Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
Arizona Football Notes - vs. Oregon State
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: October 31, 2004
Photo Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Radio: Wildcat Sports Properties/Host Communications (Flagship - KCUB, 1290 AM, Tucson, Ariz.) ?- Brian Jeffries (Play-By-Play), Lamont Lovett (Color), Sean Mooney (Sidelines), Ryan Radtke (pregame/halftime/postgame)?- Spanish Language Broadcast (XENY 760 AM in Nogales/KXEW 1600 AM in Tucson) ?- Francisco Romero (Play-By-Play)

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Some Game Themes
Arizona pulls out all the stops in an attempt to shake a six-game losing streak... The Cats, despite such woes, fight to climb out of the Pac-10 cellar... The Cats strive to avoid helping another team get better at their expense... Oregon State, picked fourth in the preseason league poll, works to even its overall record at 4-4 and stay in the hunt for a bowl game -- an objective out of Arizona's reach this year... A match of quarterbacks at the opposite end of the experience spectrum -- UA freshman Richard Kovalcheck or sophomore Kris Heavner against OSU senior Derek Anderson, who has passed John Elway in Pac-10 career passing yardage... The Cats face a team with a different look since the departure of all-conference running back Stephen Jackson. The Beavers average 87 yards rushing... Arizona needs a win for its own sake: since things went way south (after UA's last back-to-back victories 25 months ago), the Cats have played to a 5-24 record and need a victory to get Mike Stoops' program to turn some corners...

Last Week
California brought a ranking, a reputation and rated units on both sides of the ball, then lived up to the billing and made it look easy in a 38-0 shutout over Arizona. A Family Weekend crowd of 52,049, UA's largest in four seasons, was hopeful UA could handle the No. 7-ranked team, but knew at the half (28-0) that it wasn't so. The victory doomed UA to a fifth consecutive losing season and made the Wildcats look in the mirror for some answers to the gloom. The Bears accumulated 424 yards led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers, receiver Geoff McArthur and tailback J.J. Arrington, and their defense held Arizona to a missed field goal attempt and only one excursion into the red zone. Rogers completed 20 of 27 throws for 235 yards and three touchdowns, while McArthur snagged six balls for 94 yards and a score. Arrington carried 24 times for 135 yards and a score. UA's Antoine Cason intercepted two of Rogers' passes to help thwart other possessions by Cal, which scored five of six times its penetrated UA's 20 yard-line. Mike Bell carried 17 times for 99 yards, but couldn't help the Cats get into scoring position. Trailing 14-0 in the second quarter, UA took the ball and drove to the Cal 14 yard-line but a personal foul pushed the ball back to the 29 yard-line and Nick Folk had to attempt a 45-yard field goal. It was blocked by a leaping Donnie McCleskey. UA scored an apparent touchdown in the first half on a fumble recovery by Tony Wingate, but officials ruled a pass had been broken up rather than caught and fumbled. Freshman quarterback Richard Kovalcheck played the entire game in his first collegiate start, finishing 13 completions in 32 attempts for 159 yards, and was intercepted once. UA was held to 245 net yards in offense and punted nine times -- three of those returned for a total of 61 yards to drop net punting to 33.6 per kick.

The Cats and the Beavers- The Series
Arizona and Oregon State meet up for the 28th time this weekend ... The Wildcats own a 19-7-1 advantage in the all-time series, but the Beavers have won the last five straight contests ... The current losing streak to the Beavers is the longest in the series’ history for UA and the second-longest active losing streak to a Pac-10 opponent (6 to Oregon) ... This season’s game marks the first time since 2000 that Oregon State will pay a visit to Tucson, as the last three games have been played in Corvallis ... Arizona is 11-1 against Oregon State in Arizona Stadium, but just 7-5-1 on the road ... Oregon State won its first-ever game in Tucson in its last trip to the Old Pueblo in 2000 ... The last three games have been a Beaver offensive nightmare for Arizona, as OSU has posted 1,298 yards of total offense and out-scored UA 128-29 ...

Noting the Beavers
Oregon State enters this weekend’s game fresh off of a 38-19 win over Washington State ... After opening the season 1-4, Oregon State has won its last two games to improve to 3-4 on the season and 2-2 in the Pac-10 ... The Beavers enter the game against Arizona averaging 382. 4 yards of total offense a game, a figure that ranks sixth in the Pac-10 and 46th nationally ... OSU has relied heavily on its passing game to move the ball as it averages a Pac-10-best 295.3 yards passing per game, the sixth-best average in the nation ... The rushing offense meanwhile ranks last in the conference and 114th in the nation at 87.1 yards per contest ... Predictably, QB Derek Anderson is the catalyst of the OSU offense. The senior leads the Pac-10 in passing average per game at 284.7 yards and has thrown 14 TDs this season. However, when you live by the pass you die by it as well. Anderson has tossed a Pac-10 worst 10 interceptions in 2004 and has 50 picks in his four-year OSU career ... With a tendency to pass the ball, it comes as no surprise that wide out Mike Hass ranks seventh in D-IA and leads the Pac-10 in receptions per game (7.29) while averaging 114 yards receiving per contest ... Defensively, OSU ranks fourth in the Pac-10 in total defense, allowing an average of 322.1 yards per game. The OSU rush defense is seventh in the Pac (133.3 yds/game) while the Passing defense is fourth in the conference (188.9) ... Oregon State is giving up an average of 27.3 points per game this season ... Head coach Mike Riley is in his fourth overall season in Corvallis and has posted a 19-23 overall record heading into the weekend.

Oregon State and Arizona - The Last Time Out
The Beavers cruised to a 52-23 win over the Wildcats on Nov. 1 last season ... QB Derek Anderson lit up the UA secondary for 308 yards passing and four TDs as OSU raced out to a 45-0 lead through two and half quarters before Arizona finally put points on the scoreboard ... In addition to Anderon’s outstanding performance, running back Stephen Jackson rushed for 107 yards and three TDs in the game ... UA’s Mike Bell was one of a few bright spots for the Wildcats, rushing for 106 yards and a TD in the loss.

Returning Home
Arizona hopes to get a good dose of support against Oregon State on Saturday as UA hosts its annual homecoming weekend . The Wildcats are looking to recapture the success of last year’s event which saw Arizona put an end to its eight-game losing streak and win its first home Pac-10 game in 13 tries with a 27-22 victory over Washington in front 48,319 fans.

Homecoming Record
The victory over the Huskies last season snapped a four-game losing streak for UA on homecoming. All-time Arizona is 50-31-5 on homecoming weekend.

After a three-game swing that saw the Arizona defense line up against the top three rushers in the Pac-10 (UCLA’s Maurice Drew - No.2 with 112.4 yd/game, Oregon’s Terrence Whitehead - No. 3 with 99.6 yards/game and Cal’s J.J. Arrington - No. 1 with 153.0 yards/game) it appears the Wildcats may get a bit of a respite this weekend against the Pac-10’s No. 10-ranked rushing offense of Oregon State. OSU’s running backs are averaging just 2.7 yards per rush and 87.1 per game. However, the Wildcats will still need to pay heed to the backfield, as senior Dwight Wright is eighth individually in the Pac-10 in yards per game (72.4) and has scored five TDs this season.

Strength of Schedule
A 38-0 shut out loss to No. 7 Cal last weekend reinforced what many have already come to know this season: The Wildcats’ schedule is a tough one. Combined, the seven opponents Arizona has faced this season check in with a 35-14 record and includes No. 6 Wisconsin (8-0), No. 7 Cal (5-1) and No. 9 Utah (7-0). The Utes and the Badgers are two of the seven remaining undefeated teams in Division IA. UA’s final four opponents this season are "just" 17-11, but feature top-ranked and undefeated USC (7-0) and one-loss ASU (6-1).

Sedit Qui Timuit Ne Non Succederet
'He who feared he would not succeed sat still,' noted Horace long, long ago. Mike Stoops won't have it -- or at least those with such a notion will sit on the bench. If wagon-circling requires finding the right guys to form the inner circle, UA's first-year head coach is making an apparent effort to pick them by hand. Only 44 players saw time on the field against California.

No Quit In These Cats
Despite being out-scored 92-30 in the first half of their seven games this season, the 2004 Wildcats have not laid down in the second half. After seven games last season, Arizona was giving up an average of 17.9 points to its opponents in the last 30 minutes. This season UA has almost halved that number to an average of 9.4 points in the final two quarters.

Drought Breaker
Cornerback Antoine Cason quenched Arizona’s thirst for an interception. The freshman picked off a pair of Aaron Rodgers passes against Cal to end a streak of 151 opposition pass attempts without an interception. Cason made good after picking off the passes, racking up 61 return yards. Had Rodgers actually been throwing to Cason, his return yards would have made him the second-leading receiver for California in the game.

Running Game Plugging Along
The strength of Arizona’s offense this season is undeniably the running game. Rushers Mike Bell, Gilbert Harris and Chris Henry have teamed up to provide Arizona with 947 yards of rushing this season for an average of 4.4 yards per carry. The trio, led by Bell’s 298 net yards and 5.5 yard per carry average, have come into their own as of late, averaging 162.3 yards rushing per game in Arizona’s last three contests.

Hard Work Pays Off
Quietly as is his style, walk-on guard Erick Levitre, a third-year sophomore from Ben Lomond, Calif., stepped up and started against the No. 7 team in the land last week. Levitre, who has been on UA's travel squad as an emergency option at guard or center for several years, played his first meaningful time in the late scoring drives at Oregon the week prior, then earned his first career start vs. Cal. "It would be a dream come true," the unassuming pre-business major told sports information personnel earlier in the week. At 6-foot-1, 265 pounds, Levitre is not going to knock every stunting nose tackle or sprinting linebacker out of the way, and his opportunity arose in part because of injuries to others. But he's a smart guy (3.06 GPA and UA nominee for Pac-10 All-Academic) who shut up, worked hard, beat out some contenders and got a college football prize worth all of the effort.

Bell Nears Vance
Junior running back Mike Bell has a crack at UA's all-time career Top 10 rushing chart this year if he can rush for 195 more yards. Last week he toted 17 times for 99 markers and moved within 46 yards of passing No. 11 Vance Johnson. Bell has 1,828 yards on 395 carries. Former Denver Bronco wide receiver Johnson had 1,873 at UA as a running back in the early 1980s.

The four nearest Mike:
No. 8 Bob McCall (1970-72) 473-2074
No. 9 Ken Cardella (1951-53) 336-2060
No. 10 Eddie Wolgast (1945-50) 387-2022
No. 11 Vance Johnson (1981-84) 471-1873
No. 12 Mike Bell (2002- ) 395-1828

Stepping Up
The Arizona coaching staff is hoping the Richard Kovalcheck does just that. The redshirt freshman is the fourth QB (Nic Costa, Ryan O’Hara, Kris Heavner and Kovalcheck) to start under center for UA in the last 19 games. The turnover at the signal caller spot is a far cry from 2002 when former Wildcat Jason Johnson wrapped up his UA career with 23 straight starts.

In his first-ever start against No. 7 Cal last weekend, Kovalcheck attempted a season-high 32 passes and completed 13 of them (41 percent) for 159 yards. His 48-yard pass to Steve Fleming in the second quarter was the longest play from scrimmage for Arizona this season.

Cooking One's Goose
The aftermaths have been the same, with Mike Stoops and team spokesmen noting that Arizona cannot afford to make key mistakes and hope to overcome the difficulties they cause. Examples from last weekend’s game:

?- When trailing 14-0: Arizona drives from its 19 yard-line to the Cal 18. UA is flagged for a personal foul, which eventually results in 3rd-and-15 from the 23. A sack pushes it back and UA has to try a 45-yard field goal. It's blocked.

?- UA gets a good punt return and drives across mid-field for a first down at the Cal 41 yard-line. Two plays later a false start makes it 3rd-and-10. UA is forced to punt.

?- Antoine Cason returns an interception from the goal-line to the UA 40 yard-line. The Cats get a first down at the Cal 47. An illegal block and an incompletion result in 3rd-and-20. This on a day UA finished 3-for-15 on third down.

?- Another penalty forces a 3rd-and-8 and Cal gets an interception at midfield. After a big gain, UA is called for a personal foul, giving the Bears a first down at the UA 11 yard-line. Touchdown on next play.

Third-Down Woes Continue
The Wildcats went just 3 for 15 on third downs against Cal last weekend, marking the fifth straight game UA has been held under a 40 percent conversion rate. A primary culprit for the third down frustrations has been the yardage necessary to advance the chains. Arizona has faced third down with six or more yards needed for a first on 60 of 98 third down tries, including 21 attempts of 11 or more yards, and has been successful in converting just nine times (15 percent). When faced with third and five or shorter, UA’s success improves to a 60 percent conversion rate (23 for 38).

Yellow Cloth
Arizona is No. 2 in the league with only 44 penalty yards per game and 35 total calls, making it second in the league at only 5.0 penalties per game. Noted above were four of Arizona's six penalties against the Bears -- all called in the second quarter. Officials called one penalty for 10 yards against California in the game, an illegal block at the end of the first quarter. The Bears have drawn the fewest flags in the league -- 29 in six games (4.8 per). Coincidentally, the officials did not drop a flag on either team in the whole second half of the Cal game.

Kirk Keeps On Knocking ?'Em Down
Since moving into the starting lineup three weeks ago against UCLA, senior linebacker Kirk Johnson has posted a team-best 25 tackles, including 15 solo efforts. Johnson posted a career-best and team-leading 10 tackles in Arizona’s 38-0 loss to Cal last weekend, including two for losses.

Odds and Ends
Receiver Ricky Williams extended his streak of consecutive games with a reception to 15 straight with a three catches for 28 yards against Cal ... Punter returner Ryan Eidson came up with a season-high 35-yarder against Cal ... Steve Fleming’s 48-yard reception in the second quarter was the longest play from scrimmage for Arizona this season ... Antoine Cason’s two picks against Cal marked the first game since 2002 that a UA player had two interceptions in a game (Nov. 1, 2002 - Ray Wells at Cal) ... The game against Cal last weekend, played in just under three hours, was the shortest game of the season for Arizona.

Pac-10 Rankings
Despite Arizona’s overall struggles, a number of individuals rank among the top players in the Pac-10 rankings:

Rushing Mike Bell 4th/79.7 yd/game
Interceptions Antoine Cason t5th/0.43 INT/game
Kickoff Returns Syndric Steptoe 3rd/22.5 yds/return
Field Goals Nick Folk t7th/ 0.71 FG/game
Scoring Nick Folk 9th/3.4 points/game
Forced Fumbles Patrick Howard 3rd/0.33 FF/game
Fumbles Recovered Sean Jones t1st/0.43 FR/game
Pass Break Ups Darrell Brooks t7th/1.14 PBU/game

Captain Cats
The Wildcat players voted on their team captains at the beginning of the year and selected offensive players Mike Bell, Steve Fleming and Keoki Fraser, as well as defenders Andre Torrey, Carlos Williams and Darrell Brooks.

Starting Line
The offensive line at Arizona has strung together a pretty impressive list of starts. Center Keoki Fraser leads all Wildcat players on both sides of the ball with 36 career starts, including 30 straight. Joining him along the front five are tackle Chris Johnson (27 starts), guard Kili Lefotu (25 starts) and tackle Brandon Phillips (19 starts). Add in tight end Steve Fleming’s 18 starts, tackle Tanner Bell’s seven and guard John Abramo’s seven and the group has combined for 139 career games started.

Feeling Blue
Fans catching the Wildcats for the first time in 2004 might not recognize the team when they take the field. The reason? Arizona has changed the color of its helmets from primarily all white to a solid blue. The "Academic A" remains on the side, but it has no other markings or stripes and a blue face mask. The change marks the first time since 1980 that UA will be wearing a helmet that is a different primary color than white.

The solid blue helmet is the first time in school history that Arizona will take the field with head gear so colored. In looking back through photos in Arizona’s Heritage Hall, it has been found that former Wildcat great Art Lippino, UA’s "Cactus Comet", and his 1955 Wildcat teammates took the field in a helmet that featured blue around the sides with a red top. All other color photos over the years have shown that the Wildcat gridders have donned either primarily red or white bonnets.

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