that was averaging 273 yards per game to 114 yards on 39 attempts (2.9 per carry). UA’s effort against Washington State was the fewest rushing yards allowed by the Wildcats since the Cats held UCLA to 54 yards rushing in 2000, and the lowest total since UA held USC to 10 net rushing yards on 27 carries earlier in 2000. The 114 yards surrendered to UCLA marked the fewest rushing yards the Bruins have tallied in a game this season.
Heading into the UCLA game last weekend, Arizona was fourth in the nation in the fewest penalties per game. A season-high nine flags in the first half against the Bruins changed that. The penalty prone 30 minutes not only hampered the Arizona effort on both sides of the ball against the Bruins, it also dropped the Wildcats 11 spots in the rankings to a still respectable 15th nationally. The good news on the penalty front is that Arizona was not flagged for a single offense in the second half at the Rose Bowl.
Through five games Arizona has sacked the opposing quarterback six times for 44 yards in losses, while giving up nine sacks for 70 yards. The protection by UA's offensive line is reasonable, the pressure is below average. Backup defensive end Copeland Bryan leads with two, corners Darrell Brooks and Zeonte Sherman, safety Lamon Means and end Marcus Smith have one apiece. Pac-10 leader and the nation's top-ranked team, Southern California, has 21 sacks for -minus 161 yards (vs. 11 allowed. Mike Stoops' former team, No. 2 Oklahoma, has 13 sacks (vs. 2 allowed). UCLA has allowed only four sacks (two by Arizona), and that figure is best in the league for sacks-against.
First Half Scoring
Through the first three games, Arizona has posted points in the first 30 minutes of play in each game. While the tally of 30 total first half points is a modest sum, it should be noted that Arizona failed to score in the first two quarters in eight of its 12 games in 2003. The inability to produce early points last season left the Wildcats with an average first half deficit of just under 14 points. Arizona has led at the midway point twice this season, equaling the total of 12 games last year.
A Nose For The Ball
Linebacker Sean Jones has taken to his new position. Moving over from fullback in the spring, Jones has been around the ball on a consistent basis enough to place him second on the team in total tackles (33) this season. In addition, he has scooped up a Pac-10-best three fumbles this year, the most for any Wildcat player in a season since Keoni Fraser recovered five fumbles in 2000.
Odds and Ends
Receiver Ricky Williams extended his streak of consecutive games with a reception to 13-straight with a pair of catches against UCLA ... Biren Ealy didn’t fare as well, as his streak of 12 straight games with a catch came to an end at the Rose Bowl ... Tight end Clarence McRae caught a career-high two passes against the Bruins last weekend ... The Wildcats tallied a season-high -tying two sacks against the Bruins ... Syndric Steptoe has led Arizona in receptions in three of the five games thus far ...
The Wildcat players voted on their team captains at the beginning of the year and selected offensive players Mike Bell, Steve Fleming and Keoki Fraser, as well as defenders Andre Torrey, Carlos Williams and Darrell Brooks.
The offensive line at Arizona has strung together a pretty impressive list of starts. Center Keoki Fraser leads all Wildcat players on both sides of the ball with 34 career starts, including 28 straight. Joining him along the front five are tackle Chris Johnson (25 starts), guard Kili Lefotu (23 starts) and tackle Brandon Phillips (18 starts). Add in tight end Steve Fleming’s 16 starts, tackle Tanner Bell’s seven and guard John Abramo’s seven and the group has combined for 130 career games started.
The Sports Group in Dallas, Texas, has announced that senior Keoki Fraser has been added to the Rimington Award Watch List. The award will be presented to the top collegiate center in the country at the conclusion of the 2004 season. The award is named in honor of Dave Rimington, a consensus All-American at Nebraska in 1981 and ?'82 ... Fraser has also been named to watch list for the Outland Trophy. The award has been presented to the top interior lineman on either side of the ball by Football Writers Association of America at the end of the year since 1946, making the Outland the third-oldest award presented in collegiate football behind only the Heisman Trophy and Maxwell Award ... Others added to watch lists early on are Mike Bell for the Doak Walker Award, presented to the top running back in the nation, and Danny Baugher for the Ray Guy Award, given to the top punter at the conclusion of the season.
Fling It To Fleming
After snagging just three balls for 30 yards in his first two season, senior tight end Steve Fleming is coming off an impressive 2003 campaign that saw him record 24 receptions for 252 yards and two touchdowns. His reception total from last season was the third-most in a year for any UA tight end since the Wildcats joined the Pac-10. A duplication of his numbers from last year in 2004 would place him among the top tight ends in school history. Currently Mark Keel (1981-82) holds the school record for both receptions (59) and yards receiving (856 yards) by a tight end, while former Wildcat Ron Beyer (1975-78) holds the record for the most touchdown receptions by a TE with seven.
Fans catching the Wildcats for the first time in 2004 might not recognize the team when they take the field for the first time this season. The reason? Arizona has changed the color of its helmets from primarily all white to a solid blue. The "Academic A" remains on the side, but it has no other markings or stripes and a blue face mask. The change marks the first time since 1980 that UA will be wearing a helmet that is a different primary color than white.
The solid blue helmet is the first time in school history that Arizona will take the field with head gear so colored. In looking back through photos in Arizona’s Heritage Hall, it has been found that former Wildcat great Art Lippino, UA’s "Cactus Comet", and his 1955 Wildcat teammates took the field in a helmet that featured blue around the sides with a red top. All other color photos over the years have shown that the Wildcat gridders have donned either primarily red or white bonnets.
Cat’s Picked To Finish 10th
The Wildcats have been picked to finish 10th in the Pac-10 this season, but that doesn’t mean Arizona has to like it. Head coach Mike Stoops made that point at Pac-10 Media Day in Los Angeles.
"Expectations here (at Pac-10 Media Day) aren’t high. As a staff and as a team, our expectations are much higher. When I think of the past seven or eight months, I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished. When I took this position, I knew it would be a challenge in the beginning. The players have made it very easy for me and they’re excited about having some success on the football field again ... We feel we’re a stronger football team than we were back in December."
Who’s Up and Who’s Down
The following coaches will be on the sidelines during the game - head coach Mike Stoops, defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, tightends Steve Spurrier Jr., defensive ends/special teams Joe Robinson, receivers Charlie Williams, defensive tackles Mike Tuiasosopo and offensive line Eric Wolford. Offensive coordinator Mike Canales, linebackers Tim Kish and running backs Kasey Dunn are all up in the press box along with GAs Travis Ochs and Kevin Patullo.
Cats To Face Tough Slate in 2004
After a 2003 season that saw the Wildcats play both national champions (LSU and USC) and seven other teams that participated in bowl games, the 2004 schedule couldn’t get any harder, right? Well the first half of the season has seen UA’s opponents tally a 20-6 overall record, including undefeated and 10th-ranked Wisconsin (6-0) and No. 11 Utah (5-0). The remaining teams on the slate this season include 3-1 Cal, 5-0 USC and 5-0 Arizona State. Overall UA’s opponents are 37-18 this season.