Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
Arizona Football Notes - vs. Arizona State
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: November 23, 2004
Photo Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Some Game Themes
The annual battle for the Territorial Cup, recognized by the NCAA as the nation's longest-standing traveling trophy for a rivalry ... The Cats look to win at home for the first time since the season opener ... ASU fights to win nine games during the regular season for the first time in eight years... The Cats look to win the rivalry game in Tucson for the first time since 1998 ... Arizona looks for an exclamation mark to its 2004 campaign against a ranked team with its own designs on punctuating the season ... Two weeks after facing a quarterback many consider the top collegian at his position, the Cats will face a senior QB whose ability fuels the country's No. 5 throwing game and whose prospects at the next level might be brighter ... Arizona needs a victory to stay out of the league cellar and ASU needs a victory to guarantee sole possession of third-place in the conference standings ... In the aftermath, one team will focus immediately on the 2005 season while the other has a bowl date on the horizon.

Last Game
Arizona gained some firsthand knowledge why Southern California was the nation's top-ranked team as the Trojans made the second half their own in handing the Wildcats a 49-9 loss before a crowd of 80,167 in the Los Angeles Coliseum. UA made it known it would not go down without a fight. After holding the Trojans for a three-and-out on their first possession, the Cats used a 13-yard pass from Richard Kovalcheck to Syndric Steptoe and a 23-yard completion to Biren Ealy to get close enough for a Nick Folk 48-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead that stood throughout the first quarter. An 11-play drive by USC regained the lead moments into the second period, then a 55-yard halfback pass put USC on the Wildcat 3 yard-line four minutes later to set up another score. After the break, USC's Matt Leinart engineered another 11-play drive to make it 21-3. UA answered, stopping the next Trojan drive with a fumble recovery and setting up a short field for its lone touchdown with another turnover play. Linebacker Pat Howard knocked the ball loose from Reggie Bush to give UA the ball at the USC 40 yard-line and Syndric Steptoe ran 31 yards on an end-around to put UA in business inside the 10. Kovalcheck hit Steve Fleming on the next play for the score and it was 21-9. USC tailback LenDale White, however, set up a scoring drive on USC’s next drive with a big run, Leinart hit a pair of big throws to key another drive, an interception and a big return gave USC the ball in the red zone and moments into the fourth period it was USC 42-9. USC reserves tacked on a final tally to make the score final. In all, USC ran for 216 yards and threw for 369, a total (585) very similar to the most-recent previous high -- 587 yards by the Trojans in 2003. The USC front held UA to 90 rushing yards and 255 total. Arizona led in turnovers forced, 3-2, but its two picks given up each led to USC scores. On third down the Cats converted two in a dozen tries and USC was 8-for-14. Two keys to the final outcome: The Trojans had 21 more offensive plays than Arizona and on nine occasions UA was tackled behind the line of scrimmage.

Arizona State-Arizona - The Series
The Wildcats lead 43-33-1 all-time in a series that dates back to 1899 ... Arizona is 27-16 all-time against ASU in Tucson and 20-15 in games played in Arizona Stadium, but has not defeated ASU at home since winning 50-42 in the 1998 season ... Arizona State has won the last two and four of the last five games played between the two schools ... Arizona State has not won more than two consecutive games in the series since winning four in a row from 1975-78 ... Since joining the Pac-10 Conference in 1978-79, UA holds a 15-10-1 advantage, including a nine-game unbeaten streak from 1982-1990 (8-0-1) ... Arizona’s longest overall winning streak against ASU came between the years 1932 and 1948, when the Wildcats won 11 in a row ... ASU’s longest winning streak over UA happened between 1965-1973, a string of nine straight wins ... Last season’s seven points were the fewest scored by an Arizona team in the series since tallying a pair of field goals in a 7-6 loss in 1992 ... Neither team has recorded a shutout in the series in last 30 years (UA 10-0 over ASU in 1974).

The Territorial Cup
Certified by the NCAA as the oldest trophy for a rivalry game in all of Division IA football, the Sun Devils and Wildcats annually battle for the rights to the Territorial Cup. First up for grabs in 1899, the silver cup was lost for a period of time before being rediscovered in time for the 2001 Big Game. Since then, Arizona has held possession of it once (2001), while ASU took a hold of it in 2002 and held on to it for another year after last season’s victory.

Other Big Game Trophies
A ?'Victory’ sculpture by artist Ben Goo, originally given to the winning team from 1979-98, is now presented to the Most Valuable Player in the Big Game (Won by ASU’s Loren Wade in last year’s contest), while the Saguaro Trophy, a smaller bronze piece commissioned by artist Dora Perry in 1998, is awarded to the winning head coach in the game.

Noting the Sun Devils
The Sun Devils head to Tucson for the annual rivalry game with only one question: Which bowl will they be playing in? ... The 8-2 and No. 18-ranked Devils are currently in sole possession of third-place in the Pac-10 standings with a record of 5-2 ... ASU’s two losses this season have come at the hands of the schools ahead of them in the Pac-10 standings, No. 1-ranked USC and No. 4 California ... Offensively, ASU enters the Big Game averaging 30.4 points, 419.3 yards and over 21 first downs per game ... Behind the arm of senior QB Andrew Walter, the Sun Devils favor the pass, averaging nearly three times more yards through the air then on the ground (302.4 passing vs. 116..9 rushing per game) ... Walter, a Davey O’Brien Award finalist has completed 57 percent of his passes while throwing for 2830 yards this season (283.0/game) and 30 touchdowns against just eight interceptions ... Receiver Derek Hagen is a favored target of Walter, snatching 67 passes for 956 yards and nine TDs this season ... Freshman tight end Zach Miller is second on the team with 43 receptions for 448 yards and six TDs ... Running backs Rudy Burgess and Hakim Hill team up to average 79.4 yards per game on the ground ... Defensively, ASU is allowing an average of 356.2 yards per game this season (126.0 rushing/230.2 passing) and 23.7 points ... Linebacker Dale Robinson leads the Devils with 75 total tackles, including 40 solo stops and a team-high 10 for losses

Arizona State and Arizona - The Last Time Out
The Sun Devils retained possession of the Territorial Cup for a second straight season and put the end to a turbulent 2003 season for Arizona with a 28-7 win at Sun Devil Stadium ... Tied 7-7 after the first quarter, ASU scored a pair of TDs over the final three minutes of the second quarter to enter the break up by 14 ... The Devils capped off the scoring with an 80-yard TD pass from Andrew Walter to Derek Hagen early in the fourth ... Statistically, Arizona matched up ASU in the contest (452 total yards to ASU’s 484), but it failed to score in three of its four trips inside the red zone ... ASU’s Loren Wade was named the game’s MVP after rushing for 120 yards and a TD on 18 carries ... ASU’s Walter finished the contest 16-for-26 for 281 yards passing and three TDs, while UA’s Kris Heavner went 21-for-32 for 252 yards and a TD ... UA’s Michael Jefferson recorded a career-high 115 yards receiving on a game-high nine catches, while ASU’s Hagen pulled in eight passes for a game-high 155 yards ... The game was actually a battle of futility as the loss bumped Arizona into the 10th-place spot in the Pac-10 standings, while the win moved ASU into a tie for eighth ... The day following the loss, Arizona director of athletics Jim Livengood named Mike Stoops the 28th head coach in Arizona history.

Senior Send Off
Friday's contest against the Sun Devils will mark the end of 15 players’ UA careers. The seniors on the roster for Friday’s game are (listed alphabetically): LS Ben DalMolin, TE Steve Fleming, C Keoki Fraser, RB Chris Harris, LB Patrick Howard, T Chris Johnson, LB Kirk Johnson; TE Clarence McRae, T Brandon Phillips, DB Zeonte Sherman, DE Andre Torrey, WR Juan Valentine, DT Carlos Williams, WR Ricky Williams and DB Tony Wingate.

Something Has Got to Give
One area of play that could prove to be the difference between Arizona and Arizona State, the punt game. The Wildcats are averaging a very pedestrian 8.1 yards per punt return this season, a figure that ranks 80th in Division IA this season. However, Arizona State is giving up an average of 19.9 yards per punt return to its opponents, a mark that ranks last of all 117 Division IA teams this season.

Wildcats Avoid Predicted Cellar Finish
Washington State’s 28-25 win over Washington in the Apple Cup last Saturday kept the Huskies winless in the Pac-10 with a final 0-8 record. The Cougar win, coupled with UA’s victory over UW, will keep Arizona out of last place in the final conference standings, a spot it has either shared or owned each of the last two seasons. An Arizona victory over Arizona State on Friday would tie the Wildcats with Stanford for eighth in the Pac-10 standings at 2-6.

Strength of Schedule
The Wildcats’ 2004 schedule has been a tough one. Combined, the 10 opponents Arizona has faced this season check in with a 74-43 record (.632) and includes No. 1 USC (10-0), No. 4 Cal (9-1) and No. 5 Utah (11-0). The Utes and Trojans are a near lock for BCS bowl bids and are two of the four remaining undefeated teams in Division I-A. UA’s final opponent, Arizona State, has put together an 8-2 record despite playing a very tough schedule of its own. This season’s slate follows a schedule from 2003 that saw Arizona play both the of the national champions (LSU and USC), as well as seven other schools that played in bowl games.

On The Defensive
Through 10 games a season ago the Wildcat defense was in disarray. Opponents were averaging 35.6 points, 444.9 total yards of offense and a staggering 24 first downs per game against the UA defenders. While the 2-8 record this season might not reflect a difference, the 2004 stats certainly do. Opponent scoring is down 11 points per game, total yards have been cut down by over 78 per contest and UA is allowing four less first downs per game this season to its opposition. In addition, the Wildcat pass defense has already matched last season’s 12-game interception total of seven in nine games this year and has broken up 46 passes this season to last year’s 44 total in all 12 games.

Both Sides of the Ball
Freshman B.J. Dennard has emerged as a late season multi-purpose player for the Wildcats. In addition to his role as a nickel and dime package cornerback, he has also taken on additional responsibilities as a kick returner, a special teams player and wide receiver. Against USC, Dennard opened the game on kick off return, made his first career start at WR, posted a tackle on the kick off after Arizona’s field goal in the first quarter and played DB late in the fourth quarter.

Folk From Afar
Sophomore kicker Nick Folk banged home a 48-yard field goal against USC on Nov. 13. The successful try was a career-high and marked the first time a UA kicker had converted from that far since former Wildcat Sean Keel hit from the same distance against Northern Arizona on August 31, 2002, a span of 32 games.

33 Straight
Senior Keoki Fraser will wrap up his Arizona career against Arizona State on Saturday. In all probability he will be making his 40th career start for Arizona (33rd straight). Fraser’s four-year total will be the most starts for any UA offensive lineman in a UA career since three-time Wildcat All-American center Joe Tofflemire started 43 games from 1985-88. Tofflemire went to play in the National Football League for six seasons after being selected in the second round of the 1989 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks.

Picking Them Off
After recording three interceptions in the last four games, newcomer Antoine Cason is on pace to equal former Wildcat Michael Jolivette’s Arizona freshman record of five set in 2000. Cason picked off a pass in his collegiate debut against NAU on Sept. 4, two against Cal on Oct. 23 and one against Washington on Nov. 6. He is currently third in the Pac-10 and 20th nationally in interceptions per game with an average of .40. Cason has amassed 88 yards on interception returns, an average of 22 yards per pick.

In addition to his interceptions, Cason has put together an all-around solid first season at UA. Third on the team with 58 total tackles, including 46 solo stops and 5.5 for losses, he has also broken up six passes and forced two fumbles. He was named the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week after his first career game against Northern Arizona on Sept. 4.

Wilrey Finally Hits Paydirt
After three thwarted attempts at a TD, cornerback Wilrey Fontenot finally found the endzone. His 33-yard fumble return against Washington on Nov. 6 put and end to a string that saw him trip himself up on an interception return against NAU, an official’s reversal of what would have been a 96-yard fumble return against Oregon and an apparent fumble return for a score against Cal that was nullified after the pass was ruled incomplete. Fontenot’s six points against the Huskies was the first defensive touchdown of the season for UA and the first time a Wildcat player returned a fumble for a TD since Zeonte Sherman scored against LSU on Sept. 6 last season. Fontenot was named the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week after the Washington game.

Knocking Them Down
The Arizona defense recorded a season-high five sacks in the 23-13 win over Washington on Nov. 6. Defensive end Andre Torrey finished with a career-high two QB sacks, tackles Carlos Williams and Lionel Dotson each recorded one apiece and DE Copeland Bryan and linebacker Patrick Howard teamed up for one to garner a half-sack each. The five sacks recorded on Saturday were the most in a game for UA since Sept. 27, 2003 (16 games) when UA knocked down TCU’s QBs five times as well.

Torrey Gets Some Pressure
Defensive end Andre Torrey tallied a career-high two sacks against Washington on Nov. 6 to give him four for the season. That mark equals the season-high posted by four different Wildcats in 12 games last year (Marcus Smith, Joe Siofele, Torrey, Matt Molina).

Hands Up
The Arizona defensive line had a field day against Washington’s passing attack on Nov. 6. Combined the Arizona front four knocked down seven of UW’s 47 pass attempts at the line of scrimmage. Carlos Williams and Marcus Smith tallied three each and Copeland Bryan chipped in with another. Arizona’s secondary added six more PBU’s in the contest for a season-high total of 13 on the afternoon.

Pulling Out The Blocks
Arizona saw its 22-game stretch without blocking a punt come to an end on Saturday with not one, but two blocked kicks against the Huskies. Copeland Bryan ended the string with a first quarter stuff on the UW’s first offensive series of the game. Bryan broke through the Husky line and caused the punt attempt to sail backwards and out of the endzone for a safety. Marcus Hollingsworth added a partial block in the third quarter, resulting in a 20-yard team punt from the Huskies. Bryan’s block and the resulting two points for UA marked the first safety of the season for Arizona and the first since Nov. 1, 2003 against Oregon State.

OH So Close
Two of the longest standing "The Last Time Arizona..." UA has in its record book came very close to changing at Washington on Nov. 6. Entering the contest at UW, Arizona had gone 78 straight games without returning a kickoff for a touchdown. A holding call on Syndric Steptoe’s apparent 98-yarder in the second quarter against the Huskies continued the streak to make its 79 and counting. Chris McAlister’s season-opening kickoff return for six points at Hawaii on September 3, 1998 was the last time a UA player returned a kickoff for a TD.

Steptoe also appeared to have ended Arizona’s streak of 45 consecutive games without a punt return for a TD at UW, but alas another yellow hanky for holding preserved the punt return streak for at least a week longer. Bobby Wade was the last player to return a punt for a TD when he went 60 yards against Washington on Nov. 4, 2000.

First Half Scoring
Arizona’s TD with 12:34 remaining in the first quarter against Washington on Nov. 6 snapped a string of 135 minutes and four seconds without scoring a touchdown in the first half. Previous to Mike Bell’s 1-yard leap, the Wildcats had failed to score a TD in the opening 30 minutes of their last four games (at UCLA, at Oregon, Cal and Oregon State) and had managed just one field goal (at UCLA) during that stretch. Arizona’s last first half touchdown prior to the one against UW came at the 12:38 mark in the second quarter against Washington State on Sept. 25.

Opening Drive
UA’s four-play, 64-yard TD drive to start the game against the Huskies on Nov. 6 marked the first time since NAU on Sept. 4 that Arizona posted points on its first possession of the game.

Scoring Drought Ends
Richard Kovalcheck’s fourth-down 27-yard TD pass to Biren Ealy in the third quarter of the Oct. 30 game against Oregon State ended a string of 103 minutes and 43 seconds of scoreless play for Arizona.

Going For a Grand
Junior Mike Bell has been one of the more consistent threats on offense this season, in fact he needs just 110 more yards this season to surpass his career-high of 920 yards set over 12 games last season. However, the second-year starter at running back will have to have a huge day against ASU 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 fifth in the Pac-10 with 80.5 yards per game average this season, enters this weekend’s game with ASU 811 yards, meaning he’ll need 189 yards on the ground in the final game of ths season to go over 1,000 for the year.

Looking Into the Top Eight
Junior running back Mike Bell has a crack at UA's all-time career top eight rushing chart this year. His 74-yard effort at USC made him just the 11th running back in school history to go over 2,000 yards rushing in a career and moved him past Eddie Wolgast and Ken Cardella for 10th and ninth all-time at Arizona, respectively. Bell needs just two more yards this season to pass Bob McCall for eighth on the career list.

The Four Nearest Mike: Att.-Yards
No. 5 David Adams (1984-86) 600-2571
No. 6 Clarence Farmer (2000-03) 521-2530
No. 7 Jim Upchurch (1972-74) 488-2389
No. 8 Bob McCall (1970-72) 473-2074
No. 9 Mike Bell (2002- ) 455-2072

Schedule Quirk
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).

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 13 catches for 210 yards and a TD over the last four and half games.

Drought Breaker
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 18 straight with one catch for 13 yards at USC. Williams is the lone Wildcat to come up with at least one reception in all 10 games for Arizona this season.

Captain Cats
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.

Starting Line
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 39 career starts, including 33 straight. Joining him along the front five are tackle Chris Johnson (30 starts), guard Kili Lefotu (28 starts) and tackle Brandon Phillips (19 starts). Add in tight end Steve Fleming’s 21 starts, tackle Tanner Bell’s seven and guard John Abramo’s nine and the group has combined for 453 career games started.

Feeling Blue
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.

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 coach Steve Spurrier Jr., defensive ends/special teams coach Joe Robinson, receivers coach Charlie Williams, defensive tackles coach Mike Tuiasosopo and offensive line coach Eric Wolford. Offensive coordinator Mike Canales, linebackers coach Tim Kish and running backs coach Kasey Dunn are all up in the press box along with GAs Travis Ochs and Kevin Patullo.

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