South Carolina State (1-1) at #24 Arizona (2-0)
Date: Sept. 15 | Time: 7:30 p.m. MST
Location: Tucson, Ariz. (Arizona Stadium -- 51,811)
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Television Broadcast: Pac-12 Arizona
TV Broadcasters: Dave Flemming (pxp), Coy Wire (analyst), Brooke Olzendam (sideline)
UA Radio Network: 1290 AM Tucson (UA flagship) Broadcasters: Brian Jeffries (pxp), Lamont Lovett (color analyst), Dana Cooper (sideline analyst)
UA Spanish Radio: 990 AM Tucson; Samuel Sandoval (pxp), Marco Rincon (color analyst)
Sat. Radio: SIRIUS 93, XM 190
Arizona-South Carolina Series History
All-Time Series: First Meeting
Some Game Themes: Two land-grand institutions separated by nearly 2,000 miles square off for the first time on the gridiron ... The Cats face a school from the Palmetto State for just the second time after The Citadel visited the Old Pueblo back in 2010 ... Arizona continues its season-opening three-game homestand riding a four-game winning streak and sporting a national ranking of its own a week after downing No. 18 Oklahoma State ... UA vies for its first five-game overall winning streak since its storied 1998 season ... Can Rich Rodriguez and Co. bring their squad back down to earth after the thrills of last week's performance to refocus on a new opponent and the bigger-picture goals of a 12-game season ... Indeed, 2-0 is nice, but the upset-minded Bulldogs will have a say in which side of the ledger the outcome falls this week ... Another opportunity for the Wildcats to fine-tune an offense that has moved the ball at an exceptional pace in the first two games, though has settled for six field goal tries over two games ... Will Matt Scott, Ka'Deem Carey and Austin HJUA's 3-3-5 defense has proven to be flexible enough to create turnovers and stop opponents at some vital moments, but there's still plenty to tighten up to become a more consistent unit ... The first two games have produced a record number of plays - will the breakneck pace continue? ... Another appearance on the Pac-12 Networks for the Wildcats.
Last Week: Rich Rodriguez and his team believed there was no better way to earn national relevancy than to beat a ranked team, so they did just that as they outplayed No. 18 Oklahoma State in a 59-38 victory last Saturday at Arizona Stadium. Despite an ominous start (like a 14-0 first-quarter deficit), the Wildcats proved to be the more disciplined and more consistent team throughout. The Cowboys gained 636 yards (sixth-most ever by a UA opponent), but turned the ball over four times, were penalized a UA opponent single game record 167 yards in penalties and were able to score on just 6 of their 16 offensive drives. The UA defense had a lot to do with that, stopping the Pokes on six consecutive possessions in the first half to let the Wildcat offense reel off 23-unanswered points to claim a 23-14 halftime edge. Another score to open the second half gave UA 30-straight points, before Oklahoma State roared back with 17 third-quarter points to make it a six-point ballgame going to the fourth quarter. That was when UA's defense perked up again, sparked by Jonathan McKnight's 48-yard interception return for a score and Jared Tevis' second pick of the game to seal the game later on. The offense, paced by Ka'Deem Carey's four total touchdowns and Matt Scott's375 yards of total offense, was a perfect 8-for-8 in the red zone and did not turn the ball over. In fact, with four turnovers forced by the Cats' defense, UA finished the game plus-four in turnover margin for the first time since the season opener in 2008. Also promising was how Arizona closed out the game, out-scoring its favored foe 22-7 in the final quarter. The ground game was convincing as it gained 87 yards on 14 carries for a 6.2 yards per pop clip in the final stanza to finish off the Pokes. It was Arizona's first win over a ranked team since Sept. 18 when the Cats upended No. 9 Iowa (34-27) in Tucson.
Arizona in the Rankings: Arizona enters the national rankings this week at No. 24 in the Associated Press Top 25 and No. 25 in the USA Today Coaches' Poll. It is the first time the Wildcats have appeared in the Associated Press Top 25 since the week of Nov. 22, 2010. Arizona was ranked 11-consecutive weeks during the 2010 season, including as high as No. 9, before dropping out after a third-straight loss.
The Coaches: Arizona - Rich Rodriguez (West Virginia '86), first year at Arizona (2-0) and 18th as a head coach overall (122-84-2). Rodriguez was introduced as the 30th head coach of the UA football program on Nov. 22, 2011. He carries Division I records of 2-0 at Arizona, 60-26 at West Virginia (2001-2007) and 15-22 at Michigan (2008-10). He began his head coaching career at Salem (W.Va.) University in 1988 and then coached at Glenville State (W.Va.) from 1990-96. Rodriguez's West Virginia teams were Big East Champions in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2007 while appearing in two BCS bowls, the 2005 Sugar Bowl with a victory over Georgia for an 11-1 record and a victory over Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl to finish 10-2 shortly after Rodriguez had left for Michigan. S.C. State - Oliver "Buddy" Pough (S.C. State '75), 11th year at S.C. State (84-34) and 11th year as a head coach overall. Pough succeeded head coach emeritus Willie Jeffries as Bulldog head coach in 2002, and has since led the program to three FCS playoff berths and shared or outright MEAC titles in four seasons. He ranks fifth all-time in winning percentage (.716) among FCS coaches. Prior to taking the reins at S.C. State, Pough spent five seasons as an assistant at South Carolina, the last three as a running backs coach under Lou Holtz. An offensive lineman for S.C. State, Pough helped the Bulldogs amass a 16-1 record during the 1974 and 1975 seasons and captured a pair of league titles.
About the Bulldogs: Located in Orangeburg, S.C., South Carolina State University is an 1890 land-grant institution founded in 1897 that enrolls approximately 4,300 students. The Bulldogs' football program fielded its first team in 1907 and is now led by head coach Oliver "Buddy" Pough, who, in 11 seasons, has built a perennial power in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). Pough has guided the Bulldogs to outright or shared Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) titles in 2004, 2008, 2009 and 2010. The program has earned three berths in the FCS playoffs under Pough's direction, including in the 2008, 2009 and 2010 seasons. In 2011, S.C. State finished with a 7-4 overall record, including a 6-2 mark and second-place finish in the MEAC. The Bulldogs returned 13 starters, including nine of offense, from last season's squad.
A Relevant Claim: Head coach Rich Rodriguez and his players said that defeating a ranked team is the best way to make a program relevant in a hurry. Saturday's 59-38 victory over then-No. 18 Oklahoma State did just that, as the Wildcats now find themselves in the polls. The 59 points and 21-point margin of victory were convincing, especially when taking into account the initial 14-0 deficit. In 137 previous games against Top 25 opponents, Arizona had topped the 50-point barrier just once - a 52-14 thrashing of No. 7 UCLA in 2005. So Saturday's 59 points prove to be the most ever scored against a ranked foe, and that tally ties for 10th for most scored in any single game in program history (also 59 at Washington State, 2008).
Matt's The Man: Matt Scott, a senior a year ago who sat to utilize his redshirt season, enters his fifth season at Arizona as the undisputed starting quarterback. A native of Corona, Calif., Scott has played in 23 games and made six starts for the Wildcats over the years (5-1 record). As a true freshman backup to Willie Tuitama in 2008, Scott saw action in six games. The following year he battled current Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles and won the starting job out of camp. Scott started the first three games of that `09 season, winning two of three contests. Foles earned the start in the fourth game and never relinquished the starting role, though Scott saw action in nine of the games. Scott was the backup again in 2010, but a knee injury sidelined Foles for the better part of three games, and Scott was nearly flawless in his place. Scott came off the bench to guide the Cats to a 24-7 win at Washington State, then engineered 500-plus yard offensive outputs in victorious starts against Washington (44-14) and on the road at UCLA (29-21).
Smooth Operator: Through two games, quarterback Matt Scott has thrown for 707 yards, which is 69 shy of matching his single season career high (2010) and currently the fourth-most nationally. Added with 129 rushing yards, Scott has 836 yards of total offense to date, tied for the top spot nationally with Syracuse's Ryan Nassib.
Dual-Threat: Senior QB Matt Scott has showcased his dual-threat abilities with 707 passing yards and 129 markers on the ground through two starts in 2012. In his career, Scott has carried 132 times for 761 rushing yards in 24 games (seven starts). That's a heady 5.8 yards per carry. A healthy and productive senior season under the guidance of Rich Rodriguez, who has coached electric running QBs Dennard Robinson (Michigan) and Pat White (West Virginia), will put Scott in position to challenge some of the top modern running totals by UA quarterbacks.
First Down Facts: Arizona is tied for second nationally with 65 first downs through two games. That is an average of 32.5 chain-movers per game, which would easily be a school record if were to hold up over the course of the season. Nick Foles and Co. established the new school record with 25.8 first downs per game in 2011. This year, the Wildcats have surrendered a few first downs, too, including 30 to Oklahoma State. Combined with UA's 32 first downs in that game, the Cats and Cowboys totaled 62 first downs, which is the second-most in UA single game history. Not surprisingly, Foles led the Cats in the only game with more first downs, at USC a season ago (63 combined).
Flag Day: No opposing team has ever been penalized for more yards than Oklahoma State was on Saturday night. The Cowboys were penalized 167 yards on 15 flags, which broke the previous game-high mark of 154 penalty yards levied against California in 1998. Six of the 15 whistles against the Pokes resulted in Wildcat first downs, tying the school record set twice, including in the '98 Cal contest and also in a 1969 game against Wyoming. Perhaps no sequence of events summarized Saturday's game more than on UA's first scoring drive. Matt Scott completed a 10-yard pass to Richard Morrison, but the play turned into a net 40-yard gain when a roughing the passer and an additional personal foul were called on Cowboy defenders who took Scott to the ground - twice. Meanwhile, Arizona was flagged just four times for 27 yards during the contest.
Quarter Scores: Arizona's offense posted 59 points - its highest single game tally in 43 games - with steadily increasing point totals each quarter against Oklahoma State. The Cats scored 10 in the first, 13 in the second, 14 in the third and 22 in the fourth quarter. The 22 fourth-quarter points were the most in the final period of a game for the Wildcats since also putting up 22 in a comeback win at Washington (48-41) on Oct. 27, 2007.
Ground Game: Enough cannot be said about the persistence of Arizona's offensive line last week, which was considered by some to be a mismatch against the highly-touted, big and physical defensive front of Oklahoma State. Early on, that looked to be the case. The Cats were trailing by two scores and were struggling to move the ball on the ground. But as the game wore on, Arizona's line proved to the more dominant unit, asserting itself to more than five yards per carry in the second half, including a convincing 6.2 yards per clip in the vital possessions in the fourth quarter.
Wake Up Call: After surrendering touchdowns on the first two Oklahoma State drives, the UA defense could have easily folded. Instead, the Wildcats used the early deficit as a wakeup call. Arizona's defense stopped the Cowboys on the next six possessions, helping the offense claim a 23-14 lead, one the squad never relinquished. On the six stops, the Wildcats recovered a fumble, forced three three-and-outs, stopped the Cowboys on fourth-and-one at midfield, and intercepted a pass to preserve a nine-point lead entering halftime. The capper was Jared Tevis' first career interception, which came at UA's 9-yard line after Jonathan McKnight tipped a Wes Lunt pass as the Cowboys' attempt to gain momentum before intermission was thwarted.
Letters and Numbers: Gaudy offensive totals, like 600-plus yards of offense, don't always add up to "W's" - just ask Oklahoma State. The Cowboys racked up 636 yards (fifth-most in single game history vs. UA) last Saturday, an output that resulted in an "L". Those video game-like offensive yards are the second-most ever allowed in a Wildcat victory. Interestingly, the highest total in a UA win was produced by another OSU - Oregon State. The Beavers tallied 654 yards in a 29-27 loss on Oct. 29, 2005, in Corvallis, Ore. Arizona benefitted from a plus-six turnover margin that day, a couple more than the plus-four from the latest bend-but-don't-break effort against Oklahoma State.
Pass Happy: Oklahoma State (37-60-436-3, 4 TD) etched itself into the UA charts for the sixth-most opposing passing yards allowed. The Cowboys racked up 436 yards through the air on Saturday, matching the total Oregon State accumulated in another UA victory, 29-27, at Corvallis, Ore., on Oct. 29, 2005. Freshman QB Wes Lunt threw 60 times, an individual record for a UA opponent, but was intercepted three times, including once for a 48-yard touchdown return by Jonathan McKnight. Additionally, the Cats put their paws on eight other passes, with Marquis Flowers, Sir Thomas Jackson and Shaquille Richardson each breaking up two passes apiece to lead the way in the PBU category.
Seeing Red: In their season opener, the Wildcats were 1-for-4 in the red zone, one of several reasons they mustered just 24 points despite the second-highest single game total offense output (624) in school history. Against Oklahoma State, Arizona was more opportunistic, scoring on all eight red zone trips against the Pokes. Perhaps the only negative was three of the first four trips resulted in field goals, but nonetheless a significant improvement from opening week when two field goals were missed in the red zone.
Don't Blink: Arizona and its opponents are running plays at record pace in 2012. In fact, both the UA-Toledo and UA-Oklahoma State games have featured 182 combined plays. That figure breaks the previous school record of 180 combined plays (UA-Arizona State, 1973) as the most in UA single game history. Matt Scott has 60 total offense plays in each of his two starts this season, a figure that is tied for third-most in UA single game history. Willie Tuitama (67 at California, 2007) holds the record, while Nick Foles gave it a run (63 vs. Oregon, 2011) a season ago. Marc Reed (vs. Oregon State, 1966) was the first to hit the 60-play barrier for combined rushing/passing plays in a game.
Comeback Cats: Coupled with two wins to close the 2011 season, Arizona is currently riding a four-game winning streak, its longest since winning four in a row to open the 2010 campaign. Interestingly, the Cats have trailed in each of those four games, the latest being a 14-0 first-quarter deficit last Saturday against then-No. 18 Oklahoma State. Arizona trailed Toledo, 14-10, at halftime before taking its first lead in the third quarter and holding on to win in overtime. In the regular season finale a year ago, UA trailed Louisiana 13-7 late in the second quarter en route to a 45-37 victory. The week prior, the Wildcats upended rival Arizona State, 31-27, after trailing 24-17 in the fourth quarter. Arizona would like nothing more than to get ahead and stay ahead one of these days.
Strive For Five: Carrying over the two wins from the end of the 2011 season, Arizona is seeking its first five-game win streak since the 1998 season (won final seven games).The Cats have had several four-game stretches, including as recently as the 2010 season when UA opened the season with four consecutive wins. The current four-game streak is tied with three other programs for the ninth-longest among FBS teams (Mississippi State, Cincinnati, Florida State). In the Pac-12, USC has the longest streak (six games), while TCU is the national leader with a nine-game unbeaten streak.
Carey the Load: Sophomore running back Ka'Deem Carey has made the most of his first two career starts, tying for third nationally with five touchdowns scored through two games. The local product from Canyon del Oro High School has rushed for 273 yards and four touchdowns, while adding 36 yards and another touchdown in the passing game. In the season-opener, Carey broke off a career-long 73-yard burst for a touchdown en route to his first career 100-yard game (147 yards) against Toledo. He followed it up a week later against Oklahoma State with another 100-yard effort (126 yards), including 99 yards and an average of 8.3 yards per attempt in the second half alone. Carey scored four times against the Cowboys (one receiving, three rushing), setting career highs for rushing touchdowns and most total touchdowns in a game. The four scores gave him 24 points in the game, good enough to tie for third individually in school single game history. Keola Antolin (2008 at Oregon), Ronald Veal (1988, Washington State), Richard Hersey (1980, Pacific), Harry Holt (1977, UTEP) and Don Beasley (1953, Arizona State) have also had 24-point games.
Big Play Guy: Matt Scott has found his big-play target: Austin Hill. The 6-foot-3 sophomore is UA's most versatile receiver, a guy with a mix of size, speed and route-running skills to give defenders fits whether he lines up in the slot or outside. He has turned in consecutive 100-yard receiving games to open up the season, ripping the Rockets for 139 yards and a score before cutting up the Cowboys for 125 more yards. Most impressive is that Hill's 12 catches for 263 yards average out to a whopping 21.9 yards per reception, and 10 have resulted in a first down or touchdown. Hill is currently tied with USC All-American candidate Marqise Lee for the Pac-12 lead in receiving yards (263 yards), a mark that ranks tied for fourth nationally.
Pass To Buck: Arizona's most frequent receiving target through two games has been senior Dan Buckner, who leads the squad with 16 total receptions. The 6-foot-4 outside receiver is averaging 88.0 yards per game, and while he's still without a touchdown in 2012, eight of his receptions have gone for first downs thanks to an 11.0 yards per catch clip. Buckner finished his junior season fourth on the team with 42 receptions for 606 yards and two touchdowns.
Mr. Versatility: Senior Taimi Tutogi has proven to be UA's most versatile player, doubling as an offensive and defensive player. Tutogi, who has started each game to date, will line up at several offensive positions, including fullback, tight end and even running back. Thus far, Tutogi has just one carry and two receptions, but his role as a blocker in the run game and in pass protection is often overlooked. This year, he's also developed into UA's third-down pass-rush specialist on defense. He's still seeking his first sack, but coaches like his strength and burst off the edge on passing downs.
Good Night For McKnight: Cornerback Jonathan McKnight, who missed the 2011 season with an ACL injury, intercepted his first career pass in the fourth quarter against Oklahoma State. Making his second consecutive start, McKnight picked off the Wes Lunt pass and raced 48-yards untouched for a touchdown, a play coach Rich Rodriguez called the biggest of the game. The score, UA's first defensive touchdown since Tra'Mayne Bondurant had a 29-yard interception return at Colorado last November, pushed Arizona's lead back to a two-score margin after the Cowboys were threatening to regain the lead. McKnight finished the game with a career-high four tackles.
Tackling Machine: Junior linebacker Jake Fischer, who sat out the 2011 season recovering from an ACL injury, has made a seamless transition to middle linebacker in the new 3-3-5 scheme implemented by defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel. Fischer is the clear leader on the defensive side of the ball, and he's turned in stellar performances in each of the first two games. The Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week following a career-high 13-tackle effort in the season opener, the local Ironwood Ridge High School product topped his own mark with 14 more stops against Oklahoma State. His 27 total tackles lead all Pac-12 players and are tied for fourth nationally. He's also shown a nose for the ball, forcing a pair of fumbles and recovering one to go with 2.5 tackles for loss.
Immediate Impact: Arizona's "bandit" in the secondary is former walk-on Jared Tevis, who essentially earned a starting spot and a scholarship with a sensational spring. He has made an immediate impact on the field in his first two games, ranking second on the team and second in the Pac-12 with 21 tackles. Against Oklahoma State, Tevis collected his first two interceptions, including one before halftime and another in the fourth quarter to help seal the game. A local product from Canyon del Oro High School, Tevis leads the Pac-12 with five passes defended (two INT, three PBU).
Bonano Bounces Back: Kicker John Bonano, who missed a potential game-winner at the end of regulation in a victory against Toledo, responded with perhaps his best all-around game a week later against Oklahoma State. The senior nailed all three of his field goal tries to tie his career highs for most made and most attempts in a single game. The three kicks split the uprights in a span of 6:14 from the end of the first quarter into the early second quarter. The second kick was good from 46 yards, which was one marker shy of tying his career long set at Washington last October. Bonano was also perfect on all five PAT tries to give him a new career-high of 15 points scored in the game. He also kicked off 11 times with four touchbacks. The other seven kicks were returned for an average of just 20 yards, and all told helped pin the Cowboys to an average starting field position at their own 24-yard line in the game (UA's average starting position was at own 36).
September Starts: The opening month often times sets the tone for the rest of the season, and that has held true for the Cats in recent years. The 2011 campaign began with a 1-3 month of September en route to a 4-8 final record. In the three prior seasons, UA posted a combined 10-2 record en route to three consecutive bowl berths. This year, UA (2-0 in Sept.) tries to benefit from four home games out of five total contests in the opening month. Rich Rodriguez boasts an impressive 33-7 (.825) record in the month of September in his 11 seasons as a head coach of FBS programs at West Virginia, Michigan and now Arizona. His teams have gone to bowl games in seven of those years, including two BCS berths.
Home Cookin': Arizona will host eight home games at Arizona Stadium, which is undergoing one of its most significant refurbishment phases in its 84-year history. The Wildcats have not hosted eight home games in a season since 1988, when the squad won five home contests in a 7-4 campaign. Arizona is 23-11 at home over the last five seasons.
In The Trenches: Arizona has used the same starting offensive line in each of the first two games (LT Mickey Baucus, LG Chris Putton, C Kyle Quinn, RG Trace Biskin and RT Fabbiens Ebbele). The big fellas started combined for 55 starts a season ago, led by Quinn, Ebbele and Baucus who each started all 12 games. Backup guard/tackle Shane Zink also had three starts last year, giving the Wildcats a total of 69 career starts among their offensive linemen. A pair of young pups - Lene Maiava and Cayman Bundage - made their Wildcat debuts on UA's second possession against Toledo. It's a group line coach Robert Anae feels good about. Anae is in his second season at Arizona, after Rich Rodriguez re-hired the veteran coach from the previous staff.
Graduates: Kudos to offensive linemen Kyle Quinn and Trace Biskin, who each earned their degrees from The University of Arizona last spring. The two completed their undergraduate work in four years, and both begin their final season in the program as fifth-year seniors. Quinn, a 13-game starter at center in his career, graduated with a bachelor's degree in history and is now enrolled in graduate school, exploring a master's degree in educational leadership. Biskin, a 10-game starter at right guard, graduated with a degree in political science and is now enrolled in UA's graduate program, studying international security.
Building for the Future: The Lowell-Stevens Football Facility, scheduled to open in August 2013, marks a dynamic shift in the Arizona football culture as it will become the centerpiece of the program on the north end of Arizona Stadium. Supported by private funds, including significant leadership gifts from David and Edith Lowell and from Jeff and Sharon Stevens, the $72.3 million project will provide the Wildcats with one of the premier football facilities in the nation. The facility will be a four-floor operations center with strength training, sports-medicine, coaches offices, locker rooms, meeting rooms, equipment and facility service areas. The structure will enclose the north end of the stadium and create a full bowl with nearly 4,000 premium spectator seats, including a donor lounge with outdoor seating. Additionally, stairways and elevator towers for the concourse will connect the structure to the existing east and west stadium sections. Restrooms, amenity areas and a cafeteria will also serve the campus community. Arizona Stadium has an official capacity of 51,811 for this season, but once work is completed on the Lowell-Stevens Football Facility, the venue will near the some 57,000 seats it has held in recent years.
Up Next: Arizona delves into Pac-12 Conference action with its first road game at No. 4 Oregon on Saturday, Sept. 22. The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN with kickoff slated for 7:30 p.m. PDT at Autzen Stadium.