Oct. 11, 2010
Complete Game Notes (PDF)
No. 17 Arizona (4-1, 1-1 Pac-10) at Washington State (1-5, 0-3 Pac-10)
4:30 p.m. (PDT) | Martin Stadium | Pullman, Wash.
Online Coverage: Gametracker | Live Audio
Live TV Broadcast: VERSUS Network
Television Talent: Ron Thulin (play-by-play), Glenn Parker (analyst), Lewis Johnson (sideline)
UA English Radio: Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries, play-by-play; Lamont Lovett, analyst; Dana Cooper, sideline)
Satellite Radio: SIRIUS 217, XM194 (WSU radio call)
All-Time Series: Arizona leads, 24-13
First Meeting: Oct. 5, 1963 (WSU 7, UA 2 at Spokane)
Last Meeting: Nov. 7, 2009 (UA 48, WSU 7 at Tucson)
Some Game Themes
Arizona takes itself on the road for only the second time this year and the first time in 43 days... UA works to recover its defensive confidence after some abuse a week ago... The Cats need a victory to stay in mid-year contention in the Pac-10... UA's secondary faces a tough challenge in WSU sophomore quarterback Jeff Tuel, who averages 246 yards per outing and has tossed nine TD passes, same as UA's Nick Foles. Tuel also has mobility, which hurt UA in the form of OSU's Ryan Katz last week... The Cats might try to rekindle their running game against a team that has had some difficulty defending that aspect (254 ypg allowed -- but also has faced some statistical rushing clubs of note in UCLA, USC and Oregon)... Nationally rated receivers on both sides, particularly UA's Juron Criner and WSU's Marquess Wilson... The Cougs will pay more attention to their first kickoff, as last year UA's Travis Cobb took the opening boot 95 yards for a score to spark the Cats to a strong start in the game.
Arizona had its chances but a slow first half and an uncharacteristic defensive effort cost it dearly in a 29-27 loss to Oregon State before a sellout crowd of 56,000-plus in Arizona Stadium. Both teams combined for 997 yards and while UA had more yards (541), Oregon State had a first-half field goal that eventually proved to be the difference. That, despite a sub-par effort by both team's kickers - with UA's Alex Zendejas missing a 37-yard field goal and having a PAT kick blocked, and OSU's Justin Kahut missing two PATs. The Beavs took the opening kickoff and drove 68 yards in eight plays for the lead and never gave it up, although UA did knot the score four minutes later. OSU was super on third down throughout, converting 10 of 15 to keep each of its five scoring drives going. They didn't come just on third-and-short, either, such as third-and-10 and third-and-eight makes on the opening drive. Arizona fought back from a 17-7 halftime deficit to close to 23-20 in the third quarter, but the Beavs put together a 10-play, 80-yard mark to post a 29-20 lead with five minutes left in the game. The Cats had a nine-play, 80-yard drive for a score with 1:49 left, but could not pull off an onside kick try. UA held and had one last shot, tacking on a 30-yard catch-and-lateral play as the game ended. Nick Foles completed 35 of 46 passes for a areer-high 440 yards, including 12 connections with Juron Criner (179 yards) and three scores, but OSU's Ryan Katz was equally effective with 30-for-42 throwing (393 yards) and two scores, plus was effectively elusive to buy more time for some throws. Markus Wheaton (7-113) and James Rogers (7-102) were very effective catching the ball for OSU, each catching deep balls for scores. Arizona averaged 5.3 yards per rush, but couldn't muster enough time of possession to make the ploy work, finishing with a 13-minute deficit. Foles had one bad throw cost UA some potential points, tossing an interception in the end zone with the Cats trailing 10-3 and possession at the OSU 21-yard line. UA safety Joseph Perkins snagged one of Katz' tosses a few minutes later to thwart an OSU red-zone penetration on second-and-goal from the UA 6-yard line, and UA drove 78 yards only to have Zendejas' FG miss cost it some points right before the half. Criner's 12 catches tied him with a previous similar effort and seven other Cats for no. 2 on Arizona single-game receptions. It was the most passing yards UA had given up in its last 12 games.
Arizona - (Iowa '86), seventh year (37-40) at UA and overall as a head coach. Stoops returned Arizona from a 2-10 program the year before his arrival to the national rankings in his tenure, and has taken the Wildcats to successive bowl games to close the decade. He's working on a 20-10 mark from 2008 onward. His Arizona clubs have beaten a ranked team each of his years in the red and blue including this year's victory over No. 9 Iowa. His recruiting and player development programs have put talent back on the field and sent more than a dozen players to the professional ranks via the draft or free agency in the past four years. He has coached national award winners and a combined 28 All-Pacific-10 players. Arizona football attendance has been a positive feature of a home-field advantage under Coach Stoops, with crowds averaging 93 percent of capacity each of his six seasons at Arizona Stadium. Arizona's football team APR checked in with an improved mark each of the five seasons since his inaugural year. Stoops is 4-1 against WSU as UA's head coach, his best mark versus league opponents. Washington State - Paul Wuulf (WSU '90), third year at WSU (4-27) and 12th year overall as a head coach (57-67) including eight years as head man at Eastern Washington from 2000-07. He's a four-year Cougar letterman at center and guard under Jim Walden, Dennis Erickson and Mike Price, and began his career as a volunteer offensive line assistant at EWU in 1993, where he was OL coach for four years and OC for two more before assuming the head job. After high school in his native California, he's been all about the Palouse.
Arizona in the Rankings
Arizona checks in No. 17 in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll and No. 20 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. Prior to the OSU game, UA was No. 9 in the AP and No. 11 in the coaches poll. UA's AP top 25 No. 9 ranking was its highest since a 1999 preseason ranking of No. 4. For in-season polls, it was UA's highest AP rank since a No. 4 ranking to close the 1998 season.
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 (67.1%)
Currently ranks No. 5 in nation for active career completions per game (23.4)
Has thrown for 4,015 yards (No. 9 in UA history) in 17 career games (15 starts)
No. 9 in UA history with 28 career passing TDs
Currently ranks No. 2 in nation with 74.9% 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)
Handing it Off
A year ago Arizona ran the ball 54 times against Washington State, its season high. Through five games this year UA has run the ball an average of 27 times per game. Look for something in the range between those two this week in Pullman. Arizona running backs had only 14 carries against Oregon State last week, and gained 5.3 yards per tote, a solid figure led by Keola Antolin's 8.8 ypc figure (8-70). The flip side of that is that Nick Foles had six completions for 81 yards to RBs, including a short toss Nic Grigsby turned into a 41-yard touchdown and another Antolin beat defenders on the corner for an 11-yard score. Passing wide is a quick handoff at time but there's the physical nature of running the ball that Arizona no doubt would like to continue to improve on as the season heads into its second half.
Strive for Five
Arizona missed its chance to erase another "first time since 1998 season" category when it lost last week to Oregon State to drop to 4-1 and miss a 5-0 start. Many high-water marks go back to that 12-1 season and Mike Stoops' teams have been chipping away at them, but missed on that try. Lo and behold, here comes another chance of sorts. Stoops' best starts through six games were 4-2 last year and in 2008. Should UA improve to 5-1, it would be its best such mark since the 2000 Dick Tomey club owned that record through Oct. 14 of that year.
Long Plays Galore
One of UA's downfalls defensively last week was its inability to limit 20+ yard plays by the Beavers' offense. Through the Wildcats' first four games, opponents had just five combined pass plays of 20+ yards. In the OSU game, the Cats surrendered six passing plays of 20 yards or longer, including two touchdowns (33 yards and 48 yards). That is an area that is sure to be a focus to sure-up this week heading into Pullman against another passing attack that can rack up some yards.
Nick Foles' 440 passing yards against Oregon State was the fifth-most total in UA history behind Willie Tuitama (510 at Washington 2007), Jason Johnson (492 at Cal 2002), Tuitama (446 against New Mexico 2007) and Johnson (443 at Washington 2002)... That gives Foles two of the top 10 single-game passing yards totals (he also had 415 against Stanford last year)... He also became a 4,000-yard passer in just 15 starts... His 28 TD throws are ninth in UA history... His 67 percent career completion rate would be a UA record and ranks No. 2 in the NCAA FBS for career active throwers (trails Houston's Case Keenum).
Despite giving up a season-highs for points allowed (29) and total yards (486), UA's defense still boasts some pretty lofty numbers through five games. The Wildcats lead the Pac-10 in scoring defense (14.6 ppg) and rushing defense (99.6 ypg). The Cats are No. 2 in total defense (281.8 ypg) and pass defense (182.2 ypg). UA's defensive front has factored into the lofty numbers, as the Wildcats are No. 2 in the league with 7.0 tackles for loss per game and No. 3 with 2.8 sacks per game. The main disrupters have been DT Justin Washington and DE Ricky Elmore, who rank No. 3 and No. 6 in the conference, respectively, for tackles for loss. Both are in the top-3 in the conference for sacks, as is fellow D-lineman Brooks Reed. Combined, the trio has 11 sacks through five games.
Limited Chances on the Ground
Arizona's pass offense ranks No. 5 in the nation with 328.6 yards per game. Makes sense considering the passing skills of QB Nick Foles and a bevy of talented wide receiver targets to throw to, headlined by Juron Criner, who is No. 7 in the nation with 106.2 receiving yards per game. But lost in the shuffle is UA's trio of running backs (Nic Grigsby, Keola Antolin and Greg Nwoko), who have taken a backseat in the play calling thus far. Even so, the group is producing when called upon. The three veterans have combined for 96 carries for 532 yards on the season. That amounts to 5.5 yards per carry, which is an impressive number. They have eight rushing scores, led by Grigsby's five touchdowns. Give any of them a running lane and they can take it to the endzone. Each has a run of 20+ yards for a score, including Grigsby's 62-yarder against The Citadel, Antolin's 33-yarder against Oregon State and Nwoko's 23-yarder against The Citadel.
The Cats average seven TFL -- tackles for loss -- per game, 28th in the FBS. Defensive tackle Justin Washington, a redshirt freshman, leas the way with 7.0, followed by senior DE Ricky Elmore with 5.0. It's helped keep opponent rushing totals down and lift UA to No. 16 in rushing defense. A near 500-yard hit against the Beavers last week dropped UA from 2nd in the nation in total defense to 13th (281 ypg), but the Cats still held strong against the run, limiting Jacquizz Rodgers to 83 net on 25 carries to give UA a solid chance to win the ballgame. OSu finished with 93 total rushing yards, UA's third sub-100 defensive effort of the year. Iowa -- who'd expect it? -- managed only 29 rushing yards on 26 totes against the Cats.
Most officials have a little weight in their yellow flags so they can throw them around with accuracy. They've been doing it in Arizona games with alarming frequency the past three games. After a contest with five total penalties (3 against UA, 2 against Citadel), the Iowa/Cal/OSU games have seen a total of 52 penalties, and UA drew 30 of them. The Cats have 41 flags, a dozen less than their season total of 53 in 2008.
Time of Possession
Arizona had the ball for 11 drives against Oregon State last week. Average length in time: about 2 minutes, 18 seconds. The scoring drives were 1:02 (3 plays, 57 yards), 2:00 (5 plays, 66 yards), 3:32 (7 plays, 66 yards) and 1:54 (9 plays, 80 yards). On the year UA is averaging about two fewer minutes in time of possession.
Arizona's single-game pass receptions all-time Top 10 is populated by a carload of players at 12 catches. The leader is Jeremy McDaniel with 14 receptions for a school-record 283 yards at California in a 1996 quadruple-overtime game. After that, nine guys with a dozen grabs apiece are tied for No. 2 on the chart. Junior Juron Criner has the two most recent among those including 12 last week for 179 yards against OSU. He also had 12-152 against Stanford a year ago, while teammate David Roberts broke on the scene with a 12-138 game earlier at Washington. Other recent UA players among the dozens are current New England Patriot Rob Gronkowski (12-143 at Oregon, 2008) and current Jacksonville Jaguar Mike Thomas (12-83 at USC and 12-105 at Cal, both in 2007.
Flaring, Dumping and Swinging Away
Arizona's Keola Antolin (18-146, 2 TD) and Nic Grigsby (14-108, TD) showed in the first five games that UA will be interested in throwing the ball to its running backs this year. Those two and Greg Nwoko combined for 48 catches a year ago, with the latter the RB leader at 18 grabs for 186 yards. Whether it's an increased emphasis this year or just quarterbacks finding the open man is a matter for the offensive coaching staff.Mike Stoops
Close Game Turnaround
Arizona's Mike Stoops has coached in 77 games in his seven-year tenure at the school. Of those, 30 of them (39.0 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 a week ago.
Cats in the Pac
Arizona's 6-3 mark in the Pac-10 in 2009 was its best since 1998 and is the third six-win Pac-10 season in program history. With UA's 1-1 start this season, the Wildcats have 15 victories in their last 24 conference games, dating to the last four games of the 2007 season. That 15-9 record (0.625 winning percentage) is impressive by itself, but even in the Wildcats' eninelosses, they have been just a few plays away from winning each game. UA has lost six of the nine games by three points or less and by a total of 39 points (average of 4.3 per game).
Big Play Juron
Wide receiver Juron Criner turned in a breakout season as a sophomore a year ago when he emerged as UA's big-play threat on the outside. His 2010 debut, which included a 10-catch, 176-yard performance, showed he has taken further steps to becoming on of the nation's most outstanding receivers. The 6-foot-4, 210-pounder is on the Biletnikoff preseason watch list and should be on that list as it narrows down throughout the season. Here are some quick hits on Juron Criner:
No. 10 in UA history with 13 receiving touchdowns
No. 7 in NCAA FBS with 106.7 receiving yards per game in 2010
Game-winning TD catch vs. California with 1:11 remaining followed 51-yard reception.
Led Pac-10 receivers with nine (9) receiving touchdowns in 2009
Seven of 13 (53.8 percent) career TD grabs have been 20+ yard plays
52 of 83 (63 percent) of career catches result in first down or TD
17.1 yards per catch on 31 receptions in 2010
10-catch, 176-yard performance at Toledo 2010
12-catch, 152-yard effort against Stanford in 2009
12-catch, 179-yard (career high) effort against Oregon State in 2010
Career-high three (3) touchdowns vs. Oregon in 2009
Led all UA receivers with a 12.9 yards per catch average in 2009
As a sophomore, hauled in TD catches at Iowa, at Oregon State and at USC
Where Grigsby Stacks Up
Senior tailback Nic Grigsby has moved up to No. 3 on the UA career rushing touchdown chart (25) and No. 6 in school history with 2,698 career rushing yards. That total puts him No. 14 on the list of active players in the NCAA for career rushing yards. Grigsby needs 302 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 2,698 yards (14th-most for active FBS players)
His 25 career rushing TDs tie Trung Canidate for No. 3 all-time at UA.
Two rushing scores from tying Ronald Veal's 27 for No. 2 at UA
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 5.4 yards per carry in career, including 5.9 ypc since start of 2008.
Had 1,153 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2008
Fifth-year seniors Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore form one of the best defensive end tandems in the nation. The two have combined for 32 career sacks, with Elmore winning the individual competition 18.0 to 14.0. They are, however, tied with 3.5 each on the season through five games. Both were forces against then-No. 9 Iowa on Sept. 18, a game when the Wildcats racked up six sacks against the ballyhooed big boys from the Big 10. Reed, who was named a team co-captain this year, led UA's defensive line with six tackles and 1.5 sacks against Iowa. On the season, Elmore is No. 5 on the team with 22 tackles (5.0 for loss), while Reed checks in No. 10 with 18 tackles (4.0 for loss).
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 mid-year juco transfer Paul Vassallo (33), sophomore Jake Fischer (26) and mid-year juco transfer Derek Earls (19) have done a solid job taking over the starting roles and anchoring the middle level of UA's defense, with help from soph R.J. Young (13 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 five games, with Fischer right behind, and any time your LBs can lead the team in hits your entire defense is doing what it's supposed to be doing.
Ten For Trevin
Junior cornerback Trevin Wade snared his 10th career interception against Iowa on Sept. 18, which put him in a tie for No. 10 in the NCAA for career active leaders in interceptions. Amazingly, it was second career "pick-six" with both coming against the Hawkeyes (one in 2009). While his 10 career interceptions are noteworthy, the most impressive part of the feat is the fact he has started just 19 games in his career. His 85-yard return against the Hawkeyes this year tied for the sixth-longest in school history. To date, he has 22 tackles, one pass breakup and one interception on the season. He is a preseason candidate for a handful of national honors, including the Jim Thorpe Award, the Bonko Nagurski award and the Bednarik Award.
Inside out for DD
Junior receiver David Douglas, an inside guy for his first two years, moved to the outside this year and is UA's second-leading receiver (behind Criner). He has 26 catches for 235 yards and two scores. His 5.2 receptions per game are fifth-most amongst Pac-10 players to date.. He appears well on the way to topping the 31 receptions he posted last year in the slot.
Knocking It Down
The Wildcat defense has 23passes messed up - four interceptions interception and 19 PBUs - through five games. Pretty nice total against 139 passes attempted, and just 56 complete passes allowed. Mid-year juco transfer linebacker Derek Earls had the interception and three passes defensed in the opener. The three PBUs were the most for a Wildcat since cornerback Trevin Wade had three (plus an interception) at Iowa last year. Senior safety Anthony Wilcox matched that total with a career-high three PBUs against Iowa.
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 42-consecutive games along UA's line, providing stability at a position of need. In 2008, he was slid from guard to center mid-year after center Blake Kerley went down with a season-ending injury. Since, Baxter hasn't look back. He's a featured spokesman for the team, offering unique perspective acquired from his time in the trenches and his tireless work with the program on and off the field. He was named a team captain prior to the season for the second straight year and will make a final push for national honors at his position. An All-Pac-10 selection a year ago, Baxter is on the Outland Trophy and Rimington Award watch lists entering the season.
Old Man on the Block
Arizona graduate offensive tackle Adam Grant, who moves to the left side this year after a couple of years on the right, is an NCAA-approved sixth-year player thanks to some earlier medical problems that caused him to miss nine games as a sophomore (knee) and his redshirt freshman year in 2006 (knee). He also missed six games with a hand injury in 2008. Grant's tenacity and physical situation are at all-time highs. The 24-year-old religious studies student earned his degree two Mays ago. He's a 23-game starter in 25overall appearances and one of the team's spokesmen on a variety of topics, notably perseverance. He initially was recruited as a tight end (redshirted 2005 in that role) but his big frame (now 6-foot-8, 325) was evident, and his future was a few feet closer to the ball from the onset of his career. His showcase game was likely against then-No. 9 Iowa on Sept. 18, when he went head-to-head with Adrian Clayborn, an All-American defensive end. Clayborn finished with just three tackles and was never a threat in the backfield on pass plays.
Program: The Last Four+ Years
When one thinks of Arizona football under Mike Stoops, they likely point to the early struggles in the first four years as he worked feverishly to rebuild the program followed by promising eight-win seasons the last two years. One thing that goes overlooked is the fact that, despite injuries to record-setting QB Willie Tuitama, the Wildcats posted a 6-6 mark in 2006 to achieve bowl eligibility on the heels of a pair of 3-8 seasons. While they didn't go bowling, the Cats had broken a stretch of six straight losing seasons for the program. The following year, Stoops brought in Sonny Dykes to overhaul the offense. While Arizona posted just a 5-7 mark in 2007, the offensive makeover was well underway and set the stage for breakout years in 2008 and 2009, as the Cats went bowling for the first time since 1998 in each season. Now, UA has winning overall and Pac-10 records the last four seasons. Surely, having his systems firmly established and his recruits in place has benefitted Stoops' teams over the long haul. Here's a look at the last four seasons - three of which have been bowl-eligible campaigns - for Stoops' Wildcats as it relates to the previous four and seven year stretches of UA football:
UA is 23-12 in its last 35 games (0.676), including a 15-9 mark in the Pac-10
UA is 15-4 at home over the last 19 games at Arizona Stadium
UA has averaged 6.75 wins per seasons the last four years
UA averaged just 4.0 wins per season over the previous seven seasons
UA is 9-9 on the road in the Pac-10 the last four years
UA never won more than one road game in a season from 2002-05
Rushing Attack Intact
Arizona's running back trio of Nic Grigsby, Keola Antolin and Greg Nwoko has combined for over 4,000 career rushing yards. Through five games this season, the current tally is 4,339 rushing yards, paced by Nic Grigsby's 2,698 yards, which places him No. 14 amongst active players in the NCAA for career rushing yards. Throw in Matt Scott's 489 career markers as a dual-threat quarterback, and you tally 4,837 career rushing yards ready to see the field at any time. Of course, UA's receivers are also threats on reverses and end-around plays, notably Travis Cobb, Bug Wright and Juron Criner.
Rushing to Success
The spread offense has taken over college football in recent seasons and the Wildcats jumped on the bandwagon with Sonny Dykes and his staff in 2007. With it came a record-setting passing season for Arizona in 2007 and back-to-back eight-win seasons in 2008 and 2009. But the Wildcats have found their success most consistent in running the football, not tossing it around for 300-plus yards per game. Not coincidentally, a more consistent ground game the last few seasons has helped the Wildcats win more games. Consider this rush of facts:
Arizona is just 7-8 in games when it passes for 300+ yards since the start of 2006
Arizona is 6-2 in games when its opponent throws for 300+ yards in a game since '06
Arizona is 23-7 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 12-1 in the last 13 games when holding an opponent under 100 net rushing yards
Not to Be Offensive
Over the course of the last 42 games, Arizona has scored 15 non-offensive touchdowns (once every 3 games or so). In 2007 and 2008, the Wildcats scored on two punt returns and two interception returns in each season. In 2009 , Travis Cobb scored on a kickoff return (95 yards), Bug Wright returned a punt to the house (86 yards), Orlando Vargas blocked a punt and returned it for a score (23 yards), and defensive backs Trevin Wade (38 yards) and Robert Golden (79 yards) had pick-six's. This season, Trevin Wade (85 yards) returned an interception for a scored against Iowa, and Travis Cobb has a 100-yard kickoff return against the Hawkeyes.
Turning the Turnstiles
Arizona's first four home games drew an average of 55,160 fans per game, paced by advanced sellouts against Iowa and Oregon State (Family Weekend). With home dates against three Pac-10 opponents remaining that kind of figure would represent one of the best ever. UA's listed average attendance record is 56,562 in 1994, while an average of 55,798 passed through gates in 2006. Much has been said of UA's student section, the ZonaZoo, and since it gave itself the nickname near the start of Mike Stoops' UA career, it's been one of the constants, with near 10,000 strong representation game after game, helping urge other patrons to keep coming back.
Since the start of the 2008 season, the Wildcats have developed a knack for fast starts to games and halves. In 2009, the Wildcats outscored their opponents 105-58 in the first quarter of games and 77-56 in the third quarter. Combined with the 2008 season and the first games of 2010, those numbers are even more impressive. UA has outscored opponents 232-130 in the first quarter of its last 32 games, and 249-126 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 (54 total games), the Wildcats are an impressive 14-3 when they win the turnover battle in a game. Conversely, they struggle to a 6-12 mark in games when they lose the critical battle. The Cats linger just over .500 in games they split the turnover margin with an 11-9 mark. In multiple miscue games, Arizona is just 13-15 when it turns the ball over two or more times, but has benefitted with a 10-3 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 54 games when they lose the turnover battle on the road. At the same time, UA is 10-4 away from the home when it wins or splits the turnover battle.
Moving the Chains
The Wildcats' offensive attack the last several years has been very good at moving the chains and keeping drives alive. A good game in this category includes accumulating 20 or more first downs in a game. When the Cats reach that mark, they are 14-5 over the last 30 games and 19-7 since the start of the 2006 season. At the same time, keeping opponents under that mark is critical, too. UA has captured 22 of its 30 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 (14-3 record).Mike Stoops'
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 22-7 since the start of 2006 when it has a positive margin in time of possession and struggles to just a 9-17 mark when its opponents keeps the ball longer. For games in which the opponent controls the ball four or more minutes longer than the Cats yields a 4-14 record for the Cardinal and Navy. When the tables are turned and UA has the four-plus minutes of possession, the Cats are 16-6.
30 Is (Usually) The Magic Number
The Cats' loss to Oregon in double overtime and their 36-33 loss to Washington on Oct. 10 was a rare one. Since joining the Pac-10 in 1978, the Wildcats have played 113 games in which they have scored 30 or more points. Their record in those games? An astounding 102-11-1. That record included a streak of 18 consecutive victories prior to the Oregon game in 2008 (55-45 loss), and UA is now 23-3 under Mike Stoops. Arizona is 3-0 in such games this season.
If Not 30, Try 40
If Arizona's winning percentage since 1978 when scoring 30 or more points isn't enough, then try out a 40+ point stat. In its entire history of football, Arizona is 112-5 when scoring 40 or more points in a game. Arizona was 4-0 in such games - all at home - in an eight-win 2008 season. Previously, the last time UA reached the mark four times in one season was in 1954, when it did so six times. In 2009, the Wildcats reached 40 points three times with a 2-1 record in those games. The loss? A 44-41 double overtime victory by Oregon. Amazingly, the Ducks also dropped the Cats the year prior, 55-45, in Eugene, accounting for two of the five all-time losses. UA is 2-0 in 2010 when scoring 40 points.
Leading the Way
The Arizona Wildcats voted on their team captains 10 days prior to the season opener, with four veterans drawing the respect of their teammates. Senior defensive linemen Brooks Reed and Mana Mikaele will represent the defense as captains, while senior center Colin Baxter and junior quarterback Nick Foles will carry the honors for the offense. Two other players, wide receiver David Roberts and linebacker Jake Fischer, will represent the football team in UA's Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), which works with athletic administrators to provide feedback on improving the Arizona experience for student-athletes.
Youth in Charge
Arizona co-offensive coordinators Bill Bedenbaugh and Seth Littrell hit the chart of "youngest coordinators" compiled by East Carolina SID Tom McClellan. Littrell, 32, is the eight-youngest coordinator in the country and seventh-youngest OC, while Bedenbaugh, 38, is 32nd on the overall list. Twenty-seven-year-old Lincoln Riley (offensive) of ECU is the youngest coordinator in the land.
Experience in Charge
Arizona co-defensive coordinators Tim Kish and Greg Brown hit the chart of "most-experienced" coordinators compiled by ECU SID Tom McClellan. Kish and Brown have a combined 66 years of college and pro coaching experience, which together checks in as the fifth-most by a coordinator duo in the nation. Most of schools on the list combine their OC and their DC, but Arizona and Iowa are the two schools in the top-5 of the chart that sport co-defensive coordinators.
Make it a Good One
Inside receiver David Roberts has had some big games, notably the 12 catches for 138 yards he posted at Washington a year ago. But that was in a losing effort, and his single snare against Iowa was huge -- a diving over-the-head two-hander down the hash for 38 yards in the fourth quarter to move UA from its 28 to the Iowa 34-yard line. The catch helped keep the Hawks on their heels from the get-go on the winning drive.
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.
Arizona will return home for an Oct. 23 matchup against Washington for the school's annual Homecoming game. The game will be broadcast by ESPN to a national television audience with kickoff scheduled for 7:15 p.m. at Arizona Stadium. Thereafter, the Cats will hit the road for trips to UCLA (Oct. 30) and Stanford (Nov. 6).