Sept. 13, 2010
Complete Game Notes (PDF)
No. 9 Iowa (2-0, 0-0 Big 10) at No. 24 Arizona (2-0, 0-0 Pac-10)
7:30 p.m. (MST) | Arizona Stadium | Tucson, Ariz.
Live TV Broadcast: ESPN
Television Talent: Mark Jones (play-by-play), Bob Davie (analyst)
UA English Radio: Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries, play-by-play; Lamont Lovette, analtst; Dana Cooper, sideline)
UA Spanish Radio: Wildcat Radio Network (Francsico Romero, play-by-play; Marco Rincon, analyst)
All-Time Series: Tied, 6-6
First Meeting: Sept. 17, 1966 (Iowa 31, UA 20 at Iowa City)
Last Meeting: Sept. 19, 2009 (Iowa 27, UA 14 at Iowa City)
Some Game Themes
A battle of unbeatens for the second consecutive year, with Iowa sporting its No. 9 AP ranking and UA checking in for the first time this season at No. 24... A national stage (ESPN) for the battle... A game involving a boatload of outstanding individual performers on both sides of the field... A match of two squads with dominating scoring splurges in their first two games (UA 93-8 and Iowa 72-14). Arizona thereby wouldn't be pessimistic in expecting Iowa to score a touchdown, but it would be the first one of the year notched against the Cats... The Hawkeyes hit the road for the first time (and their only non-conference road game) in 2010 while Arizona plays host in game two of a four-game homestand... UA wraps up its non-conference slate, while eight-games-only Big Ten squad Iowa still has a tilt with Ball State following... The Cats try to solve Iowa's 227-yard rushing attack and complementary vertical passing game, while the Hawks will have to figure out Arizona's 344-yard throwing package and complementary running game. Both seem capable: UA carries the No. 3 total defense among FBS schools, while Iowa's is No. 9... Iowa brings a poise factor underscored by a mere five penalties in two contests. The Cats have been poised in another area, turnovers (+1.5, No. 15)... Two squads that have been good to date in the red zone (UA 83% and Iowa 80%) on offense and been stingy in even permitting such forays by opponents (UA's allowed two, Iowa just four)... A pair of teams from two conferences to change a year hence...
Arizona eschewed some of its aerial goods and used quickness in the backfield to run past The Citadel Bulldogs, 52-6, in front of 54,814 happy fans in Arizona Stadium. Nic Grigsby scored three times on 11 carries, earning his 11th career 100-yard rushing game with 107 markers, averaging 9.7 yards per tote, while No. 3 running back Greg Nwoko scored twice on seven carries including a downhill burst for 23 yards. Grigsby hit a 62-yard strider moments into the second half to give UA a 31-0 lead. The Wildcat defense made the option-attack Bulldogs one-dimensional, holding them to three yards per carry on 50 attempts and 171 total yards in offense. That effort helped hold The Citadel to two field goals. UA scored in all four periods for the second consecutive game and piled up 21 in the third quarter. Junior quarterback Nick Foles completed 17 of 22 throws for 214 yards and a score, while backup Matt Scott (3-for-6) and Bryson Beirne (5-for-5) also were consistent. The latter threw his first touchdown pass of his career, a 5-yarded to freshman tight end Jack Baucus to complete the night's scoring. The Cats took advantage of three fumble recoveries (in six total by the Bulldogs), twice scoring on short-field drives of two and one plays (and less than 30 seconds each) plus running out the final minutes after the third miscue. The Cats were solid with six scores in six trips in the red zone, five of them touchdowns. Alex Zendejas' 41-yard field goal was the third-longest of his career and moved him to 78% career effectiveness. Offensively Arizona had a 489-yard evening, with 7.1 yards per play, 8.3 yards per pass attempt, 5.9 yards per rush and team pass completion percentage of 75 percent. Redshirt freshman DT Justin Washington collected his second sack of the year and combined (6) with sidekick senior Lolomana Mikaele (5) for 11 tackles in the middle of things. Arizona used 67 players in the game, getting some valuable work for just about everyone.
Arizona - Mike Stoops (Iowa '86), seventh year (35-39) at UA and overall as a head coach. Stoops returned Arizona from a 2-10 program the year before his arrival to the national rankings in his tenure, and has taken the Wildcats to successive bowl games to close the decade. His recruiting and player development programs have put talent back on the field and sent more than a dozen players to the professional ranks via the draft or free agency in the past four years. He has coached national award winners and a combined 28 All-Pacific-10 players. His Arizona clubs have beaten a ranked team each of his years in the red and blue, Arizona football attendance has been a positive feature of a home-field advantage under Coach Stoops, with crowds averaging 93 percent of capacity each of his six seasons at Arizona Stadium. Arizona's football team APR checked in with an improved mark each of the five seasons since his inaugural year. Iowa - Kirk Ferentz (Connecticut '78), 12th year with the Hawkeyes (83-55) and 15th year overall (95-76). He was Big Ten Coach of the Year in 2009. He was an offensive assistant at Iowa under Hayden Friy for nine years and an offensive coach in the NFL for six year. His assistantship in Iowa City coincided with Mike Stoops' playing tenure as a Hawkeye safety and Stoops' early years as a G.A. and volunteer coach for Fry.
The Last Meeting
Arizona had what Coach Mike Stoops called a total team effort at Iowa, and stunk across the board in dropping one to the Hawkeyes, 27-17, in Iowa City last September. That was not to discredit Iowa, which hung on to the ball for 38 minutes and took advantage of Arizona's uncertainty from the onset, marching 10 plays and 75 yards off the opening kickoff. The Cats had more than their share of chances, held a second-quarter lead and were within a touchdown late in the third quarter. But the fourth stanza (10:5), like the first (13:2), showed UI with a sizeable margin in time of possession -- quite indicative of in-the-trenches dominance and the game wasn't truly in question. UA had a total of eight first downs, its lowest output in 36 games since that same number against USC in 2006. Inability to move the chains kept any semblance of continuity out of Arizona's attack, which otherwise checked in with an advantage (5.0 to 4.1) in average yards per play. The UA defense held Iowa to 338 total yards, but failed on its end of the chain-gang aspect, giving up 10 of 19 third-down conversions. Notable there was failing to hold on a Stoops-cited 3rd-and-23 play in the second quarter, when Hawkeye Adam Robinson rumbled for 43 yards to set up the go-ahead touchdown. In the had-its-chances department, Arizona squandered a potential momentum builder shortly before that in wasting a 1st-and-goal at the Iowa 1 yard-line with a rush for a loss and two incomplete passes to settle for an Alex Zendejas 20-yard field goal. That one five-minute stretch signified the kind of day it was for the Cats in front of the 70,585 Hawkeyes faithful. Sophomore Nick Foles came off the bench in the fourth period to lead Arizona on a nine-play, 63-yard scoring drive capped by his TD pass to Juron Criner. While too late and a slightly no-matter score, it was important for its stewardship by Foles in place of starter Matt Scott. Arizona had some standout defensive performances led by sophomore cornerback Trevin Wade, whose 38-yard interception return had tied the score at 7-7 early on. He had a career-best seven tackles and broke up three other passes. Defensive end Ricky Elmore had a career-high eight hits and 1.5 sacks.
Against Ranked Teams
Arizona head coach Mike Stoops' squads have beaten a ranked team in each of his six previous seasons, most recently No. 20 USC at the Coliseum last season. Stoops teams have a respectable 3-3 mark against AP top-10 schools at Arizona Stadium, including victories over No. 7 UCLA in 2005(52-14), No. 8 California in 2006 (24-20) and No. 2 Oregon in 2007 (34-24). The victory over the Bruins in 2005 snapped an 0-for-10 run of games against top-10 teams in Arizona Stadium that dated back to the Cats' memorable upset of No. 1 Washington (16-3) in 1992. Overall, Stoops is 8-17 vs. ranked clubs. Historically Arizona is 38-91-1 against teams ranked by the AP. Over the years Arizona is 15-46 against teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 10.
Tale of Third Downs
Saturday's game could very well be decided by which team wins the battle of third down conversions. Both schools have been strong in the category in the early part of 2010, with the Wildcats converting 61 percent (36 percent for opponents) and the Hawkeyes converting 56 percent (30 percent for opponents) on third downs this season. Last year's matchup was indicative of the importance of keeping drives alive. Iowa converted 10 of 19 third downs in Iowa City a season ago, maintaining a 37:56-22:04 advantage in time of possession. Undoubtedly, it wore down the Arizona defense, which surrendered 13 second half points, including 10 in the fourth quarter. Arizona struggled to convert third downs, gaining just two conversions in 12 situations. The result was getting in only 51 offensive plays (compared to 74 for Iowa) and a lack of scoring opportunities.
Visiting the ZonaZoo?
The Wildcats have developed quite a home field advantage playing in Arizona Stadium in front of one of the largest and most spirited student sections in the country - the ZonaZoo - and a loyal fan base that has turned out in record numbers during the Mike Stoops era.
UA has won 13 of its last 16 home games
Only losses to No. 6 USC and No. 22 Oregon State in 2008, and No. 11 Oregon in 2OT in 2009
The three losses have come by a total of 12 points (4 ppg average)
UA has won its 13 games by an average of 24.5 ppg
UA has just one single-digit victory in the span (2009 vs. Stanford)
UA's 5-1 record in 2009 was its best home record since it went 5-1 three straight years from `96-98
UA has averaged 50,000+ fans per game for six straight seasons, the best stretch in school history
UA has averaged 52,830 fans per game in Mike Stoops' six seasons, with a 22-18 record
A total of 2,113,226 fans have watched Stoops' teams at Arizona Stadium
The ZonaZoo seats over 10,000 first-come, first-served patrons from endzone-to-endzone and has a membership well over 12,000 and growing, which accounts for one-third of UA's enrollment.
Sept. 16, 1989
The date has no direct common link to a UA opponent on the 2010 schedule and it does not match up with a scheduled game for the Cats. So what is the significance? There are two unrelated links to the date. First, when UA limited The Citadel to 21 total net passing yards last Saturday, it was the fewest passing yards allowed by a UA team in a single game since the Wildcats defeated No. 6 Oklahoma, 6-3, in Tucson on that September day back in 1989. On that day, UA tied a school record set seven other times with 0 - yes, zero - passing yards allowed. The second tie to the game relates to this Saturday's showdown with No. 9 Iowa. It marks the most recent occasion that Arizona defeated a top-10 non-conference opponent inside Arizona Stadium. UA defeated the Sooners that day on a late field goal by Doug Pfaff. Other meetings with top-10 non-league opponents have been rare. In fact, the last time it happened was in 1991, when the Wildcats lost to No. 2 Miami. All time, the Cats are 2-4 against non-conference foes ranked in the top-10 in Tucson.
Miscellaneous Football Factoids
Bug Wright had initial punt returns of 15 and six yards against The Citadel, then fumbled his last try for a -13 net to drop him from 10th nationally to 39th at 9.7 yards per return... In a little show of balance, Arizona had 10 players run the ball and 11 players catch the ball last week. The variety in the passing game is especiallly positive what with the Cats' designed approach therein. Redshirt freshman tight end Jack Baucus had the first touchdown catch (from Bryson Beirne) of his career against The Citadel, while backs caught six throws, inside receivers snared nine and the outside guys grabbed nine... Senior DE Brooks Reed returned to the sacks column against The Citadel while juco transfer linebacker Derek Earls notched his first career sack. Along with Justin Washington's sack that gave UA three in 14 Bulldog designed passing plays, a nice piece of pass-rush work against a team requiring stay-home discipline because of its option play... Junior letterman John Bonano, who wrested the kickoff duties from Alex Zendejas at mid-year in 2009, has seen some serious action with 17 kicks in the first two games. He gets it to the goal line or beyond with regularity... Arizona is fifth nationally with a third-down conversion rate of 61 percent. The Hawkeyes are 10th at 56 percent... The Cats are fourth nationally (tied) with four fumble recoveries... Arizona is third in the FBS in allowing only 10 opponent first downs per game (with Iowa right behind at 10.5)... Arizona is fourth nationally in allowing -3.3 yards per punt return. Keenyn Crier has had enough hang time on each of his six punts to prohibit open-field space for the return man.
Where Grigsby Stacks Up
Senior tailback Nic Grigsby has moved up to No. 3 on the UA career rushing touchdown chart (25) and No. 6 in school history with 2,584 career rushing yards . That total puts him No. 10 on the list of active players in the NCAA for career rushing yards. Grigsby needs 416 yards to become the school's sixth player to reach 3,000 career rushing yards. Here are some more quick hits on Nic Grigsby:
Currently stands as UA No. 6 rusher in school history with 2,584 yards (10th-most for active FBS players)
His 25 career rushing TDs tie Trung Canidate for No. 3 all-time at UA.
Two rushing scores from tying Ronald Veal's 27 for No. 2 at UA
His 107 rushing yards against The Citadel marked his 11th career 100-yard game
Arizona is 10-1 in games he rushes for 100 yards or more.
Tied career high with three rushing touchdowns against The Citadel
Average of 5.46 yards per carry in career, including 6.02 ypc since start of 2008.
Had 1,153 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2008
Big Play Juron
Wide receiver Juron Criner turned in a breakout season as a sophomore a year ago when he emerged as UA's big-play threat on the outside. His 2010 debut, which included a 10-catch, 176-yard performance, showed he has taken further steps to becoming on of the nation's most outstanding receivers. The 6-foot-4, 210-pounder is on the Biletnikoff preseason watch list and should be on that list as it narrows down throughout the season. Here are some quick hits on Juron Criner:
Just one TD (11 currently) shy of breaking into UA's career top-10 for receiving TD's
Led Pac-10 receivers with nine (9) receiving touchdowns in 2009
Six of 11 (55 percent) career TD grabs have been 20+ yard plays
43 of 65 (66 percent) of career catches result in first down or TD
19.7 yards per catch on 12 receptions in 2010
10-catch, 176-yard performance at Toledo 2010
12-catch, 152-yard effort against Stanford in 2009
Career-high three (3) touchdowns vs. Oregon in 2009
Led all UA receivers with a 12.9 yards per catch average in 2009
As a sophomore, hauled in TD catches at Iowa, at Oregon State and at USC
Foles Making a Name for Himself
Arizona junior quarterback Nick Foles continues to show why he is one of the top quarterbacks in the nation. An honorable mention all-league pick as a first-year starter in 2009. This summer, he was one of four QBs (Jake Locker, Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley) selected by the Pac-10 office to represent the league in East Coast media days in New York and at ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn. Voted by teammates as a team captain, Foles kicked off his junior campaign in style with a record setting performance at Toledo and set what could set up to be a special junior campaign. Here are some quick hits on Nick Foles:
Preseason watch list for Davey O'Brien and Manning awards
Surpassed the 3,000 yard mark for career passing yards vs. The Citadel
Has thrown for 3,060 yards in 13 career games (12 starts)
Just 208 yards shy of moving into UA's career top-10 passing yards
No. 10 in UA history with 21 career passing TDs
His 19 passing TDs in 2009 tied for fourth-most in a season at UA
63.41% completion percentage in 2009 No. 3 in UA history
Career-high 416 yards passing vs. Stanford in 2009
Holds UA record for single game pass completion % for 30+ attempts (86.49% at Toledo, 2010)
Double Dip for Balance
Arizona checks in No. 3 nationally in the FBS for total defense (177.0) and No. 12 for total offense (503.5), not bad for an early-year hint of balance... The defense will be challenged this week by a significant jump in competition, facing an Iowa squad that has shown equal balance... UA's predominant use of the Coin-Operated Defense in the opener at Toledo (nickel and dime formations) was abandoned to handle The Citadel's triple-option attack... UA will likely face a more traditional look from the Hawkeyes, which should result in UA keeping three linebackers on the field much of the time, although the Hawkeyes can spread things out a bit in passing situations, when the UA will counter with its aforementioned coin-operated looks in the secondary.
Arizona held Toledo to just two points (offensive holding penalty in endzone) in the 2010 season opener and limited The Citadel to a pair of field goals. It marked the second and third times time in the Stoops era that the Wildcats held the opposition without a touchdown. Interestingly, the first time was also in a season opener when UA shut out Idaho 70-0 in 2008. The two points surrendered to the Rockets were the fewest allowed by the Cats in a road game since 1993, when UA shut out Oregon State, 33-0, in Corvallis, Ore.. A shutout in a non-home game of note was certainly that same season, when the Cats boatraced Miami 29-0 at the neutral site Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Ariz. Since, the only other occasions when an opponent did not score a touchdown on its home field were in 2000. That season, UA defeated Stanford, 27-3, in Palo Alto, Calif., and Utah, 17-3, in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The Arizona defense limited Toledo to 183 total offense yards in the season opener and followed that up by shutting down the triple-option attack of The Citadel (171 total yards), marking the sixth and seventh times in the last 28 games the Wildcats have kept an opponent below 200 yards of offense. Under Mike Stoops, The Cats have turned in a sub-200 yard defensive effort on 10 occasions, including in each of the last three season openers. Here's a look at the nine efforts under the Stoops-led defenses:
The Citadel (2010) - 171 yards on 64 total plays.
Toledo (2010) - 183 yards on 51 total plays.
Central Michigan (2009) - 182 yards on 51 total plays.
Washington St. (2009) - 185 yards on 42 total plays.
Idaho (2008) - 112 yards on 52 total plays.
UCLA (2008) - 196 yards on 59 total plays.
Arizona St. (2008) - 162 yards on 54 total plays.
Stanford (2006) - 52 yards on 32 total plays, the Cats' Pac-10 -game record.
Stephen F. Austin (2006) - 196 yards on 50 total plays.
Stanford (2005) - 195 yards on 58 plays.
Best to Not See Red
Arizona and Iowa are both tied for No. 7 nationally in red zone defense. The Wildcats have only allowed two opponent drives into the red zone, resulting in one score (0.50, field goal). The Hawkeyes have allowed four drives, which have resulted in two scores (0.50, two TDs). Arizona is one of three teams nationally (Florida International and Arkansas) that have allowed only three Red Zone points so far in 2010.
Flaring, Dumping and Swinging Away
Arizona's Keola Antolin (9-76) and Nic Grigsby (5-33) showed in the first two games that UA will be interested in throwing the ball to its running backs this year. Those two and Greg Nwoko combined for 48 catches a year ago, with the latter the RB leader at 18 grabs for 186 yards. Whether it's an increased emphasis this year or just quarterbacks finding the open man is a matter for the offensive coaching staff.
Cobb a Threat to Break One
Senior receiver Travis Cobb is the Pac-10 leader at 26.33 yards per kickoff return, without breaking one for the house. He and Iowa's Derrell Johnson-Koulianos (26.75) could spark this week's game some. Neither guy is getting much work with three for Cobb and four for DJK. Cobb's longest was 39 yards against The Citadel while Johnson-Koulianos' longest is 35 yards. Cobb rated 36th nationally a year ago at 25.4 yards per attempt and hit a 95-yarder against WSU to tie for the sixth longest in Arizona history, plus set school records with 30 returns and 762 KOR yards.
True soph running back Greg Nwoko (nuh-WOE-coe) has averaged 8.3 yards on 12 rushes, for 99 yards in two games, more of a glimpse at his breakaway potential than his 3.6 mark on 76 totes as a true freshman. He has more balance and better footwork this year and it's been evident. The efficiency has pushed his career average to 4.2 yards per tote. He's scored five career TDs after two last week. As a third option in the running game, he's as good as it gets.
PER and Such Things
Reserve quarterback Bryson Beirne hit all five of his passes for only 33 yards but including a score against Toledo, posting a 221.44 pass efficiency rating... Starter Nick Foles dropped five points to 174.77 after forcing a ball into coverage for a tipped pick... No. 2 Matt Scott hit three of six throws for 28 yards and saw his PER drop about 40 points to 139.26... The team pass efficiency rating of 171.79 is glossy enough to represent a school high by a wide margin if it were hold up. The top five team PERs in UA history (and leading QB) are 147.49 in 1998 (Keith Smith and Ortege Jenkins), 144.57 in 2008 (Willie Tuitama), 140.57 in 2009 (Foles), 137.65 in 1999 (Smith/Jenkins) and 134.28 in 1996 (Keith Smith).
Arizona played a lot of Cats in its first two games, employing 60 players on the road at Toledo and putting 67 in action against Citadel, In the opener those included true freshman defensive backs Marquis Flowers, Johnathan McKnight and Shaquille Richardson, and snapper Chase Gorham. Other first timers were redshirt freshman DT Sione Tuihalamaka, redshirt freshman LB Trevor Erno, redshirt freshman DT Justin Washington, redshirt freshman TE Jack Baucus, transfer junior WR Gino Crump, juco transfer LBs Paul Vassallo and Derek Earls, juco transfer LB Bilal Muhammed and sophomore DE Brett Thompson. Tuihalamaka, Vassallo, Earls and Baucus earned their first starts in the opener, while Washington had a sack on his first career scrimmage play to earn a start against The Citadel. The three true freshmen DBs (Flowers, McKnight, Richardson), Thompson and Gorham start on special teams. Against the 'Dogs, redshirt freshman RB Kylan Butler got his debuit, rushing three times for 15 yards... First-time players in the second game included redshirt freshman safety Derrick Rainey, walk-on DB Khyri Knowles, walk-on receiver Sean Lieb and walk-on RB Oliver Padre. Stoops' staff has recruited well and developed talent quickly based on these appearances. From here on out, there won't be as much experimentation, starting this week against a loaded Hawkeye team.
Special Special Teams
Arizona is averaging 25.25 yards per kickoff return, a figure that ranks No. 25 in the NCAA ... Bug Wright's 9.17 yards per punt return average would be loftier if not for a second half muff that resulted in lost yardage and knocked down his 15.0 yards per return tally... Kicker John Bonano has placed four kickoffs in the endzone for touchbacks, while UA has surrendered just 17.7 yards per kickoff return... UA has a 37.0 net punting average and has allowed minus 10 yards on punt returns this season ... Place kicker Alex Zendejas is 1-for-1 on field goal tries this season and has booted at a 12-for-12 clip on extra point tries for a total of 15 points.
Knocking It Down
The Wildcat defense has 10 passes messed up -- one interception and nine PBUs - through two games. Pretty nice total against 37 passes attempted, and just 17 complete passes allowed. Mid-year juco transfer linebacker Derek Earls had the interception and three passes defensed in the opener. The three PBUs were the most for a Wildcat since cornerback Trevin Wade had three (plus an interception) at Iowa last year. UA ranks No. 4 in the nation in pass efficiency defense, limiting opposing QBs to a cumulative 68.65 rating.
Four Squared Arizona scored in all four quarters at Toledo for the first time in its last six games. UA followed that up by repeating the feat against The Citadel. Previously, the last time was against WSU in Tucson last Nov. 7, one of six times UA scored in each stanza last season. Needless to say, the Cats were pretty successful at 5-1 in the contests, averaging around 43 points per game.
Colin the Shots
UA center Colin Baxter returns for his final season in a Wildcat uniform and will undoubtedly be calling the shots on the offensive line. He has started 39-consecutive games along UA's line, providing stability at a position of need. In 2008, he was slid from guard to center mid-year after center Blake Kerley went down with a season-ending injury. Since, Baxter hasn't look back. He's a featured spokesman for the team, offering unique perspective acquired from his time in the trenches and his tireless work with the program on and off the field. He was named a team captain prior to the season for the second straight year and will make a final push for national honors at his position. An All-Pac-10 selection a year ago, Baxter is on the Outland Trophy and Rimington Award watch lists entering the season.
Old Man on the Block
Arizona graduate offensive tackle Adam Grant, who moves to the left side this year after a couple of years on the right, is an NCAA-approved sixth-year player thanks to some earlier medical problems that caused him to miss nine games as a sophomore (knee) and his redshirt freshman year in 2006 (knee). He also missed six games with a hand injury in 2008. Grant's tenacity and physical situation are at all-time highs. The 24-year-old religious studies student earned his degree two Mays ago. He's a 19-game starter in 21 overall appearances and one of the team's spokesmen on a variety of topics, notably perseverance. He initially was recruited as a tight end (redshirted 2005 in that role) but his big frame (now 6-foot-8, 325) was evident, and his future was a few feet closer to the ball from the onset of his career.
Cats in the Pac
Arizona's 6-3 mark in the Pac-10 in 2010 was its best since 1998 and is the third six-win Pac-10 season in program history. The record gave the Wildcats 14 victories in their last 22 conference games, dating to the last four games of the 2007 season. That 14-8 record (0.636 winning percentage) is impressive by itself, but even in the Wildcats' eight losses, they have been just a few plays away from winning each game. UA has lost five of the eight games by three points or less and by a total of 37 points (average of 4.6 per game).
Late Season Success
Mike Stoops' Wildcats have enjoyed a nice run of success in the months of November and December since his arrival in 2004 despite back-to-back losses at Cal and against Oregon. A career record of 33-39 includes a 14-10 mark in the final two months of the season. Over the last three seasons, Arizona is 11-7 in such late-season games. But, perhaps most impressive, the Wildcats are 7-4 against ranked teams in November/December showdowns, , which includes last year's Las Vegas Bowl win over BYU last December. Last year, the Cats entered November with a national ranking of their own, but dropped from the polls after a loss at California. A victory at No. 20 USC vaulted the Cats back into the polls at the end of the regular season, but a bowl loss to No. 20 Nebraska again dropped the Cats from the polls.
Golden Worth His Weight in Gold
Junior defensive back Robert Golden will be one of the expected leaders of the Wildcat defense after starting 13 games a season ago at safety. The one difference this season is that the 5-11, 190-pounder will likely line up at cornerback most of the time this season. A natural corner, Golden shifted to safety last year as Devin Ross returned as a starter and the emergence of Trevin Wade brought some welcomed depth. The UA continues to show solid depth, but this time around it's the young and talented safeties in the program that will allow Golden to move back to the island. You will see him line up inside at nickel and safety spots in certain defensive packages, but the second-year starter is eager to show his skills at corner once again.
Cornerback Trevin Wade enters his junior season with nine career interceptions in just 13 career games started. He snared five interceptions and broke up 14 passes a year ago to lead the Wildcats and emerge as one of the Pac-10's premier corner backs. He enters his junior season with potential to move into some lofty career charts by season's end should he remain healthy and productive. An All-League pick a year by coaches, Wade enters 2010 on several preseason watch lists, including consideration for the Jim Thorpe Award and Bronko Nagurski Award. He is one of four returning starters and is expected to be a top playmaker for the Wildcats.
Elmore Looking for More Defensive end Ricky Elmore turned in a breakout junior season as he has emerged as the Pac-10's sack leader through 12 regular season games in 2009. Elmore tallied a career-high 10.5 sacks in much-needed fashion as classmate Brooks Reed struggled through the early-middle portion of the schedule with an ankle injury. Reed returned last year as one of the more heralded ends in the league, but Elmore more than filled in on the opposite side. Elmore's 10.5 sacks were the most for a Wildcat in a decade, surpassing Joe Tafoya's 10.0 set back in 1999. The next best total was 11.5 by Joe Salave'a in 1997. Then it's Tedy Bruschi's 14.5 and 19.0 totals in the 1995 and 1993 seasons, respectively.
Reed Ready to Lead
Senior defensive end Brooks Reed is eager to put a disappointing junior season behind him. It was disappointing only because a high ankle injury suffered in Week 3 at Iowa hampered him much of the season, including missing all or most of several mid-season games. He had returned as UA's leader in sacks from a breakout sophomore season when he tallied 8.5 in 2008. Reed, named one of four team captains for this season, will combine with 2009 breakout man Ricky Elmore to give the Wildcats one of the top bookend defensive end combos in the nation. Health will be much welcomed and much needed for both players on the line.
Mike Stoops' Program: The Last Four+ Years
When one thinks of Arizona football under Mike Stoops, they likely point to the early struggles in the first four years as he worked feverishly to rebuild the program followed by promising eight-win seasons the last two years. One thing that goes overlooked is the fact that, despite injuries to record-setting QB Willie Tuitama, the Wildcats posted a 6-6 mark in 2006 to achieve bowl eligibility on the heels of a pair of 3-8 seasons. While they didn't go bowling, the Cats had broken a stretch of six straight losing seasons for the program. The following year, Stoops brought in Sonny Dykes to overhaul the offense. While Arizona posted just a 5-7 mark in 2007, the offensive makeover was well underway and set the stage for breakout years in 2008 and 2009, as the Cats went bowling for the first time since 1998 in each season. Now, UA has winning overall and Pac-10 records the last four seasons. Surely, having his systems firmly established and his recruits in place has benefitted Stoops' teams over the long haul. Here's a look at the last four seasons - three of which have been bowl-eligible campaigns - for Stoops' Wildcats as it relates to the previous four and seven year stretches of UA football:
UA is 21-11 in its last 32 games (0.656), including a 14-8 mark in the Pac-10
UA has averaged 6.75 wins per seasons the last four years
UA averaged just 4.0 wins per season over the previous seven seasons
UA is 9-9 on the road in the Pac-10 the last four years
UA never won more than one road game in a season from 2002-05
UA has five more total Pac-10 wins the last four years (19) than the previous seven combined (14)
Rushing Attack Intact
Arizona's running back trio of Nic Grigsby, Keola Antolin and Greg Nwoko has combined for nearly 4,000 career rushing yards. Through last week's game at Toledo, the current tally is 4,066 rushing yards, paced by Nic Grigsby's 2,584 yards, which places him No. 10 amongst active players in the NCAA for career rushing yards. Throw in Matt Scott's 489 career markers as a dual-threat quarterback, and you tally 4,555 career rushing yards ready to see the field at any time.
Rushing to Success
The spread offense has taken over college football in recent seasons and the Wildcats jumped on the bandwagon with Sonny Dykes and his staff in 2007. With it came a record-setting passing season for Arizona in 2007 and back-to-back eight-win seasons in 2008 and 2009. But the Wildcats have found their success most consistent in running the football, not tossing is around for 300-plus yards per game. Not coincidentally, a more consistent ground game the last few seasons has helped the Wildcats win more games. Consider this rush of facts:
Arizona is just 6-7 in games when it passes for 300+ yards since the start of 2006
Arizona is 6-1 in games when its opponent throws for 300+ yards in a game since '06
Arizona is 23-6 in games when it rushes for 100+ yards in a game since `06
Arizona is just 12-19 in games when its opponent rushes for 100+ yards in a game since `06
Only four teams have beat UA when rushing for less than 100 yards since the start of `06
UA has not lost a game in the last two-plus seasons when opponent rushes for less than 100 yards
Leading the Way
The Arizona Wildcats voted on their team captains 10 days prior to the season opener, with four veterans drawing the respect of their teammates. Senior defensive linemen Brooks Reed and Mana Mikaele will represent the defense as captains, while senior center Colin Baxter and junior quarterback Nick Foles will carry the honors for the offense. Two other players, wide receiver David Roberts and linebacker Jake Fischer, will represent the football team in UA's Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), which works with athletic administrators to provide feedback on improving the Arizona experience for student-athletes.
Zendejas on Point
Somewhat quietly, 2010 Lou Groza Award watch list member Alex Zendejas turned in an impressive year for a place kicker in his first year of a full duty a season ago. Zendejas connected on 17-of-22 field goals, including a career-long 47-yarder at the end of the first half against Oregon and a game-winning 32-yarder as time expired against ASU (named Pac-10 Special teams Player of the Week for the game-winner). He's missed three PATs, but still hit 38-of-41, giving him 89 points on the year. He tied with uncle Max's 89 points in the 1985 season, which is the No. 10 mark for a single season for scoring (all players). In 2007, Jason Bondzio became the first UA kicker to reach 100. Alex's four field goals in four tries at Washington tied the school record for which he already grabbed a share. He hit on relative chip shots of 18, 23, 29 and 24 yards against the Huskies. For his effort, Zendejas was named one of three "Stars of the Week" by the Lou Groza Collegiate Place Kicker Award. He opened the season 4-for-5 against Central Michigan to join four other former Wildcats with four in a game. His UW performance also gave him a piece of the 4-for-4 single-game high-percentage mark held by the same four kickers (Doug Pfaff vs. Stanford 1989, Max Zendejas at LSU 1984, Charlie Gorham vs. Indiana 1973 and Steve Jurley vs. UTEP 1968).
YPC Facts and Figures
In 2009, the Arizona rushing attack averaged 4.8 yards per carry, the best average for a UA squad since 1999 when career rushing leader Trung Canidate was finishing up his stellar career. It also continued a trend of steady improvement by the Wildcats in recent seasons under the new offensive staff that was headed by Sonny Dykes from 2007-09. Dykes brought with him Bill Bedenbaugh, who is now a co-offensive coordinator and one who deserves significant credit for revamping UA's offensive line, and with it, the running game as a whole. Consider that in 2006, prior to Bedenbaugh's arrival, the Cats rushed for just 2.7 yards per carry. That number inched up to 2.9 ypc in 2007, before skyrocketing to 4.1 ypc in 2008 and eventually the 4.8 mark a year ago. The consecutive seasons with 4.0+ yards per carry is a first for the Cats since the 1998-99 squads that feature Candidate did so with 4.9 and 5.2 averages, respectively.
Arizona's success on the gridiron hinges greatly on its fortunes in the turnover battle, particularly on the road. Since the start of the 2006 season (52 total games), the Wildcats are an impressive 14-3 when they win the turnover battle in a game. Conversely, they struggle to a 4-12 mark in games when they lose the critical battle. The Cats linger just over .500 in games they split the turnover margin with an 11-8 mark. In multiple miscue games, Arizona is just 11-15 when it turns the ball over two or more times, but has benefitted with a 10-3 clip when opponents turn it over twice or more in a game. But perhaps the most notable statistical trend as it relates to turnovers is the fact that the Cats are 0-9 in the last 52 games when they lose the turnover battle on the road. At the same time, UA is 10-4 away from the home when it wins or splits the turnover battle.
Moving the Chains
The Wildcats' offensive attack the last several years has been very good at moving the chains and keeping drives alive. A good game in this category includes accumulating 20 or more first downs in a game. When the Cats reach that mark, they are 14-4 over the last 28 games and 19-6 since the start of the 2006 season. At the same time, keeping opponents under that mark is critical, too. UA has captured 22 of its 29 victories over the last four years by keeping opponents under 20 first downs in a game. If UA gets 20 and keeps its opponents below that number in the same game, the Cats win better than 80-percent of the time (14-3 record).
Game of Possession
While not always the case, maintaining possession of the football is a sign that one's offense is moving the ball and its defense is doing a sound job controlling the opposing offense That has usually been the case for the Wildcats, although some quirky games (such as a 23:32 edge in possession at Oregon in 2008) skew TOP from being a perfect stat. Even so, Arizona is 21-7 since the start of 2006 when it has a positive margin in time of possession and struggles to just a 8-16 mark when its opponents keeps the ball longer. For games in which the opponent controls the ball four or more minutes longer than the Cats yields a 3-13 record for the Cardinal and Navy. When the tables are turned and UA has the four-plus minutes of possession, the Cats are 16-6.
3rd Down Improvement
In 2009, the Wildcats saw their third down conversion percentage drop from 46.3 percent in 2008 to 41.4 percent. First-year starting quarterbacks and an injury-plagued backfield are plausible explanations. Undoubtedly, the Cats would like to see that number improve this coming year and that was the case in the season opener with an 8-for-11 effort. Interestingly, the consecutive 40-plus percent conversion rates the last two seasons are the first two for UA teams since 1998-99, when the teams were both above 42 percent. Even more positive for the Wildcats, their defense has been solid the last two years in defending in third down situations. Opponents have been held to an average of 34.7 percent conversions the last two seasons after converting an all-to-high 43.2 percent against UA's defense in 2007.
Since the start of the 2008 season, the Wildcats have developed a knack for fast starts to games and halves. In 2009, the Wildcats outscored their opponents 105-58 in the first quarter of games and 77-56 in the third quarter. Combined with the 2008 season and the first games of 2010, those numbers are even more impressive. UA has outscored opponents 211-120 in the first quarter of its last 29 games, and 233-113 in the third quarter of those games. What does it mean? Either the Wildcats thrive playing fully rested or perhaps game plans and coaching adjustments are spot-on and the players are executing those plans.
Notes on Sacks
Arizona registered 34 sacks in 2009, led by DE Ricky Elmore who notched a Pac-10-leading 10.5 sacks during the regular season. The defense ranked No. 22 in the NCAA and No. 3 in the Pac-10 on the year with a 2.62 sacks per game. UA's season total was its most in nearly a decade, falling just short of the 36 posted by the 2001 club. Of note, the Wildcats turned in at least three sacks in a game seven times last season (5-2 record), the most three-sack games for a UA squad since 2000 when it had eight. In its last 52 games, Arizona has recorded three or more sacks in a game 20 times with a 14-6 record.
Discipline has been one of the staples of Mike Stoops football teams at Arizona over the last several seasons. In fact, in its last 52 games, Arizona has drawn more penalty flags than its opponents just 18 times (35 percent). Of UA's 29 wins in that times span, 21 have come in games when the Cats have been flagged fewer times than their opponents.
B2B Road Wins
The Wildcats finished the 2009 regular season by winning back-to-back true road games in consecutive weeks for the first time in school history. The historical games included a 20-17 last-second victory at Arizona State and a 21-17 come-from-behind win at USC. There have been only a handful of seasons in which the Wildcats closed regular seasons with a pair of road games, including 1999, 1993, 1987 and 1971 in the mostly modern era of football. The school did the same in the 1951 and 1952 seasons, and the first such instance came in the 1932 season. In the 1910's and 1920's, Arizona did play several neutral site games paired with a road game to end seasons. But no matter how you look at it, last year's accomplishment was pretty rare and well-earned.
Not to Be Offensive
Over the course of the last 39 games, Arizona has scored 13 non-offensive touchdowns (once every 3 games). In 2007 and 2008, the Wildcats scored on two punt returns and two interception returns in each season. In 2009 , Travis Cobb scored on a kickoff return (95 yards), Bug Wright returned a punt to the house (86 yards), Orlando Vargas blocked a punt and returned it for a score (23 yards), and defensive backs Trevin Wade (38 yards) and Robert Golden (79 yards) had pick-six's. The Cats hope more are in store in all phases of the game in 2010.
30 Is (Usually) The Magic Number
The Cats' loss to Oregon in double overtime and their 36-33 loss to Washington on Oct. 10 was a rare one. Since joining the Pac-10 in 1978, the Wildcats have played 112 games in which they have scored 30 or more points. Their record in those games? An astounding 101-11-1. That record included a streak of 18 consecutive victories prior to the Oregon game in 2008 (55-45 loss), and UA is now 22-3 under Mike Stoops. Arizona is 2-0 in such games this season.
If Not 30, Try 40
If Arizona's winning percentage since 1978 when scoring 30 or more points isn't enough, then try out a 40+ point stat. In its entire history of football, Arizona is 112-5 when scoring 40 or more points in a game. Arizona was 4-0 in such games - all at home - in an eight-win 2008 season. Previously, the last time UA reached the mark four times in one season was in 1954, when it did so six times. In 2009, the Wildcats reached 40 points three times with a 2-1 record in those games. The loss? A 44-41 double overtime victory by Oregon. Amazingly, the Ducks also dropped the Cats the year prior, 55-45, in Eugene, accounting for two of the five all-time losses. UA is 2-0 in 2010 when scoring 40 points.
Youth in Charge
Arizona co-offensive coordinators Bill Bedenbaugh and Seth Littrell hit the chart of "youngest coordinators" compiled by East Carolina SID Tom McClellan. Littrell, 32, is the eight-youngest coordinator in the country and seventh-youngest OC, while Bedenbaugh, 38, is 32nd on the overall list. Twenty-seven-year-old Lincoln Riley (offensive) of ECU is the youngest coordinator in the land.
Experience in Charge
Arizona co-defensive coordinators Tim Kish and Greg Brown hit the chart of "most-experienced" coordinators compiled by ECU SID Tom McClellan. Kish and Brown have a combined 66 years of college and pro coaching experience, which together checks in as the fifth-most by a coordinator duo in the nation. Most of schools on the list combine their OC and their DC, but Arizona and Iowa are the two schools in the top-5 of the chart that sport co-defensive coordinators.
Backup quarterback Matt Scott played in a tough situation in the second quarter at Toledo, with Arizona starting a drive at its own 4-yard line following a great UT punt. It wasn't the best of circumstances. Keola Antolin lost three yards rushing, Nic Grigsby gained two yards rushing, and on third-and-11, Scott rushed 11 yards for an apparent first down only to be nullified by a holding penalty in the end zone -- and the automatic safety therein. It cost UA a shutout and cost Scott the 11 yards. Later, in the fourth quarter, he got another chance, this time moving the team 81 yards in 11 plays for its final score. Included in the drive were 5-for-7 passing (53 yards) by Scott including a two-yard toss to Antolin for the touchdown. The effort boosted his career pass completion percentage to .611 (55-for-90) and improved his career pass efficiency rating some 16 points to 121.26.
For some reason, UA receivers in recent seasons haven't been able to reach the elusive No. 13 for single game receptions. The number is significant because no player has ever finished a game at Arizona with 13 catches. In 1996, Jeremy McDaniel eclipsed the mark by hauling in 14 passes for 283 yards (another school record). Since, UA receivers have snared 12 catches a total of six times. Bobby Wade hit the dozen mark in 2002, while Mike Thomas did so twice in 2007. In 2008, Rob Gronkowski caught 12 passes in a game at Oregon, while teammate Dave Roberts did so in 2009 on the road at Washington. Juron Criner was the latest Wildcat to join mix, pulling in 12 grabs for 152 against Stanford a week later in 2009. In all, eight single game performances have fallen one catch shy of 13 in UA history.
Four Bills Isn't That Often
Nick Foles (360) and Matt Scott combined for 413 passing yards at Toledo in the opener, to post the No. 10 single-game figure in school history, replacing a 407-yard effort by Jason Johnson (381) and Nic Costa against Northern Arizona in 2002. Foles threw for 415 yards against Stanford a year ago for his career high
Deuces Are Wild (and Rare)
When the Wildcats held Toledo to just two points in the season opener, it marked just the fifth game in UA's entire football history that either Arizona or its opponent finished the game with exactly two points on the scoreboard. The last time a "2" was seen on the scoreboard to conclude a game was in a 24-2 Wildcat loss to New Mexico on Oct. 9, 1965. Two years prior, UA dropped a 7-2 contest to Washington State in Spokane, Wash. Go back 100 years, and you'll find the first and only previous time a Wildcat opponent finished with two points. That was when UA defeated New Mexico State 18-2 in 1910.
Arizona will commence its nine-game Pac-10 schedule with a home showdown against California on Saturday, Sept. 25. The game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. kickoff and will be televised locally in Tucson on KWBA and distributed outside the Tucson market on FOX Sports Arizona Plus.