Oct. 18, 2010
Live TV Broadcast:
Complete Game Notes (PDF)
Washington (3-3, 2-1 Pac-10) at No. 15 Arizona (5-1, 2-1 Pac-10)
Online Coverage: Gametracker | Live Audio
Television Talent: Carter Blackburn (play-by-play), Mike Bellotti (analyst), Brock Huard (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 214, XM 195 (Arizona Wildcat Radio Network call)
All-Time Series: Washington leads 17-8-1
First Meeting: Nov. 4, 1978 (No. 20 UW 31, UA 21)
Last Meeting: Oct. 10, 2009 (UW 36, UA 33 at Seattle)
Some Game Themes
Arizona defends the home turf in a battle of squads in the second-place 2-1 league logjam... The Cats check out junior quarterback Matt Scott's taste for a return to the klieg lights after 16 games of backup duty...Arizona primes its national Top 10 defense for a fracas against a balanced system spearheaded by probable NFL first-rounder Jake Locker... Will Arizona tweak its offensive attack or simply take what it gets against UW's 98th-rated total defense?... The Cats' pass-rush strength against a team that it protects its guy better than most. QB mobility has been a thorn in UA's side and Locker is his club's second-leading rusher... Arizona enjoys the home-field advantage (8-2 in last 10 games in Arizona Stadium) before a two-week tour to Pasadena and Stanford... A couple of big-play receivers in UA's Juron Criner and UW's Jermaine Kearse... At least Foles won't bounce one off someone's toe for a turnaround score (see UA at UW 2009)... A sellout crowd is expected (would be the Catsw' third of the year), notably because of desert dwellers' fondness for night football... It's Homecoming weekend in UA's 125th anniversary year.
Arizona proved it could win without some of its principals and turned in a team effort on the road to outpace an improving Washington State, 24-7, in Pullman. With junior star Nick Foles sent to the sideline with a knee injury, Matt Scott came on in the second quarter and helped lead the Cats to three scores with modest stewardship built of little previous 2010 playing time. Arizona's defense, though, stepped forward and kept WSU one dimensional enough to limit the Cougs' scoring opportunities, helped by four takeaways. The one dimension, WSU quarterback Jeff Tuel, hurt UA some including one big 83-yard toss to the Arizona 12-yard line, but two plays later the man who got beat on the long throw, freshman corner Shaquille Richardson, got his second interception of the game in the end zone to kill the threat. Arizona accumulated a sub-par 352 yards in the game but got some key running from Keola Antolin (92 markers, two touchdowns) and Nic Grigsby (66, one score) to provide some thrust along with Scott's (139) and Foles' (71) throwing yardage. It was clear the change in generals affected the passing game, though, with UA held scoreless through the air for the first time in 2010. The UA had seven sacks in the game led by Ricky Elmore with 2.5, but suffered six of their own trying to block for the new guy. Arizona scored a touchdown in each of the first three quarters to take a 21-0 lead before Tuel hit Marquess Wilson for a 23-yard score at the end of the third stanza. Alex Zendejas kicked a 40-yard field goal four minutes into the fourth period for the final score of the game. True freshman Richardson, who joined UA's team in July after leaving UCLA, started for injured junior Trevin Wade and learned a lot. He finished with a team-high tying seven tackles, the two picks and a game-high three pass break-ups. Arizona totaled 13 tackles for losses to keep WSU off balance and mostly out of the end zone with its 297 yards in total offense. Knocked out of the game along with Foles were freshman defensive tackle Justin Washington (knee) and freshman receiver Richard Morrison (shoulder), both likely out for this week. But the injuries proved another strength of the UA program -- depth. Backup DTs Sione Tuihalamaka (RS-Fr) and Willie Mobley (soph) filled in with a pair of tackles apiece, for example, and UA simply played 55 guys who found ways to win the game.
Arizona - Mike Stoops (Iowa '86), seventh year (38-40) 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 21-11 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. Arizona's football team APR checked in with an improved mark each of the five seasons since his inaugural year. Stoops is 3-3 against Washington as UA's head coach... Washington - Steve Sarkisian (BYU '97), second year in Seattle (8-10) and second year overall as a head coach. A two-year QB at BYU (1995-96) under offensive coordinator Norm Chow, he played three years in the CFL for Saskatchewan before beginning his coaching career at El Camino College in 2000 as QBs coach. He coached QBs and had two years as offensive coordinator at USC in two different stints (2001-03 and 2005-08) sandwiched around a quarterback coaching gig with the Oakland Raiders.
Starters of Record
Matt Scott is 2-1 as the starter of record for UA, opening 2009 with wins against Central Michigan and Northern Arizona before a loss at Iowa. Since then Nick Foles was 11-5 as the starter including last week's opening at Wazzu. Scott interned as a true freshman under Willie Tuitama in 2008 while Foles was redshirting after playing a game as a true freshman at Michigan State in 2007. They entered the season last year basically neck-and-neck until Foles capped the Iowa loss with a decent fourth quarter and then took his debut start at Oregon State (37-32 victory, 254 yards, 3 TD) and ran with it. Scott has played in 19 games in his three years. He's a 6.3 yards per-carry career rusher (486), many of those designed, and has completed nearly 60-percent of his 117 career passes. He's a capable threat and now's a good time for him to relax, focus and do his thing.
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.
After holding Washington State to just seven points - the fourth opponent to be held to single digits in points this season - Arizona remains highly ranked nationally in several defensive categories. The Wildcats lead the Pac-10 in total defense (284, 3 ypg, No. 10 nationally), scoring defense (13.3 ppg, No. 7 nationally) and rushing defense (89.7 ypg, No. 8 nationally). The Cats are also the league's leader in sacks (3.5 per game, No. 3 nationally) and tackles for loss (8.0 per game, No. 9 nationally).
Running to Darkness
The Cats held WSU under 100 rushing yards last week, their fourth sub-century effort of the year, hence the No. 8 rating in rushing defense (89.67). The best was against Iowa, which UA held to 29 net rushing yards on 26 totes. The Cougs managed 40 net yards on 34 carries. The others were 80 by Toledo and 93 by Oregon State. Considering the latter had Quizz Rodgers carrying 25 times for only 83 yards, that was a pretty good effort for UA's defenders.
Staring at the Stats
Arizona has given up only six passing touchdowns this year, while last week UW's Jake Locker twirled five of them in one game. Which way does it go in Tucson this week?... Punt returns have accumulated only a combined 152 yards (on 24 attempts) for both teams in UA's six games this year, so maybe someone's due to break one. Top returner Bug Wright sat out last week's game with a shoulder injury but should be good to go this week for UA...Keola Antolin's rushing total of 162 yards in the past two games is one of his best doubles. As a true freshman he had 201 yards in back-to-back games against Oregon and Oregon State, and 200 yards in back-to-back games against Cal and USC. Last year he had 148 yards in successive games against UCLA and Washington... Five players have at least one reception in each of the games they've appeared in -- Juron Criner, David Douglas, David Roberts and Keola Antolin (6 games) and Bug Wright and Travis Cobb (5 games).
Not that it's on any Arizona coach or player checklist in October, but a victory for the Cats this week would make Arizona bowl eligible for the fourth time in five years. UA had the Las Vegas and San Diego trips the last two seasons after staying home at 6-6 in 2006 (a condition that may not exist anymore with three dozen bowl games). Assuming No. 17-ranked Arizona is headed for a bowl game, this week's contest is one that also is pivotal in eventually determining the possible destinations.
Keola Keying Offensive Attack
After a quiet start, junior running back Keola Antolin has turned in a pair of breakout performances in recent weeks. Against Oregon State on Oct. 9, Antolin notched a pair of touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving) on a night when he collected 70 yards on eight carries to go with four receptions for 40 yards. Last week at Washington State, Antolin was the workhorse, carrying 21 times for 92 yards a two touchdowns along with one 16-yard reception. Added up, that's 162 yards on 29 carries (5.6 ypc) with three rushing scores in two games. Through the air, he has five receptions for 56 yards (11.2 ypc) with one score, which totals 218 yards of offense over the last two weeks. Pretty impressive considering he had 17 carries for 56 yards through the first four games of the season. His 21 carries against the Cougs were the most since a career-high 25 totes against Oregon State in his true freshman season of 2008.
Grigsby Moves Up
Arizona senior tailback Nic Grigsby scored a 7-yard rush in the third quarter at Washington State. The rushing score was the 26th of his career, moving him in to sole possession of the No. 3 spot on the school's career rushing touchdown chart. He is one score shy of matching Ronald Veal's mark of 27, which was set during his career from 1987-90. UA's all-time leader is Art Luppino, who had 44 scores from 1953-56. So while No. 2 is within reach for Grigsby, that is all the further he can realistically climb before his career wraps up in the next six - and hopefully seven - games. He remains 236 yards shy of reaching the 3,000-yard milestone for his career.
Elmore Getting More
Senior defensive end Ricky Elmore is following up a sensational junior season in grand style. Through the first half of the season, Elmore leads the Wildcats with 6.0 sacks on the season. He 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. Currently, his total leads all Pac-10 players and ranks No. 7 in the nation. His career total of 20.5 sacks stands No. 7 among active NCAA players. In 2010, the 6-foot-5, 250-pounder has 28 total tackles, including eight for loss.
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.
Arizona is 13th nationally in holding teams to three plays and out, with 4.0 per game. TCU is atop the list with a 6.0 average, while North Carolina is 10th at 4.28 and UA trails Colorado (4.17) and LSU (4.14) in the second ten. Arizona State (3.83, 18th) is the only other Pac-10 team in the top 20 of the unofficial statistic kept by Ohio State's sports information staff (5.42 per game, 2nd).
Tackling Behind the Lines
Arizona moved from 28th nationally to ninth in the FBS in tackles for loss after collecting a baker's dozen of them in Pullman last week. Ten different players were in on the action led by Ricky Elmore with 3.0 (2.5 of them sacks). Linebacker Derek Earls had a pair. Overall the team leader is redshirt freshman DT Justin Washington, likely out of action this week, with 8.5, but Elmore's right behind with 8.0 and the team leader with 6.0 sacks. The Cats have tackled people for losses of 198 yards this year. ougars lost 71 rushing yards last week.
Limiting Long Plays
Arizona showed some improvement in limiting long plays last week at Washington State. Still, the Cougars connected on four pass plays over 20 yards, although a pair of them came in the fourth quarter with the game mostly decided. That was on the heels of a game where the Wildcats yielded six plays of 20 or more yards in a loss to Oregon State after surrendering just five in the first four games of the season. The 10 plays in the last two weeks are certainly something the Cats hope to improve in the pass defense game. But interestingly, UA has allowed just one play all season long of 20 or more yards on the ground, and that was to the triple-option attack of The Citadel. Chris Polk and Jake Locker, who had a 50-plus yarder for a TD last year on the ground, will challenge UA's run defense once again.
DD and DR
A pair of UA receivers would like to duplicate their performances against the Huskies from a season ago, although each would like a different result of the game. Juniors David Douglas and Dave Roberts, who both played inside a season ago, combined for 18 catches and 200 receiving yards, with Roberts hauling in a touchdown pass. Roberts was workhorse in the passing game, grabbing a career-high 12 receptions for 138 yards. Douglas, who plays outside this season, snared six receptions for 62 yards in the game. Good work for a pair of steady and reliable guys that don't often get the headlines.
Close Game Turnaround
Arizona's Mike Stoops has coached in 78 games in his seven-year tenure at the school. Of those, 30 of them (38.5 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.
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 2-1 start this season, the Wildcats have 16 victories in their last 25 conference games, dating to the last four games of the 2007 season. That 16-9 record (0.640 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 13 receiving touchdowns
No. 15 in NCAA FBS with 91.8 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
Seven of 13 (53.8 percent) career TD grabs have been 20+ yard plays
54 of 85 (63.5 percent) of career catches result in first down or TD
16.7 yards per catch on 31 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. 3 on the UA career rushing touchdown chart (26) and No. 6 in school history with 2,764 career rushing yards. That total puts him No. 14 on the list of active players in the NCAA for career rushing yards. Grigsby needs 236 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 2,764 yards (14th-most for active FBS players)
His 26 career rushing TDs is one shy of Ronald Veal's No. 2 mark.
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 six 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 (40 tackles, 2.5 for loss), sophomore Jake Fischer (29 tackles 5.5 for loss, 2.0 sacks) and mid-year juco transfer Derek Earls (22 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 soph R.J. Young (14 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 six games, with Fischer at No. 3 and Earls at No. 6. In fact, five of UA's top six tackles are front seven guys.
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 19 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 31 passes messed up - fsix interceptions interception and 25 PBUs - through six games. Pretty nice total against 171 passes attempted, and just 56 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 No. 19 in the nation 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 43-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 24-game starter in 25overall 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.
Live TV Broadcast:ESPN
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 24-12 in its last 36 games (0.667), including a 16-9 mark in the Pac-10
UA is 15-4 at home over the last 19 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 five games this season, the current tally is 4,497 rushing yards, paced by Nic Grigsby's 2,764 yards, which places him No. 14 amongst active players in the NCAA for career rushing yards. Throw in Matt Scott's 486 career markers as a dual-threat quarterback, and you tally 4,983 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 24-7 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 13-1 in the last 14 games when holding an opponent under 100 net rushing yards
Not to Be Offensive
Over the course of the last 43 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 first four home games drew an average of 55,160 fans per game, paced by advanced sellouts against Iowa and Oregon State (Family Weekend). With home dates against three 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 239-130 in the first quarter of its last 33 games, and 256-133 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 11-9 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 15-5 over the last 31 games and 20-7 since the start of the 2006 season. At the same time, keeping opponents under that mark is critical, too. UA has captured 23 of its 31 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 23-7 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 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 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
Shaquille Richardson (Oct. 18) earned Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week after a sensational game at Washington State that marked 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) 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) 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 hit the road for two straight away games, starting at UCLA on October 30, 2010. The game has been selected for a national cablecast on Fox Sports Net beginning at 12:30 p.m. PT. UA's game on Nov. 7 at Stanford remains in the mix for broadcast by Pac-10 TV partners, which will determine the kickoff time of the game. An announcement is expected on Monday, Oct. 25.