Nov. 1, 2010
Complete Game Notes (PDF)
No. 13 Arizona (7-1, 4-1 Pac-10) at No. 10 Stanford (7-1, 4-1 Pac-10)
Live TV Broadcast: ABC (split-national broadcast)
Television Talent: Brent Musburger (play-by-play), Kirk Herbstreit (analyst); Erin Andrews (sideline)
UA English Radio: Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries, play-by-play; Lamont Lovette, color; Dana Cooper, sideline)
Satellite Radio: SIRIUS 214, XM 194 (Stanford radio call)
Online Coverage: Gametracker | Live Audio
All-Time Series: Arizona leads, 14-11
First Meeting: Oct. 20, 1979 (SU 30, UA 10 at Tucson)
Last Meeting: Oct. 17, 2009 (UA 43, SU 38 at Tucson)
Some Game Themes
Two teams slug it out for high stakes in the Pac-10 race... The first of several November gut-check games for the Wildcats... The Cats stay on the road after a victory last week thereon in Pasadena... A pair of nickels -- UA takes a five-game road victory streak to challenge Stanford's five-game home winning streak... A battle of teams on three-game winning streaks... Arizona's league-best scoring defense against a Cardinal squad rated fifth nationally in scoring... A pair of balanced offensive units look for what works best... A match of teams who relish physical play... Arizona's sixth-rated rushing defense against a club rated 12th in pounding the ball... The probable return of healthy Arizona QB Nick Foles, who traveled with Stanford's Andrew Luck (and Locker and Barkley) last summer on the Pac-10 east-coast publicity swing... Could it be redux of a 1,000-yard game a year ago? Foles (415 yards, three scores) and Luck (423 yards, three scores) led an electrifying donnybrook won by UA, 43-38, with a last-minute defensive stop in 2009... The Cats, among the most adept at getting to the quarterback, face one of the most well-protected and talented evaders... One of the teams matches its 2009 victory total with one in this game.
Arizona put up a ton of numbers but left a few off the scoreboard in winning on the road at UCLA, 29-21. The Cats accumulated 583 yards in offense, their eighth-best total in history, on a season-high 88 plays from scrimmage. In the end it was a fourth-quarter defensive effort that made the differene. After UCLA closed to within five points at 26-21 to open the last period, UA held the Bruins to a 3-and-out, a 5-play drive for eight yards, a 4-and-out and a 3-and-fumble. Take away the two plays that the Bruins started the quarter with and the Arizona defense held UCLA to just 11 yards in the period with the game on the line. The Cats got to take some knee by junior quarterback Matt Scott to end the fray. Scott threw for a career-best 319 yards on 24-for-36 passing and a touchdown, a 41-yard toss to Juron Criner to open the scoring. That backed up the Wildcats' best rushing effort of the season (264 yards), on a persistent 52 attempts. After Criner's score the Bruins tied the game half way through the first period, but Arizona put up 12 second-period points to take a 19-7 lead at the half, during which it outgained the Bruins 374 yards to 104. UCLA trimmed the lead to five with a 68-yard bomb from Richard Brehaut to Randall Carroll just minutes into the third period, but Arizona's answered with its third 80-yard drive of the game. Another Brehaut toss of 49 yards beat UA coverage for the final UCLA points just moments in the final stanza. Keola Antolin led UA in rushing with 114 yards (23 totes) and a score, backed by Scott with 71 yards on 12 carries and 31 from Nic Grigsby (before he left in the second period with an ankle sprain). UA pulled off an important fake field goal while holding a 26-21 lead in the fourth period, with linebacker Jake Fischer (named Pac-10 Special Teams Player of the Week) taking the snap and racing 29 yards up the middle on 4th-and-3 from the UA 27-yard line to give the Cats field position down the stretch. Alex Zendejas hit his third field goal of the game minutes later to complete the scoring. Arizona held UCLA to 71 net rushing yards and 299 total. Offensively the 32 first downs for UA were its Pac-10-era record and helped the Wildcats enjoy a quarter's worth edge in time of possession, 38 to 22 minutes. Winning beats losing but all was not perfect. Scott was picked off in the end zone to leave some potential points off the board, plus he lost a fumble at the UCLA 14-yard line to thwart another scoring opportunity.
Arizona - Mike Stoops (Iowa '86), seventh year (40-40) 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, took the Wildcats to successive bowl games to close the decade and will take a third consecutive squad to the bowl this year. He's working on a 23-11 mark from 2008 onward. His Arizona clubs have beaten a ranked team each of his years including this year's victory over No. 9 Iowa. His recruiting and player development programs have put talent 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 2-3 against the Cardinal with a victory at home (2009) and one on the road (2006). He's 1-1 in Stanford Stadium... Stanford - Jim Harbaugh (Michigan '86) fourth year at Stanford (24-20) and seventh year overall (53-27). He was head coach at San Diego in his first collegiate head coaching job, 2004-06. He began his career in 1994 as an assistant at Western Kentucky until 2001 and was was QBs coach for the Oakland Raiders for two years before taking the Stanford job. An All-American collegiate quarterback, he spent 15 years with five NFL teams. Harbaugh is 2-2 against Arizona as a head coach.
Arizona is indeed working on a good season at 7-1. Exactly how good will be determined in the last quarter of the year. UA has been 7-1 just five times previously in its history. The Cats were 7-1 in 1968, went to 8-1 and finished 8-3 after the Sun Bowl. The Cats were 7-1 in 1973, went to 8-1 and finished 8-3 without a bowl appearance. Arizona was 7-1 in 1975, improved to 9-1 and finished 9-2 without a bowl appearance. (What were those bowl selection committees thinking, anyway?). UA was 7-1 in 1993, went to 8-1 and finished 10-2 after a Fiesta Bowl victory over Miami. The Cats were 7-1 in 1998 and took it on out to to its best-ever finish at 12-1 after a victory over Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl.
Against the Top 10
The game against Stanford is UA's second against a ranked team this year, with UA beating No. 9 Iowa 34-27 in Tucson in mid September. UA was No. 24 at the time of that game. Mike Stoops' Arizona teams are 4-8 against teams ranked in the Top 10 by the Associated Press. The other victories were over No. 7 UCLA in 2005, No. 8 Cal in 2006 and No. 2 Oregon in 2007. Overall, Arizona's mark against Top 10 teams is 14-47-1.
Remember the Games in Nov/December
In Mike Stoops' tenure, Arizona has played a handful of meaningful games in November and December. In his six previous seasons, Stoops has a 13-10 record in those final two months. On the surface, that may sound like a so-so number, but it includes more than half of those contests (12) being against nationally-ranked opponents. The Wildcats are 7-5 in those games with several AP Top-10 victories, including over No. 7 UCLA (2005), No. 8 California (2006) and No. 2 Oregon (2007).
Eight Isn't Enough
Arizona has five more tries to win two games and improve on its 8-5 marks of the past two years. That's not been a goal for the program, just one for the information types to track. The staff and players have some other things in mind, indeed, but the Cats' rise in the past several years merits the attention Arizona has been getting. Eight consecutive weeks in the rankings was not the stuff of Arizona football from 2001-08. Mike Stoops has built something that has staying power. Now this week's game figures in the equation for the opportunities it presents. For the record, other objectives aside, Arizona has won more than seven games just 14 times in its cenutry-plus football history.
The Arizona defense continues to rank as the top defense in the Pac-10 and one of the top units nationally, at least statistically. Arizona ranks No. 10 nationally in total defense, No. 7 in scoring defense, No. 6 in rush defense and No. 5 in sacks per game.
Just Tune it to ABC/ESPN
Arizona closes the year with four consecutive appearances on the ABC/ESPN family of networks, making it seven total appearances with the Pac-10 partner in 2010. That's the most since a six-game ABC slate in 1994. In all, Arizona will have 10 games (including a bowl game) on national networks this year.
Land of the Giants
Arizona heads into its final third of the season with a slate of games against its toughest 2010 opponents -- a road contest at Stanford, USC at home, a road contest at Oregon and its season finale against arch-rival Arizona State in Tucson. The Cats answered the bell in sections 1 and 2 of its 2010 season, now it's time to see if they can turn another corner for the program and improve on the 8-5 seasons it posted in 2008 and 2009.
Take What You Get
Whether a function of deep-threat Nick Foles being sidelined, or the legs of his replacement Matt Scott, Arizona has run the ball 142 times in the last three games, accumulating 640 yards in doing so. It helped the Cats out-possess the other guys by a margin of 20.5 minutes in the span. It didn't diminish the passing game, either, with Scott (and partially Foles vs. WSU) throwing for 210, 233 and 319 yards in the three games. I guess you could say Arizona's backup quarterback knows his stuff. His stint: 56 completions in 78 throws (72%) for 691 yards and three TDs, with two picks. He also added 129 rushing yards on 19 carries.
Moving the Chains
Arizona had a Pac-10 era high of 32 first downs against UCLA, second only to the 34 it put up against New Mexico in 1969. The splurge in Pasadena came evenly, with 14 on the ground, 16 through the air and a pair off penalties. One thing about the 2010 Cats through its first two-thirds of the year -- they've been moving the chains. The 261 team first downs this year compare with with a 263 total last season in 13 games and eclipse the season totals for Stoops' first four UA teams, too. Another game or two and UA should pass the school record Stoops' 2008 club set with 287 first downs. It's clear switching to the spread offense on Sonny Dykes' arrival as O.C. in 2007 (now head coach Louisiana Tech) brought some chain-moving change. First-year co-coordinators Bill Bedenbaugh and Seth Littrell are spread-savvy dudes and like seeing the 10-yard gang do its thing, too.
Miscellaneous Football Factoids
Arizona's third-down conversion rate of 50 percent (.495) would be its Pac-10-era best, eclipsing the .4775 rate (85-175) by the 1983 squad and the .4772 mark by the 1979 team. Mike Stoops' top figure was .4628 by the Willie Tuitama-led Cats in 2008... Half and half -- UA's balance of rushing attempts and passing attempts. The Cats have run the ball 278 times and thrown 286 passes. That compares to Stanford's 330 runs and 232 passes... Here's an Arizona-Stanford similarity. The Cats have run 564 plays this year, the Cardinal has put the ball in motion 562 times... After a spate of penalties against Iowa and California (22 total), Arizona has settled back into its normal composure and totaled 21 in the last four games. Stoops' 2008 team had only 53 penalties all season (4.1 pg), the second-lowest in UA's 32-year Pac-10 history. The club has 54 this year (6.8 pg), skewed by the outburst against the Hawkeyes and Bears... Placekicker Alex Zendejas won a College Football Performance Awards citation for performance of the week at UCLA. The junior hit 3-for-3 on field goals for the first time in his career. He had a 4-for-5 debut last year against Central Michigan and a 4-for-4 effort against Washington a year ago but never posted a trifecta. He's nine of 11 this year and 26-33 overall (.788) in his two years... The Cats have 62 tackles for losses this year (-283) spearheaded by senior DEs Ricky Elmore (10.0) and Brooks Reed (7.0) and redshirt freshman tackle Justin Washington (8.5). Washington missed the game against his namesake with a sore knee. The Cats have 27 sacks, a pace that could possibly make the squad the first Arizona club to hit 40 sacks in a year since Dick Tomey's fearsome 1998 defense (NFL-bound Lance Briggs, Dashon Polk, Marcus Bell, Joe Tafoya, Chris McAlister) in 1998 totaled 46. Stoops' high in Tucson is 34 a year ago... Travis Cobb's career kick return average of 26.4 yards per attempt would be third best in UA history behind Floyd Hudlow's 27.4 mark in 1963-64 and Art "The Cactus Comet" Luppino's 26.7 mark in 1953-56. One more break-it dash (he had a 95-yarder last year and a 100-yarder this year) and he'll likely have the top mark...
Big 5 Sporting Goods
UA's quintet of playmakers continues to flourish. Against UCLA, receivers Juron Criner, Bug Wright and Travis Cobb chipped in 202 all-purpose yards, while RBs Keola Antolin and Nic Grigsby added 158. And that was with only a pair of kick returns (Wright-PR, Cobb-KOR) in the game. On the year, the fivesome is averaging 402 yards in all-purpose yardage per game led by Criner's near-100 in receiving. Keola and Grigsby run and catch the ball, while Cobb and Wright catch and return. If you throw in the rest of the squad Arizona gets 548 yards per game running, catching and returning kicks but it's clear the five playmakers make a difference.
Keola Keying Offensive Attack
Junior running back Keola Antolin has become the workhorse on the ground in recent weeks for the Wildcats. Antolin was steady again at UCLA last weekend, gaining over 100 yards for the second straight week. He had games of 21-149 against Cal and 6-114 against Oregon State as a freshman in his other century-mark games. Antolin has 388 yards rushing on 66 carries in his last four games to go with seven total touchdowns.
Welcome (Back) Matt
Arizona junior quarterback showed that commitment, dedication and hard work really does pay off. Scott turned in two outstanding starts over the last two games in placed on injured Nick Foles. Scott led Arizona to its two best rushing days of the season, two outing of 500-plus yards of offensive yards and over 500 passing yards in the two combined games. Following UA's win over Washington, Scott was named the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Week. 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 two recent victories improved Scott's career record to 4-1 as a starter in his career. On the season, Scott has completed 70.3 percent of his passes for 772 yards. He has added 12 rushing yards on 32 carries.
Grigsby Moving Up
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 155 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 eight games, Elmore leads the Pac-10 with 8.0 sacks on the season. That total is 2.5 better than the next best number, 5.5, held by bookend teammate Brooks Reed. Elmore's 1.0 sacks per game tally is currently No. 9 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 36 total tackles (third-best on team), including 9.0 for loss. He has 22.5 career sacks, which are seventh-most for active plays in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision.
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.
Throw It and It's Caught
Arizona throws the ball about 35 times a game and enters week nine completing 74.1 percent of its passes, the top mark for a team in the nation. The current rate 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 (70.3) and Bryson Beirne (100.0) have found some open guys who haven't wasted the opportunities.
Works For Me
The Wildcats have scored 40+ points three times this year and average 32.6 points a game. This has helped UA to a 7-1 record but rates only 32nd among FBS teams. Someone out there's lighting some serious scoreboards (such as Stanford's 42.4 ppg coming into this week). To Arizona's advantage, however, it's holding opponents to 14.4 points per game, seventh best in the country. That works out to a scoring margin of about 18 points which would tie for third-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.
Avoiding Goal Line
Arizona is second in the FBS in having allowed only 14 penetrations by opponents into the red zone, where it's held up okay in rating 15th by allowing only 10 scores (six TD). UA will need that kind of stiffness against the Cardinal, who rate 8th nationally with 46 scores in 50 -- count them, 50 -- penetrations on offense. Yikes.
Cliches in the Trenches
You might expect the old adages -- "have to establish the running game" and "have to stop the run" to come into some serious play this week. Arizona's top three running backs average above five yards per carry -- Keola Antolin (5.3), Nic Grigsby (5.2) and Greg Nwoko (5.1). As a team UA is averaging 4.4 yards per tote, compared to Stanford's 5.4. SU's top three rushers have some solid per-carry figures -- Stepfan Taylor (5.0), Andrew Luck (8.6) and Tyler Gaffney (5.3). It's said that offensive success starts in the middle with the line play, and it shouldn't be any different this week in Palo Alto. Blocking and tackling are always keys.
The Cardinal have allowed only three sacks this year to check into the game as No. 2 in the country in pass protection. UA is the No. 5 team in the FBS at getting to the guy, with 3.38 sacks per game for 27 total. If the Cats can't get some heat on Andrew Luck, their luck might not be so good. UA has played against some mobile guys -- Ricky Stanzi, Jake Locker, Ryan Katz -- so they know what can happen when containment and pass coverage becomes a lengthy ordeal.
The Last Time and the Tree
Stanford factors into a couple of 'the last time' notes on UA's chart. Toby Gerhart (24-116) and Anthony Kimble (10-110) rumbled for some yards to post the last double-century rushing game against UA in 2008, while UA receivers Juron Criner (12-152) and Terrell Turner (9-101) posted the last UA double-century receiving game against the Cardinal, last year. Also, before Stanford turned into tough guys, Arizona held the Cardinal to -6 rushing yards in 2006, its last sub-zero defensive effort in that category. That new breed of Cardinal was the last team to rush for more than 250 yards against UA, in that Gerhart-Kimble contest, with 48 totes for 286 yards.
Tackling Behind the Lines
Arizona ranks No. 12 in nation in tackles for loss per game, averaging 7.75 stops behind the line. UA's leader is Ricky Elmore, who has 10.0 TFL's to date thanks to his Pac-10-leading 8.0 sacks. Justin Washington, who did not play the last two weeks, is second on the club with 8.5 TFLs, while UA linebackers Paul Vassallo (5.5), Derek Earls (6.5) and Jake Fischer (5.5) have combined for 17.5. Defensive lineman Brooks Reed (7.0), D'Aundre Reed (5.0) and Mana Mikaele (3.5) have combined for 15.5 more. All added up, the Wildcats have 62 TFLs on the season. That is approaching the season total of 76 in 13 games in 2009.
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 2.6 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 20 pass plays and one rush of 20-plus yards.
Arizona is 15th nationally in holding teams to three plays and out, with 3.88 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 two spots on the list.
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 4-1 start this season, the Wildcats have 18 victories in their last 27 conference games, dating to the last four games of the 2007 season. That 18-9 record (0.667 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. 9 in UA history with 9 receiving touchdowns
No. 10 in NCAA FBS with 98.3 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
Nine of 14 (64 percent) career TD grabs have been 20+ yard plays
65 of 101 (64.4 percent) of career catches result in first down or TD
16.0 yards per catch on 49 receptions in 2010
Four 100-yard games in 2010 (five in career)
Career-highs of 49 catches for 786 yards in 2010
Has 1,456 career receiving yards
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 2,845 career rushing yards. That total puts him No. 14 on the list of active players in the NCAA for career rushing yards. Grigsby needs 155 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 2,845 yards (14th-most for active FBS players)
His 28 career rushing TDs is No. 2 in school history.
His 535 career rush attempts are sixth-most by a UA player
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 5.5 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 27 tackles, including 7.0 for loss, on the season.
Vassallo Making a Name for Himself
Junior linebacker Paul Vassallo has quietly become one of the leaders on the UA defense. Vassallo has settled comfortably into his role has an eight-game starter after joining the program as a junior college transfer last December. He has a team-high 61 tackles (21 more than No. 2 Joseph Perkins), 5.5 tackles for loss and 2.0 sacks. He was named the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week following a dominating 14-tackle performance against Washington on Oct. 23.
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 (61 tackles, 5.5 for loss, 2.0 sacks), sophomore Jake Fischer (32 tackles 5.5 for loss, 2.0 sacks) and mid-year juco transfer Derek Earls (27 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. 10.
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 21 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 29 tackles, two pass breakups and one interception on the season. He was 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 41 passes messed up - seven interceptions interception and 34 PBUs - through eight games. Pretty nice total against 231 passes attempted, and just 127 complete passes allowed (55 percent). 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 45-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 26-game starter in 28 overall 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 and is bowl eligible with a 7-1 record again in 2010. 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 26-12 in its last 38 games (0.684), including a 18-9 mark in the Pac-10
UA is 16-4 at home over the last 20 games at Arizona Stadium
At least six wins in four of last five season (three-straight 7+ win seasons)
UA averaged just 4.0 wins per season over the previous seven seasons
UA is 11-9 on the road in the Pac-10 the last four years (won four straight Pac-10 games)
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 4,834 rushing yards, paced by Nic Grigsby's 2,845 yards, which places him No. 14 amongst active players in the NCAA for career rushing yards. Throw in Matt Scott's 622 career markers as a dual-threat quarterback, and you tally 5,456 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 8-8 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 26-7 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 15-1 in the last 16 games when holding an opponent under 100 net rushing yards
Not to Be Offensive
Over the course of the last 45 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 80 games in his seven-year tenure at the school. Of those, 30 of them (37.5 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.
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 256-144 in the first quarter of its last 35 games, and 270-140 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 13-9 mark. In multiple miscue games, Arizona is just 14-15 when it turns the ball over two or more times, but has benefitted with a 12-3 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 57 games when they lose the turnover battle on the road. At the same time, UA is 12-4 away from the home when it wins or splits the turnover battle.
Moving the Chains II
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 17-5 over the last 35 games and 22-7 since the start of the 2006 season. At the same time, keeping opponents under that mark is critical, too. UA has captured 25 of its 34 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 (16-3 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 25-7 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 17-6.
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
Jake Fischer (Nov. 1, Special Teams) keyed Arizona's special teams in a 29-21 victory at UCLA on Oct. 30. The sophomore linebacker picked up 29 yards on a fake punt on 4th-and-3 from UA's own 27-yard line midway through the fourth quarter. The play extended the possession and flip field position in favor of the Wildcats, who led by five points at the time. Fischer added two tackles on kickoff coverage in the game, too ... 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 return home for two of its final three games, starting with a Nov. 13 game against USC at Arizona Stadium. The game is scheduled for a 6 p.m. MST (5 PST) kickoff and will be televised by ABC. The Wildcats then have their second bye week of the season before traveling to Oregon (Nov. 26) and hosting Arizona State (Dec. 2) to close the regular season.