Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
Football Ready to Kick it Off Against BYU
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: August 30, 2006
Photo Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Opponent: Brigham Young

Kickoff: 7:15 p.m.

Site: Arizona Stadium (Cap. - 56,002) - Tucson, Ariz.

TV: TBS Sports (Chip Caray, Tom Ramsey, David Aldridge)

Radio: 1290 AM KCUB/107.5 FM  KHYT (Brian Jeffries, Lamont Lovett, Sean Mooney)


BYU and Arizona Historical Fast Facts

First Meeting: 1936 (Arizona 32 - BYU 6)

Last Meeting: 1977 (BYU 34 - Arizona 14)

All-Time Series Record: Arizona leads 10-8-1

Current Streak: BYU has won the last two meetings between the two

Notes on the Series: Arizona and BYU were conference rivals in the Western Athletic Conference from 1962-77 ... Arizona held a 9-7 advantage over BYU in 16 games as members of the WAC, but the Cougars won the final two meetings before the Wildcats moved to the Pac-10 in 1978 ... This year’s match-up will be just the fourth between the two as non-conference opponents (1936, 1957, 1959, 2006) and the first since Arizona joined the Pac-10 ... The three previous non-conference contests have been played to a draw at 1-1-1 ... Arizona’s longest winning streak in the all-time series is four straight (1970-73), while BYU’s longest win streak is three in a row (1965-67) ... Arizona’s largest margin of victory over BYU was a 33-point win at home against the Cougars in 1964 (Arizona 39-6) ... Arizona’s largest margin of defeat to BYU was a 24-point loss in 1974 (BYU 37-13) in Tucson ... The average margin of victory in the all-time series is 14.3 ... In 12 of the 19 games played between the two, the winning school has won by double digits ... Only two games have been decided by three points or less (1967 - BYU 17-14, 1966 - BYU 16-14).


Some Game Themes...

A renewal of an old rivalry after a hiatus of three decades... A match of Arizona’s sparkling secondary against what’s been considered one of the most high-tempo passing attacks extant... The Cats want to showcase their own rejuvenated offense, hoping to maintain the big numbers posted since Willie Tuitama became its leader... The Cats will unveil some new players in their first collegiate action, among them some key young offensive linemen around whom coaches feel the future will be built... For the first time, Mike Stoops will put nearly all of his own recruits on the field. Only a small handful of projected regulars were signed by the previous staff -- defensive end Marcus Smith, tackle Tanner Bell, kicker Nick Folk, defensive tackle Paul Philipp, quarterback Adam Austin and linebacker John McKinney.


Season Opener

Dating back to 1899, Arizona is 73-24-5 (.740) all-time in the first game of the season ... The Wildcats saw a string of five straight wins on opening day come to an end last season with a 27-24 loss to Utah in Salt Lake City ... Arizona has opened a season against BYU five times previous to this one (1936, 1957, 1959, 1962, 1964), and is 3-1-1 against the Cougars when doing so.


Home Opener

2006 marks the fifth time in the last six years that Arizona will open its season at home (2005 at Utah) ... Dating back to 1988, the Wildcats have won 17 of their last 18 home openers, including the last five straight years, with the lone loss coming to Ohio State in 2000.


A Quick Look at BYU

The Cougars enter the 2006 season with 14 starters returning (8 offense, 4 defense, 2 specialists) from last season’s 6-6 team that lost to Cal in the Las Vegas Bowl ... On offense, three 2005 All-Mountain West Conference players return in QB John Beck, RB Curtis Brown and TE Jonny Harline ... Beck averaged 309.1 yards passing per game last season, a figure that led the MWC and placed him fifth in the nation ... He completed nearly 65 percent of his passes and threw for 27 TDs and 13 interceptions last year ... Brown rushed for 1,123 yards and tied the BYU single-season record for TDs with 16 (14 rush, 2 rec.) ... Harline returns as the Cougars’ leading receiver after snagging 63 passes for 853 yards last season ... At WR the Cougars will need someone to fill the shoes of departed Todd Watkins, who finished the 2005 season with 49 receptions for 678 yards and a team-high nine TD catches ... On defense BYU will not only have to overcome the loss of seven starters, but will also have to see how the new-look 3-4 defense has taken ... 2005 leading tackler Cameron Jensen (84 TT) highlights the returning defenders for the Cougs.


Crystal Gazing

The Pac-10 media predicted that the Wildcats will finish sixth in the conference this season. While it’s no where near where the Wildcats aspire to end the year, at least - as head coach Mike Stoops put it - “It’s better than being picked last”. In fact, UA’s predicted sixth-place finish is the highest the Wildcats have been picked to finish in the preseason poll since 1999 when they were selected to win the Pac-10 after finishing the previous season 12-1 ... Three-time defending conference champ USC was named the team to beat for the fourth straight season ... Arizona will have first crack at ending the Trojans’ Pac-10 record 23-game conference contest winning streak when the two schools meet up on Sept. 23 in Tucson.

2006 Pac-10 
Preseason Poll
2 Cal
3 Oregon
4 Arizona State
6 Arizona
7 Oregon State
8 Washington State
9 Stanford
10 Washington


A Peep at the Schedule

Much like Mike Stoops’ first two years at Arizona, the Wildcats will face a pretty tough slate in 2006. In addition to adding another Pac-10 game (a road trip to Pullman, Wash., to face Washington State), the Wildcats will square off against 2005 Las Vegas Bowl participant BYU in the season opener and travel to 2005 Peach Bowl Champions LSU the following weekend before concluding the non-conference with Stephen F Austin. Add in those salty non-conference games with the full nine-game conference slate, and one finds seven of the 12 teams scheduled to face Arizona in 2006 participated in a postseason bowl last year and went 4-3 in said bowls.

                In Stoops’ first season of 2004, the Wildcats played seven teams that took part in a bowl game, including BSC Fiesta Bowl champions Utah (12-0) and eventual national champions USC (13-0). Last season six of the 11 teams on the schedule played in a bowl, including national champion runner-up USC (11-1).

Arizona’s Schedule and the Preseason AP Top 25
Sept. 2 BYU * RV
Sept. 9 at LSU * 8
Sept. 16 SFA NR
Sept. 23 USC * 6
Sept. 20 Wash NR
Oct. 7 at UCLA * NR
Oct. 14 at Stan NR
Oct.  21 Ore. St. NR
Nov. 4 at WSU NR
Nov. 11 Cal * 9
Nov. 18 at Ore. * 21
Nov. 25 ASU * 24
* - 2005 Bowl Team


Home Sweet Home

One thing that could offset the difficulty of Arizona’s schedule is the fact that the Wildcats host four of their first five games of the year at Arizona Stadium, play on the road on back-to-back weekends only once during the year (Oct. 7 at UCLA, Oct. 14 at Stanford) and are slated for seven home games and five roadies in 2006.


Closing the Gap

In 2003, the season prior to Mike Stoops tenure as the head coach, Arizona went 2-10 and lost all but two games by 21 points or more. In fact, the Wildcats lost their 10 games by a margin of over four touchdowns (28.8 points) per contest that year. Playing with basically the same roster the next year, the 2004 team shaved over 10 points off that number (18.3) in Stoops’ first season at the helm. Last year, the Wildcats continued to lay a foundation for success, and dropped five of their eight losses by an agonizingly close seven points or less, including three contests by four points or less. With an emphasis on playing fundamentally sound and mistake-free football this season, UA has learned its lessons from 2005 and will look to turn those close defeats into wins this year.


Before and After

Despite appearing in just five games and making only four starts, sophomore QB Willie Tuitama made an immediate impact as a freshman for the Wildcats at the end of the 2005 season. Arizona moved the ball much more effectively under him, posting better numbers not only through the air, but on the ground as well. UA averaged over a touchdown more per game with Willie under center, and nearly 100 more yards of total offense. A natural leader with a complete spring season, summer workout and fall camp under his belt, the UA coaching staff, the Arizona faithful and even Willie himself are expecting big things in his first full year as the signal caller for the Wildcats.

Stat Before Willie six games (1-5) After Willie five games (2-3)
Scoring 19.3 27.2
First Downs 18.7 20.2
Rushing 85.8 165.4
Passing 222.7 237.2
Total ?'O’ 308.5 402.6
Interceptions 11 5

Sophomore Signal Callers

Including heralded Willie Tuitama, UA has had a host of second-year QBs stand under center over the years. However, one would have to go back to Keith Smith in 1996 to find a sophomore QB that was “the guy” entering the season and played that way throughout. The list of sophomore QBs to make an impact at Arizona over the last 25 years is somewhat exclusive. Here’s a look at the few that jump out:

Name Year Final Team Record Final Stats (Att-Comp-Int)
Tom Tunnicliffe 1981 6-5 11 GP, 328-176-14, 2,520 yds, 18 TD
Alfred Jenkins 1984 7-4 11 GP, 312-156-17, 2,202 yds, 11 TD
Ronnie Veal 1988 7-4 10 GP, 105-40-3, 669 yds, 4 TD
Dan White 1993 10-2 11 GP, 231-115-9, 1,548 yds, 13 TD*
Keith Smith 1996 5-6 11 GP, 193-117-6, 1,450 yds, 11 TD 

* Includes White’s stats from the 1994 Fiesta Bowl


Depth Perception

As noted below, the Arizona coaching staff has begun to amass depth throughout the program. Armed with back-to-back top 20 ranked recruiting classes, third-year head coach Mike Stoops and his staff have more “game-ready” players in the starting lineup and on the depth chart then in recent seasons. Notably the D-line, O-line, linebackers and receiving corps are among the deepest the Wildcats have had in a number of years.


Multiple Targets

For the first time in recent memory (and maybe even in school history) the Wildcat receiving corps has the ability to go seven-deep with top-of-the-line, quality wideouts. Returners Syndric Steptoe (Sr., career 76 rec., 1,016 yds, 13.4 ypc, 4 TD), Mike Thomas (So., ?'05 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, career 52 rec., 771 yds, 14.8 ypc, 5 TD), Anthony Johnson (Jr., career 45 rec., 509 yds, 11.3 ypc, 3 TD) and B.J. Dennard (Jr., career 8 rec., 95 yds) have been joined by deft true freshmen Terrell Reese (6-foot-4, 195 lbs), Terrell Turner (6-foot-2, 170 lbs) and Delashaun Dean (6-foot-4, 190 lbs). One thing’s for sure, QB Willie Tuitama shouldn’t have any problem finding a pass-grabbing target when looking down field in 2006.


But What about Us?

Along with the exceptional depth in the WR ranks, Arizona also has four sure-handed tight ends for Willie to connect with. Senior Brad Wood (career 34 rec. 352 yds, 7 TD) who led all Wildcats in 2006 with six touchdown catches, is joined by juniors Ryan Kilpatrick and Brandyn McCall, and sophomore Travis Bell (4 rec., 42 yds, 2 TD), as well as fullbacks and H-backs Brandon Lopez, Earl Mitchell and Brooks Reed.


Running with the Rock

The 2006 campaign will definitely have a new statistical leader this year. Mike Bell, who became the first player in school history to lead the team in rushing for four straight seasons, has departed for the Denver Broncos in the NFL. Vying to take his and Gilbert Harris’ place in the rushing game is junior Chris Henry, redshirt freshmen Xavier Smith and Terry Longbons, as well as JC transfer Chris Jennings and true freshman Glyndon Bolasky. Henry is the lone UA rusher with any Division I experience, gaining 311 yards with two TDs on 104 career carries.


Down in the Trenches

The Wildcats are building some quality depth along the front lines of the offense. Returning this season are five players (Peter Graniello, Tanner Bell, Erick Levitre, Joe Longacre and Adam Hawes) with a combined 58 career starts between them. Add in redshirt freshmen Daniel Borg, Eben Britton, Blake Kerley and sophomore Bill Wacholz, and the Wildcats have a number of capable players ready to protect the offensive punch this season.


Kick Folk

Well actually it’s Nick, but with the way the senior kicker has boomed the ball in the past, maybe a name change is in order. As a junior last season Folk converted on seven of his 11 field goal attempts (64%), including a long of 51 yards, and made 31 of his 33 extra point attempts, including a string of 19 straight successful tries. In the Spring Game last April, Folk kicked a 61-yard FG and he added a 59-yarder in a scrimmage this fall.

        Along with putting the ball through the uprights for points, Folk has also proved to have a big leg on kickoffs. He forced the opposition into a touchback on a kickoff 72 percent of the time last year (38 TBs on 53 KOs) and allowed his teammates enough coverage time on the 14 kicks that the opponents did return to limit them to 19.8 yards per return. By the way, when kicking teammate Danny Baugher went down with a knee injury against Oregon last season, Folk also assumed the punting duties for the Wildcats over the final four and a half games, and finished with a very respectable 44.7 YPP net average and eight punts inside the 20 yard-line.

Year FGM-FGA 1-19 20-29 30-39 40-49 50+ Long
2003 0-3 (00.0) 0-0 0-2 0-1 0-0 0-0 -
2004 8-13 (61.5) 0-0 2-2 3-4 2-5 1-2 53
2005 7-11 (63.6) 1-1 0-1 4-5 1-2 1-2 51
2006 0-0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0-0 -
Totals 15-27 (55.6) 1-1 2-5 7-10 3-7 2-4 53
PAT Kick Off Numbers
Year Att-Made No. Avg. Yds. TB Pct TB
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