Opponent: Brigham Young University
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. (2:30 p.m. MST)
Site: Provo, Utah - LaVell Edwards Stadium (64,045)
Television: Versus Network (Joe Beninati, Glenn Parker, Tim Neverett and Krista Blunk)
? (In the Tucson market: Cox 70, Comcast 29, DirecTV 608, DISH 151)
English Radio: 1290 AM The Source (Brian Jeffries, Lamont Lovett, Pedro Limon)
Spanish Radio: 990 AM ESPN Deportes (Francisco Romero, Marco Rincon, Pedro Limon)
Please see Page 3 of the notes for Arizonaˇ?s radio affiliates.
Some Game Themes
Arizona gets to check out its yet-to-play-a-game spread offense against one of the schools where it developed... UA's defense, expected to be strong, takes on the offensive multiplicity of a program that rated No. 4 nationally in total yards a year ago... UA takes on a team with a 10-game winning streak... The Cougars take on the challenge with many faces missing from its MWC championship club of 2006... UA head coach Mike Stoops starts his fourth season in the Pac-10, against BYU's Bronco Mendenhall, in his third year at Provo... Mendenhall was an Oregon State defensive coach and coordinator for a pair of years in the mid 1990s, and a former OSU defensive starter for a pair of years in 1986-87... Arizona takes its program back to Provo for the first time in 31 years, dating to its final season in the Western Athletic Conference... The Cougars face -- at home -- one of the two teams that blemished its 2006 record on the road last year (and both in nail-biters; Boston College won in overtime in Chestnut Hill)... Arizona's new offensive scheme was adopted to score points, and faces a program that a year ago was No. 10 in scoring defense... How will junior QB Willie Tuitama of Arizona respond in the short game to a 3-4 defense where talented linebacking is emphasized?... How will soph QB Max Hall of BYU respond in his first game after a sit-out transfer year?
Dating back to 1899 Arizona is 74-24-5 (.743) all-time in the first game of the season and has won two of three season-openers under current head coach Mike Stoops ... Arizona has opened its season against Brigham Young six times prior to this year (1936, 1957, 1959, 1962, 1964, 2006) but never in Provo ... The Cats are 4-1-1 against BYU when opening a season against the Cougars ... UAˇ?s trip to Provo will mark the fourth time since 2000 that the Cats will open their year on the road and the second time under Stoops (2000 at Utah, 2001 at San Diego State, 2005 at Utah) ... Including this year, Arizona has opened its season against a Mountain West Conference team in five of the nine years of the MWCˇ?s existence and is 3-1 in the four contests leading up to this weekend.
BYU and Arizona Fast Facts
First Meeting: 1936 (Arizona 32 - BYU 6)
Last Meeting : 2006 (Arizona 16 - BYU 13)
All-Time Series Record: UA leads 11-8-1
Arizona vs. BYU All-Time
In a series that dates back to 1936, Arizona owns an 11-8-1 advantage over BYU ... The Wildcats won the last meeting (16-13, 2006), but the Cougars had won three of four prior contests in UAˇ?s final days in the Western Athletic Conference in the late 1970s ... Arizona and BYU have played six games in Provo prior to this season with the Cougars holding a 4-2 edge. UA won a 27-14 contest in 1971 and last won in the Beehive State against the Cougars in 1973 (24-10), but has lost the last two games played in Provo between the two (1975 and 1977) ... Arizonaˇ?s largest point total in a single game against BYU came in a 39-6 win in Tucson in 1964 ... BYU scored a high-water mark 37 points in a 37-13 win in Tucson in 1974 ... The average margin of victory for the winning squad has been 13.7 points with one tie (1957).
Arizona-BYU Last Year
Arizona held off Brigham Young 16-13 when now-departed place kicker Nick Folk saw his 48-yard attempt sail successfully through the uprights with one second remaining in the contest at Arizona Stadium in Tucson. The FG was one of three booted by the UA senior in the game, one-upping his BYU counterpart Jared McLaughlin. Capped by a five-yard TD reception by BYUˇ?s Daniel Coats in the first quarter, the Cougars held a 7-6 advantage going into the half, but 10 second-half points, including an Anthony Johnson TD reception and Folkˇ?s game-winning kick, handed BYU one of only two losses in 2006 and gave Arizona its second season-opening win in three tries under head coach Mike Stoops ... Notes: The three-point differential matched the second-closest game in the all-time series, bettered only by a two-point BYU win in 1966 (16-14) ... Despite getting out-gained 313 to 253 in total offense, Arizona held BYU to its lowest yardage in a contest in 2006, well below its season average of 465.5 ... The 13 points scored by BYU were the fewest in a contest for the Cougars all season long ... The 24 rushing yards by BYU were the second-fewest allowed to an opponent in three seasons under Mike Stoops (-6 yards at Stanford later in 2006) ... Out of the six players that combined to score the 29 points in the game (UAˇ?s Nick Folk, Anthony Johnson and Willie Tuitama and BYUˇ?s John Beck, Daniel Coats and Jared McLaughlin) only UAˇ?s Johnson and Tuitama return for the 2007 rematch.
The Last Time In Provo
Arizona's last trip to the Wasatch and Utah Valley was on Oct. 27, 1977, and the LaVell Edwards-led Cougs pasted Tony Mason's first Arizona team (5-7) with a 34-14 victory. Marc Wilson's 334-yard passing day blended well with a multi-dimensional 214-yard rushing attack as BYU piled up 554 net yards -- at the time the most against Arizona in 26 years. UA was plagued by turnovers -- three lost fumbles and three passes intercepted, and couldn't take advantage of four BYU TOs. The game helped usher Arizona out of the Western Athletic Conference, in its last go-round of WAC opponents. Sophomore Wilson, filling in for sidelined senior Gifford Nielson, threw for a pair of scores, while freshman punter Jim McMahon helped out with some 43-yard kicking. Arizona was not without some weapons, notably eventual school hall of famers in fullback Hubie Oliver (6 runs for 48 yards) and nose guard Jon Abbott (10 tackles, three for loss), plus its eventual initial All-Pac-10 player, tight end Ron Beyer (5 catches for 83 yards). The game was never in doubt; UA was behind 27-0 at the half and 34-7 until two minutes left in the game when Oliver rumbled in from a yard out.
The Road Ahead
Along with Brigham Young, an 11-game winner in 2006, Arizona will tackle another tough slate in 2007. The Cats will face four schools that finished with double digit wins in 2006 (BYU, Cal, Oregon State and USC) and a total of eight teams that appeared in a bowl game last year (BYU, New Mexico, Cal, Oregon State, USC, UCLA, Oregon and Arizona State). The schedule has been ranked the 24th toughest in the nation by Sports Illustrated ... Unlike last season in which UA saw five of its 2006 opponents ranked in the top 25 of the preseason AP Poll (LSU, USC, Cal, Oregon and Arizona State), only three schools appear in the preseason rankings this season (Cal, USC and UCLA).
Week 1 of 10
Starting with the season opener at BYU this weekend Arizona will play 10 consecutive Saturdays without a break through the final weekend of October. After the 10-game stretch with out a rest, the schedule makers have slated the Cats to play just two games in the entire month of November and have placed the annual Duel in the Desert against Arizona State on December 1. The late season rest will probably be much needed after the early long haul but the Wildcats have made a living in November in Mike Stoopsˇ? first three season (6-4 overall and 4-1 vs. Top 25 teams).
Although a loss to rival Arizona State in the final regular season game of 2006 put a damper on the end of last year, the Wildcats certainly made some noise on a national level. Winning three straight contests for the first time since 2001, Arizona knocked off No. 25 Washington State in Pullman to open November, pulled off a major upset on No. 8 Cal at home and then won in Eugene, Ore., for the first time since 1986 when it downed Oregon. The three-game run boosted the spirits of the players and coaches alike and with 19 of the 22 experienced starters returning for this season the Cats have some additional confidence heading into the BYU game.
Healthy and Happy
Heading into the final week of preparation for the season opener at BYU Arizona made it through three weeks of fall camp and the first week of school injury free. Save for a few of the regular bumps and bruises that go along with the game, the Cats do not list a significant injury among its two-deep roster on either side of the ball.
Theyˇ?re Watching You
A pair of defensive standouts, DB Antoine Cason and DE Louis Holmes, and one of Arizonaˇ?s offensive linemen, sophomore Eben Britton, have been named to watch lists for the 2007 campaign. Cason, a preseason All-American and 2006 Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist, has been identified as a player to keep an eye on by the Thorpe Award, the Bronko Nagurski Award, the Ronnie Lott Trophy, as well as the Chuck Bednarik Award. Holmes, UAˇ?s sack leader in ˇ®06, has been keyed on by the Bednarik Award staff as well and additionally to the Rotary Lombardi Trophy. Britton joins Holmes on the Lombardi Trophy watch list, given annually to the top lineman in the country on either side of the ball.
ˇ®Dˇ?-Lighted to Have You Back
A stout Arizona defense returns 10 starters from a unit that finished the 2006 season ranked third in the Pac-10 Conference in scoring defense and fourth in total D. The line (DEs Louis Holmes and Johnathan Turner and DTs Lionel Dotson and Yaniv Barnett) and linebacking corps (Dane Krogstad, Spencer Larsen and Ronnie Palmer) returns intact, while three-fourths of the secondary (CBs Antoine Cason and Wilrey Fontenot and FS Dominic Patrick) come back. The experienced group features eight seniors (Holmes, Dotson, Barnett, Krogstad, Larsen, Cason, Fontenot and Patrick), two juniors (J. Turner and Palmer) and a sophomore, SS Cam Nelson, the lone newcomer to the starting lineup.
While Arizonaˇ?s offense wasnˇ?t exactly a strong point last year, the Cats return a number of capable veteran starters and a host of others in the skill positions ready to explode in the newly installed spread. Junior QB Willie Tuitama is completely healthy after an injured plagued sophomore season and appears ready to regain the form that made him a nationally renowned phenom as a true freshman in 2005. RBs Chris Jennings and Xavier Smith provide matchup problems for the opposition both as rushers and pass catchers out of the backfield. The wide receiving corps features senior Anthony Johnson, who has taken a liking to the spread, 2005 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Mike Thomas, as well as sophomore Terrell Turner and redshirt freshmen Terrell Reese and Delashaun Dean. The tight end position will be manned by junior Travis Bell, redshirt frosh A.J. Simmons and true freshman Rob Grankowski, while talented H-backs Earl Mitchell and Brandon Lopez will either pave the way for the RBs or plow ahead on their own.
On the Block
Starting three redshirt freshmen, a sophomore and junior last season the Arizona offensive line learned a number of hard lessons and took their lumps early on. However, as the season progressed and the youthful group gained experience and confidence the unit meshed late in the year and played a large part of the Catsˇ? 3-1 run to finish up 2006. The group returns intact for the ˇ®07 campaign and are ready to pick up where they left off last year. Senior Peter Graniello anchors the big boys in the left tackle spot and is joined by junior RG Joe Longacre and sophomores Blake Kerly (C), Daniel Borg (RG) and Eben Britton (RT).
Bondzio and Crier get the Call
With the departure of graduated do-it-all kicker Nick Folk to the NFL the Wildcats will be calling on a pair of newbie kickers on special teams for the first time since 1997. Junior Jason Bondzio appears to have the upper hand on place kicking duties after showing a strong leg and some nice accuracy during fall camp. In the punting department, redshirt freshman Keenyn Crier is the heir apparent to a recent string of success by following all-conference punters Danny Baugher (2005, 2nd team) and Folk (2006, 1st team). Crier has shown good hang time and a lot of distance on his kicks during the fall and will look to carry his consistency into the regular season.
Team members elected captains for 2007 in late August. The group this year includes senior linebacker Spencer Larsen, senior cornerback Antoine Cason, senior receiver Anthony Johnson, junior quarterback Willie Tuitama and sophomore offensive tackle Eben Britton. Coach Mike Stoops said voting centered heavily on a number of other senior defenders who could be chosen for individual game-captain service. Cason and Larsen are repeat captains, also chosen as juniors in 2005.
Junior wide receiver Mike Thomas and sophomore offensive tackle Eben Britton are members of the UA's Student-Athlete Advisory Board, or SAAB -- which last year had as co-president junior cornerback Antoine Cason. The two younger Wildcats are on a program-wide panel of student-athletes who meet monthly with athletic director Jim Livengood, senior associate AD Kathleen LaRose and other department leaders to foster policies and strategies that improve the lot of athletes. It's a nice piece of citizenship by the athletes involved, who serve as spokespersons for their fellow students on all teams.
Starts by the Numbers
Arizona has its best experience in Mike Stoops' tenure, and the top guys in that regard are senior cornerbacks Antoine Cason and Wilrey Fontenot, who each have started and played almost every play since Stoops' arrival. Senior tackle Peter Graniello also is up there. Some others with two or more years' experience have also weathered some injury and missed starts -- such as all three linebackers. Too, senior strongside linebacker Dane Krogstad has been the No. 1 guy at his position for three years, but often gave ground to a nickel back in the official "starts' listings. Same goes for receiver Mike Thomas, who could be listed as a 23-game starter but didn't do so for nine games because of formations the Cats opened the game in.
CB Antoine Cason - 34
CB Wilrey Fontenot - 34
OT Peter Graniello - 32
LB Spencer Larsen - 25
DT Yaniv Barnett - 20
DT Lionel Dotson - 20
WR Anthony Johnson - 19
LB Ronnie Palmer - 16
LB Dane Krogstad - 15
OG Joe Longacre -15
WR Mike Thomas - 14
QB Kris Heavner - 14
QB Willie Tuitama - 13
Money Mike and AJ
Arizona junior Mike Thomas and senior Anthony Johnson both have chances to move up Arizonaˇ?s career receiving charts. Thomas is three catches shy of the No. 10 spot currently held by Andrae Thurman (105 in a three-year career from 2000-02). Johnson needs to better his junior (32) or senior (25) years to move into contention. By most accounts, offensive coordinator Sonny Dykesˇ? system will afford both these guys ?C and others ?C chances to do so. Thomasˇ? 52 catches as a freshman in 2005 nearly hit the top 10 chart for UA (56 by Richard Dice in 1994 is No. 10), as did his 50 a year ago. Again, according to the street, three guys in the spread system will catch more than 50 in a season.
Player G No-Yds TD LG
Thomas 23 102-1368 7 75
Johnson 33 71-821 6 78
UA Career Receiving Leaders just ahead of Mike:
No. 6 Richard Dice - 119, 1993-96
No. 7 Derek Hill - 112, 1985-88
No. 7 Rodney Williams - 112, 1995-97
No. 9 Terry Vaughn - 109, 1990-93
No. 10 Andrae Thurman - 105, 2000-02
No. 11 Vance Johnson - 104, 1981-84
Thomas needs 216 receiving yards to supplant Syndric Steptoe (1,584 yards 2003-06) at No. 10 on the career receiving yards chart.
Although Arizonaˇ?s new spread offense has yet to take a meaningful snap all indications point to UAˇ?s passing record book taking a beating this season. A look at some of the individual aerial highwater marks at Arizona which will have to be watched closely along with a number of other passing/receiving marks
Game 14 Jeremy McDaniel at Cal 1996
Season 93 Bobby Wade 2002
Game 283 Jeremy McDaniel at Cal 1996
Season 1,422 Dennis Northcutt 1999
Game 56 Marc Reed vs. Oregon St. 1966
Season 410 Jason Johnson 2002
Game 31 Jason Johnson at Cal 2002
Season 239 Jason Johnson 2002
Game 492 Jason Johnson at Cal 2002
Season 3,327 Jason Johnson 2002
Where You at?
Arizonaˇ?s coaching staff will have the following game day positions
Mike Stoops - Head Coach
Mark Stoops - D-Coord/DBs
Sonny Dykes - O-Coord/QBs
Bill Bedenbaugh - O-Line/Run Game Coord
Joe Robinson - DEs/ST
Mike Tuiasosopo - DTs
Michael Smith - RBs
Darrell Wyatt - WRs/Pass Game Coord
Dana Dimel - TEs
Tim Kish - LBs
Dave Nichol - Off GA
Brandon Shelby - Def GA