Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
Football Preps For Homecoming Weekend vs. No. 7 UCLA
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: November 05, 2005
Photo Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Arizona On The Air

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 - Home Games Only  (KQTL 1210 AM in Tucson) ?- Francisco Romero (Play-By-Play), Luis Hernandez, Alberto Augusto


Television: Fox Sports Net West 2 Production - Shown live on FSN Arizona


Some Game Themes

The Wildcats face their fifth ranked opponent and second top 10 squad... A confident, balanced group from Westwood with some glitter available down the road takes on a loose group with no stars in its eyes beyond the game at hand... Staring at both teams' stats reveals the simple truth: taking better care of the ball than the opponent wins games... If the Cats want another pick fest after six last week, the wrong guy's under center in the gold helmet. Senior Drew Olsen has been intercepted only three times in 257 throws, the fewest per attempt in the Pac-10... A team without its punter (UA's Danny Baugher) against the team national leader (28.4) and the top guy extant in punt returns (UCLA's Maurice Drew, 29.1 per)... The Cats might look for No. 19, Bruin tight end Marcedes Lewis, who scored nearly half (3) of his 2004 touchdowns against UA in Pasadena... Which Spencer (Larsen-UA or Havner-UCLA) will best anchor his defense at inside linebacker? Havner has all the numbers a fifth-year senior worthy of multiple accolades can have, while sophomore Larsen's a Pac-10 pup only poised to make a name for himself... Can UA handle Drew's rushing threat again? (11-22 rushing last year)... Arizona rushed for a season- and Stoops era-high 258 yards against UCLA a year ago when the Bruins were rated last in the league in that category -- as they are this year, too. But UCLA is the league leader in passing yards defense, Arizona's weapon of choice behind freshman sensation Willie Tuitama in recent weeks... UA opens a two-game stand to close the home season, needing an average of 51,520 fans for each game to record the third-highest season football attendance average in Arizona Stadium history. UA has averaged 53,349 to date this year... It's Homecoming, and Hall of Fame weekend, on the Arizona campus...


Last Week

The message from Mike Stoops had been stressed for weeks. Arizona would have to do a whole lot of little things right, in order to win. Against Oregon State on the road, UA did just that. Along the way a bundle of big things got done, too, and the Cats crafted a huge victory, 29-27. On the big-play side, freshman QB Willie Tuitama threw for 336 yards in his first start, with frosh Mike Thomas (4-162) and soph Anthony Johnson (3-117) chipping in big catches and a score apiece. UA picked off six Matt Moore passes, including three by first-time starting SS Michael Johnson, one of those returned for a score and the other on the last play of the game. The last nine plays told of UA's resilience and the huge differential in forced turnovers. Corner Wilrey Fontenot went up for interception No. 5 at the UA 10 yard-line to give UA the ball and the 29-27 lead at the 1:01 mark. OSU had all three timeouts, but the Cats' Mike Bell -- holding on to the ball -- ran for 2, no gain and 7 yards to use up the Beavers' TOs. A solid snap from freshman Sy Tomerlin and good protection gave Nick Folk time for his best punt of the day -- a 56-yard rugby line driver to force OSU into a 73-yard field with 21 seconds remaining. One pass complete, one pass knocked down by UA tackle Lionel Dotson and one pass picked off by Johnson -- and UA did a succession of the little things it took to win. The disciplined team won. One penalty against 12 deadly ones by the Beavs; 26 yards per Tuitama's 13 completions; 3-for-3 in the red zone; bend-don't-break pass coverage that saw picks by the entire secondary but only one score among Moore's huge 436 yards through the air; a 1-7 turnover difference including a force fumble by frosh DE Johnathan Turner down the stretch. The Cats made some mistakes, but had a lead 10 minutes into the game and did not give it up. Thomas and Johnson combined for 40 yards per catch including bombs of 75 (MT) and 68 (AJ). LBs Spencer Larsen (17) and Ronnie Palmer (14) had a ton of hits. Young guys had career firsts. The Cats took the program off a four-year October drought, winning in the month for the first time since 2000, took themselves out of the Pac-10 basement and set themselves up for some more fun the rest of the way. It took all the what-if, coulda, shoulda and maybe language out of the Cats' postgame vocabulary for a change after four earlier losses by a touchdown or less.


Quick Hits From Oregon State

- True frosh Willie Tuitama (22-13-335, 2 TD) became the first UA QB to pass for over 300 yards in a game since Jason Johnson in 2002 (vs. Oregon, 41-23-1, 302 yards, 2 TD)

- UA passed for over 300 yards as a team for the first time since 2003 (at ASU, 339 yards)

- Michael Johnson’s TD on an interception return was the first pick-six for Arizona since Ray Wells took it to the house against Cal in 2002. It was UA’s first defensive score of the year and the first defensive TD since Nov. 6, 2004 when Wilrey Fontenot returned a fumble at Washington.

- WR Bobby McCoy grabbed his first career reception in the fourth quarter.

- WR BJ Dennard returned a career-high five kicks for 95 yards in the win.

- Arizona gained 49 yards on six interceptions and was handed 111 yards on OSU penalties to go along with the 384 yards of total offense. All totaled it adds up to an impressive 544 yards and takes some of the luster off OSU’s 654 yards of offense.

- Arizona scored a rushing touchdown for the third straight game.

- Arizona snapped a streak of nine straight games with an interception.


The Cats and The Bruins ?- The All-Time Series

UCLA owns a 18-9-2 lead in a series that dates back to 1927 ... The Bruins have won the last four contests to equal their longest winning streak ever against UA ... UCLA has a slight advantage in contests in Tucson, with a 8-7 record in the Old Pueblo and a 8-6 record in Arizona Stadium (UA won a game in 1927 at UA Field) ... 2005 will mark UCLA’s fifth trip to Tucson in the last seven years ... It usually take some scoring to win in the series as the victorious team is averaging 29.9 points a win. In fact, there has been only seven games in the 29-game series that has not seen both teams reach double digits on the scoreboard.


See You in November

The Bruins have dominated the UCLA-UA series, but if there's ever been a good time for UA to play the boys from Westwood it's been in November. Arizona is 4-2 against UCLA in the month and all the games were played in Tucson. Four of the contests were decided by six points or less, three of those UA victories. November has also proven to be a good month thus far under Arizona head coach Mike Stoops. Last year the Wildcats went 2-1 in the month with victories over Washington and No. 18 Arizona State and a loss to national champion USC.


Arizona and UCLA  ?- The Last Time Out

Drew Olsen threw a career-high four touchdowns and hooked up with TE Marcedes Lewis on three of them as UCLA defeated Arizona 37-17 in the Rose Bowl last season ... In addition to the Olsen-Lewis hook up, a season-high nine first-half penalties for 83 yards on Arizona helped the Bruin cause ... The final stat sheet showed a nearly even 351 yards of total offense for Arizona and 348 yards for UCLA ... Arizona had its most successful day running the ball in 2004, racking up 258 yards on the ground, but numerous dropped passes allowed for just 93 yards through the air ... Arizona limited the then-Pac-10 leading rusher Maurice Drew (167.3 yards per game at the time) to just 22 yards on 11 carries.


Noting the Bruins

The No.7-ranked Bruins (8-0, 5-0) head to Tucson on the heals of a two overtime 30-27 victory over Stanford in Palo Alto last weekend ... It was the second time this season that UCLA pulled out a win in extra frames (Oct. 15 at WSU) ... The Bruins can score in bunches averaging 42.6 points per game, fifth-best in the NCAA and second in the Pac-10 to only top-ranked USC ... UCLA is 26th nationally in total offense with an average of 432 yards per game (156.75 rush/275.25 pass) ... RB Maurice Drew is a multi-threat talent out of the back field, in passing routes and on returns, and is fourth in the NCAA in all-purpose yards (184.3 yards per game) ... QB Drew Olsen has performed like a surgeon, carving up opposition secondaries en route to the fifth-best pass efficiency rating in the nation (165.3) ... TE Marcedes Lewis, UA’s nemesis from 2004, is the leading receiver averaging 4.6 catches and 59 yards per game ... On the other side of the ball, UCLA is giving up an average of 415 yards per game (88th nationally) ... The Bruins are surrendering an average of 212.4 yards on the ground and 202.6 yards through the air ... LB Spencer Havner  has amassed 70 tackles in eight games, including 11 for a loss.


Ranked Bruins

With UCLA riding high, the historical perspective favors the Bruins, holding a 6-3-1 edge as a ranked squad in the series. Arizona faces a ranked UCLA squad for the first time since 1998, when the No. 5 Bruins swamped UA for its only loss of the year, 52-28. (Then later, the Bruins got swamped by Miami to bump them out of the national title game and bump UA out of a potential Rose Bowl appearance. Thanks a bunch.) No. 24 UCLA beat UA 40-27 in 1997, No. 15 UCLA beat UA 37-17 in 1993, Arizona beat No. 11 UCLA in 1992, Arizona beat No. 22 UCLA in 1989, No. 1 UCLA beat Arizona 24-3 in 1988, No. 14 UCLA won 24-19 in 1985, No. 8 UCLA and Arizona tied in 1982, No. 12 UCLA won 35-18 in 1981 and UA beat No. 2 UCLA 23-17 in 1980.


Cutting Out the Mistakes

Arizona, which entered the Oregon State game averaging 7.8 penalties (mostly on offense) for 59.3 yards per game, saw the yellow flag fall against it just once for 15 yards  (and it was on the defense) against the Beavers. Add on fewer dropped passes and only one sack allowed and the Wildcats were playing “in front of the chains” for much of the day in Corvallis.


Over Drive

Arizona offensive scores against Oregon State all came on nice drives -- 70, 80, 75 and 76 yards. A big-play day made it happen in only 18 total snaps, however. UA's two longest possessions were a six-play 75-yard field goal drive for a 23-10 lead and a six-play 14-yard drive for field position in the fourth quarter. Economical offense made for a deficit of 13 minutes in total time of possession. Then, too, when Arizona's defense was on the field it came up with seven turnovers, including one for a score, out of OSU's 15 total possessions, plus forced a three-and-out and another punt following an 11-yard drive.


Bend, Don't Break

It’s not a Mike Stoops defensive philosophy, but Arizona's secondary made it work as it intercepted six passes at Oregon State last weekend. Michael Johnson's three picks led the effort in his first start at strong safety, including his first career INT which he took back 40 yards for the Wildcat's first scoring pick in three seasons. Cornerback Antoine Cason, free safety Darrell Brooks and corner Wilrey Fontenot picked off the others to make OSU quarterback Matt Moore's 436-yard day a glossy waste.


Timely TOs

Oregon State racked up 31 first downs (second only to USC's unheard of 39 earlier vs. UA), but seven turnovers made it a dead-end much of the way. Arizona first forced the Beavers to hand over the ball at the OSU 40, an interception returned for a score by Michael Johnson. The rest came at more critical locations on UA's side of the field -- at the UA 27 yard-line (Johnson INT), the UA 4 (Antoine Cason INT), the 14 (Darrell Brooks INT), the 20 (Johnathan Turner forced fumble recovered by Spencer Larsen), the 10 (Wilrey Fontenot INT) and lastly the 20 yard-line (MJ's third pick). That's a boatload of turn-away takeaways.


Evening the Score

Arizona’s six interception day against Oregon State not only fell just one shy of the school record for a single game, but it helped the Wildcats pull nearly even with its opposition in the picks department for the year. Arizona has thrown 12 INTs this season, while, with the six takeaways against the Beavers, the UA defense has 11 (Now 16th-best in the NCAA). With the defense doing its part in helping to pull even, Willie Tuitama and the Arizona offense chipped in as well with the first interception-free game for the Wildcats since Nov. 6, 2004 at Washington, a string of nine straight contests.


Third Down Blues

For the opposition, that is. Arizona is 18th nationally in holding opponents to a third down conversion rate of 31.5 percent -- 34 chain movers in 108 tries. That's best in the league and the best west of Manhattan, Kan.  In the past three games opponents were 8 of 40, spearheaded by efforts that held Stanford to 1-12 and OSU to 2-11.  Against the Beavs the Cats stopped runs on 3rd-and-2, 3rd-and-1 and 3rd-and-13; and stopped passing conversion attempts on 3rd-and- 2, 5 (twice), 7 twice (both picks) and 3rd-and-9 (sack).


Going the Distance

UA substitutes for scrimmage plays at OSU: DT Lionel Dotson, LB Adrian McCovy, WR Ryan Eidson, WR Bobby McCoy, RB Chris Henry, FB Brandon Lopez. DB Lamon Means, DE Jason Parker. Mike Stoops and staff look at it this way: "There's a reason they're called backups, " he's said.  Arizona plays its guys for 60 minutes, mostly. Simply put - You earn a start, you’ll finish.


T’n’T - They’re Dynamite

Tuitama to Thomas, get used to hearing it. The true freshman duo of Willie Tuitama and Mike Thomas has been a volatile concoction for the opposition despite playing just a little over seven quarters of football at the same time. Since Tuitama took over the quarterbacking duties in the first quarter against Oregon on Oct. 22, he and Thomas have hooked up on 10 pass completions for 233 yards and a pair of touchdowns. If their short time together is a harbinger of things to come for Arizona, then the word “explosive” will most definitely be back in the UA offensive vocabulary for the foreseeable future.

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