Oct. 3, 2010
UA Football Game Notes (PDF)
Oregon State (2-2, 1-0 Pac-10) at No. 9 Arizona (4-0, 1-0 Pac-10)
4 p.m. (MST) | Arizona Stadium | Tucson, Ariz.
Online Coverage: Gametracker | Live Audio
Live TV Broadcast: VERSUS Network
Television Talent: Ron Thulin (play-by-play), Glenn Parker (analyst), Lewis Johnson (sideline)
UA English Radio: Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries, play-by-play; Lamont Lovett, analyst; Dana Cooper, sideline
UA Spanish Radio: Wildcat Radio Network (Francisco Romero, play-by-play; Marco Rincon, analyst)
Satellite Radio: SIRIUS 273, XM 93
All-Time Series: Arizona leads, 21-11-1
First Meeting: Oregon State 31, Arizona 12 (Nov. 5, 1966 at Portland)
Last Meeting: Arizona 37, Oregon State 32 (Sept. 26, 2010 at Corvallis, Ore.)
Some Game Themes
Arizona jockeys for continued time at the top of the league standings and in the national consciousness. It will do so against a fellow undefeated in the Pac-10 foe, Oregon State, which faced two AP Top 10 teams in Boise State and TCU last month... UA enters October as a ranked team for the first time since an Oct. 5 tilt against UCLA in 1998 when it was No. 10 (and lost its only game of the year)... Two teams that have made some strong moves in mid-season in recent years... Arizona fans get a repeat view of a guy they'd just as soon forget, James Rodgers, who rushed for 102 yards on 10 fly sweeps the last time in Tucson. His RB brother, Jacquizz, carries a bigger national rep and is a threat to back it up. James, meantime, comes in as one of the country's top all-purpose men and is expected to play after sitting out last week's victory over Arizona State... UA quarterback Nick Foles faces the team he helped beat in his coming-out party a year ago... The Cats' top-five defense tests some mettle against Katz, as in soph QB Ryan... UA's offense checks its quest for balance against a defense that's faced nightmarish clubs this year... Mike Stoops tries to get his first home-field victory over the Beavers. His teams are 2-4 vs. OSU with the victories both on the road... A series that's seen a two-point victory ('08 by OSU) and a five-point victory ('09 Arizona) in the last two outings... Arizona presumably made the most of its time off last week to enter the fray in good physical shape... The Cats and Beavs punctuate UA's Family Weekend, which could draw a second capacity crowd at Arizona Stadium through four games in 2010.
Last Time Out
Arizona enjoyed a bye Oct. 2 after its gritty 10-9 victory over California on Sept. 25. Against the Bears, Arizona's longest drive of the night was the winning one and the UA held Cal's offense out of the end zone all evening to move to 4-0. California held UA scoreless in the first half but could only build a 6-0 lead on a pair of Giorgio Tavecchio field goals. UA managed 160 yards in offense in the first two quarters, biut could not find many big plays and also turned the ball over inside the red zone when Chris Conte intercepted a Nick Foles pass in the end zone. UA got its first points off an Alex Zendejas' 46-yarder five minutes into the second half. Arizona's defense held UC-Berkeley to 2-for-12 on third down and 262 net yards, much of the credit for the victory. Tavecchio had two more chances to create more scoreboard space, but bounced one field goal try off the upright in the third quarter, and then up 9-3 with just under three minutes left, pulled one wide-right to give UA the ball at its own 27-yard line. UA used all of its timeouts during that Cal drive and faced a 72-yard field with 2:37 left. This time Foles hit short pass, Nic Grigsby rushed for nine yards and then Foles connected with Juron Criner for a 51-yard bomb deep into Cal territory. Grigsby gained six, Cal was called for offsides and Foles found Criner on a slant for the go-ahead score with 1:06 left on the clock. Cal's Kevin Riley connected on a couple of throws following the ensuing kickoff but his third attempt was picked off by UA safety Joe Perkins -- who tacked on an 18-yard return and then fumbled, but CB Robert Golden covered the ball. Take a knee, game over. The game marked the third in four that Arizona held the opponent to no touchdowns and helped UA close September with a 4-0 mark and a nice grip on its No. 14 AP ranking. In the end the Cats managed 311 yards of offense, Foles had a sub-par 64 percent throwing night (25 for 39, 211 ayrds), the Cats made the most of 99 net rushing yards (Grigsby at 5.4 per tote, 12-65) and showed Criner's toughness (turf toe) in snagging five important catches for 68 yards. The Cats overcame 10 penalties for 99 yards, and came from behind for a second consecutive victory.
Arizona - (Iowa '86), seventh year (37-39) 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. He's working on a 20-10 mark from 2008 onward. His Arizona clubs have beaten a ranked team each of his years in the red and blue including this year's victory over No. 9 Iowa. 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. 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. Stoops is 2-4 against Oregon State as UA's head coach. Oregon State - Mike Riley (Alabama '75), 10 year at OSU (67-49) and 10th year overall as a head coach. His background includes defensive and offensive coordinator roles, CFL head coaching and an NFL defensive stint. He began his career as a defensive graduate assistant for the 1975 Cal Bears. He is 5-4 against as OSU's head coach in two stints (97-98, 2003-).
Honoring Dick Tomey
UA's Winningest Coach Former Arizona Coach Dick Tomey will be honored at halftime of the Oregon State game for his 14-year stewardship of the University of Arizona football program. Tomey is the winningest coach in school history (95-64-4), was Pac-10 Coach of the Year in 1992 and directed UA to its two best seasons, 10-2 in 1993 and 12-1 in 1998. He coached five NFL first-round draft choices at Arizona and his '98 club finished No. 3 in both polls, the school's highest ranking.
Arizona in the Rankings
Arizona checks in No. 9 in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll and No. 11 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. UA's AP top 25 No. 9 ranking is its highest since a 1999 preseason ranking of No. 4. For in-season polls, it is UA's highest AP rank since a No. 4 ranking to close the 1998 season.
Arizona Football All-Time 4-0 Starts
Arizona has started a season 4-0 on 10 previous occasions dating back over the last 50 years. While Arizona's stiffest challenges of the 2010 season remain ahead on the schedule, history indicates the Wildcats could be looking at a successful season the rest of the way. In fact, should UA build on its 4-0 start, history sides even more favorably for the school. The last time the Cats opened a season 5-0 was in 1998, when UA went on to a 12-1 finish. The best start in school history was a 7-0 mark to open the 1993 campaign, when the Cats went 10-2, including a Fiesta Bowl victory over Miami.
Back-to-Back in the Pac
The Wildcats are seeking a 2-0 record to open Pac-10 play for the second time in three seasons (2008). If the Cats are able to defeat Oregon State, the mark will become historically significant for several reasons. First, UA has won its Pac-10 opener just six times since 1992, and it has done so now in three consecutive seasons. Previously, UA had not opened league action with a victory in consecutive seasons since 1993-94. Second, since joining the Pac-10 in 1978, the Wildcats have started 2-0 in conference play just nine times. Lastly, 2-0 starts in Pac-10 play have usually been solid predictors of winning seasons down the road. In the nine seasons that the Cats have opened 2-0 in Pac-10 play, they have amassed a 73-32-2 combined record, with only the 5-6 team in 2000 posting fewer than seven wins.
One More Point Was Enough, Finally
Arizona's 10-9 come-from-behind victory over California on Sept. 25 was a rare one-point outcome that favored the Wildcats. Arizona had lost six-straight games that were decided by one point and the school was just 2-13 in such games in the Pac-10 era dating to 1978. UA's two wins in that span came in back-to-back years, with a 28-27 victory over Arizona State in 1994 and then a 20-19 edge over Georgia Tech in 1995. Against Pac-10 opponents, UA had won just one time in 11 tries, including two defeats to Cal prior to the 2010 breakthrough. Mike Stoops earned his first win in four such games, and the Wildcats improved to 3-6 in one-point games in Tucson in the Pac-10 era.
Close Game Turnaround
Arizona's Mike Stoops has coached in 76 games in his seven-year tenure at the school. Of those, 29 of them (38.2 percent) have been decided by seven points or less, which discards a few eight-point decisions that could also be considered one-possession outcomes. Added up, Stoops is just 12-17 in the seven-point games. At the surface, that doesn't sound very good. But a deeper look reveals that his program has learned how to win close games. Consider that UA has won its last four contests decided by seven points or less and has won six of eight such contests. Prior to the recent string of success, Stoops' squads mustered just six wins in 21 games that were seven-point or less decisions. In even closer contests, Stoops' teams were 2-11 in games decided by a field goal or less. However, the Cats have won their last two games that have been decided by three points or less.
Staring at the Stats
Junior receiver Juron Criner's 352 receiving yards puts him on pace to eclipse his sophomore total of 670. He's 25th nationally with 88 yards per game despite playing against Cal with a sore toe. Criner's 12 career touchdown catches tie him with former Cat Rodney Williams (1995-97) at No.10 on UA's career chart. Four more and he can tie TE Rob Gronkowski (2007-08) and WR Jon Horton (1983-86) for the No. 7 spot. He's caught a TD pass for every six receptions he's snared (71)... Senior RB Nic Grigsby is about 600 yards shy of hitting Arizona's career all-purpose yardage chart. He has 3,062 markers and none from kick returns as did most of the top 12. Eddie Wolgast is No. 12 with 3,698 yards from 1945-48... Senior receiver Travis Cobb is making a run at UA's kickoff return average record of 37.8 yards per return by Ricky Stevenson (9-340 in 1968. Cobb is averaging 37.8 on six returns. He holds the UA single-season records of 30 returns and 762 yards. He missed the Cal game with a sore ankle but still leads the nation with his 37.8 figure (minimum 1.2 per game)... Junior Alex Zendejas had made 11 of his last 13 field goal tries until his second-half miss against California. The misses in the span, dating to the WSU game last season, were 24 (Oregon), 30 (ASU)... He missed a career-best 48-yarder against the Bears... and 48 yards (Cal). He's five of six from 40 to 49 yards in his two-year tenure as the primary PK... Arizona's scoring margin of +23.2 points would be its second-best ever behind the Art Luppino-led 1954 team's 38.5 margin. Second best is a +20.0 figure by the 1929 Wildcats. The UA squad in 2008 hit the chart at No. 7 with a +15.3 mark, Only that and two other Pac-10 years teams are represented on the list -- 1998's +16.7 (5th), and 1983's +15.0 (8th).
Cats in the Pac
Arizona's 6-3 mark in the Pac-10 in 2009 was its best since 1998 and is the third six-win Pac-10 season in program history. With UA's 1-0 start this season, the Wildcats have 15 victories in their last 23 conference games, dating to the last four games of the 2007 season. That 15-8 record (0.652 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).
3rd Down And ...
So far this season, Arizona has been able to out perform opponents in third down situations. The offense has made enough key plays to keep drives alive and put points on the board, while the defense has shown improvement in keeping opponents from converting third downs. Consider that while Arizona's offense is just 9-of-27 in converting third downs in the last two games (Iowa, California), the defense has held the two opponents to a lowly 6-of-25 conversion rate. Not to mention, UA has scored the game-winning touchdown on third down plays in each of the last two games. But what third downs seem to come down to is the success on first and second down. Here's the way third down conversions break down through four games.
3rd and 7 or shorter 21-of-31 (65.5%)
3rd and 8 or longer 2-of-18 (11.1%)
3rd and 6 or shorter 13-of-28 (46.4%)
3rd and 7 or longer 5-of-30 (16.6%)
All 3rd Down Situations
Arizona 23-of-50 (46%)
Opponents 18-of-58 (31%)
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 15 of its last 18 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 15 games by an average of 21.8 ppg
UA has just three single-digit victory in the span (2010 vs. Iowa and Cal, 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 24-18 record
A total of 2,221,996 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.
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
Currently ranks No. 4 in nation for active career completion percentage (66.3%)
Surpassed the 3,000 yard mark for career passing yards vs. The Citadel
Has thrown for 3,575 yards (No. 9 in UA history) in 16 career games (14 starts)
No. 9 in UA history with 25 career passing TDs
Currently ranks No. 3 in nation with 74.5% completion percentage
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)
In the Nick of Time
Arizona junior quarterback Nick Foles is becoming well known for his poise and perseverance in tough situations. After all, he's already experienced the highs and lows of the position. As a first-year starter in 2009, he endured two of the flukiest plays a quarterback could ever experience in heartbreaking road losses at Washington and California. But, Foles has been spectacular in some of the other tense situations he has faced, including the Sept. 18 showdown against then-No. 9 Iowa and a week later against California. In the five games listed below, Foles has a combined 4th quarter pass efficiency rating of 163.73, including a 168.02 mark in the two games in 2010. Those numbers are significantly higher than his respectable 131.65 career pass efficiency rating.
Sept. 26, 2009 Arizona 37, Oregon State 32
The situation: With Foles making his first career start, Arizona trailed the Beavers, 17-14, at halftime in Corvallis, Ore. ... Foles turned in a sensational second half, completing 15-of-22 passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns in the period ... The Wildcats surged to a road victory and Foles has started every game since for the Wildcats.
Oct. 17, 2009 Arizona 43, Stanford 38
The situation: One week after seeing a victory vanish on a controversial deflected interception that gave Washington a victory in Seattle, Foles made his first start in the home uniforms at Arizona Stadium ... The Wildcats trailed 27-20 at halftime and by as many as 15 points earlier in the first half ... Foles was nearly flawless in the second half, completing 21-of-27 passes for 203 yards and touchdown as UA rallied for the victory ... Foles was a perfect 8-for-8 passing in the final stanza, outdueling the Cardinal's Andrew Luck as both threw for over 400 yards in the game.
Dec. 5, 2009 Arizona 21, No. 20 USC 17
The situation: After guiding the Cats to a 14-7 halftime lead, Foles and the Wildcats found themselves trailing 17-14 with 7:13 remaining in the fourth quarter ... With the ball on their own 20 yard line, the Wildcats marched 80 yards in 10 plays for the game-winning score ... Foles was 4-of-7 passing on the drive for 63 yards, capped by an audible at the line that resulted in a 37-yard touchdown pass to Juron Criner ... Foles was 2-of-2 passing on third downs on the final drive.
Sept. 18, 2010 Arizona 34, No. 9 Iowa 27
The situation: Iowa defensive end Broderick Binns made an exceptionally athletic interception and returned it 20 yards to cap a 20-point rally by the Hawkeyes, who tied the Wildcats at 27-all after trailing 27-7 at halftime ... With the lead and momentum gone, Foles countered with the game-winning drive ... Taking over at UA's own 28-yard line with 8:12 remaining, Foles hit David Roberts for a 38-yard gain on the first play of the drive ... He capped the drive with a clutch throw to Bug Wright on third-and-goal from the four that put the Wildcats ahead for good ... Foles was 5-of-6 for 76 yards on the game-winning series.
Sept. 25, 2010 Arizona 10, California 9
The situation: California kept the Wildcats' offense at bay throughout the game, but UA's defense limited the Golden Bears to three field goals ... Cal looked to extend the game to a two-possession contest, but a 40-yard field goal with under three minutes to play gave Nick Foles and the offense a chance at redemption ... Foles and the Wildcats marched 77 yards on seven plays in 1:26 to tie the game and an extra point gave the Wildcats their first lead of the game with just 1:11 remaining in the game ... Foles was 3-for-5 on the drive for 59 yards on the drive, with all three completions going to Juron Criner, including a 51-yarder to put UA deep inside Bears' territory ... The game-winner came on a third-and-one from the three-yard line, with Foles hitting Criner for the score.
Arizona comes out of its bye week rated No. 2 nationally in total defense (230.8 ypg), trailing Boise State (223.5). Although an early season figure, it's Mike Stoops' best ranking in that category in his tenure. The Cats also will be close to the lead in touchdowns allowed (4), trailing only Alabama (3). The defensive effort, considering Arizona replaced all three linebackers, both interior tackles and two members of its secondary in the starting lineup, has been one of the best features of the Wildcat squad in 2010.
Through four games, UA has allowed just three offensive touchdowns by opponents - all scored by Iowa on Sept. 18 9another Iowa TD came on a interception returned for a score). That means three of UA's four opponents have failed to score a touchdown against the Cats defense. Toledo notched a safety thanks to a safety by penalty in the endzone on UA's offense, The Citadel knocked in a pair of field goals, and California kicked a trio of the three-pointers. In the Iowa game, the defense can hardly be blamed for one of the scores as a sudden-change off a muffed punt by Bug Wright at the UA 18-yard line set up a touchdown one play later. It's certainly been a stifling defense over the first one-third of the year. UA's 11.0 points per game allowed ranks No. 3 in the nation. One could remove the safety and six points from Iowa's pick-six to yield an actual 9.0 ppg mark by the defense.
The Only Lead That Matters
Arizona went the first the first 13 quarters of the season without trailing. That string was broken when Cal took a 3-0 lead in the second quarter on Sept. 25. The Golden Bears later took a 6-0 lead, before UA cut it to 6-3 in the third quarter. Cal re-extended its lead to 9-3 in the fourth quarter before the Wildcats scored a touchdown with 1:11 remaining. The PAT was good an UA had its first lead of the game at 10-9. Pretty remarkable way to gather your only lead of a game after not having trailed in the first three games.
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:
No. 10 in UA history with 12 receiving touchdowns
Game-winning TD catch vs. California with 1:11 remaining followed 51-yard reception.
Led Pac-10 receivers with nine (9) receiving touchdowns in 2009
Six of 12 (50 percent) career TD grabs have been 20+ yard plays
46 of 70 (66 percent) of career catches result in first down or TD
18.5 yards per catch on 19 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
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 2,676 career rushing yards . That total puts him No. 12 on the list of active players in the NCAA for career rushing yards. Grigsby needs 324 yards to become the school's sixth player to reach 3,000 career rushing yards. He is one carry shy of reaching 500 career rush attempts, something only five other UA players have done. Here are some more quick hits on Nic Grigsby:
Currently stands as UA No. 6 rusher in school history with 2,676 yards (12th-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 5.4 yards per carry in career, including 5.9 ypc since start of 2008.
Had 1,153 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2008
Fifth-year seniors Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore form one of the best defensive end tandems in the nation. The two have combined for 29 career sacks, with Elmore winning the individual competition 16.0 to 13.0. Reed, however, leads on the season with 2.5 to Elmore's 1.5. Both were forces against then-No. 9 Iowa on Sept. 18, a game when the Wildcats racked up six sacks against the ballyhooed big boys from the Big 10. Reed, who was named a team co-captain this year, led UA's defensive line with six tackles and 1.5 sacks against Iowa. On the season, Elmore is No. 5 on the team with 17 tackles (3.0 for loss), while Reed checks in No. 7 with 16 tackles (3.0 for loss).
UA lost three senior linebackers in Xavier Kelley, Sterling Lewis and Vuna Tuihalamaka. Kelley had 78 tackles a year ago, Tuihalamaka added 72 and Lewis chipped in 38 while sharing some time with nickel back Corey Hall (38). That's 188 tackles lost. But mid-year juco transfer Paul Vassallo (22), sophomore Jake Fischer (21) and mid-year juco transfer Derek Earls (16) have done a solid job taking over the starting roles and anchoring the middle level of UA's defense, with help from soph R.J. Young (12 tackles). Clearly the staff's recruiting effort in the offseason helped plug some holes in a hurry. Vassallo is the club's leading tackler after four games, with Fischer right behind, and any time your LBs can lead the team in hits your entire defense is doing what it's supposed to be doing. Of the top 10 tacklers thus far only three are members of the secondary -- free safety Joe Perkins (20) and corners Trevin Wade (17) and Robert Golden (16). Another good sign is that those numbers are relatively low. The defense has been able to get its job done and get off the field.
Footballscoop.com rated Arizona's defensive staff one of itsw five national "game-changing staffs" of the week for its work in the California game. Auburn, Florida and N.C. State's offensive staffs, along with LSU's defensive staff, were the other four cited groups. UA's includes co-coordinators Tim Kish (LB) and Greg Brown (DB), Mike Tuiasosopo (DL), Jeff Hammerschmidt (DE) and grad assistant Ryan Walters. The Cats did not allow a touchdown by the Bears and limited Cal to seven of 11 drives of 20 yards or less.
Ten For Trevin
Junior cornerback Trevin Wade snared his 10th career interception against Iowa on Sept. 18, which put him in a tie for No. 10 in the NCAA for career active leaders in interceptions. Amazingly, it was second career "pick-six" with both coming against the Hawkeyes (one in 2009). While his 10 career interceptions are noteworthy, the most impressive part of the feat is the fact he has started just 18 games in his career. His 85-yard return against the Hawkeyes this year tied for the sixth-longest in school history. To date, he has 17 tackles, one pass breakup and one interception on the season. He is a preseason candidate for a handful of national honors, including the Jim Thorpe Award, the Bonko Nagurski award and the Bednarik Award.
Flaring, Dumping and Swinging Away
Arizona's Keola Antolin (14-106) and Nic Grigsby (12-67) showed in the first four 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.
Yellow is For Daffodils
The Cats have 33 penalties in four games, what would extrapolate to 100-plus for the year, the most since the 1999 Wildcats drew 114 flags and 925 yards in 12 contests, the UA records. Mike Stoops' UA squads have had fewer penalties than opponents each of his six years in Tucson. The Cats will have to discipline themselves the rest of the way to keep that streak alive. Opponents have been penalized 22 times this year.
Inside out for DD
Junior receiver David Douglas, an inside guy for his first two years, moved to the outside this year and in UA's leading receiver after tying his career best with seven receptions against Iowa (matched his 7-92 vs. Stanford last year). He has 22 catches for 201 yards and two scores. His 6.25 receptions per game are tied for second-most among Pac-10 receivers to date. He appears well on the way to topping the 31 receptions he posted last year in the slot.
True sophomore running back Greg Nwoko (nuh-WOE-coe) has averaged 6.4 yards on 20 rushes, for 129 yards in three 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. He's scored five career TDs after two against The Citadel in Week 2. As a third option in the running game, he's as good as it gets. His breakout a season ago came against Oregon State, when he stepped in for injured backfield mates Nic Grigsby and Keola Antolin. Nowko rushed nine times for 44 yards and a score, plus he hauled in five passes for 85 yards.
Knocking It Down
The Wildcat defense has 17 passes messed up -- one interception and 16 PBUs - through four games. Pretty nice total against 97 passes attempted, and just 48 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. Senior safety Anthony Wilcox matched that total with a career-high three PBUs against Iowa.
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 41-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 22-game starter in 24 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. His showcase game was likely against then-No. 9 Iowa on Sept. 18, when he went head-to-head with Adrian Clayborn, an All-American defensive end. Clayborn finished with just three tackles and was never a threat in the backfield on pass plays.
Don't Ignore the Big Guys
UA's tight ends only have six catches this year, with A.J. Simmons (3-45) and Jack Baucus (3-18) doing the work. But add those numbers up and you get one key -- 10 yards per catch. That's a handy little piece of multiple-spread football, helping move the chains and keeping defenses honest.
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 23-11 in its last 34 games (0.676), including a 15-8 mark in the Pac-10
UA is 15-3 at home over the last 18 games at Arizona Stadium
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
Rushing Attack Intact
Arizona's running back trio of Nic Grigsby, Keola Antolin and Greg Nwoko has combined for over 4,000 career rushing yards. Through four games this season, the current tally is 4,243 rushing yards, paced by Nic Grigsby's 2,676 yards, which places him No. 12 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 4,741 career rushing yards ready to see the field at any time. Of course, UA's receivers are also threats on reverses and end-around plays, notably Travis Cobb, Bug Wright and Juron Criner.
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 it 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 7-7 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 13-19 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 since 2007 when opponent rushes for less than 100 yards (12-0 record)
Zendejas on Point
Alex Zendejas, junior place kicker, is pushing running back Nic Grigsby for Arizona's scoring lead. Nic has 30 on five TDs, Alex has four field goals and 17 PAT kicks for 29. The Lou Groza Award watch list member has hit four of five field goals to give him a career mark of 21 makes in 27 tries (78%). His career-best is 47 yards, accomplished against Oregon last year and Iowa this year. He missed what would have been a career-long 48-yarder against Cal, his longest attempt. He's made 11 of his last 13 tries dating to last year. His 89 points a year ago were the sixth-most by a UA kicker in history. His game winner (32 yards) at ASU last year earned him Pac-10 Special Teams Player of the Week honors. His uncle, Max Zendejas, is Arizona's career leader in field goals (79), consecutive field goals made (18), 50-yard FGs (13), points (360) and some other assorted kicking records. Alex should hit the Arizona career scoring chart sometime next year with continued effectiveness.
Make it a Good One
Inside receiver David Roberts has had some big games, notably the 12 catches for 138 yards he posted at Washington a year ago. But that was in a losing effort, and his single snare against Iowa was huge -- a diving over-the-head two-hander down the hash for 38 yards in the fourth quarter to move UA from its 28 to the Iowa 34-yard line. The catch helped keep the Hawks on their heels from the get-go on the winning drive.
Not to Be Offensive
Over the course of the last 41 games, Arizona has scored 15 non-offensive touchdowns (once every 3 games or so). 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. This season, Trevin Wade (85 yards) returned an interception for a scored against Iowa, and Travis Cobb has a 100-yard kickoff return against the Hawkeyes.
Turning the Turnstiles
Arizona's capacity crowd against Iowa and more than 50,000 against California pushed UA's average season attendance to 54,861. With home dates against four Pac-10 opponents remaining that kind of figure would represent one of the best ever. UA's listed average attendance record is 56,562 in 1994, while an average of 55,798 passed through gates in 2006. Much has been said of UA's student section, the ZonaZoo, and since it gave itself the nickname near the start of Mike Stoops' UA career, it's been one of the constants, with near 10,000 strong representation game after game, helping urge other patrons to keep coming back.
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 225-120 in the first quarter of its last 31 games, and 236-120 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.
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 (54 total games), the Wildcats are an impressive 14-3 when they win the turnover battle in a game. Conversely, they struggle to a 6-12 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 13-15 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 54 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 29 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 30 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). Against Iowa, both teams tallied 19 first downs.
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 22-7 since the start of 2006 when it has a positive margin in time of possession and struggles to just a 9-16 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 4-13 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.
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 113 games in which they have scored 30 or more points. Their record in those games? An astounding 102-11-1. That record included a streak of 18 consecutive victories prior to the Oregon game in 2008 (55-45 loss), and UA is now 23-3 under Mike Stoops. Arizona is 3-0 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.
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.
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.
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 30 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.Mike Stoops'Mike Stoops
Up Next: Arizona will hit the road for the second time this season when it travels to play at Washington State in Pullman, Wash., on Saturday, Oct. 16. Game time and television broadcast details are expected to be announced by the Pac-10 on Monday, Oct. 4.