Oct. 25, 2010
Complete Game Notes (PDF)
No. 15 Arizona (6-1, 3-1 Pac-10) at UCLA (3-4, 1-3 Pac-10)
Live TV Broadcast: FSN (national cablecast)
Television Talent: Barry Tompkins (play-by-play), Petros Papadakis(analyst); Rebecca Haarlow (sideline)
UA English Radio: Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries, play-by-play; Lamont Lovette, color; Dana Cooper, sideline)
Satellite Radio: SIRIUS 214, XM 194 (Arizona Wildcat Radio Network call)?
All-Time Series: UCLA leads, 19-13-2
First Meeting: 1927 (UA 16, UCLA 13 at Tucson)
Last Meeting: Oct. 24, 2009 (UA 27, UCLA 13 at Tucson)
Some Game Themes
The Wildcats work to keep pace in the Pac-10 race, trailing the leader by a game... Arizona measures its consistency against a team glad to be home after the fog-horn nightmare that all visitors to the Emerald Empire seem to get... The Cats try to win a fourth consecutive road game dating to last year's December win at the other L.A. school... UA illustrates its handling of quarterback depth in the wake of Matt Scott's performance last week while Nick Foles was on the mend. Foles' status for this week is questionable but he did warm up prior to the game Saturday... A clash of Arizona's No. 7 (FBS) rushing and scoring defenses against UCLA's No. 22 rushing game... UA works on a winning streak of three games against the Bruins with Tucson wins bracketing one in Pasadena in 2008... What gives? UA cornerback Trevin Wade (10) and UCLA safety Rahim Moore (14) are among conference leaders in career interceptions but they have just two and three PBUs, respectively, this year. An injury to Wade gave ex-UCLA recruit Shaq Richardson a chance to start at Washington State for Arizona two weeks ago and the guy turned in two picks... Arizona plays its first afternoon game of the season after only two twilight contests (4 p.m.) at WSU and OSU... The Cats, bowl eligible for the fourth time in five years, now have postseason ramifications on the line in every game here on out... On paper it could be the nuance of UCLA against Arizona's own intricacies, so probably on the field it will simply evolve into a tough-guy contest.
Arizona scored 30 first-half points and tossed a second-half shutout to thump Washington, 44-14, before a sellout crowd on Homecoming weekend in Tucson. UA scored on five consecutive possessions to take a 30-14 halftime lead and never looked back. The Cats ran for a season-high 234 yards and enjoyed some superlative stewardship by junior quarterback Matt Scott, who matched the running game bny completing 82 percent of his throws (18 for 22) for 233 yards and two scores. Scott added 65 rushing yards (9.3 ypc) to back up Keola Antolin's 114 rushing yards and twin scores. Nic Grigsby added another pair of TDs on a 12-50 rushing effort. Alex Zendejas added a field goal to put UA up 10-7 and acquire the lead for good. The Arizona defense took care of business, sacking normally elusive UW quarterback Jake Locker four times to hold him to a sub-par -24 rushing yards and pressure him enough to limit his passing to 183 passing yards. The sacks and six other tackles for losses helped UA hold a fifth opponent under 100 yards rushing (98 net). Juron Criner caught eight passes for 108 yards including a 21-yard scoring pass to put the final points on the board early in the fourth quarter. Arizona built a first-half offensive output of 356 yards to make it clear that operating under Scott was not going to be a drop off from injured Nick Foles. Scott's pass efficiency of 200.78 for the game was UA's best of the season and improved him to 4-1 as the starting QB, a role he had not enjoyed since the lone loss at Iowa early last year. His poise helped UA score five times in five red zone tries. Linebacker Paul Vassallo turned in a career- and season team-best 14-tackle game including a sack. The 14 hits were the most since then junior Xavier Kelley turned in 15 against BYU in the 2008 Las Vegas Bowl. The victory improved Arizona to 6-1 and made the Cats bowl eligible.
Arizona - Mike Stoops (Iowa '86), seventh year (39-40) 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 22-11 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 4-2 against UCLA as UA's head coach... UCLA - Rick Neuheisel (UCLA '84), third year in Los Angeles (14-18) and 11th year overall as a head coach (80-48). An honorable mention All-Pac-10 quarterback for the Bruins his senior year, he began his coaching career as a volunteer coach at UCLA in 1986 on the offensive side working with quarterbacks. He was head coach at Colorado (1995-98) and Washington (1999-2002) and an assistant in the NFL (2005-07, Baltimore) prior to returning to his alma mater. He is 4-2 against Arizona in his career with four wins coming while at UW.
The Road Gets Tougher
Arizona's schedule down the stretch certainly toughens up, if only because the Wildcats play three of their remaining five games on the road. Certainly the competition and conference race continue to heat up each week as well. But UA hopes it can continue to find solace in playing away from home, where the team is 2-0 this year and has won four-straight Pac-10 road games dating back to 2009. Coaches and players have attributed the two road trips this year to turning points in the season. The first was the season-opener at Toledo, where the Wildcats took with them many unanswered questions from fall camp, notably related to a young and inexperienced defense. That trip brought the UA defense together and marked the berth of a very strong unit as the Cats thumped the Rockets 41-2. Then, following their only loss of the season two weeks ago, the Wildcats hit the road for the first time in six weeks and again found the road to be a solidifying experience as they defeated Washington State 24-7 despite QB Nick Foles going down with an injury. Arizona hopes another road trip this week continues to build the camaraderie and chemistry that has gone hand-in-hand with success throughout the season.
The Arizona defense continues to rank as the top defense in the Pac-10 and one of the top units nationally, at least statistically.
Welcome (Back) Matt
Arizona junior quarterback showed that commitment, dedication and hard work really does pay off. Last week against Washington, the 6-foot-3 dual-threat signal caller made his first start since losing his job three games into the 2009. The result was 298 yards of total offense (career-high 233 passing, 65 rushing), one touchdown and zero interceptions. It was the first error-free (i.e. interception) game for UA's quarterbacks this season and resulted in a 200.8 pass efficiency rating. Certainly it was a credit to Scott's dedication, but also to UA quarterbacks coach Frank Scelfo, who has drastically improved the play and decision-making skills of both Scott and Nick Foles all season long. The 44-14 victory improved Scott's career record to 3-1 as a starter in his career.
Not that coaches or players are going to celebrate right now, but Arizona has achieved bowl eligibility for the fourth time in the last five seasons, including three straight years. Arizona's 6-1 start to the 2010 season is its best since doing so in 1998, when the school went 12-1 and finished with a Holiday Bowl victory over Nebraska. The Wildcats then went nine seasons that finished without a bowl, although Mike Stoops led the Cats to a 6-6 bowl-eligible mark in 2006. Stoops and the Cats snapped the bowless stretch with a Las Vegas Bowl berth in 2008, which was followed by another appearance in the Holiday Bowl in 2009.
Keola Keying Offensive Attack
Nic Grigsby (390 yards) and Keola Antolin (332 yards) share duties as the top running back, and often in the same backfield. Keola picked up his third career 100-yard game last week against Washington, toting it 14 times for 114 yards, thanks in great part to a 78-yard scoring run, his career long (eclipsing a 67-yarder against ASU last year). That gave him an 8.1 yards per carry outing against the Huskies. He had games of 21-149 against Cal and 6-114 against Oregon State as a freshman in his other century-mark games. He had another splendid game with 20 carries for 87 yards and four touchdowns against Oregon his freshman year.
Grigsby Moves Up (Again)
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 186 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 seven games, Elmore leads the Pac-10 with 7.0 sacks on the season. That total is 2.5 better than the next best number, 4.5, held by bookend teammate Brooks Reed. Elmore's 1.0 sacks per game tally is currently No. 10 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 34 total tackles (third-best on team), including 9.0 for loss. He has 21.5 career sacks, which are seventh-most for active plays in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision.
Staring at the Stats
If Arizona converts its next third-down try it will be right on the nose at 50 percent (currently 44 for 89). That's a boost from the 41 percent rate of a year ago and a lot of it has to do with completion percentage and shorter third downs. Seventeen FBS squads are better and two of them -- Stanford (2nd, 57.5) and USC (6th, 52.9) also have some signal callers making some good decisions. Nevada is converting a whopping 60 percent on third down with its pistol-whipping style to lead the FBS... Arizona has held opponents to only five red zone touchdowns this year, surely a function of its overall defense that has kept the bad guys from getting into range only 13 times in the seven games... UA has some balance in its offensive scheme and basically has gone with the effective ploy to win games. The Cats have run the ball 226 times and passes it 250 times That's an average of 68 plays a game. Of the 27 clubs ahead of Arizona in total offense (per game), only nine schools have less than 500 plays like the Cats -- USC, Boise State, Troy, Utah, Arkansas, Nebraska, SDSU, Cincinnati and Louisville -- and you might think of consistent big-play potential when you read that list...Two years ago Arizona nearly matched its school record (34 by 1998 team) with 33 rushing touchdowns. A bit over half way through the year the Cats have 16. Co-offensive coordinators Seth Littrell and Bill Bedenbaugh will saddle up and run at you... Arizona is getting 410 all-purpose yards per game from its five best playmakers -- Juron Criner, Travis Cobb, Keola Antolin, Nic Grigsby and Bug Wright. Criner's doing it basically one way, receiving, while fellow receivers Cobb and Wright return kicks, and Antolin and Grigsby run and catch the ball.
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.
Works For Me
The Wildcats have scored 40+ points three times this year and average about five TDs' worth of points a game. This has helped UA to a 6-1 record but rates only 32nd about FBS teams. Someone out there's lighting some serious scoreboards. To Arizona's advantage, however, it's holding opponents to 13 points per game, seventh best in the country. That works out to a scoring margin of about 20 points which would tie for second-best in school history (20.0 in 1929). The record is a margin of +38.5 by the Art "The Cactus Comet" days in 1954.
Matt Scott's performance against Washington helped earn him the Rivals.com conference player of the week citation for the Paac-10. The national winner was fellow QB Cam Newton of Auburn, who visited Arizona last fall in the recruiting process, but was likely, turned off by the presence of two proven quarterbacks already in the program. Things have probably worked out well for all parties.
Throw It and It's Caught
Arizona throws the ball about 35 times a game and enters week eight completing three-quarters of the tosses. The current rate is 75.2 percent, which 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 (75.3), Scott (72.7) and Byrson Beirne (100.0) have found some open guys who haven't wasted the opportunities.
Arizona is 12th nationally in holding teams to three plays and out, with nearly 4.0 per game. Ohio State is atop the list with a 5.8 average. Like several other defensive statistics to date, UA's mark is the top one for a Pac-10 club. Arizona State trails the Wildcats by one spot on the list.
Tackling Behind the Lines
Arizona moved up to No. 8 in nation in tackles for loss per game, averaging 8.0 stops behind the line. UA's leader is Ricky Elmore, who has 9.0 TFL's to date thanks to his Pac-10-leading 8.0 sacks. Justin Washington, who did not play last week, is second on the club with 8.5 TFLs, while UA linebackers Paul Vassallo (4.5), Derek Earls (6.5) and Jake Fischer (5.5) have combined for 16.5. Defensive lineman Brooks Reed (4.5), D'Aundre Reed (5.0) and Mana Mikaele (5.0) have combined for 14.5 more. All added up, the Wildcats have 56 TFLs on the season. That is approaching the season total of 76 in 13 games in 2010.
Limiting Long Plays
A key to the Arizona defense continues to be the ability to limit big plays by opposing offenses. Certainly, Oregon State proved that big plays can be the downfall for a defense as the Beavers - at the time - doubled UA's season total for pass plays of 20-plus yard allowed. But overall, the Wildcat defense has been very good at making team's try to go the length of the field and not make plays in chunks. Opposing teams are averaging 2.7 plays of 20-plus yards per game. Only one team - The Citadel - has a rushing play of 20-plus yards to date. The Cats have given up 18 pass plays and one rush of 20-plus yards.
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 3-1 start this season, the Wildcats have 17 victories in their last 26 conference games, dating to the last four games of the 2007 season. That 17-9 record (0.654 winning percentage) is impressive by itself, but even in the Wildcats' nine losses, they have been just a few plays away from winning each game. UA has lost six of the nine games by three points or less and by a total of 39 points (average of 4.3 per game).
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 14 receiving touchdowns
No. 13 in NCAA FBS with 94.1 receiving yards per game in 2010
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
Eight of 14 (57 percent) career TD grabs have been 20+ yard plays
60 of 93 (64.5 percent) of career catches result in first down or TD
16.1 yards per catch on 41 receptions in 2010
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
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. 2 on the UA career rushing touchdown chart (28) and No. 6 in school history with 2,814 career rushing yards. That total puts him No. 14 on the list of active players in the NCAA for career rushing yards. Grigsby needs 186 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 2,814 yards (14th-most for active FBS players)
His 28 career rushing TDs is No. 2 in school history.
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 4.5 sacks through seven games, a mark that is second on the team and tied for No. 2 in the Pac-10. Overall, the team co-captain has 20 tackles, including 5.0 for loss, on the season.
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 (54 tackles, 4.5 for loss, 2.0 sacks), sophomore Jake Fischer (29 tackles 5.5 for loss, 2.0 sacks) and mid-year juco transfer Derek Earls (26 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. 7.
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 20 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 22 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.
Knocking It Down
The Wildcat defense has 34 passes messed up - six interceptions interception and 28 PBUs - through seven games. Pretty nice total against 204 passes attempted, and just 55 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. Wilcox ranks in the top-25 nationally with seven passes defended on the year.
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 44-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 25-game starter in 27overall 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.
Mike Stoops' Program: The Last Four+ Years
When one thinks of Arizona football under Mike Stoops, they likely point to the early struggles in the first four years as he worked feverishly to rebuild the program followed by promising eight-win seasons the last two years. One thing that goes overlooked is the fact that, despite injuries to record-setting QB Willie Tuitama, the Wildcats posted a 6-6 mark in 2006 to achieve bowl eligibility on the heels of a pair of 3-8 seasons. While they didn't go bowling, the Cats had broken a stretch of six straight losing seasons for the program. The following year, Stoops brought in Sonny Dykes to overhaul the offense. While Arizona posted just a 5-7 mark in 2007, the offensive makeover was well underway and set the stage for breakout years in 2008 and 2009, as the Cats went bowling for the first time since 1998 in each season. Now, UA has winning overall and Pac-10 records the last four seasons. Surely, having his systems firmly established and his recruits in place has benefitted Stoops' teams over the long haul. Here's a look at the last four seasons - three of which have been bowl-eligible campaigns - for Stoops' Wildcats as it relates to the previous four and seven year stretches of UA football:
UA is 25-12 in its last 37 games (0.676), including a 17-9 mark in the Pac-10
UA is 16-4 at home over the last 20 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 10-9 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 seven games this season, the current tally is 4,667 rushing yards, paced by Nic Grigsby's 2,814 yards, which places him No. 14 amongst active players in the NCAA for career rushing yards. Throw in Matt Scott's 551 career markers as a dual-threat quarterback, and you tally 5,218 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 7-8 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 25-7 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 five teams have beat UA when rushing for less than 100 yards since the start of `06
UA is 14-1 in the last 15 games when holding an opponent under 100 net rushing yards
Not to Be Offensive
Over the course of the last 44 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 79 games in his seven-year tenure at the school. Of those, 30 of them (38 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.
Don't Confuse Your 2's
Arizona has a handful of regular players that share duplicate numbers. Perhaps the most troublesome for those high in the press box to identify is UA's pair of 2's. Junior running back Keola Antolin is the guy you'll see making the plays on offense in the running game and passing game, and he may make a foray onto a kick return team. His number-sharing teammate is a guy that will make plays on the side of the ball - Mike Turner. Turner is a speedster on special teams that is adept at creating big plays, particular in punt coverage. He has two forced fumbles on punt plays in 2010, and was the man who recovered a muffed punt against ASU in 2009 that set up UA's last-second game-winning field goal. He'll also be featured at cornerback in UA's dime packages in passing situations. Certainly a valuable multi-talented player who has been in the program for five seasons.
Don't Confuse Those 3's, 4's, 5's, 6's and 14's
A few other bothersome duplicate numbers to consider: The primary No. 3 for UA is senior safety Anthony Wilcox. Often an overlooked part of UA's defense, he's played steady in his six games this season, and he'll appear on a coverage team once in a while, too. The other No. 3 is running back Daniel Jenkins. He's an elusive runner who you'll mostly see on UA's kick return team as an upback. But he may field a short kick at some point ... The No. 4 is shared by quarterback Matt Scott and freshman defensive back Marquis Flowers. Scott will be easy to pick out when he's in the game on offense, but you'll find Flowers on several UA special teams units and in various defensive coverage packages throughout a game ... The No. 5 is shared by senior running back Nic Grigsby and freshman defensive back Shaquille Richardson. If you see a No. 5 in the game on defense or special teams, it's the talented corner Richardson, who is featured prominently in UA's dime defense and made his first career start at Washington State... The No. 6 is used by WR/KR Traivs Cobb and freshman DB Jonathan McKnight. On coverage teams and perhaps in the secondary is where you'll find McKnight ... Place kicker Alex Zendejas is the prominent No. 14 in kicking situations, but you'll find No. 14 Richard Morrison, an inside WR, on offensive plays and perhaps on some non-place kicking special teams units.
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 249-137 in the first quarter of its last 34 games, and 263-133 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 6-12 mark in games when they lose the critical battle. The Cats linger just over .500 in games they split the turnover margin with an 12-9 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 11-3 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 56 games when they lose the turnover battle on the road. At the same time, UA is 11-4 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 16-5 over the last 34 games and 21-7 since the start of the 2006 season. At the same time, keeping opponents under that mark is critical, too. UA has captured 24 of its 33 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 (15-3 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 24-7 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 4-14 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 114 games in which they have scored 30 or more points. Their record in those games? An astounding 103-11-1. That record included a streak of 18 consecutive victories prior to the Oregon game in 2008 (55-45 loss), and UA is now 24-3 under Mike Stoops. Arizona is 4-0 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 113-5 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 3-0 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 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.
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.
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. 2 in nation for active career completion percentage (67.3%)
Currently ranks No. 5 in nation for active career completions per game (22.4)
Has thrown for 4,086 yards (No. 9 in UA history) in 18 career games (16 starts)
No. 9 in UA history with 28 career passing TDs
Currently ranks No. 2 in nation with 75.3% 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 440 yards passing vs. Oregon State in 2010
Holds UA record for single game pass completion % for 30+ attempts (86.49% at Toledo, 2010)
Pac-10 Players of the Week
Matt Scott (Oct. 25, Offense), who started in place of injured Nick Foles, sparked the Arizona offense to its most well-balanced performance of the season as Arizona rolled up 467 yards of offense, including 234 on the ground and 233 through the air. Scott completed 18-of-22 pass attempts for 233 yards and two touchdowns, while turning in UA's first interception-free game of the season on offense. Scott's pass efficiency rating for the game was 200.78, the best mark since Willie Tuitama's 201.84 against Washington State in 2008 ... Paul Vassallo (Oct. 25, Defense) headlined another standout performance by the Arizona defense, which shut out Washington in the second half. A junior college transfer who began his UA career last spring, Vassallo collected a career-high 14 tackles in the game, including nine solo stops, to go with a sack. His tackle total was the highest for a Wildcat defender since Xavier Kelley's 15-tackle effort against BYU in the 2008 Las Vegas Bowl... Shaquille Richardson (Oct. 18, Defense) was sensational at Washington State in his first career start. Richardson headlined a solid defensive effort as he intercepted two passes, broke up three others and registered seven tackles - all solo stops. UA defeated WSU, 24-7, limiting the Cougars to a season-low in points, the fourth time in 2010 that the UA defense held the opposition to single digits ... Nick Foles (Sept. 20, Offense) completed 28-of-39 passes for 303 yards and two touchdowns to help guide the Wildcats to a 34-27 upset of then-No. 9 Iowa on Sept. 18. The performance earned him the conference's weekly award for the second time in his career after he garnered the honor following a career-high 415 yards in a victory over Stanford a season ago. The 6-foot-5, 245-pound signal caller engineered the game-winning drive in the fourth quarter after the Hawkeyes had tied the game, 27-27. The Wildcats took over on their own 28-yard line with 8:07 remaining in the game. Foles marched the Wildcats down the field, ignited by a 38-yard pass play to a diving David Roberts that put the Wildcats in Hawkeyes' territory. The drive was capped by a four-yard touchdown pass to Bug Wright on a third-and-goal from the four-yard line, giving UA a 34-27 lead ... Travis Cobb (Sept. 20, Special Teams) turned in his second career kickoff return for a touchdown in a Sept. 18 upset over Iowa, earning his first Pac-10 Player of the Week honor. After Iowa had cut UA's lead to 14-7 in the second quarter, Cobb took the ensuing kickoff 100 yards to put the Wildcats comfortably back on top by two touchdowns. The 100-yard dash tied for the longest kickoff return in program history and surpassed the 95-yard touchdown return he had a season ago against Washington State. That play snapped an 11-year drought between kickoff return scores for Arizona, which had last returned a kickoff for a score in the season opener of the 1998 season when Chris McAlister returned the opening kick 100 yards at Hawaii.
Arizona will remain on the road to take on nationally-ranked Stanford in Palo Alto, Calif. on Saturday, Nov. 6. The start time of the game has been narrowed down to either 5 p.m. (PT) on ABC or 7:15 p.m. on ESPN.