Some Game Themes
The Wildcats continued their portrayal of Sisyphus, rolling the rock up the hill only to see it roll back down again in a tough 28-14 loss to Oregon State in Tucson. A pair of turnovers gave the Beavers two short-field drives that proved to be the margin of victory. Early in the opening period, UA created an opportunity with a hard hit by Kirk Johnson and a Lamon Means fumble recovery on OSU's 39 yard-line, and moved into outstanding scoring position with a 2nd-and-2 at the Beavers' 11. But a false start moved the ball back, two passes were errant and Nick Folk's 33-yard field goal was wide. OSU had its two best drives in the ensuing minutes and scored both times to make it 14-0. In the second half, Arizona made its first gift, a Mike Bell fumble that gave OSU the ball at the UA 23 yard-line. Three plays later, 21-0. The Cats fought back and drove 77 yards to put points on the board, keyed by Bell's running and a 23-yard scoring pass from Richard Kovalcheck to Biren Ealy. Six minutes later, punt returner Wilrey Fontenot took a chance by eschewing a fair catch and a quick hit caused a fumble that gave OSU the ball on the UA 15 yard-line. Four plays later, 28-7. UA fought back, and drove 62 yards for a quick touchdown, then got a three-and-out by its defense to have the ball at the 7:35 mark. Two penalties killed the next drive. After another stop, a Kovalcheck overthrow was intercepted. OSU ran out the clock. Arizona had more total offense and had the opportunities, but didn't cash in.
The Cats and the Dawgs - The Series
Arizona and Washington will meet up for the 21st time this weekend ... The Huskies own a 14-5-1 advantage in the all-time series ... Arizona is 2-9 all-time against Washington in Seattle ... UA’s 27-22 win in Tucson last season snapped a 4-0 Washington run in the series ... The last six games in the series have been decided by a combined 26 points (4.3 points per game) ... UA’s trip to Seattle will be its fifth in the last seven years and looking ahead, after a home game in 2005, Arizona will also visit the Emerald City in 2006 and 2007 ... In U-Dub’s last three wins over Arizona (2000-02), it has come-from-behind in the fourth quarter all three times ... Arizona turned the tables last season, rallying for 14 points in the fourth quarter for a homecoming victory ...
Noting the Huskies
The Huskies enter the week of play much like Arizona ... Mired in a three-game winless streak, UW lost to Oregon 31-6 last Saturday in Eugene ... Washington opened the year by dropping its first four before defeating San Jose State 21-6 on Oct. 9 for its lone win ... Offensively, UW is averaging 308 yards of total offense per game (133.4 rushing and 174.6 passing) ... The Huskies are averaging three-quarters of point more per game this season than Arizona (13-12.5), the second and third-lowest averages in the nation ... Individually, Washington is led by rusher Kenny James and his 66.8 yards per game average ... Quarterback Casey Paus has completed 43 percent of his passes this season for 910 yards (113.8/game) and three touchdowns ... Paus has also thrown 10 interceptions this year, tied for the league high ... Defensively the Huskies are allowing an average 367.6 yards per game this season (184.5 rushing and 183.1 passing) ... Junior linebacker Joe Lebendahn paces the Husky defenders with 89 total tackles, including 45 solo stops and nine for losses ... Defensive tackle Manase Hopoi has posted a Pac-10-leading nine sacks this season and 21 tackles for loss ... Head coach Keith Gilbertson is in his second season in Seattle and has posted a 7-13 record heading into play this weekend ... Gilbertson is 1-4 all-time as a head coach (Cal and UW) against Arizona.
Washington and Arizona - The Last Time Out
Arizona snapped its school record eight-game losing streak with a 27-22 victory over Washington on homecoming weekend last season in Tucson ... The win also ended a 13-game home Pac-10 winless streak for the Wildcats ... UA rallied for 14 fourth quarter points to pull off its lone Pac-10 victory of the year ... Washington held a one-point lead at half time (14-13) and pushed it three with an early safety in the fourth ... Mike Bell gave Arizona its first lead of the game with a scoring run of 69-yards with 7:28 remaining in the game and tacked on six more on a 37-yard TD scamper with 4:38 left ... Washington pulled within five on four-yard TD pass, but an Arizona defensive stop on the next UW possession allowed UA to take a knee and run out the clock on the game ... The Wildcats prevailed despite achieving just 11 first downs and running 23 less plays on offense in the game ... Individually, Bell was the difference as he posted a career-high 222 yards rushing on 26 carries (8.5 yds/carry) and three touchdowns.
A Positive Side
Despite losing its seventh straight game, Arizona took away some positives in its 28-14 loss to Oregon State last weekend.
?- The Wildcats out-gained OSU in total offense (331 to 310), marking just the third time UA has posted more yards then its opponent in a game this season.
?- Arizona ran a season-high tying 72 plays on offense.
?- Arizona out-gained Oregon State by 128 yards in the second half (239 to 111)
?- The Wildcats led in time of possession for the first time in three games.
?- Arizona’s two scoring drives both covered 12 plays and lasted an average 6:14.
?- Defensively, UA limited the Beavers to just 61 yards rushing on 37 attempts for a 1.6 yards per carry average.
?- Redshirt freshman Richard Kovalcheck completed 19 passes for 235 yards, both of which were team season-highs.
?- Led by Biren Ealy’s four catches, eight different receivers finished with at least one reception in the game.
?- Ealy seemed to find his stride. UA’s leading returning receiver from 2003, he finished last Saturday’s game with a career-high 102 yards on four catches, including a 27-yard TD grab in the third quarter.
?- Junior Mike Bell ran for 88 yards on 21 attempts, an average of 4.2 yards per carry. It was the fourth consecutive game Bell has averaged over four yards per carry.
?- Bell scored his first TD since the season-opener against NAU on Sept. 4.
?- Andre Torrey tallied a team season-high three tackles for loss, including a sack, for minus 14 yards.
From the Opening Gun
Perhaps Arizona should start each game with a second half mentality. Since scoring a touchdown at the 12:38 mark in the second quarter against Washington State on Sept. 25, Arizona has been denied the endzone in the first 30 minutes of play over the next four games, a span of 132 minutes and 28 seconds. The Wildcats have been outscored 79-3 in the first two periods in the last four games despite having numerous opportunities to punch the ball in. During the TD-less span Arizona has moved the ball inside the red zone five times and has kicked one field goal, missed two other FG attempts, turned the ball over on downs once and tossed one interception.
Arizona can’t blame anyone other then itself for the struggles. In four of the five trips into the red zone, Wildcat penalties have pushed the ball back either out of the redzone or enough to alter the play calling from the sidelines.
By comparison, the sense of urgency in the second half of the last four games has helped Arizona go a perfect 4 for 4 in redzone opportunities, all touchdowns, and score two other TDs outside of the 20-yard line in the final 30 minutes. The Wildcats have played their opponents nearly equal in the second half over the last four games, scoring 42 points to the opposition’s 52.
Scoring Drought Ends
Richard Kovalcheck’s fourth-down 27-yard TD pass to Biren Ealy in the third quarter of last Saturday’s game ended a string of 103 minutes and 43 seconds of scoreless play for Arizona.
Strength of Schedule
The Wildcats’ schedule is a tough one. Combined, the eight opponents Arizona has faced this season check in with a 43-20 record (.683) and includes No. 4 Cal (6-1), No. 5 Wisconsin (8-0) and No. 7 Utah (8-0). The Utes, Badgers and upcoming opponent USC are three of the five remaining undefeated teams in Division I-A. UA’s final three opponents this season are "just" 15-9, but feature the top-ranked Trojans (8-0) and two-loss ASU (6-2).
Going For a Grand
Junior Mike Bell has been one of the more consistent threats on offense this season, in fact he needs just 265 more yards this season (88.3 yd/game) to surpass his career-high of 920 yard set last season. However, the second-year starter at running back will need to get it in gear if he wants to become the first 1,000-yard runner for Arizona since Clarence Farmer rushed for 1,229 yards in 2001. Bell, who is fourth in the Pac-10 with 81.9 yards per game average this season, enters this weekend’s game at Washington with 655 yards. He’ll need to average 115 yards on the ground over the final three games in order to eclipse the mark. The good news for Bell is that Washington is on the schedule this week. In two career games against the Huskies, Bell has rushed for 276 yards, including a 222-yard and three-TD effort last season in UA’s 27-22 victory.
Looking Into the Top 10
Junior running back Mike Bell has a crack at UA's all-time career Top 10 rushing chart this year. Last week his 88-yard effort against Oregon State edged out former Denver Bronco Vance Johnson for 11th on the list. A strong finish to the year would vault Bell into rarified company as he needs just 107 more yards to move past Eddie Wolgast’s 2022 yards and into the top 10 all-time at Arizona and 158 more yard to move all the way up to eighth.
The Four Nearest Mike: Att.-Yards
No. 7 Jim Upchurch (1972-74) 488-2389
No. 8 Bob McCall (1970-72) 473-2074
No. 9 Ken Cardella (1951-53) 336-2060
No. 10 Eddie Wolgast (1945-50) 387-2022
No. 11 Mike Bell (2002- ) 416-1916
Arizona’s ability to defend the run is undeniably the strength of the defense this season. The Wildcats currently rank fourth in the Pac-10 and 34th in nation in the category, allowing 119.6 yards per game on the ground this year. Arizona has held six of its first eight opponents below their season average in rushing, including the No. 9-ranked Cal rushing offense, the No. 12 Utah unit and Maurice Drew and the No. 17-ranked UCLA ground attack. Only Oregon and Northern Arizona have been able to rush for more yards against Arizona then their season averages.
Darrell’s Doing It
Junior free safety Darrell Brooks has emerged as one of the team leaders on defense. The third-year starter not only leads the team in tackles, but has also been a stabilizing force for a young secondary that features true freshman Antoine Cason at one corner spot and redshirt freshman Wilrey Fontenot at the other. Brooks has posted a team-leading 57 stops this season, an average of over seven tackles per game. He needs just 23 more tackles this season to surpass his single season career-high of 79 established last season and his seven PBUs this year have already bettered his previous two-year career total of six.
Kovalcheck To Fleming
Since Richard Kovalcheck took over at quarterback in the fourth quarter at Oregon on Oct. 16 tight end Steve Fleming has become a favored target of the redshirt freshman. After snagging six balls for 52 yards in Arizona’s first five games this year, Fleming has become more involved in UA’s offense to the tune of seven catches for 124 yards over the last two and half games.
Putting an End To It
With Washington next up on the slate, Arizona is hoping history repeats itself. The Wildcats have lost at least five straight games in each of the last three seasons. In 2001 and 2002, Cal emerged as the losing-streak buster as the Wildcats defeated the Golden Bears 38-24 to end a five-game slide in 2001 and 52-41 to end a six-game winless streak in 2002. Last season a 27-22 victory over Washington ended UA’s school record eight-game losing streak. Currently mired in an 0-7 streak, Arizona is hoping this weekend’s game continues the trend.
After opening the season with the same three non-conference opponents as the 2002 schedule (NAU, Utah and Wisconsin), the Wildcats are wrapping up the 2004 slate against the same three teams it ended last season against (Washington, USC, Arizona State).
Cornerback Antoine Cason quenched Arizona’s thirst for an interception. The freshman picked off a pair of Aaron Rodgers passes against Cal on Oct. 23 to end a streak of 151 opposition pass attempts without an interception. Cason made good after picking off the passes, racking up 61 return yards. Had Rodgers actually been throwing to Cason, his return yards would have made him the second-leading receiver for California in the game.
Doing the Streak
Receiver Ricky Williams extended his streak of consecutive games with a reception to 16 straight with two catches for 31 yards against Oregon State. Williams is the lone Wildcat to come up with at least on reception in all eight games for Arizona this season.
While Arizona’s 38-0 defeat to Cal on Oct. 23 certainly stung and was the largest losing margin for UA this season, it would have only tied for the fourth-worst defeat last year. Arizona, which lost its 10 games by an average of 28.8 points last year, lost by 52 points at Purdue, 45 to USC, 46 to LSU and 38 to Oregon.
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 37 career starts, including 31 straight. Joining him along the front five are tackle Chris Johnson (28 starts), guard Kili Lefotu (26 starts) and tackle Brandon Phillips (19 starts). Add in tight end Steve Fleming’s 19 starts, tackle Tanner Bell’s seven and guard John Abramo’s eight and the group has combined for 144 career games started.
Fans catching the Wildcats for the first time in 2004 might not recognize the team when they take the field. 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.