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Cats win fifth straight home opener
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 09/11/2005
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - Richard Kovalcheck tied a career high with 255 yards passing and Mike Bell added 122 rushing as host Arizona defeated I-AA Northern Arizona 31-12 Saturday night.

Kovalcheck completed 19-of-31 passes, including two touchdowns. He also tossed for 255 yards in a 27-24 loss to Utah last Friday.

The victory gave Arizona its fifth consecutive home opener and 17th in its last 19 tries.

"I saw a lot of good things here tonight," UA head coach Mike Stoops said. "We doubled our yardage."

The Wildcats (1-1) finished with 187 rushing yards spearheaded by Bell's 24-carry effort. Arizona took the opening kickoff and moved the ball 80 yards in just under two minutes before reaching the end zone. Bell capped the drive with a 3-yard touchdown.

Nick Folk gave Arizona a 10-0 advantage with a 33-yard field goal later in the quarter. The Wildcats grabbed a commanding advantage when Richard Kovalcheck found Anthony Johnson for a 25-yard strike to make it 17-0.

Northern Arizona (1-1) put an end to the shutout midway through the second quarter when Robbie DeHaze connected on a 45-yard field goal. Kovalcheck answered by lofting a 9-yard scoring pass into the outstretched fingertips of Brad Wood, putting the finishing touches on the first half with Arizona ahead 24-3.

While Arizona put up 298 yards of offense in the first half, the Lumberjacks managed a meager 82 with just five of those yards coming through the air. Jason Murietta completed only 3-of-13 attempts in the half for Northern Arizona.

But the Lumberjacks did not give in despite the sizable deficit. Murietta rebounded from his dismal opening half to hit five of his next six passes in leading an 80-yard scoring drive.

The Lumberjacks inched even closer when Wildcats longsnapper Garen McHone overthrew to punter Danny Baugher, resulting in a safety, and cutting the lead to 24-12.

Arizona totaled only six yards of offense in the third quarter. However, Arizona regained the momentum in the fourt, putting the game away with a seven-play, 51-yard scoring drive that culminated with Gilbert Harris' 1-yard touchdown plunge.

"We are continuing to build depth on the offense. (Syndric) Steptoe did a very good job on the receiving end, but we really need to get Mike Jefferson in the position to make plays," Stoops said. Steptoe led UA with six catches for 76 yards.

Arizona stays home next week with its final non-conference game against Purdue, a ranked opponent that beat Akron, 49-14, Saturday.

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