Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
Cats Host Cardinal In First Pac-12 Game
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: September 12, 2011
Photo Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Related Links

AUDIO LINK: Coach Stoops' News Conference

Sept. 12, 2011

Arizona Football Weekly Release (PDF)
Coach Stoops' Weekly Press Conference (Video)

No. 6 Stanford (2-0, 0-0 Pac-12) @ Arizona (1-1, 0-0 Pac-12)

Online Coverage: Gametracker | Live Audio

Date: Sept. 17 Time: 7:45 p.m. MST
Location: Tucson, Ariz. (Arizona Stadium -- 56,100)
Television Broadcast: ESPN and ESPN3
TV Commentators: Carter Blackburn (pxp), Brock Huard (analyst), Shelley Smith (reporter)
UA Radio: Arizona Radio Network, 1290 AM Tucson
UA Radio Commentators: Brian Jeffries (pxp), Lamont Lovett (color analyst), Dana Cooper (sideline analyst)
UA Spanish Radio: 990 AM Tucson; Abelardo Oquito (pxp), Marco Rincon (color analyst)
Satellite. Radio: SIRIUS 211, XM 190
Westwood One Radio: John Tautges (pxp) and Terry Donahue (analyst)

Some Game Themes
Two teams kick off their inaugural Pac-12 Conference action with early pecking order on the line... Arizona takes on a second consecutive Top 10 squad after a rough go at it in Stillwater... Arizona quarterback Nick Foles puts his game on display (ESPN) against one of the acknowledged national poster boys for the position, Stanford's Andrew Luck... Although it's a new season -- and a new conference -- Arizona works to snap a four-game league losing streak... The Cats open a two-game homestand with both opponents (Oregon next week) league favorites from the Pac-12 North... The Cats look for some running success to go with Foles' aerial production (404 yards per game), while Stanford has shown it can back Luck with a power game of note. But running aside, the Cats need to use their passing yards and get the ball into the end zone... Keep an eye on red zone success, as Stanford I finished in the top-10 nationally a year ago and is a perfect 12-for-12, while Arizona is 5-for-7 to date after finishing in the bottom-10 nationally in 2010 ... The Cardinal bring Thorpe/Nagurski candidate Delano Howell to help spearhead the opposite effort... Arizona plays it day to day whether Biletnikoff candidate Juron Criner will be available to play, but last week two other guys (Dan Buckner, Austin Hill) turned in 100-yard games... Arizona expects a 16th consecutive crowd above 50,000, a streak during which it's averaged about 92 percent of capacity...

Last Week
Arizona took a foray into Big 12 territory and left Stillwater, Okla., knowing that Oklahoma State's No. 9 ranking was for real after a 37-14 loss before a Thursday night ESPN national audience. The Cowboys took the opening kick and drove 88 yards in nine plays to set an early tone underscored by a 41-yard run from Joseph Randle and then switched it up after a stop to drive 80 yards behind the passing of Brandon Weeden and catching of Justin Blackmon. Another stop and another 70-yard drive left OSU up 21-0 just minutes into the second quarter. After that, the game was even but the hole was too deep for Arizona to climb out of. Weeden finished with 42 completions in 53 tries for 397 yards and two scores (both to Blackmon, who snared a dozen passes for 128 markers). Randle rushed 15 times for 121 yards and two scores. UA's Nick Foles matched Weeden, completing 37 of 51 tosses for 398 yards, but hit for only one touchdown, a fourth-quarter 54-yard bomb to Dan Buckner. Buckner filled in for missing Juron Criner (appendectomy earlier in the week) admirably, catching 10 passes for 142 yards, while teammate Austin Hill also eclipsed the century level with eight grabs for 128 yards. OSU took a dimension from the Wildcat attack, holding the Cats to 41 net rushing yards on 21 totes, while blasting through holes and around guys for 197 rushing yards of their own. Nineteen players caught at least one of the 104 passes in the game, which says something about the quality of the quarterbacks and their ability to move their teams. The turnover battle was even, with backup safety Mark Watley picking off a Weeden throw in the red zone, and Cowboy safety Daytawion Lowe knocking a ball loose from Hill to take the ball away from UA inside the OSU 40 yard-line. The game also featured 11 penalties by Arizona and 10 by OSU, but in a 1,000-yard offensive game the Cowboys' ability to run the ball (6.4 ypc) was a defining factor. The loss dropped UA to 1-1 and helped Oklahoma State grab a firmer hold on its Top 10 ranking at 2-0.

Mike Stoops vs. Ranked Teams
Stoops' Arizona clubs have beaten a ranked team each of his seven seasons in Tucson, with the highest ranked foe to go down the No. 2 Oregon Ducks, 34-24, in Tucson Nov. 15, 2007. Overall the Wildcats are 9-22 against ranked squads in his tenure, and 3-10 against teams in the Top 10. Historically, Arizona is 39-95-1 against teams ranked in the Associated Press poll.

Conference-Opening Openers
The Stanford-Arizona game is both institutions' first in Pac-12 Conference play. The league was expanded in June 2010 with the addition of Colorado and Utah, with play beginning this fall. Arizona has had three other new-league affiliation games in its history, with a 2-1 record. The Cats opened play in the newly established Border Conference in October 1931, losing to Arizona State, 19-6, in Tempe. Other charter members were Northern Arizona, New Mexico and New Mexico State. Arizona opened newly established Western Athletic Conference play in September 1962, beating Brigham Young, 27-21, in Tucson. Other charter members of the WAC were Arizona State, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming. The Cats opened play in their current league in September 1978 when the Pac-8 expanded to include Arizona and Arizona State. UA won its Pac-10 opener over Oregon State in Tucson, 21-7. Now, it's Pac-12 action.

Seeing Red
Keep an eye on Arizona's ability to put points on the board in the red zone. It was the Achilles' heel of the squad a season ago and the early returns this year show there is still work to be done. The Wildcats finished 113th and second-to-last in the Pac-10 with a .720 scoring percentage in the red zone last year. Coaches attributed several factors for the shortcomings, notably untimely penalties, an inconsistent rushing attack and turnovers. Through two games in 2011, UA has scored on five-of-seven (.710) red zone trips, which ranks tied for 97th nationally and 11th in the Pac-12. Meanwhile, Stanford has been conversely efficient in red zone scoring. The Cardinal finished 2010 tied for ninth nationally with a .899 scoring percentage inside the red zone. Two games in to the new season, they are eve more prolific, converting a perfect 12-for-12 red zone scores (only one team has more scores). The Nov. 6, 2010, matchup between the Cats and Cardinal punctuated the differing fates for the two ball clubs in the red zone: Arizona was 3-for-5 with just two touchdowns, while Stanford was a perfect 5-for-5 - all touchdowns.

From Start To Finish
Under Mike Stoops, Arizona has proved to be a pretty dominant team when it starts fast. Consider that the Wildcats are 27-6 (8.18) since the start of the 2004 season when holding a lead after the first quarter. That mark is even more impressive in recent seasons, as UA has won 18 of its last 19 contests since the start of 2008 when leading after the opening period (lone defeat came after a 14-7 lead at Oregon in 2010). At home, the Wildcats are 18-3 in such games, including a streak of 13 straight victories dating back to 2007. Away from home, the Cats hold a solid 9-3 (.750) mark with leads after the first quarter. However, trailing or being tied with an opponent is an ominous omen for Arizona as the club is just 14-40 (.259) when tied or trailing after the first quarter since the start of 2004. The Cats are 8-18 (.308) at home and 6-22 (.214) away from home in such games.

100-Yard Targets
If the Wildcats wanted to, they could spread out five receivers who have a 100-yard game on their résumé. Juron Criner is the headliner of the group and has seven 100-yard receiving games in his career. Last week at Oklahoma State, redshirt freshman and transfer Dan Buckner (who had to sit out the 2010 season) racked up 279 combined yards as each collected their first 100-yard receiving day for the Wildcats. They joined David Roberts (138 yards at Washington in 2009) and Terrence Miller (116 yards against USC in 2010) as targets that have 100-yard games in their careers. Interestingly, David Douglas, who has 92 catches and 16 starts in his career, has yet to rack up a triple digit output. His closest effort was 92 yards against Stanford in 2009.

Ground Game Grounded
So far Arizona has rushed for 116 yards on the season and its 58.0 yards per game average ranks No. 115 in the nation (out of 120 teams). It's clear the Wildcats are going to have to find a way to run the ball, even in the pass-happy offensive attack. When Arizona has been able to run the ball in recent seasons, it has been able to win quite a few ball games. The Cats are 19-8 since the start of 2008 when rushing for 100 or more yards in a game, while they struggle at a 5-9 mark in games when failing to reach the century mark.

The Young Protectors
Arizona attempted 51 passes against Oklahoma State and saw Nick Foles sacked once. He scrambled another time on a pass play and made positive yardage. For Arizona's first-time offensive line regulars it was some outstanding work against a rushing unit that had five sacks the previous week. Northern Arizona got to Foles just once, too, on 42 attempts. That's 98 percent protection, a great start for junior center Kyle Quinn, redshirt freshmen tackles Mickey Baucus and Fabbians Ebbele, sophomore guard Chris Putton and junior guard Shane Zink. UA could get projected starter Trace Biskin (ankle) back to push Zink for that spot, and sophomore Jack Baucus (Mick's brother), has seen some time at right tackle. None except Quinn previously started, and he had just one, in the Alamo Bowl. Now that the group has a combined 11 career starts it's starting to get into a nice little early-season pass-pro groove.

Watley, I Presume
Junior safety Mark Watley saw considerable action as the backup to both spots at Oklahoma State and turned in a credible performance with his first career interception and a career-high five tackles. Depth and flexibility back there have been an early issue with injuries to safety Adam Hall (knee, spring) and cornerback Jonathan McKnight (knee, fall camp), but Watley and others are stepping up. He redshirted as a freshman in 2008, played in one game in 2009 and lettered last year in 11 games on special teams. He entered the OK State game with one career tackle, against Toledo in the 2010 opener.

Dugandzic Details
Mid-year junior college punter Kyle Dugandzic takes a 49.0 punting average into the Stanford game, while Arizona maintains a solid net punting average of 43.9 yards. He has knocked three inside the 20 yard-line, has five 50+ boots, one touchback and four of eight punts have been returned for 21 yards. A year ago Arizona was 98th in the FBS with a net punting figure of 34.1 yards and it's a safe bet to say the extra eight yards per possession change can mean something. The Cats' coverage unit has turned in a good job so far and that will remain a key, notably against a clubs with breakaway threats like Stanford's Drew Terrell.

The Buck Doesn't Stop Here
Junior transfer Dan Buckner's break-out 10-catch, 142-yard game at Oklahoma State showed he's as advertised from his days as Texas Longhorn in 2008-09. He sat out the season last year as a four-year switcher, earning some scout team honors along the way, and has a skill set to match the 6-foot-4, 220-pound frame. He turned an out-and-up route into a 54-yard touchdown against the Cowboys, his first career Arizona score. He had 44 receptions for 445 yards as a sophomore at UT in 2009, and as the Arizona team leader with 14 receptions and 180 yards it's clear that kind of season was only scratching the surface.

Hill Climb
Redshirt freshman wide receiver Austin Hill snared eight receptions for 128 yards at Oklahoma State, both young career bests. The 6-foot-3, 205-pounder from Corona, Calif., had plenty of work with top units a year ago, made a move in spring ball and just kept going in fall camp. He's turning into a key option outside.

Bridging the Gap
Year-to-year statistics are kind of meaningless but they do provide a glimpse at what teams have been doing against other teams/programs. In Arizona's last seven games including its trip to Palo Alto last November, seven opponents have rushed for 1,282 yards against the Cats. Two sub-100 games were by Oklahoma State (72 yards in the Alamo Bowl) and Northern Arizona (80 in the 2011 opener). Oregon (389), Stanford (217), USC (205) and Oklahoma State (197) hit some stride. The Cats are 1-7 in the stretch, so stopping the run is a key this week against a team that likes to mix it up.

Defense On The Defensive
With three acknowledged offenses on the horizon -- Stanford, Oregon and USC -- it's going to be hard for Arizona to improve on its national rating of 97th in total defense in the next three weeks, and beyond. The Cats' outing at Oklahoma State (594 yards by the Cowboys) brought the season average allowed to 426 yards per game. A small handful of unbeaten teams have allowed more -- Michigan (513), Auburn (489), Washington (446) and Kansas (441) -- so it's not the most definitive of marks in today's game, but it can't help. A couple of other prominent names in the mix of moved-on clubs with more allowed than Arizona are Miami (499), TCU (490) and Baylor (466). Some two-victory teams at the other end of the spectrum are sub-200-allowed clubs Central Florida (130), Florida State (137), Michigan State (151), Alabama (170) and Florida (174). In Arizona's case, yardage gained or allowed aside, it's a probability that scoring more than 27 points per game (69th nationally) is going to be necessary from here on out.

Records Check
The Arizona-Oklahoma State game on Sept. 8 established some new UA single game records ... The 104 combined pass attempts between the two teams erased the 101 in a game with Utah State in 1984 ... The 79 combined pass competitions established a new mark as well, surpassing the 65 the two schools set in the Alamo Bowl last December ... A combined .760 pass completion percentage is also a new single game high ... The teams tallied a staggering 36 first downs by passing, which equaled the all-time high set against Colorado State in 1983 ... Nick Foles matched his own school record (2009 vs. Stanford) by throwing 51 pass attempts in a single game without an interception.

Tracking Some Cats
Nick Foles' and Juron Criner's career numbers are well-documented, but here are some notable Cats closing in on other top career marks ... Keola Antolin has 22 rushing touchdowns and three receiving scores in his career for a career tally of 150 points scored. That is nearing a spot in the UA career charts. He is two touchdowns shy of matching Dennis Northcutt's (1996-99) 162 points for No. 13 all-time ... Senior place kicker Alex Zendejas, who has just one extra point conversion to his credit this year, has collected 173 points in his career, which stands as 11th-most in program history. Nine more points will match Zendejas with another UA kicker, Sean Keel (1999-2002) ... Senior wide receiver David Roberts' steady career has put him within reach of becoming one of the school's all-time leaders for pass receptions. His 101 grabs are three shy of Vance Johnson (1981-84), who is No. 13 on the UA list. If Roberts picks up 11 more catches, he'll match Derek Hill (1985-88) and Rodney Williams (1995-97) for No. 10 on the chart ... Antolin is closing in on 2,000 rushing yards in his career. Just 107 yards shy of the career benchmark, Antolin's 1,893 yards currently rank No. 13 in school history. Each of the 12 players ahead of him has over 2,000 yards.

3 X 300?
If Nick Foles would get anywhere near his early-season average of 405 passing yards per game, he'll do something he hasn't done in his career: throw three-consecutive 300-yard games. He's had two-consecutive such games a handful of times, but the third time has yet to be a charm. The last time a UA quarterback threw for 300 or more yards in three straight games was Willie Tuitama in 2007. Tuitama, the school's all-time passing leader, threw for 446 yards against New Mexico, 309 against California and 346 against Washington State.

Keola A Key
Senior running back Keola Antolin is sometimes a forgotten weapon in the Wildcats' offensive arsenal. Understandably so as QB Nick Foles and WR Juron Criner receive much of the acclaim. But the workmanlike Antolin has some play-making ability of his own, evidenced by a nifty 18-yard scoring reception capped by a dive for the pylon in the opener against Northern Arizona. It was Antolin's third career touchdown reception to go with 22 scores on the ground (had one at Oklahoma State. Indeed, Antolin has proved to be a versatile option, collecting 1,893 career rushing yards (13th-most in school history) and 372 yards on 59 receptions. He is a preseason candidate for the Doak Walker Award, presented annually to the nation's top running back.

Cats on ESPN
Saturday's national telecast on ESPN will be the second of three straight such games for the Wildcats. It's a familiar station to find the Wildcats on in recent years. In 2010, UA played eight of its 13 games on one of the ESPN college football outlets (ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC). The Wildcats closed the 2009 season with four straight contests shown on the "Family of Networks". With three of the first four games in 2011 slated for ESPN, 15 of the last 21 Arizona football games will have been televised by ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC since November of 2009. Later this year, the Wildcats host UCLA (Oct.20) in a Thursday night showdown which will also be televised by ESPN.

Eleven For Trevin
Trevin Wade's third quarter interception against Northern Arizona on Sept. 3 was the 11th of his career, which is tied with Air Force's Anthony Wright and Alabama's Mark Barron for most nationally among active players. It puts him just one pick away from tying six former Wildcats for the No. 10 spot in school history. Wade's 10th interception against the Lumberjacks was his first since Sept. 18, 2010, when he had an 85-yard return for a touchdown against Iowa. The 10-game drought without a pick was the longest in Wade's career. He opened his Wildcat career with two interceptions against Idaho on Aug. 30, 2008. He went on to snare two more interceptions his redshirt freshman season, before collecting five in 2009.

A High-Five For Foles
Senior QB Nick Foles established a new career high with five touchdown passes against Northern Arizona on Sept. 3. He finished one shy of the school record held by Tom Tunnicliffe, who had six touchdowns against Pacific on Oct. 23, 1982. Two other QBs reached the high-five mark, including Keith Smith against California in 1996. In 2007, Willie Tuitama had five touchdowns in a game on three occasions, including against Northern Arizona (Sept. 8), Washington State (Sept.29) and at Washington (Oct. 27).

Rookie RB
True freshman running back Ka'Deem Carey made the most of his limited opportunities in his first collegiate game. Carey, a local product from Canyon del Oro High School, rushed for a team-high 59 yards on nine carries - all in the fourth quarter. The performance, however, was not the most notable debut for a local running back in school history. In 1994, Arizona opened the season at Georgia Tech when Mountain View High School graduate Kevin Schmidtke gained 92 yards on 17 totes, including the game-winning touchdown with 29 seconds remaining in a 19-14 victory in Atlanta, Ga. Schmidtke, who was a true freshman, did not lead the club in rushing, however. That mark was held by senior Ontiwaun Carter, who collected 151 yards in the game against the Yellow Jackets. Through two games, Carey's modest 78 rushing yards are a team-high. But perhaps his 5.2 yards per carry clip will earn him a few more meaningful carries since each of his 15 rush attempts in two games have come in the fourth quarter.

Career Tracker
- Keola Antolin's 393 career carries are 17th-most for active players
- Keola Antolin's 22 career rushing touchdowns are the 18th-most for active players
- Juron Criner's 140 career receptions are 20th-most for active players.
- Juron Criner's 2,054 career receiving yards are 16th-most for active players.
- Juron Criner's 22 career receiving touchdowns are tied for 6th-most for active players
- Nick Foles' 617 career pass completions are 5th-most for active players
- Nick Foles' 66.5% career completion percentage is 4th-best for active players
- Nick Foles' 259.5 career passing yards per game is 7th-best for active players
- Nick Foles' 24.7 career completions per game is 3rd-best for active players
- Trevin Wade's 11 career interceptions are tied for most nationally for active players.

New Faces
--And then some. Arizona put 30 guys on the field against NAU for the first action of their careers last week. Among them were true freshman running back Ka'Deem Carey, true freshman corner Cortez Johnson, true freshman defensive end Reggie Gilbert, true freshman tight end Michael Cooper, true freshman special teams player Dame Ndiaye, true freshman nickel Tramayne Bondurant, true freshman snapper Josh Elias, true freshman special teamer Trevor Ermisch, and true freshman linebackers Rob Hankins and Hank Hobson. Hankins and Elias started. That's a total of 10 brand new guys. Redshirt freshmen included starting tackles Mickey Baucus and Fabbians Ebbele, starting kick returner Garic Wharton, defensive tackles Aiulua Fanene and Sani Fuimaono, nickel back Jourdon Grandon, special teamer Jared Tevis and receivers Austin Hill and Tyler Slavin. Transfers included starting kicker Jaime Salazar, starting punter Kyle Dugandzic, receiver Dan Buckner, linebacker David Lopez, tight end Drew Robinson, guard Addison Bachman. Junior Shane Zink earned his first PT and the start at right guard after toiling as a reserve OT for two years. Former reserve guard Brian Chacon started as the short snapper.

Bring It On
Prognosticators have taken a glance at Arizona's 2011 schedule - particularly the first month - and most have given the Wildcats little chance of early season success. Sure, UA is set to face three straight preseason AP Top-10 teams. That's a daunting task for any squad. But playing ranked teams in succession is not totally unusual territory for Mike Stoops' squads. In Stoops' inaugural season as head coach, the Wildcats played No. 17 Utah and No. 20 Wisconsin in consecutive weeks, before later playing No. 1 USC and No. 18 Arizona State in order to end the 2004 season. In 2005, Stoops' second UA team faced No. 12 Purdue, No. 12 California and No. 1 USC in three straight games. In 2006, the Cats wrestled away victories from No. 25 Washington State and No. 8 California in consecutive November games. In the 2007, UA closed the season with No. 2 Oregon and No. 13 Arizona State. In 2009, UA closed the regular season with a win over No. 20 USC, before facing then-No. 20 Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl three weeks later. So yes, should Oklahoma State, Stanford and Oregon remain ranked in the Top 10 this year at the time of the games, it will be the first time the Cats have played a trio of Top 10 teams consecutively under Coach Stoops. But the Cats are used to playing tough competition by now.

It Won't Be The First Time
Arizona certainly has a tough slate of games lined up on its 2011 schedule. Most will point out preseason Top 10 clubs Oklahoma State, Stanford and Oregon as the primary reason the schedule is so tough. But ask any football coach, and they will tell you every game is tough. Certainly that's true this year for the Wildcats, whose opponents had a cumulative 89-60 (.597) record in 2010. That includes five teams that played in bowls - two in BCS bowls. Only four squads this year had a losing record a season ago, while four won at least 10 games. But the Wildcats are used to playing a tough schedule. In fact, three times in Mike Stoops' seven seasons at Arizona, the Wildcats have played one of the nation's top 10 toughest schedules. In 2004, UA played the third-toughest schedule in the country with opponents owning a 69-39 (.639) overall record. Two years later, the 2006 schedule checked in as the eighth-toughest in the nation with opponents holding an overall record of 76-50 (.603). And two years in 2009, The Cats played the seventh-toughest schedule in the nation as their opponents combined for an 83-55 (.601) overall record. Check back after the bowl season to see where the 2011 schedule stacks up nationally.

One More For Four
The 2011 Wildcats are seeking to do something that has never been done before in program history: earn a fourth straight bowl bid. Arizona has played in the Las Vegas (2008), Holiday (2009) and Alamo (2010) bowls the last three seasons, which has tied the 1992-94 teams for the best three-season stretch in school history. Interestingly, Arizona and Oregon are the only two Pac-10 teams that enter the Pac-12 era with three consecutive bowl appearances. Utah from the Mountain West adds a third such team with the new configuration of the conference. The Cats and Utes will battle four other schools for the Pac-12 South Division title and a berth in the inaugural Pac-12 Championship Game against the North Division winner on Dec. 2.

They're Back
Arizona returned one of the deepest and most experienced receiving corps in the nation. Headlined by All-American candidate Juron Criner, the Cats returned 485 career receptions for 4,889 yards to the 2011 roster. After a 71 catches for 810 yards in the first two games, those totals have increased to 554 receptions for 5,699 yards on UA's active roster. Criner accounts for 2,054 yards and 22 touchdowns, but seniors David Douglas (92-924) and Dave Roberts (101-999) are closing in on 1,000-yard careers, too. Add in sophomores Richard Morrison and Terrence Miller, along with Texas transfer Dan Buckner, senior Gino Crump and redshirt freshman Austin Hill, and you have eight reliable targets. Buckner (151 yards) and Hill (128 yards) each earned their first 100-yard games against Oklahoma State. That list does not include redshirt freshmen Garic Wharton and Tyler Slavin, who played against NAU but did not register a reception. Plus, UA's running backs have always factored into the offense, evidenced by Keola Antolin's 59 receptions for 372 yards in his three-plus seasons. Suffice it to say, Nick Foles or whoever else is under center will have plenty of options to throw to this season.

True Freshman Linebacking
Arizona's base defense is a 4-3, but with the proliferation of spread offenses, the Wildcats will often use a nickel package where a linebacker is removed and a fifth defensive back is inserted. Against Northern Arizona and Oklahoma State, the Wildcats started in the traditional 4-3, with true freshman Rob Hankins earning a start at the Mike position. Arizona's last true freshman starting linebacker was Spencer Larsen, in the fifth game of his first year at UA in 2002. He started the final six games and seven of the last eight alongside eventual Pro-Bowl stalwart Lance Briggs (Chicago Bears). Larsen, who took the next two years off on a Mormon mission before returning for three years in 2005-07, now toils as a combo back for the Denver Broncos. Hankins is among three newcomers vying for roles this year, joining fellow rookies Hank Hobson (freshman) and juco transfer David Lopez in helping build some depth on the middle level. Walk-on senior Bilal Muhammad returns after some play a year ago and also is competing for time. Seniors Paul Vassallo and Derek Earls clearly are the vets in the corps and will be counted on heavily.

Turnover Fortunes
An area that Mike Stoops and Co. would like to see improvement for the Arizona Wildcats in 2011 is in the turnover department. The Cats have failed to post a positive turnover margin the last two seasons, after netting a plus-six margin in 2008. It works two-fold. First, ball security will be a priority on offense, and in a pass-happy offense led by a senior QB, the Cats could/should be in good shape there. Secondly, the UA defense needs to force more turnovers. Last season the defense turned opposing teams over just 18 times. Opportunities for more turnovers were there, perhaps best evidenced by five or six dropped interceptions against Arizona State in the regular season finale. When the Wildcats win the turnover battle, they are pretty good. Consider that Arizona is 20-8 since 2008 when it wins or ties in the turnover column. Conversely, the Cats struggle at a 4-9 clip in games they lose the turnover battle. Keep an eye on turnovers this season.

Cats Report To Duty
For the fourth straight year, Arizona head coach Mike Stoops took his team to Fort Huachuca, a U.S. Army post 75 miles southeast of Tucson, for four days of preseason training camp in August. Fort Huachuca was founded in 1977 and is now home to units such as the Army Intelligence Center, Army Signal Command, Information Systems Command and other test facilities associated with communications and electronic proving systems. For Arizona football, the mission is threefold, but simple: learn from the best team (U.S. Army) in the world, enjoy a cooler climate for football training, and bond as a team in preparation for the long grind of a college football season. It affords quality football practice fields for the team's physical work and barracks for housing, but moreover offers exceptional leadership-skills training opportunities and daily interaction with U.S. Army soldiers on post. The formula has worked the last three years, each of which has ended with a bowl appearance. The Wildcats are seeking for a school-record fourth bowl trip this year.

Building For The Future
In the summer of 2011, Arizona Athletics completed work on a new video board for the south end zone at Arizona Stadium and has begun plans for the North End Zone Complex. The new video board measures 113' wide by 47' high -- 6.5 times larger than the existing board and will be one of the largest in all of college sports. The North End Zone Complex will include 5,000 upgraded end-zone seats, and among them 420 premium loge-level seats. Arizona football staff offices will move from McKale Center to a four-level, 185,000-square-foot operations center that includes football-specific strength and conditioning facilities, a sports-medicine suite for student-athlete care and treatment, a team dining hall, coaches' offices, team locker rooms, small group and auditorium meeting spaces, and equipment and laundry rooms.

Up Next
Arizona remains at home to face a third consecutive nationally ranked team when No. 12 Oregon comes to town on Saturday, Sept. 24. The game is set to kick off at 7:15 p.m. (MST) and will be televised by ESPN. Thereafter, the Wildcats hit the road for two straight games, first at USC (Oct. 1) and then at Oregon State (Oct. 8).

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