Nov. 8, 2010
Complete Game Notes (PDF)
USC (6-3, 3-3 Pac-10) at No. 18 Arizona (7-2, 4-2 Pac-10)
Live TV Broadcast: ABC
Television Talent: Ron Franklin (play-by-play); Ed Cunningham (analyst)
UA English Radio: Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries, play-by-play; Lamont Lovette, color; Dana Cooper, sideline)
UA Spanish Radio: Wildcat Radio Network (Francisco Romero, play-by-play; Marco Rincon, analyst)
Satellite Radio: SIRIUS 126 (USC radio), XM 196 (UA radio call)
Online Coverage: Gametracker | Live Audio
All-Time Series: USC leads 26-7
First Meeting: 1916 (USC 20, UA 7 at Phoenix)
Last Meeting: Dec. 5, 2009 (UA 21, USC 17 at Los Angeles)
Some Game Themes
Arizona looks into the mirror and decides what lasting effects of a rare blowout loss at Stanford will have on a promising season... The Cats look for an eighth victory in regular-season play for the first time since the '90s... ...The Wildcats continue their late-season stretch against the league's upper division... What otherwise might have been a contest with two-way bowl implications devolves into an affair of one team's hopes against the other's browned-off view of the postseason... Two quarterbacks of note take stage... UA's defense faces another in a late-season string of high-scoring and potent offenses and hopes it's forewarned and forearmed after last week... The Arizona offense checks its playbook against a team rated 97th in total defense... The Wildcats look to find a spine inside the red zone, where they've squandered too many opportunities, and this week face a team that's obliged opponents with 26 scores in 29 visits... The Arizona program notes some former heroes in a jersey enshrinement fete -- Ricky Hunley, Chuck Cecil, Rob Waldrop, to name three -- in the halftime of a game against Heritage Hall itself... Speaking of history, it's the Cats' last Saturday game EVER in Pacific-10 Conference play, with a pair of weekdays coming up...
Stanford racked up 510 yards in offense in scoring five touchdowns on long drives and another on a short field to humble the Wildcats, 42-17, and drop UA out of a second-place tie in the conference standings. The Cardinal protected quarterback Andrew Luck and he operated as advertised, throwing for 293 yards and a pair of scores, while the Stanford running game piled up 217 yards and four TDs against Arizona's vaunted defense. Luck completed 23 of 32 throws and his mates ran the ball 45 times to pile up the yardage. Receiver Chris Owusu snared nine passes for 165 yards and added 96 other yards for an all-purpose 261-yard evening. UA's Juron Criner caught nine of Nick Foles' 28 completions for 98 yards and a score, plus rushed three times for 50 yards to help lead Arizona in nearly matching (25) first downs with Stanford (26), but the scoreboard was a different deal. The Cats squandered two of their five red zone trips and Foles threw a ball intercepted inside the zone to thwart another foray into Stanford territory. The loss of continuity and momentum was telling and kept UA's 428 yards of offense mostly between the 20s. Foles, back after missing two games with a knee injury, wasn't quite sharp, hitting 28 of 48 (58%) for 248 yards. Keola Antolin had another good night running the ball for UA (game-high 87 yards on 16 carries, with a score), and UA rushed for 180 total. Stanford, however, controlled the ball when it had to (15-minute edge in time of possession) and did not turn the ball over. SU running back Stepfan Taylor (19-82) had all four of the rushing TDs while teammate Anthony Wilkerson added a 10-84 day. The scoring output against Arizona was the most points allowed all year and came consistently across four quarters. UA had a chance to cut the lead to 21-10 at the half after its defense forced a three-and-out, a possible momentum changer, but Foles' lone pick came on 1st-and-10 from the SU 28 in the waning moments. The UA, among national leaders in sacks, did not get to Luck all day.
Arizona - Mike Stoops (Iowa '86), seventh year (40-41) 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 23-12 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 and three sellouts this year. Arizona's football team APR checked in with an improved mark each of the five seasons since his inaugural year. Stoops is 1-5 against USC with the victory coming last year in the Coliseum to propel UA into the Holiday Bowl. Southern California - Lane Kiffin (Fresno State '98), first year at UCS (6-3) and second year overall as a head coach (13-9). He was head coach in the NFL for a pair of years at Oakland (2007-08) before taking his first collegiate head job at Tennessee for the 2009 season. His background includes six years as a USC offensive assistant (2001-06), the final two as offensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator under Pete Carroll. He started his career as a student assistant at Fresno State for a pair of seasons (1997-98) before taking his first full-time job as OL assistant at Colorado State before a first season in the NFL as an assistant with Jacksonville.
In the Rankings
Arizona is ranked No. 18 in this week's Associated Press Top 25 poll and No. 19 in the USA Today Coaches' Poll. Arizona has been ranked for nine-consecutive weeks in the AP poll and 10-straight weeks in the coaches' poll. The Wildcats check in at No. 18 in the Bowl Championship Series ratings.
UA-USC The Last Meeting
Arizona got itself to San Diego and the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl by earning a second consecutive road victory and taking down the Trojans, 20-17, on Dec. 5, 2009 in the L.A. Coliseum, to earn a piece of second place in the Pac-10. The winning points came off a 10-play, 80-yard drive and that says a lot about what Arizona did in the game. One notable feature was compiling 321 yards in offense against a good defense, and another was incorporating its own good defense to hold the Trojans to 282 yards. Arizona mustered only 82 rushing yards but Nick Foles outgunned Matt Barkley by a 239 to 144 edge in passing, plus two to one in scoring throws. That last was a nifty corner fade route by Juron Criner for 36 yards and the final score with 3:14 left. Having to play defense with the game on the line, the Cats came up with a sack by tackle Earl Mitchell and three incomplete passes. After trying to eat up all the clock at the USC 15-yard line including taking a delay-of-game penalty, USC got a final shot. But Mitchell notched another sack and the game was over. That earned him Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week honors. Foles completed 22 of 40 throws and suffered one interception. His four-yard toss to Delashaun Dean opened the scoring and gave UA a 7-0 lead half way through the first period, and his quarterback sneak for a yard put UA up 14-7 at the half. The Trojans tied the game with a short-field drive in the third period, and took a lead with a field goal half way through the final period. But UA mustered the troops for the winning drive. The Cats spread out the heroes, with 51 yards rushing by Keola Antolin, six catches by Juron Criner and five apiece from Bug Wright and Dean. The UA offensive line did not give up a sack. Trevin Wade had nine tackles and his fifth interception of the year, Mitchell had six tackles including three for losses, and sub Marcus Benjamin made some stops in the late going filling in for Wade.
Juron Is On
Junior receiver Juron Criner's nine grabs last week gave him 58 for the season, tied with Dennis Northcutt (58-767, 1997) and Jeremy McDaniel (58-916, 1998) for 10th on Arizona's single-season chart. Six more catches would move him into a tie with Northcutt (63-922, 1998) for the No. 6 spot. Juron's 884 yards are No. 11 on the season chart, eight markers behind the 10-spot. He also notched 50 rushing yards last week and could be en-arounding his way to more rushing attempts down the stretch. Those opportunities aren't exactly yards-after-catch, but they showcase the same in-stride talents. Juron's 16 career touchdown receptions tie him with tight end Rob Gronkowski (2007-08) and Jon Horton (1983-86) for No. 7 on Arizona's historical chart. A good finish and a good senior year could put him up with Northcutt (24 from 1996-99), Mike Thomas (23 from 2005-08) and Bobby Wade (23 from 1999-02) in the No. 2-4 spots behind Arizona record holder Theopolis "T" Bell with 30 from 1972-75.
A Key -- Oh, Yeah
Junior running back Keola Antolin has steadily pushed Nig Grigsby for top duties at tailback, where he's gained 1,691 career rushing yards, 14th best in Arizona history, a pretty special move for a No. 2 guy most of his tenure. Grigsby's No. 6 on the same chart with 2,747 yards and has a chance -- if he can hang on to his job and run with it -- to join five other Wildcats in the 3,000-yard club. The most recent guy in was Mike Bell (3,163 from 2002-05, No. 4 on the list). Antolin's had 403 yards on 74 totes in the last four games (4 TD) while a banged-up Grigsby's carried 33 times for 149 yards (2 TD) in the span. Meantime, sophomore Greg Nwoko has taken advantage of some extra duty in the past two games with 17 tries for 74 yards and a score.
MISCELLANEOUS FOOTBALL FACTOIDS ...
The Cats' 25-point margin of defeat at Stanford joined the 33-0 loss to Nebraska in last December's Holiday Bowl as anomaly types in Mike Stoops' recent tenure. UA lost to Oregon State by two earlier this year, by margins of 3, 8, 3 and 10 points last year; and five games by an average of 5.5 points in 2008... The Cats have 14 receivers with multiple pass receptions... Junior place kicker Alex Zendejas has made 10 of 12 field goal tries this year and 27 of 34 in his two-year tenure as the guy doing it. He's six for six in the last four games and overall has been most productive (5-for-6) in the 40-49 yard range... Linebacker Paul Vassallo, who transferred to UA from junior college in January, has 72 tackles and is on pace for 100 this year in a 13-game season. The last Wildcat linebacker to reach the century mark was current Denver Bronco combo-back Spencer Larsen with 131 in 2007. Linebackers Xavier Kelley had 78 in his senior year in 2009 and Ronnie Palmer had 85 in his senior campaign in 2008... Arizona has averaged 5.4 yards per rush in the last three games, a span in which it ran for 678 yards. The Cats threw the ball 106 times for 800 yards in those games so it wasn't a one-size-fits-all deal. Whether part of that was then QB (and mobile) Matt Scott, who started the UW and UCLA games with Nick Foles sidelined with a knee injury) is open to discussion. Scott missed the Stanford game with a wrist injury and his status for the USC game was unknown early in the week... Stanford's 45 rushing attempts were exceeded only by Citadel's 50 tries against UA this season. The Cardinal's 217 rushing yards snapped a four-game streak during which UA held opponents under 100... The Cats had more first downs than seven opponents, the same as one (Iowa) and one less than one (Stanford, 25-26).... Both of UA's losses have one thing in common -- opponents' time of possession, hence UA's defense on the field too much. Oregon State had an eight-minute edge and Stanford held a 14-minute edge...
HANG 'EM HIGH
At halftime of the USC-Arizona game a number of former Wildcat greats will be feted on the official recognition of their jerseys being retired -- cornerback Antoine Cason, safety Chuck Cecil, linebacker Ricky Hunley, cornerback Darryll Lewis, running back Art Luppino, cornerback Chris McAlister, place kicker Steve McLaughlin and defensive tackle Rob Waldrop. While the numbers remain in use, Arizona faithful remember these special players who wore 4 (Lewis), 5 (Cason), 6 (Cecil), 11 (McAlister), 22 (Luppino), 28 (McLaughlin), 89 (Hunley) and 92 (Waldrop).
DXP Not in the UA Lexicon
The University of Arizona has not had a special teams (defensive) player score two points since the NCAA adopted the two-point defensive extra-point(s) rule for the 1988 season. Homer C. Rice, then chairman of the NCAA Football Rules Committee noted, "Giving the defensive team the opportunity to score on point-after-touchdown attempts will add excitement to the game." Yeah, about once every quarter century. It sure did in the Coliseum last week when Toris Harris' 90-yard play gave USC two points it used to top ASU.
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. 5 in nation for active career completion percentage (71.8%)
Currently ranks No. 5 in nation for active career completions per game (22.4)
Has thrown for 4,334 yards (No. 9 in UA history) in 20 career games (18 starts)
No. 9 in UA history with 29 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 440 yards passing vs. Oregon State in 2010
Holds UA record for single game pass completion % for 30+ attempts (86.49% at Toledo, 2010)
Red Zone Losses
UA is averaging 30 points per game and probably could find some ways to finish off the 450 yards per game they're moving the ball. One quick view of lost goods is the red zone. Within reach of the end zone Arizona has lost the ball on downs three times, had three interceptions and fumbled twice. That's a possible 56 points down the tubes right there.
Speaking of 450
Arizona's average total offense of 450 yards per game would check out at 2nd best in school history if it held up. The current top two marks are by the same basic team -- 472 by the 1999 Wildcats and 445 by the 1998 Wildcats. They were led by receivers Dennis Northcutt and Jeremy McDaniel, running backs Trung Candidate and Kelvin Eafon and quarterbacks Keith Smith and Ortege Jenkins -- and some hell-raising defense that kept giving them the ball.
Junior quarterback Nick Foles has moved into No. 10 on Arizona career total offense chart in two seasons -- both affected by fewer games than normal. Last year it took him until game four to take the top job, this eyar he missed two games with a knee injury. Still, he's generated 4,209 yards in total offense on 694 plays, displacing former option QB George Malauulu (1989-92) on the list. Next up at No. 9 is 1976-79 veer quarterback Jim Krohn with 4,307 yards.
Arizona remains among the FBS top 20 when it comes to holding teams to three plays and punt. The Cats have an average of 3.78 such opponent offensive possessions per game, 14th in the land and best among Pac-10 squads. Ohio State is the national leader at 5.88 per game. UA is tied with Alabama, while Arizona State is 16th at 3.67 three-and-gone per game.
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 16 of its last 20 home games
The four losses have come by a total of 14 points (3.5 ppg average)
UA has won its 16 games by an average of 22.0 ppg
UA has just three single-digit victories 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 53,000 fans per game in Mike Stoops' six seasons, with a 24-18 record
A total of 2,278,396 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.
Remember the Games in Nov/December
In Mike Stoops' tenure, Arizona has played a handful of meaningful games in November and December. In his six previous seasons, Stoops has a 13-11 record in those final two months. On the surface, that may sound like a so-so number, but it includes more than half of those contests (13) being against nationally-ranked opponents. The Wildcats are 7-6 in those games with several AP Top-10 victories, including over No. 7 UCLA (2005), No. 8 California (2006) and No. 2 Oregon (2007).
Eight Isn't Enough
Arizona has four more tries (including a bowl game) to win two games and improve on its 8-5 marks of the past two years. That's not been a goal for the program, just one for the information types to track. The staff and players have some other things in mind, indeed, but the Cats' rise in the past several years merits the attention Arizona has been getting. Nine consecutive weeks in the rankings was not the stuff of Arizona football from 2001-08. Mike Stoops has built something that has staying power. Now this week's game figures in the equation for the opportunities it presents. For the record, other objectives aside, Arizona has won more than seven games just 14 times in its century-plus football history.
Just Tune it to ABC/ESPN
Arizona closes the year with four consecutive appearances on the ABC/ESPN family of networks, making it seven total appearances with the Pac-10 partner in 2010. That's the most since a six-game ABC slate in 1994. In all, Arizona will have 10 games (including a bowl game) on national networks this year.
Grigsby Moving Up
Arizona senior tailback Nic Grigsby scored twice against Washington, pushing his career rushing touchdown total to 28, moving him in to sole possession of the No. 2 spot on the school's career rushing touchdown chart. UA's all-time leader is Art Luppino, who had 44 scores from 1953-56. So No. 2 is all the further he can realistically climb before his career wraps up in the next five - and hopefully six - games. He remains 153 yards shy of reaching the 3,000-yard milestone for his career, something accomplished by only five players in program history.
Elmore Getting More
Senior defensive end Ricky Elmore is following up a sensational junior season in grand style. Through eight games, Elmore leads the Pac-10 with 8.0 sacks on the season. Elmore's 0.89 sacks per game tally is currently No. 13 in the nation. The 6-foot-5 senior led the Pac-10 in sacks during the regular season a year ago with 11.5, and he's on pace to do so again. In 2010, the 6-foot-5, 250-pounder has 36 total tackles (third-best on team), including 9.0 for loss. He has 22.5 career sacks, which are seventh-most for active plays in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision.
In the House ...
Lots of patrons. UA had its third sellout of the year against Washington to go with previous crowds for Iowa and against Oregon State. The Homecoming crowd pushed the season average to 55,376, about 97 percent of capacity and potentially the third-best average season attendance in school history behind 56,562 in 1994 and an average of 55,798 for Mike Stoops' third team in 2006.
Throw It and It's Caught
Arizona throws the ball about 35 times a game and enters week nine completing 71.9 percent of its passes, the third-best mark for a team in the nation. The current rate would hammer the school record of 64.6 put up by the club just a few years ago in Willie Tuitama's (64.9%) senior campaign and Matt Scott's (63.6%) true freshman year. Nick Foles (71.8), Scott (70.3) and Bryson Beirne (100.0) have found some open guys who haven't wasted the opportunities.
Tackling Behind the Lines
Arizona ranks No. 21 in nation in tackles for loss per game, averaging 7.00 stops behind the line. UA's leader is Ricky Elmore, who has 10.0 TFL's to date thanks to his Pac-10-leading 8.0 sacks. Justin Washington, who missed two games with an injury, is second on the club with 8.5 TFLs, while UA linebackers Paul Vassallo (5.5), Derek Earls (6.5) and Jake Fischer (5.5) have combined for 17.5. Defensive lineman Brooks Reed (7.0), D'Aundre Reed (5.0) and Mana Mikaele (3.5) have combined for 15.5 more. All added up, the Wildcats have 63 TFLs on the season. That is approaching the season total of 76 in 13 games in 2009.
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 4-2 start this season, the Wildcats have 18 victories in their last 28 conference games, dating to the last four games of the 2007 season. That 18-10 record (0.643 winning percentage) is impressive by itself, but most losses have been close as well. UA has lost six of the 10 games by three points or less.
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:
Tied for No. 7 in UA history with 16 career receiving touchdowns
No. 8 in nation with 98.2 receiving yards per game in 2010
110 career receptions are No. 10 in UA history
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
10 of 16 (62.5 percent) career TD grabs have been 20+ yard plays
70 of 110 (63.6 percent) of career catches result in first down or TD
15.2 yards per catch on 58 receptions in 2010
Four 100-yard games in 2010 (five in career)
Career-highs of 58 catches for 884 yards in 2010
Has 1,554 career receiving yards on 58 total catches
10-catch, 176-yard performance at Toledo 2010
12-catch, 152-yard effort against Stanford in 2009
12-catch, 179-yard (career hight) effort against Oregon State in 2010
Career-high three (3) touchdowns vs. Oregon in 2009
Where Grigsby Stacks Up
Senior tailback Nic Grigsby has moved up to No. 2 on the UA career rushing touchdown chart (28) and No. 6 in school history with 2,847 career rushing yards. That total puts him No. 14 on the list of active players in the NCAA for career rushing yards. Grigsby needs 155 yards to become the school's sixth player to reach 3,000 career rushing yards. Against Oregon State this year, he became the eighth player in school history with 500 carries in a career. Here are some more quick hits on Nic Grigsby:
Currently stands as UA No. 6 rusher in school history with 2,847 yards
His 28 career rushing TDs is No. 2 in school history.
His 536 career rush attempts are sixth-most by a UA player
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 5.3 yards per carry in career, including 5.7 ypc since start of 2008.
Had 1,153 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2008
Reed Racking Up the Sacks
Senior defensive end Brooks Reed has returned to his dominating form showcased in his breakout 2008 season. Plagued by a high ankle sprain that forced him to miss several games in 2009, Reed has enjoyed a healthy 2010 season to date. He has 5.5 sacks through nine games, a mark that is second on the team and tied for No. 3 in the Pac-10. Overall, the team co-captain has 28 tackles, including 7.0 for loss, on the season.
Vassallo Making a Name for Himself
Junior linebacker Paul Vassallo has quietly become one of the leaders on the UA defense. Vassallo has settled comfortably into his role has a nine-game starter after joining the program as a junior college transfer last December. He has a team-high 72 tackles (27 more than No. 2 Joseph Perkins), 5.5 tackles for loss and 2.0 sacks. He was named the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week following a dominating 14-tackle performance against Washington on Oct. 23.
Newbie Linebackers No More
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 UA's new guys at the positions have six games under their built and have already set the expectations high for the remainder of the season. Mid-year juco transfer Paul Vassallo (72 tackles, 5.5 for loss, 2.0 sacks), sophomore Jake Fischer (35 tackles 5.5 for loss, 2.0 sacks) and mid-year juco transfer Derek Earls (37 tackles, 6.5 for loss) have done a solid job taking over the starting roles and anchoring the middle level of UA's defense, with help from sophomore R.J. Young (16 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 seven games, with Fischer at No. 4 and Earls at No. 10.
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 22 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 29 tackles, two pass breakups and one interception on the season. He was a preseason candidate for a handful of national honors, including the Jim Thorpe Award, the Bonko Nagurski award and the Bednarik Award.
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 46-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. Several mid-year lists by various publicists have him as an All-American candidate.
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 27-game starter in 29 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.
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 seven games this season, the current tally is 4,969 rushing yards, paced by Nic Grigsby's 2,847 yards, which places him No. 16 amongst active players in the NCAA for career rushing yards. Throw in Matt Scott's 622 career markers as a dual-threat quarterback, and you tally 5,591 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 (50 rush yards at Stanford in 2010).
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 8-8 in games when it passes for 300+ yards since the start of 2006
Arizona is 6-2 in games when its opponent throws for 300+ yards in a game since '06
Arizona is 26-8 in games when it rushes for 100+ yards in a game since `06
Arizona is just 13-20 in games when its opponent rushes for 100+ yards in a game since `06
Only five teams have beat UA when rushing for less than 100 yards since the start of `06
UA is 15-1 in the last 16 games when holding an opponent under 100 net rushing yards
Not to Be Offensive
Over the course of the last 46 games, Arizona has scored 15 non-offensive touchdowns (nearly 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.
Impressive Starting Debut
True freshman cornerback Shaquille Richardson made his first career start against Washington State, and he didn't disappoint. Filling in for the injured Trevin Wade, the Carson, Calif., native intercepted a pair of passes, broke up three additional passes and registered seven tackles - all solo - against the Cougars. He two picks in his first career start are the first for a Wildcat since current San Diego Charger Antoine Cason snared two against Northern Arizona in the season opener of his true freshman season of 2004. Interestingly, Cason and Richardson both hail from the same high school - Los Alamitos - and both wear the same number: No. 5. The man Richardson filled in for - Wade - also picked off two passes in his Arizona debut, but did so as a redshirt freshman and in a reserve role. Wade's pair of picks came against Idaho in the 2008 season opener.
Close Game Turnaround
Arizona's Mike Stoops has coached in 81 games in his seven-year tenure at the school. Of those, 30 of them (37.0 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 12-18 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, despite another tough loss to Oregon State on Oct. 10 (29-27). Consider that UA has won last four of its last fivecontests decided by seven points or less and has won six of nine 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, prior to dropping the game to the Beavers two weeks ago.
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 256-151 in the first quarter of its last 36 games, and 277-154 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 (56 total games), the Wildcats are an impressive 15-3 when they win the turnover battle in a game. Conversely, they struggle to a 6-13 mark in games when they lose the critical battle. The Cats linger just over .500 in games they split the turnover margin with a 13-9 mark. In multiple miscue games, Arizona is just 14-15 when it turns the ball over two or more times, but has benefitted with a 12-3 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 0-10 when they lose the turnover battle on the road. At the same time, UA is 12-4 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 17-6 over the last 36 games and 22-7 since the start of the 2006 season. At the same time, keeping opponents under that mark is critical, too. UA has captured 25 of its 34 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 (16-3 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 25-7 since the start of 2006 when it has a positive margin in time of possession and struggles to just a 9-17 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 4-15 record for the Cardinal and Navy. When the tables are turned and UA has the four-plus minutes of possession, the Cats are 17-6.
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.
Arizona will get a much-welcomed late-season open week before it travels to Eugene, Ore., to take on No. Oregon on Thanksgiving Weekend. The Cats and Ducks will battle on Friday, Nov. 16, at 4 p.m. (PT). The game will be televised live by ESPN.