Aug. 29, 2009
TUCSON--The University of Arizona's football season opener closed in today, with the kickoff against the highly regarded Central Michigan Chippewas a week away on Sept. 5.
The Chippewas, who like the Wildcats received votes in both the Associated Press media and USA Today coaches' polls, bring a program that's been to three consecutive bowl games. UA comes off its victory over Brigham Young in the Las Vegas Bowl that capped an 8-5 season -- same as the Chips in 2008.
Plenty of Tucsonans might have a time describing where CMU and Mount Pleasant, Mich., is, but the geographical doubt has no bearing on the Chippewas' strength on the football field.
CMU brings a half dozen stars, notably senior quarterback Dan LeFevour, who's compiled three-year career totals of 9,467 passing yards and 74 touchdown passes. Many of those have gone to senior receiver Bryan Anderson (21) and junior Antonio Brown (13), the nation's top returning punt returner. Defensively, junior linebacker Nick Bellore (250 tackles) and senior end Frank Zombo (19 sacks) can bring the heat.
Arizona will counter with Lombardi Award candidates defensive tackle Earl Mitchell and defensive end Brooks Reed, plus All-Pac-10 cornerback Devin Ross, among what is expected to be a strong defensive corps. On offense UA has leaders in Maxwell Award candidate tight end Rob Gronkowski, receivers Delashaun Dean and Terrell Turner, running back Nic Grigsby and center Colin Baxter.
After a month of preseason practice, head coach Mike Stoops said Saturday he'd probably not name a starting quarterback between sophomores Matt Scott and Nick Foles prior to the game. "But, one of them has to walk out there," he added at a light morning practice in shorts.
Bryson Beirne and Foles warm up today
UA has practiced some two dozen times since opening drills Aug. 6, and as linebackers coach Tim Kish said this week -- no doubt echoing sentiment and standard coaching credo felt nationally, "We're ready to hit some guys in different jerseys."
The UA coaching staff feels its defense could be special, its offensive line has jelled, the running game is a force with Grigsby, Keola Antolin and Greg Nwoko; and that the quarterback situation will be a good thing, especially after things settle down early in the season.
Early in the season starts a week from now. Kickoff at Arizona Stadium is slated for 7:07 p.m. (MST/PDT), with the Arizona Wildcats Sports Network broadcasting live over its radio network and live on KWBA The CW 58 in Tucson (with a tape delay on KGUN-9 at 10:30 p.m.). Additional television distribution is expected to be announced early next week.