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Copper-Clad Cats Host No. 18 Oregon State
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 09/24/2012
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Sept. 24, 2012

Game Notes (PDF)

No. 18 Oregon State (2-0, 1-0 Pac-12) at Arizona (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12)

Date: Sept. 29 Time: 7 p.m. (MST)
Location: Tucson, Ariz. (Arizona Stadium - 51,811)
TV Broadcast: Pac-12 Networks TV Broadcasters: Kevin Calabro (pxp), Glenn Parker (color analyst), Ryan Nece (sideline analyst)
UA Radio: Arizona Radio Network (Flagship - 1290 AM)
UA Radio Broadcasters: Brian Jeffries (pxp), Lamont Lovett (color analyst), Dana Cooper (sideline analyst)
UA Spanish Radio: 990 AM -- Samuel Sandoval (pxp), Marco Rincon (analyst)
Satellite Radio: XM: 191 (UA radio call); Sirius 136 (UA) and 138 (OSU)

Some Game Themes: The September slate comes to a close with the second weekend of conference play ... The UA pays tribute to its state and the rich mining history by donning copper helmets. Copper has influenced architectural design on the UA campus, including the ring at the top of the McKale Center and soon the Lowell-Stevens Football Facility. Coincidentally, the Copper Game falls on Sept. 29, a number that happen's to be copper's atomic number ... The Pac-12's longest-tenured coach, Mike Riley, brings his nationally-ranked squad to the Old Pueblo to meet one of the league's newest coaches, Rich Rodriguez, whose Wildcats fell from the ranks of the unbeaten last Saturday ... Rodriguez and Co. take on the unenviable task of playing a ranked team for the second straight week and the third time in five games ... After being shut out in the conference opener, can the Cats regroup for a pivotal matchup between interdivision conference foes? For them, it's not back to the drawing board as much as it back to the practice field where the foundation continues to be laid in Rodriguez's initial campaign ... UA has had no trouble moving the football but needs to be more proficient in the redzone, a matter underscored daily in practice that has yet to come to fruition ... Can the UA passing attack, held under 300 yards for the first time in a full calendar year, find its rhythm after some hit-and-miss productivity in Eugene? And will the ground game, led by a veteran offensive line and a hard-nosed playmaker in running back Ka'Deem Carey, create the necessary balance? On the flip side, Jeff Casteel's 3-3-5 defense turned in a valiant effort against the high-flying Ducks to give the Cats every opportunity for the better part of two and a half quarters in Autzen Stadium. Now his unit faces a more traditional pro-style offensive system, which has found success through the air after two games ... Riley and the Beavers have enjoyed a run of success against the Cats over the last decade-plus, a trend UA would like to reverse under new leadership after former head coach Mike Stoops was let go following a loss to OSU last October ... Both coaches and their staffs will wear patches for the American Football Coaches' Association's (AFCA) fifth annual Coach to Cure MD effort, which aims to raise awareness and funding for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy research.

Last Week: What was billed as a track meet turned into a an old fashioned defensive struggle in the first half before Oregon pulled away with relative ease in the second half to win 49-0. The shutout was certainly a surprise given the Wildcats' ability to score points early in the season, but miscues and missed opportunities, notably on five redzone trips, doomed the upset-minded Arizonans. The defense, though, gave the Cats plenty of chances, forcing the Ducks to give up the ball on four of its first five possessions. Even after Oregon went up 7-0 and seemed to be gaining momentum, the UA defense stiffened and held the Ducks to field goals on 17 and 16-play drives to close the first half. The 13-0 halftime deficit kept the Cats within reach, but Oregon's defense stole the show and forced UA to punt on its first four possessions of the second half, before three interceptions in the next four drives squashed any hope of a comeback. In the meantime, UO's electric De'Anthony Thomas was held to 97 all-purpose yards in the contest, but his 36-yard punt return set up a quick score midway through the third quarter as the Ducks began to pull away. Two interception returns for scores inflated the scoreboard tally and took some credit away from the UA defense, which did hold the Ducks to 4.3 yards per carry - a good standard against a team that entered the contest averaging 6.2 yards per tote. Arizona's swarming secondary broke up nine Oregon passes, and Jonathan McKnight snared his third interception in as many games. Jared Tevis led the way with 12 tackles, two breakups and two forced fumbles, while Sir Thomas Jackson set a career high with 10 tackles and Tra'Mayne Bondurant also added 10 stops, including a career-best 3.0 for loss. Offensively, Matt Scott struggled with a career-high three interceptions, while Ka'Deem Carey was held to 79 yards on 21 rushes. David Richards was the leading receiver, with career-highs for catches (7) and yards (50).

Against The Top 25: With a 59-38 victory over then-No. 18 Oklahoma State on Sept. 8, Arizona has defeated a ranked team in the AP Top 25 poll in eight of the last nine seasons. The 59 points and 21-point margin of victory were convincing, especially when taking into account the initial 14-0 deficit. In 137 previous games against Top 25 opponents, Arizona had topped the 50-point barrier just once - a 52-14 thrashing of No. 7 UCLA in 2005. The highest-ranked foe to go down in the last nine seasons was then-No. 2 Oregon, 34-24, in Tucson on Nov. 15, 2007. Historically, Arizona is 40-98-1 against teams ranked in the Associated Press poll.

The Coaches: Arizona - Rich Rodriguez (West Virginia '86), first year at Arizona (3-1) and 18th as a head coach overall (123-85-2). Rodriguez was introduced as the 30th head coach of the UA football program on Nov. 22, 2011. He carries Division I records of 3-0 at Arizona, 60-26 at West Virginia (2001-2007) and 15-22 at Michigan (2008-10). He began his head coaching career at Salem (W.Va.) University in 1988 and then coached at Glenville State (W.Va.) from 1990-96. Rodriguez's West Virginia teams were Big East Champions in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2007 while appearing in two BCS bowls, the 2005 Sugar Bowl with a victory over Georgia for an 11-1 record and a victory over Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl to finish 10-2 shortly after Rodriguez had left for Michigan. Mike Riley (Alabama '75), 12th year at Oregon State (74-63) and overall as a head coach. With last Saturday's win, Riley tied Lon Stiner for the most wins as a head coach in OSU history (74). He started coaching in 1975 as a G.A. at Cal, has been a defensive coordinator, offensive coordinator and an NFL/CFL/WLAF head coach. His record against Arizona is 7-4.

2011 UA-OSU: At Oregon State on Oct. 8, UA's defense held the Beavers to some manageable production, but found some ways to self-destruct with a pair of interceptions and some special teams play that was anything but, in losing to Oregon State, 37-27. The Cats missed a mid-range field goal, had a punt blocked and returned for a score, missed an extra point, gave up a 13-yard pass by the OSU punter on 4th-and-3, fumbled a rolling kickoff for a lost ball to lead to a field goal and had a hurried rugby punt stay on UA's side of the field to lead to OSU's final score. Two Nick Foles' interceptions led to 10 OSU points, to otherwise spoil a decent outing by the senior, who completed 31 of 45 passes for 378 yards and a score. His counterpart, Sean Mannion, was more effective with two TD throws among 32 completions (267 yards), and the Beavers got a 3-for-4 effort on field goals by Trevor Romaine. Arizona, seemingly out of it at 30-6 with seven minutes left in the third period, rallied behind Foles and an interception returned for a score by Wildcat corner Shaquille Richardson to cut the lead to 30-27 with a dozen minutes left in the game. The kicking game put its stamp on the affair again, as an OSU punt bounced away from UA return man Richard Morrison and trickled for 63 yards to the UA 5 yard-line. Three incompletions later, the short rugby punt by Kyke Dugandzic deep in UA's territory set the Beavers up at the Wildcat 43 yard-line and Mannion completed five passes including a two-yard TD throw. The Cats drove the length of the field behind Foles' passing to set up a 1st-and-goal at the OSU 4 yard-line, but couldn't punch it in in four tries. Overall the Cats had a season-high four turnovers to negate 431 yards in offense, while the Beavs managed a solid 408 and overcame their two turnovers (both INTs by Richardson). OSU rushed for 128 net yards led by Jovan Stevenson with 99. Dan Buckner had eight catches for 144 yards and one score to lead the UA receiving corps.

Strive For Five: Arizona saw its five-game overall win streak snapped last Saturday at Oregon, but it now has a chance to extend its home winning streak to five games. The Wildcats defeated Louisiana-Lafayette to close out the 2011 schedule last November, and opened this season with three straight victories over Toledo, Oklahoma State and South Carolina State, respectively. A win against the nationally-ranked Beavers would give the Wildcats their longest home winning streak since reeling off six-straight over the 2008-09 seasons. That run was snapped in a 44-41 double-overtime loss to Oregon on Nov. 21, 2009.

September Starts: The opening month often times sets the tone for the rest of the season, and that has held true for the Cats in recent years. The 2011 campaign began with a 1-3 month of September en route to a 4-8 final record. In the three prior seasons, UA posted a combined 10-2 record en route to three consecutive bowl berths. This year, UA (3-1 in Sept.) tries to benefit from four home games out of five total contests in the opening month. Rich Rodriguezboasts an impressive 34-8 (.810) record in the month of September in his 11 seasons as a head coach of FBS programs at West Virginia, Michigan and now Arizona. His teams have gone to bowl games in seven of those years, including two BCS berths.

Loaded Schedule: For the second straight season, Arizona's September schedule is loaded with nationally ranked opponents. In 2011, the Wildcats played the No. 9 (Oklahoma State), No. 6 (Stanford) and No. 10 (Oregon) teams in the nation in consecutive weeks. Those teams reached finished the season in the top-7 of the Associated Press poll. Now Arizona plays a ranked team for the third time in the last four contests, a stretch that is likely to extend to four ranked foes in five weeks come this time next week. The Wildcats defeated then-No. 18 Oklahoma State, 59-38, on Sept. 8, before losing to then-No. 3 Oregon, 49-0, last Saturday. This week, UA welcomes No. 18 Oregon State to Arizona Stadium. Next week, it's a trip to current No. 8 Stanford, which plays at Washington this Thursday night.

Home Cookin': Arizona hosts eight home games at Arizona Stadium in 2012, which is undergoing one of its most significant refurbishment phases in its 84-year history. The Wildcats have not hosted eight home games in a season since 1988, when the squad won five home contests in a 7-4 campaign. Arizona is 24-11 at home since the start of 2007, including 3-0 thus far in 2012.

Red Zoned Out: It goes without saying that Arizona's Achilles heel on offense has been its inability to capitalize on the redzone. This point was no more obvious than the 0-for-5 effort at Oregon a week ago, the latest evidence of a troubling early-season trend for the Cats. In fact, the five empty trips equaled a season's-worth of red zone misses from 2008. That year, the Wildcats scored on 55-of-60 red zone opportunities, setting a school record for success (91.7 percent). This year, Arizona is just 16-for-26 (61.5 percent) in the redzone, which ranks No. 118 out of 124 teams in the FBS. More bothersome is that UA has scored touchdowns on only 12 of those chances (46.2 percent). The Cats, who were 8-for-8 (five touchdowns) in their red zone drives in an upset of Oklahoma State on Sept. 8, have failed on at least two red zone opportunities in each of their other three games. They have scored touchdowns on just 38.9 percent of their redzone drives in the non-Oklahoma State games.

Moving The Chains: No team is moving the chains more often than the Wildcats. Arizona, which set a school record with 43 first downs against South Carolina State on Sept. 15, leads all FBS teams with 127 first downs after four games. That's a clip of 32 chain-movers per game, a half-dozen first downs more per game than the 2011 Wildcat squad that set a new school record for per-game production (25.8 first downs per game).

Matt's The Man: Aside from a sub-par effort, by his standards, at Oregon, fifth-year senior quarterback Matt Scott has been the perfect fit for Rich Rodriguez's spread offense. In just four games, Scott has completed 110-of-167 pass attempts for a career-high 1,205 yards and averages 301.2 yards per game (No. 16 in FBS). Scott also ranks as Arizona's second-leading rusher with 199 yards on 47 attempts, which has helped him average 351.0 yards of total offense per game (No. 8 in FBS). Scott, who is 7-2 in his career as a starter, has twice passed for more than 300 yards and has seven touchdowns against four interceptions in 2012. 

Carey the Load: Sophomore running back Ka'Deem Carey has emerged as Arizona's feature back through the first four games (all starts) of 2012. The local product from Canyon del Oro High School, who ranks No. 3 in the Pac-12 with 105.8 yards per game, has rushed for 423 yards and five touchdowns, while adding 84 yards and another touchdown in the passing game. In the season-opener, Carey broke off a career-long 73-yard burst for a touchdown en route to his first career 100-yard game (147 yards) against Toledo. He followed it up a week later against Oklahoma State with another 100-yard effort (126 yards), including 99 yards and an average of 8.3 yards per attempt in the second half alone. Carey scored four times against the Cowboys (one receiving, three rushing), setting career highs for rushing touchdowns and most total touchdowns in a game. The four scores gave him 24 points in the game, good enough to tie for third individually in school single game history. Keola Antolin (2008 at Oregon), Ronald Veal (1988, Washington State), Richard Hersey (1980, Pacific), Harry Holt (1977, UTEP) and Don Beasley (1953, Arizona State) have also had 24-point games.

Credit Is Due: Arizona's defense deserved more than a 49-0 score on its card a week ago, if only because two of the scores were allowed by the offense on pick-sixes. Even more though was the valiant effort throughout, notably in the first half when the defense did everything it could to give the Cats a chance to win. The Wildcats stopped Oregon on four of its first five possessions of the game, once on downs, twice on forced fumbles and once on a punt. Then when Oregon began to gain some momentum, the defense held strong forcing the Ducks to earn every point. Consecutive 17 and 16-play drives resulted in just six points for Oregon, and at halftime the Ducks had mustered just 13 points. In the opening half, the Wildcats limited Oregon to 4.1 yards per rush (two yards below average entering) and gave the UA offense a starting field position at near midfield at the 44-yard line. In the second half, the Cats `D' continued to harass the Ducks, forcing punts on the first two possessions. By the midpoint of the third quarter, Oregon had run 68 total plays and managed just 13 points in the game, before a long punt return and an interception return for a touchdown firmly shifted momentum on the side of Oregon. Still, UA kept the Ducks under 500 yards of offense and limited the explosive De'Anthony Thomas to under 100 all-purpose yards, including just 4.0 yards per carry.

Swarming Secondary: Arizona leads all of FBS with 33 passes defended through four games. Indeed, the back level of Jeff Casteel's 3-3-5 defense has given opposing quarterbacks fits all season long, something that may not stand out when you are giving up 247 yards through the air per game. But the Wildcats have broken up the second-most passes of any team (28), led by cornerback Shaquille Richardson's seven PBUs. Arizona also has five interceptions, including three by opposite corner Jonathan McKnight who ranks tied for first in the Pac-12 and fourth nationally. As a unit, the Wildcats are No. 3 in the Pac-12 allowing just 5.9 yards per pass attempt. They will again be put to the test against an OSU club that ranks second in passing offense (327.5 yards per game) in the conference and No. 12 in the nation.

A Few Good Men: Among the top performers of the UA defense last week were defensive backs Jared Tevis and Tra'Mayne Bondurant, along with linebacker Sir Thomas Jackson. Tevis matched a career-high with 12 tackles, forced a pair of fumbles and broke up two passes. Bondurant matched his career-high with 10 tackles, three of which went for a loss. Jackson established a new career high with 10 stops, including one for loss, and broke up a pass. The trip combined for four of the team's six tackles for loss and three of the nine passes broken up. The good news for the Cats? Tevis and Bondurant are sophomores, while Jackson is a redshirt freshman.

Nose For The Ball: Sophomore "Bandit" Jared Tevis has emerged as one of the playmakers on the UA defense. A former walk-on from nearby Canyon del Oreo high school, Tevis earned a scholarship after impressing coaches in the spring. Now Tevis ranks second on the team in three categories, including tackles (39), interceptions (2) and passes broken up (5). He has a team-leading three forced fumbles. His 39 tackles are also good enough for the No. 2 spot in the Pac-12.

McKnight's McPicks: Sophomore cornerback Jonathan McKnight has intercepted a pass in three straight games dating back to his first career pick against Oklahoma State on Sept. 8, which he returned 48 yards for a touchdown. McKnight added another interception against South Carolina State a week later (Sept. 15) and snared a third against Oregon last Saturday. He is tied with three others for the most in the Pac-12, a figure that is tied for No. 4 nationally. McKnight, who missed all of 2011 with an ACL injury, also has 17 tackles and a pass breakup in his first season as a starter.

Searching For No. 1: Junior cornerback Shaquille Richardson leads the Wildcats and the Pac-12 Conference with seven pass breakups to date, yet he is without an interception. Richardson, who has six picks in his career, would like to duplicate his efforts against the Beavers from a year ago. In the loss at Reser Stadium, Richardson picked off a pair of passes, including one for a score. The 28-yard scoring play was part of a 21-point second half rally that put Arizona within three points, before coming up short in the 37-27 defeat.

Third Down Defense: One area the Wildcats are working to improve is on third down defense. Arizona currently ranks No. 80 in the nation surrendering first downs at a 41-percent clip. The benefit of third down defense is it stops drives and gives the ball back to Matt Scott and the Wildcat offense, which will face the nation's best third down defense team this week. Oregon State has allowed just two third down conversions in two games (13.8 percent).

Local 1-2 Punch: A pair of local products - Jake Fischer and Jared Tevis - are not only leading their club but also top the Pac-12 Conference in tackles. Fischer, who prepped at Ironwood Ridge High School, leads the league with 40 tackles, including 2.5 for loss to date. Tevis, who starred at Canyon del Oro High School, is nipping at his heels with 39 tackles, good enough for No. 2 in the conference. The duo has combined for six pass breakups and five forced fumbles.

Chunk Plays: Arizona ranks No. 7 nationally in total offense, with 2,146 total yards (536.5 per game). A big reason is the Cats have moved the chains at ease, evidenced by a nation-leading 127 first downs to date. Arizona is averaging a steady 5.9 yards per play, boosted by a high volume of 10+ yards plays. In fact, the Wildcats rank No. 5 in the FBS with 81 plays that have gone for 10-plus yards through four games.

Three and Oh: Arizona opened the season 3-0 for just the 10th time since joining the Pac-10/12 Conference in 1978. The other nine seasons are: 2010, 2001, 1998, 1994, 1993, 1990, 1986, 1985 and 1983. This year's victories came against a reputable MAC program (Toledo), a nationally-ranked Big 12 foe (Oklahoma State) and an FCS opponent (South Carolina State).

Scoring In Perspective: Arizona's 139 points in four games (actually three due to a shutout) are already challenging some season totals from the past decade. Mike Stoops' first UA team scored 164 points over 11 games in 2004, one season after the Wildcats scored 181 in an 11-game 2003 campaign. To his credit, Stoops' teams steadily improved after the lowly '04 campaign and topped out at 476 points in a 13-game season in 2008. In fact, the 36.6 points per game that season was the second-highest average in program history. The 1954 gridiron squad holds the top mark, a 38.5 per game clip. Rich Rodriguez's first team is sitting at 34.8 with two-thirds of the regular season schedule still to come.

Flag Days: Arizona's opponents have seen plenty of yellow in the early stages of the 2012 season. The Wildcats lead all FBS schools in opponent penalty yards (414), a staggering number inflated by a school-record 167 yards against Oklahoma State three weeks ago and an additional 107 markers for South Carolina State. Arizona, meanwhile, has been flagged just 20 times for 168 yards (42.0 per game), among the top-50 teams for fewest penalty yards.

In A Snap: Fans are getting their money's worth of football this season watching the Wildcats play. Arizona's four football games have featured the 693 snaps, which is the second-most for any team in the country. Marshall has seen 700 snaps in its game to date and is the only team to run more offensive plays than the Wildcats. Arizona has 364 offensive plays, while the Thundering Heard has run 371. Defensively, both schools have faced 329 plays, a figured tied for second-most in the nation.

Big Play Guy: Matt Scott has found his big-play target: Austin Hill. The 6-foot-3 sophomore is UA's most versatile receiver, a guy with a mix of size, speed and route-running skills to give defenders fits whether he lines up in the slot or outside. He turned in a pair of 100-yard receiving games to open up the season, ripping the Rockets for 139 yards and a score before cutting up the Cowboys for 125 more yards. Most impressive is that Hill's 23 catches for 369 yards average out to a whopping 16.0 yards per reception, and 15 have resulted in a first down or touchdown. Hill is currently fourth in the Pac-12 averaging 92.3 receiving yards per game.

Pass To Buck: Arizona's most frequent receiving target through four games has been senior Dan Buckner, who leads the squad with 25 total receptions. The 6-foot-4 outside receiver is averaging 75.8 yards per game and a steady 21.1 yards per catch. The senior scored his first touchdown of the season against S.C. State (Sept. 15), a 27-yarder. Buckner finished his junior season fourth on the team with 42 receptions for 606 yards and two touchdowns. His career-high for receiving yards was set last October when he collected 144 receiving yards, including a 28-yard touchdown reception, at Oregon State.

Ground Game: The Cats have hit the ground running in the first year of Rich Rodriguez's offense, gaining 830 yards on 178 carries (4.7 ypc) in four games. That's 207.5 yards per game, good enough for the No. 34 spot in the national rankings and a dramatic increase from the 94.5 yards per game a season ago that finished No. 114. The Cats are benefitting from the run threat that QB Matt Scott offers. The senior signal caller is second on the team and No. 12 in the Pac-12 with 199 rushing yards to date. Sophomore running back Ka'Deem Carey has been an explosive force, with 423 yards and five scores on the ground. He holds the No. 3 spot in the Pac-12 and No. 22 position nationally with 105.8 rushing yards per game.

In The Trenches: Arizona has used the same starting offensive line in each of the first two games (LT Mickey Baucus, LG Chris Putton, C Kyle Quinn, RG Trace Biskin and RT Fabbiens Ebbele). The big fellas started combined for 55 starts a season ago, led by Quinn, Ebbele and Baucus who each started all 12 games. Backup guard/tackle Shane Zink also had three starts last year. Now the Wildcats have a total of 79 career starts among their offensive linemen. It's a group line coach Robert Anae feels good about, especially with younger players like Lene Maiava and Cayman Bundage who have significant playing time. Anae is in his second season at Arizona, after Rich Rodriguez re-hired the veteran coach from the previous staff.

Graduates: Kudos to offensive linemen Kyle Quinn and Trace Biskin, who each earned their degrees from The University of Arizona last spring. The two completed their undergraduate work in four years, and both begin their final season in the program as fifth-year seniors. Quinn, a 17-game starter at center in his career, graduated with a bachelor's degree in history and is now enrolled in graduate school, exploring a master's degree in educational leadership. Biskin, a 14-game starter at right guard, graduated with a degree in political science and is now enrolled in UA's graduate program, studying international security.

Fresh Faces: Arizona has played nine true freshmen in 2012, a tally that is among the top-20 nationally and tied for third in the Pac-12 with UCLA. Among the Wildcats' true freshmen are defenders Jamar Allah, William Parks, Anthony Lopez, Keoni Bush-Loo, Dakota Conwell, Wayne Capers Jr., Vince Miles and C.J. Dozier. Offensively, lineman Cayman Bundagehas seen playing time at guard. Colorado (13) and USC (10) are the leaders in the category in the Pac-12.

Building for the Future: The Lowell-Stevens Football Facility, scheduled to open in August 2013, marks a dynamic shift in the Arizona football culture as it will become the centerpiece of the program on the north end of Arizona Stadium. Supported by private funds, including significant leadership gifts from David and Edith Lowell and from Jeff and Sharon Stevens, the $72.3 million project will provide the Wildcats with one of the premier football facilities in the nation. The facility will be a four-floor operations center with strength training, sports-medicine, coaches offices, locker rooms, meeting rooms, equipment and facility service areas. The structure will enclose the north end of the stadium and create a full bowl with nearly 4,000 premium spectator seats, including a donor lounge with outdoor seating. Additionally, stairways and elevator towers for the concourse will connect the structure to the existing east and west stadium sections. Restrooms, amenity areas and a cafeteria will also serve the campus community. Arizona Stadium has an official capacity of 51,811 for this season, but once work is completed on the Lowell-Stevens Football Facility, the venue will near the some 57,000 seats it has held in recent years.

Noon Ball: Game time and television broadcast information has been set for Arizona's game at No. 6 Stanford on Oct. 6. The contest is scheduled to begin at noon (PDT) and will be televised nationally on FOX. It will be a full seven hours earlier than any of UA's first five games, which have all begun at 7 p.m. local time or later. Arizona's one and only bye weekend will follow (Oct. 13), before the Wildcats return to action against Washington on Oct. 20 for Family Weekend.

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