Arizona On The Air
Radio: Wildcat Sports Properties/Host Communications (Flagship - KCUB, 1290 AM, Tucson, Ariz.) ?- Brian Jeffries (Play-By-Play), Lamont Lovett (Color), Sean Mooney (Sidelines), Ryan Radtke (pregame/halftime/postgame)?- Spanish Language Broadcast (XENY 760 AM in Nogales/KXEW 1600 AM in Tucson) ?- Francisco Romero (Play-By-Play)
Television: ABC ?- Keith Jackson (Play-By-Play), Dan Fouts (Color), Todd Harris (Sideline)
Some Game Themes
The continuing evolution of Mike Stoops’ young Arizona program, and his introduction to Pacific-10 Conference play... UA seeks to learn how to close the deal after taking No. 20 Wisconsin to the wire and having opportunities to beat No. 17 Utah... The Cats put their non-conference season behind them and head eagerly into the league season at 0-0 in the standings... Arizona works to shed it ?'gutty performance’ label and get the job done... The Cougars try to beat Arizona for a fourth consecutive time... A match of two teams that have posted 509 points on the board in the last nine series games, but who this year have allowed only 11.7 (Arizona) and 15.0 (WSU) points per game by the opposition... Arizona tries to crank up its offense against a third successive quality defense, this one rated 17th nationally in total D... The Cougs’ passing game vs. Arizona’s young secondary.
A 47-yard field goal attempt sailed wide in the last minute of play and left an inspired Arizona team on the short end of a 9-7 decision to No. 20 Wisconsin before a rain-soaked portion of 50,275 fans in Tucson. Hurricane Javier blew a thunderstorm into the area from afar, and play was halted due to lightning with 6:13 left and no score in the second quarter. After an 88-minute delay, play resumed and the Cats struck first, with Kris Heavner connecting on a 44-yard touchdown pass to Mike Jefferson. A few minutes later, the first half ended, but by prior agreement, there was no halftime break. The rest of the scoring came from the Badgers, first on a seven-yard run by Booker Stanley to cap a 10-play drive moments into the fourth period. Mike Allen missed the PAT kick, but got a huge dose of redemption later. The Badgers mounted a 16-play, 72-yard drive that took 7:26 off the clock and Allen knocked home a field goal with 3:47 remaining in the game. Arizona answered, driving 50 yards in eight plays to put itself in position for a potential game-winning field goal attempt by Nick Folk. Folk, who earlier had missed from 43, had plenty of distance on the try but the boot hooked just left at the final moment. Stanley finished with 135 yards rushing to augment UW’s modest 262 yards in total offense, and Arizona managed only 199 total yards in the wet conditions that limited both teams’ ability to throw the ball.
Saturday’s match up with Washington State signals the opening of the conference season for both schools. The Wildcats have gone 16-10 in conference openers since joining the Pac-10 in 1978 and are 9-6 when opening the conference schedule at home.
The Cats and the Cougs - The Series
The Wildcats and Cougars will meet up for the 33rd time at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday ... The Cats own a 20-12 advantage in the series dating back to 1963, but Wazzu currently holds a school-best three-game winning streak over Arizona ... Saturday’s meeting will be the fifth time that UA has opened its Pac-10 Conference schedule against WSU ... Arizona holds an 11-7 advantage in the series when the games are played in Arizona Stadium.
Noting the Cougars
Washington State enters the week of play with a 2-1 overall record ... WSU defeated New Mexico 21-17 on opening day, fell to Colorado 20-12 in Seattle before rebounding with a solid 49-8 victory over neighbor Idaho last weekend ... The Cougars are coming off of three consecutive 10-win seasons, but return just seven starters from last season’s 10-3 Holiday Bowl team ... The Cougar offense enters the game with the 19th-ranked passing unit in the NCAA ... Sophomore QB Josh Swogger guides the aerial attack, with 513 yards passing and seven TD throws ... Junior tight end Troy Bienemann has been a favored target with a team-best 12 receptions, while wide out Jason Hill has caught 10 balls for 345 yards and four scores. Hill currently ranks eighth in the NCAA rankings with a 115 yards per game average ... Wazzu averages 110.7 yards per game rushing and is led by Chris Bruhn’s 219 yards ... On the other side of the ball, the Cougars have the No.17-ranked total defense (272.0), the No. 17 passing defense (150.67) and the No. 28 scoring defense (15.0 ppg) in all of Division I-A ... Junior linebacker Will Derting has posted a team-best 22 tackles, including 16 solo stops ... Head coach Bill Doba is in his second season in Pullman and has tallied a 12-4 record for WSU heading into the weekend.
Washington State and Arizona - The Last Time Out
Playing their first game under interim head coach Mike Hankwitz, the Wildcats battled but came up on the short end of a 30-7 decision in Pullman on Oct. 4 last season ... WSU scored 14 points in just over a minute in the fourth quarter on an interception return for six and an 11-yard TD pass to put away what was a closely contested game ... The Cougars jumped out to a 13-0 lead at the half on pair of field goals and an 84-yard TD reception by Devard Darling, but the Wildcats fought back to cut the advantage to just six on a Nic Costa to Matt Padron 4-yard TD pass early in the third quarter ... Another WSU field goal gave the Cougs a 16-7 lead after 45 minutes and a tipped Kris Heavner pass was picked off of by Jason David and returned for six points early in the fourth to salt the game away.
Arizona running backs coach Kasey Dunn spent five seasons (1998-2002) on the sidelines in Pullman in a similar capacity to his duties at UA.. During his time in the Palouse, Dunn helped former Cougars Kevin Brown and Deon Burnett break a pair of school records while helping build WSU into a team that has won 10 games in three consecutive seasons. Named an assistant head coach in 2001, Dunn was on the staff that coached against Mike Stoops and the Oklahoma Sooners in the 2002 Rose Bowl. Dunn played wide receiver collegiality at neighboring Idaho where he set Vandal career records for receptions and receiving yards ... Arizona’s athletic director, Jim Livengood, spent six years as the AD of Washington State (1988-93).
The Wildcats will welcome back senior Brandon Phillips to the offensive line rotation this week. Phillips was forced to sit out the first three games of the year after being granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA.
Secondary is Primary
Both head coach Mike Stoops and defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, former collegiate defensive backs at Iowa, have coaching backgrounds steeped in coaching effective secondaries. No surprise, then, that one of UA’s primary areas of defensive improvement this year is behind the line of scrimmage. The Cats are rated 19th nationally in pass defense and 24th nationally in pass efficiency defense. Those two factors plus respectable run defense (No. 58) help Arizona rate No. 27 in Division I-A in total defense this week. Everyone on Arizona’s coaching staff pretty much deplores looking back at what was, but that’s a category in which 108 other teams finished better than the 2003 Wildcats. It’s a huge development for Arizona, especially considering that the primary folks responsible are a pair of freshmen cornerbacks in Antoine Cason and Wilrey Fontenot, and a pair of junior safeties in Darrell Brooks and Lamon Means. Their focus has helped limit all three opponents to less than 180 yards passing. Now comes a continuing test over the next eight games: more prolific pass attacks in the Pac-10.
Arizona has given up only four touchdowns in three games and rates No. 16 nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 11.7 points per game. Push comes to shove this week, with Washington State coming to town averaging 27 points per game, thanks to a 49-point outburst against Idaho last week. The Cats’ Top 20 rating in the category dramatically underscores new emphasis brought by Mike Stoops. UA’s temperament in the fourth quarter ?- in which it has allowed only nine points this year ?- is considerably tougher. The Cats’ defense should give it chances to win games.
Scoring Defense Ebbing
Aided by a 59-point outburst by eventual co-national champion LSU in week two and a 48-point outing by Oregon the following weekend, Arizona opponents were averaging 38 points per game through the first three contests in 2003. It appears that the dogged determination of the 2004 Arizona defense has made a change for the better when is comes to giving up points, as that number has been cut down by 27 points to an average of just over 11 per game this season. The Wildcat defenders have been able to accomplish the turnaround despite playing against three schools known for their offensive prowess. Last season NAU averaged 31.5 points per game, while Utah has hung a combined 89 points on Texas A&M and Utah State in its other two games this year. Finally, Wisconsin scored just nine points against the Wildcats last weekend after entering the game with a 26 points per game average.
While it’s a bit premature to compare this season’s squad with one of the most dominating defenses in NCAA history, the 2004 team does share a similarity to the 1993 Desert Swarm defense. The two Wildcat defensive units have the surrendered almost the same number of points through the first three games of their respective seasons. The Swarmers had given up just 33 points through the first three games for an average of 11 points per game, while the 2004 Arizona defenders have surrendered just 35 points, an average of 11.7 per game. The 1993 squad went on to complete the season with a scoring defense that allowed just 14.3 points per game (a number that falls to 13.4 when the Fiesta Bowl shutout of Miami (Fla.) is figured in).
Backing It Up
A week after the defensive line showed its mettle with 17 tackles against Utah, the evolving Arizona defense took on a new look as the linebacking corps of Sean Jones, Dane Krogstad and Pat Howard teamed up for 17 stops of their own against Wisconsin. Jones, a converted fullback who has made just three starts at LB, finished with a career-high eight tackles, including four solo stops and one for a loss. Krogstad, a redshirt freshman, bounced back after making just one stop in Arizona’s first two games with six total tackles, five by himself, while also forcing a fumble against the Badgers. Howard tallied three tackles against Wisconsin and also forced a fumble.
It Means a Career Day
Strong safety Lamon Means was all over the field against Wisconsin. The junior tallied a career-high 12 tackles against the Badgers, including eight solo stops and two for losses.
2-for-11 Can Have Its Effect
Arizona ran 48 offensive plays against Wisconsin last week, the fewest since the 1988 Wildcats (7-4) ran 46 plays in a 24-13 victory over Oregon State in Corvallis. That option-oriented club rushed 32 times and passed 14 times for 238 total yards. Versus the Badgers, UA rushed 33 times and passed 15 times for 199 total yards. The 1935 Wildcats hold the school mark for fewest plays, 35 at Loyola (Calif.). A key reason for the low number last week was UA’s third-down conversion rate ?- 2-for-11. The Cats faced 3rd-and-5 or longer eight times, including five whoppers ?- two 3rd-and-9s, a 3rd-and-15, a 3rd-and-16 and a 3rd-and-21 in weather conditions that were less than ideal for big plays. The Wildcats did cash in on one third down, as Kris Heavner’s 44-yard pass to Mike Jefferson in the second quarter came on 3rd-and-9.
He’s A Coming
ABC’s Keith Jackson makes his return to the Old Pueblo to call a game after a four-year hiatus. The last time the venerable Jackson was in the booth for a game at Arizona Stadium was on November 6, 1999, when Arizona fell to Washington 33-25. Joining Jackson in the booth will be former Oregon Duck QB Dan Fouts with Todd Harris on the sidelines.
First Half Scoring
Through the first three games, Arizona has posted points in the first 30 minutes of play in each game. While the tally of 20 total first half points is a modest sum, it should be noted that Arizona failed to score in the first two quarters in eight of its 12 games in 2003. The inability to produce early points last season left the Wildcats with an average first half deficit of just under 14 points. Arizona has led at the midway point twice this season, equaling the total of 12 games last year.
Dating back to the final game of the 2003 season, quarterback Kris Heaver has completed over 70 percent of his passes in Arizona’s last four games. The second-year starter has been on point with his throws 73 percent of the time this season after wrapping up the final game of the year last season 21 for 32 against Arizona State (66 percent) ... Along the same lines, Heavner’s completion percentages against NAU (78%) and Utah (76%) are the two highest single-game numbers for any quarterback in the Pac-10 Conference this season.
Passing It Around
Despite only attempting 15 passes, Kris Heavner still managed to connect with six different teammates in Arizona’s 9-7 loss to Wisconsin last week. So far this season, Heavner has connected with eight different receivers against NAU, nine teammates against Utah and the six against Wisconsin. Heavner’s generosity has allowed seven different teammates to snag five or more passes this season.
A week after turning the ball over a crucial four times against Utah, the Wildcats did a much better job of hanging on to it against Wisconsin. On a wet and muddy afternoon, the Wildcats recovered their only fumble in the game and Wisconsin was unable to get its hands on any of QB Kris Heavner’s passes.
Odds and Ends
Receiver Ricky Williams extended his streak of consecutive games with a reception to 11-straight with a fourth quarter 11-yard grab against Wisconsin ... The Wildcats posted their two longest offense plays of the season against the Badgers last weekend when Mike Bell ripped off a 34-yard run and Kris Heavner hit Mike Jefferson for a 44-yard TD pass ... All four of Syndric Steptoe’s kickoff returns have gone for 20 or more yards ... Five of Danny Baugher’s 15 punts this season have been placed inside the opponent’s 20-yard line ... Led by DE Marcus Smith’s four, Arizona is averaging over five PBUs a game this year ...
The return of offensive lineman John Abramo and linebacker Randy Sims to the lineup leaves Biren Ealy as the lone injury holdover from fall camp. Arizona’s leading returing pass catcher from last season has started running at speed recently after rehabilitating a foot injury that kept him out of action since early August. His return could help teammates Ricky Williams, Syndric Steptoe, Mike Jefferson and Anthony Johnson draw different coverages.
The Wildcat players voted on their team captains at the beginning of the year and selected offensive players Mike Bell, Steve Fleming and Keoki Fraser, as well as defenders Andre Torrey, Carlos Williams and Darrell Brooks.
The offensive line at Arizona has strung together a pretty impressive list of starts. Center Keoki Fraser leads all Wildcat players on both sides of the ball with 32 career starts, including 26 straight. Joining him along the front five are tackle Chris Johnson (23 starts), guard Kili Lefotu (22 starts) and tackle Brandon Phillips (16 starts). Add in tight end Steve Fleming’s 14 starts, tackle Tanner Bell’s seven and guard John Abramo’s six and the group has combined for 120 career games started.
The Sports Group in Dallas, Texas, has announced that senior Keoki Fraser has been added to the Rimington Award Watch List. The award will be presented to the top collegiate center in the country at the conclusion of the 2004 season. The award is named in honor of Dave Rimington, a consensus All-American at Nebraska in 1981 and ?'82 ... Fraser has also been named to watch list for the Outland Trophy. The award has been presented to the top interior lineman on either side of the ball by Football Writers Association of America at the end of the year since 1946, making the Outland the third-oldest award presented in collegiate football behind only the Heisman Trophy and Maxwell Award ... Others added to watch lists early on are Mike Bell for the Doak Walker Award, presented to the top running back in the nation, and Danny Baugher for the Ray Guy Award, given to the top punter at the conclusion of the season.
Fling It To Fleming
After snagging just three balls for 30 yards in his first two season, senior tight end Steve Fleming is coming off an impressive 2003 campaign that saw him record 24 receptions for 252 yards and two touchdowns. His reception total from last season was the third-most in a year for any UA tight end since the Wildcats joined the Pac-10. A duplication of his numbers from last year in 2004 would place him among the top tight ends in school history. Currently Mark Keel (1981-82) holds the school record for both receptions (59) and yards receiving (856 yards) by a tight end, while former Wildcat Ron Beyer (1975-78) holds the record for the most touchdown receptions by a TE with seven.
Fans catching the Wildcats for the first time in 2004 might not recognize the team when they take the field for the first time this season. The reason? Arizona has changed the color of its helmets from primarily all white to a solid blue. The "Academic A" remains on the side, but it has no other markings or stripes and a blue face mask. The change marks the first time since 1980 that UA will be wearing a helmet that is a different primary color than white.
The solid blue helmet is the first time in school history that Arizona will take the field with head gear so colored. In looking back through photos in Arizona’s Heritage Hall, it has been found that former Wildcat great Art Lippino, UA’s "Cactus Comet", and his 1955 Wildcat teammates took the field in a helmet that featured blue around the sides with a red top. All other color photos over the years have shown that the Wildcat gridders have donned either primarily red or white bonnets.
Cat’s Picked To Finish 10th
The Wildcats have been picked to finish 10th in the Pac-10 this season, but that doesn’t mean Arizona has to like it. Head coach Mike Stoops made that point at Pac-10 Media Day in Los Angeles.
"Expectations here (at Pac-10 Media Day) aren’t high. As a staff and as a team, our expectations are much higher. When I think of the past seven or eight months, I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished. When I took this position, I knew it would be a challenge in the beginning. The players have made it very easy for me and they’re excited about having some success on the football field again ... We feel we’re a stronger football team than we were back in December."
Who’s Up and Who’s Down
The following coaches will be on the sidelines during the game - head coach Mike Stoops, defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, tightends Steve Spurrier Jr., defensive ends/special teams Joe Robinson, receivers Charlie William, and offensive line Eric Wolford. Offensive coordinator Mike Canales, linebackers Tim Kish and running backs Kasey Dunn are all up in the press box along with GAs Travis Ochs and Kevin Patullo.
Cats To Face Tough Slate in 2004
After a 2003 season that saw the Wildcats play both national champions (LSU and USC) and seven other teams that participated in bowl games, the 2004 schedule couldn’t get any harder, right? Well the early forecast predicts another tough slate for the Cardinal and Navy. Right from the start the Wildcats have been tested, as opening day opponent NAU (0-2) played the Wildcats tough in a 21-3 loss. Utah (3-0) is the early pick to win the Mountain West Conference after rolling to a 3-0 start. Wisconsin will enter Big Ten play with an unblemished 3-0 mark after defeating UA in its final non-conference game of the regular season. Now with conference play beginning, Arizona will face five straight games against 2003 bowl teams, including No. 10 Cal (2-0) and at UCLA (2-1). Arizona’s final month features a road trip to Seattle to face the Huskies (0-2), a jaunt to LA to face top-ranked USC (3-0) and match up with No.22-ranked rival Arizona State (3-0) in the final game of the year for the Territorial Cup. Combined, Arizona’s 2004 opponents posted an 89-52 record last year, including a 5-3 mark in bowl games.