Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
Football Hosts No. 8 Cal on Homecoming Weekend
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: November 06, 2006
Photo Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Opponent: California

Kickoff: 1:30 p.m.

Site: Arizona Stadium (56,002) - Tucson, Ariz.

TV: ABC (Dan Fouts, Tim Brant, Jack Arute)

Radio: 1290 AM (Brian Jeffries, Lamont Lovett)


Tickets Available

There are still tickets available for Arizona's Homecoming match up with No. 8-ranked Cal. Fans can purchase tickets all week long in person at the McKale Center Ticket Office, over the phone (520-621-2287) or online. The game day ticket offices (both McKale Center and Arizona Stadium) will open at 8 a.m. on Saturday.



Arizona and California Historical Fast Facts

First Meeting: 1978 (Cal 33 - Arizona 20)

Last Meeting: 2005 (Cal 28 - Arizona 0)

All-Time Series Record: Cal leads 12-11-2

Current Streak: Cal has won three straight

Notes on the Series: The tightest of all nine of UA’s conference series in terms of series record ... With how close the all-time series record is (12-11-2 in Cal's favor), it certainly comes as no surprise that more than half (13 of the 25) of games played between the pair have been decided by seven points or less, and that there have been two ties and two overtime games ... The Golden Bears have shut out the Cats each of the last two seasons, out-scoring them 66-0 over that span ... Cal’s current three-game winning streak is the second-longest for the Bears in the all-time series (four straight from 1988-91) ... UA’s longest winning streak in the series is four straight from 1997-2002 ... Arizona’s largest margin of victory against Cal was a 17-point win in 1986 (33-17) ... Cal’s largest margin of victory was a 38-0 whitewashing of the Cats in 2004 .... The average margin of victory all-time between the two is 10 points.


Some Game Themes...

Another ranked foe looms on the Cats' horizon, and this comes as the year's third daunting game vs. a top 10 opponent... Few intangibles impact college football more than confidence and the Wildcats are infused. Add in the carefree factor -- what's to lose for a humility-rich group? -- and Arizona could be a tough out even for the nation's eighth-ranked club. Arizona has been competitive in all but one game -- most of that played with a concussed quarterback, since recovered, so anything goes... UA's defense has matured all season and gives it a peg on which to hang its collective hat versus any foe, plus the Cats' offense could add some verve after a solid outing last week... Can the Wildcats' put the recent past behind them -- Cal's 66-0 scoring edge in the last two games -- and play some ball this year? A return game showcase: quality punt returners in UA's Syndric Steptoe (12th nationally) and Cal's DeSean Jackson (3rd), and the guys kicking it to those guys -- UA punter Nick Folk (12th in NCAA) and Cal's Andrew Larson (22nd)... Cal's No. 6 scoring offense against Arizona's stingy scoring defense... The NCAA's No. 27 rushing defense (UA) against the league's best runner in Marshawn Lynch... Plus, it’s Homecoming Weekend for the Wildcats.


Last Week

Arizona found itself a new weapon -- composure -- and let all three units make plenty of big plays to craft a 27-17 road victory at sold-out No. 25 Washington State. Maybe the population in Pullman was blindsided, but no eyes were closed on the team in red and blue as the Cats' focus was evident from the get-go. Willie Tuitama tossed a 78-yard touchdown on the game's third play -- his third play after a month of sideline status -- and it was noted that Arizona was seriously inclined. Items on the box score in Arizona's favor were plentiful, but more important for their combined value in the team building a solid game. The best figure, always unnoticed -- a season-high six kickoffs, the result of scores. UA put most of its offense into three scoring drives (80, 80 and 52 yards), and saved some other driving power for time-draining marches in the fourth quarter when the Cats posted 11:03 in possession time. The Cougars answered the initial Tuitama to Anthony Johnson scoring play with a huge 91-yard scoring pass, and took a 13-7 lead with a field goal late in the second quarter, but shortly afterward Arizona drove 80 markers for the go-ahead and stay-ahead touchdown, and then followed with two field goals by Nick Folk to make it 20-10 at the half. WSU closed the gap with a solid drive to open the second half, but UA answered with its final scoring drive in period three, and the fourth quarter was Arizona's alone. Chris Henry notched 44 of his 94 rushing yards on 13 of the 16 UA plays in that period alone. The gloom of the rainy afternoon was all on the home side of the field. Some figures: Tuitama finished with 59% completions (10-for-17) for 159 yards, UA rushed for 116, Nick Folk punted seven times for 39.3 net, receiver-returner Syndric Steptoe added a typical 100-yard all-purpose day, Arizona was 3-for-3 in the red zone, and UA had the sacks (4 to 1 edge) instead of having its QB get smacked. CB Antoine Cason broke up a season-high four passes among a season-best nine knocked down by the Cats. UA's defensive front had 24 tackles, including 11 by linemen. The Cats had an 11-minute edge in time of possession.


Washington State Quick Hits

The victory over the No. 25-ranked Cougars marked the third consecutive season the Cats have knocked off a top 25 team and the first time they have done so on the road since 2000 (at No. 22 USC) ... It was also UA’s fourth win of the year, a mark the Cats haven’t reached since finishing 4-8 in 2002 ... It was UA’s first game on artificial turf ... Arizona’s 20 points in the first half of the game were the most scored in the first 30 minutes of a contest by the Cats this season ... The 27 total points were the second-most scored by the Wildcats in a game this season and the most against a Division IA opponent (28 points vs. Stephen F. Austin) ... Chris Henry’s 35 rushing attempts were the most for any Wildcat in a single game in school history ... Willie Tuitama’s 78-yard TD throw to Anthony Johnson in the first quarter was the longest pass in Tuitama’s career and the longest reception for Johnson ... It also marked the longest scoring play from scrimmage for the Wildcats this season (previous - 18-yard Chris Henry rush at Stanford) ... H-Back Earl Mitchell rushed twice in the game, his first two career carries ... Mike Thomas’ 22-yard dash on an end-around was the longest rush of his two-year career ... CB Antoine Cason racked up a career-best four PBUs in the game.


A Quick Look at Cal

The No. 8-ranked Golden Bears (8-1) head Tucson with an eight-game winning streak and an unblemished record in Pac-10 play at 6-0 ... Cal most recently knocked off UCLA in Berkeley last weekend ... Its trip to Tucson will be just the four road game of the season for Cal ... The high-octane Bear offense enters the week of play ranked sixth nationally in scoring (36.33) ninth in total O (439.7), 13th in passing (288.2) and 27th in rushing (171.4) ... QB Nate Longshore guides the Golden Bear offense with the best passer efficiency rating in the Pac-10, 158.07, a figure that ranks 11th nationally ... RB Marshawn Lynch is the Pac-10’s top rusher, averaging 109.8 yards per game, a figure that places him 11th nationally as well ... Longshore has a trio of top targets in DeSean Jackson (4.3 rpg, 75.6 ypg), Lavelle Hawkins (4.0 rpg, 62.0 ypg) and Robert Jordan (3.9 rpg, 46.9 ypg) ... Defensively, Cal is allowing an average of 391.4 yards per game this season - 135.8 on the ground and 255.7 through the air ... Cal is last in the Pac-10 in passing defense and is only one spot better than last-place Stanford in total D in the conference ... Head coach Jeff Tedford is in sixth season at Cal and has accumulated a 41-18 overall record in Berkeley.


Sharing the Duties

The week prior to Arizona’s game with Stanford, head coach Mike Stoops promoted TE coach Dana Dimel to co-offensive coordinator, a duty he will share with Mike Canales. Dimel will handle the running responsibilities for the Cats for the remainder of the season, while QB coach Canales is in charge of the Wildcats’ passing attack.


Two for the Road

Arizona, which defeated Stanford, 20-7, in Palo Alto on Oct. 14 and No. 25 Washington State, 27-17, in Pullman on Nov. 4, has won back-to-back road games for the first time since 2001 when the Cats downed California, 38-24, in Berkeley and beat Arizona State, 34-21, in Tempe two weeks later.


November Election Returns

Come election time Mike Stoops has proven that you don’t want to face his Wildcat club if the pollsters favor you. In four November contests against top 25 teams the last two-plus seasons, the Wildcats are a very stout 3-1. In the 11th month of the year under Stoops the Wildcats have defeated No. 18 Arizona State (34-27 in 2004), No. 7 UCLA (52-14 in 2005) and most recently No. 25 Washington State (27-17 last weekend). UA’s lone November loss to a top 25 team was 49-9 defeat to No. 1-ranked and eventual national champion USC in 2004. The Cats will have two more cracks at adding negative returns for the ranked opposition with No. 8 Cal coming to town this weekend and road trip to No. 21 Oregon on November 18.

Arizona vs. Top 25 Teams in November Under Mike Stoops

2004 vs. No 1 USC - L, 49-9
vs. No. 18 Arizona - W, 34-27
2005 vs. No. 7 UCLA - W, 52-14
2006 at No. 25 Washington State - W, 27-17

Connecting the Dots

Check this out - Arizona completes a close but disappointing seven-point home loss to a school from Oregon, heads to the Pacific Northwest and pulls off a conference road victory and then returns to Tucson the following week to face a top 10 school from the University of California system on Homecoming Weekend. Sound familiar? Well it should because it is not only the situation the Cats find themselves in this week, but a nearly identical one that happened exactly at this time last year.

2005 2006
Oregon Opponent: L- vs. Oregon, 28-21  L - vs. Oregon State, 17-10
Pacific Northwest Opponent: W - at Oregon State, 29-27 W - at Washington State, 27-17
Top 10 UC System Homecoming Opp: W - No. 7 UCLA, 52-14 ? - No. 8 Cal

Better Be Ready

Over the last three games the Wildcats have gotten pretty stingy about giving up points. Dating back to the Stanford game on Oct. 14 and covering the Oregon State contest and the most recent game at Washington State, the Wildcats are allowing 13.7 points per game. A very noteworthy mark, but when dissecting it a bit further one sees that over the last three games, the opposition has scored 24 points in the first quarter (0 for Stanford, 14 for OSU, 10 for WSU) and just 17 over the final three quarters (seven on a second quarter interception return at Stanford, an early third quarter TD at WSU and a late FG vs. Oregon State), a trend that shows once the Stoops Brothers and the defensive staff make their adjustments, putting up points on the Cats can become a pretty tough task.


The Future is Now

The go-ahead touchdown drive at WSU last weekend featured a four-yard gain by true freshman fullback Earl Mitchell in goal-line power play. It was his first carry of the year. Mitchell also proved invaluable as the lead blocker on Chris Henry's touchdown dive moments later, and throughout the game. The offensive line that helped blast holes for Henry down the stretch features redshirt freshman starters Blake Kerley, Eben Britton and Daniel Borg. Late in the WSU game UA's secondary featured true freshman cornerback Devin Ross and redshirt freshman free safety Corey Hall for a bit, subbing for banged up juniors Wilrey Fontenot and Dominic Patrick. (Fontenot returned).  Redshirt freshman Donald Horton is a rotation backup at defensive tackle. Redshirt freshman linebacker Xavier Kelley gets play on special teams. Redshirt freshman running back Xavier Smith has had moments. Some teams nationally are using more than a dozen freshmen, so UA's use is modest. But young Cats are making a difference. Others who have played this year include true freshman receiver Terrell Reese and true freshman defensive back Cam Nelson.


Nick's Clicking

Kicker Nick Folk has been successful on his last five field goal tries, including a 48-yarder last week and a 45-yard boot at Stanford. That's his best in-season stretch, topping a pair of three consecutive makes twice as a sophomore and once last year.


Third Down

UA converted a season-high nine third down plays (18) attempts at WSU Nov. 4, although the 8-13 rate (62%) against Stephen F. Austin was a better percentage. After a bit of a muck with 17 conversions in 68 tries through the first give games (25%), Arizona has improved to 23 for 60 (38%) in the last four contests. Good things come in little packages and the extra 13 percent in that case has helped improve time of possession to more than six minutes more for the past four games, compared to the first five.


Going For It

The Cats have tried to convert on fourth down 11 times this year, making eight. Nice. Opponents are 0-for-4.


The Last 10 Years, Through Nine Games

Arizona’s 2006 defense can hold its head high. The Wildcat 11 currently have numbers that are better than or close to the best numbers put up in Tucson over the last 10 years. A look at how UA’s current defense stacks up over the last decade through nine games played.

Year Scoring D Total D Rush D Pass D TDs 
1997 27.1 327.7 97.3 230.3 27
1998 16 310.7 110.7 200 19
1999 29 367.3 137.9 229.4 32
2000 19.3 324.9 91.7 233.2 21
2001 33.9 400.8 128.3 272.4 40
2002 22 374.9 164 210.9 22
2003 37.1 444.1 182.8 261.3 43
2004 22.1 342.7 117.4 225.2 26
2005 25.4 404.2 173.9 230.3 29
2006 19.7 (17.3) 309.3 105.8 203.6 21 (18)

- Numbers in () are minus the three TDs the opposition has scored on interception returns.

- Only the 1997 (3) , 2002 (2) and 2006 (2) teams played at least two games in their first nine vs. Top 10 opponents.


Grinding Them Out

Junior Chris Henry regained his starting role as the top RB in the rushing “rotation” last weekend at Washington State. Rotation might be a stretch, as Henry was the only true RB to touch the ball against the Cougars. Henry rushed a school record 35 times against WSU for  94 yards and two touchdowns, both career-highs, in the 27-17 win H-Back Earl Mitchell (2-6 yards), WR Mike Thomas (1-22 yards) and QB Willie Tuitama (4-0 yards) were the only other Wildcats credited with carries against the Cougs.



The knock on UA’s running game by many of the pundits heading into the season was their proclivity to fumble the ball. RB coach Kasey Dunn focused on holding onto the rock during preseason camp, and his charges have taken heed. On 234 total touches this season (211 rushes, 23 receptions) not a single Arizona running back has lost a fumble. Starting RB Chris Henry, who lost three fumbles on his first 11 carries last season, has not coughed up the ball on a team-high 95 carries this season, including a single-game school record 35 touches last week in rainy Pullman, Wash. In fact, the Wildcats as a team are tied for 11th in the nation after having lost only five fumbles all season (one on a kickoff return, one on a punt return, one after a reception, one on C-QB exchange and one defensively), while the defense has recovered an opposition fumble a total of 10 times.


It’s Better Then It Looks

Arizona enters the Cal game with a scoring defense that ranks 45th among Division IA teams and third in the conference, allowing an average of 19.7 points per game. However, if you subtract the 21 points scored by the opposition on interception returns this season (LSU, UCLA Stanford), that average gets cut to 17.3  which would place the Wildcats 29th in the country and second in the Pac-10 behind only current conference leader USC which is allowing 15.4 points per game thus far.


Holding Them Down

Arizona has limited two of the most potent offenses in the nation to their fewest points in a game this season. No. 25-ranked Brigham Young, which scored a season-low 13 points against Arizona in the season-opener, is 11th in the nation with an average of 34.4  points per game heading into the final games of regular season play. USC, which is 18th nationally with an average 31.6 points per game, managed a season-low 20 points against the Wildcats, including a gift seven points after UA turned the ball over deep in its own territory late in the September contest. For the year, the Wildcats have held seven of their nine opponents below their season average for points (BYU, Stephen F. Austin, USC, Washington, Stanford, Oregon State and Washington State).


Pac-10 Odds and Ends

The 52 yards of total offense allowed to Stanford on Oct. 14 marked the fewest yards surrendered, the fewest yards per play by an opponent (1.6) and the fewest first downs allowed (4) by a Pac-10 school this season ... The Cardinal’s 19 rushing attempts and 13 passes attempted are tied for the second-fewest by a Pac-10 team ... The Wildcats also own the best punting average in a game this season when Nick Folk and Kyle McQuown teamed up for a 52.0 average against BYU in the season-opener ... Individually, Chris Jennings’ 201 yards rushing against Stephen F. Austin is the second-most yards on the ground by a Pac-10 running back in a game this year ... Nick Folk’s four FG tries against BYU in the season opener is tied for the second-most by a Pac-10 PK this season ... His 52-yard FG against Washington is the third-longest in the conference this year ... Folk’s nine punts and his 408 yards punted against Washington are atop the conference charts and his 56.0 average against BYU is the best for any Pac-10 punter.


A Dominant Defensive Effort

The Arizona defense limited Stanford to just 32 offensive plays on Oct. 14 (14 in the first half, 18 in the second half) and four first downs (2 in the first half, 2 in the second) ... The four first downs allowed narrowly missed the Arizona school record of three which has happened three times ... The 52 yards gained by Stanford in the entire contest were the fewest for the Cardinal in school history ... It was also the fewest yards surrendered by a UA defense to a Pac-10 opponent in school history, surpassing the 79 yards given up to Oregon State in 1981 ... The Cardinal’s minus six yards rushing marked the first time UA has held an opponent to negative rushing yards since limiting UCLA to -31 yards in 1999 ... Stanford’s longest drive in the game, time-wise, consisted of six plays for nine yards over 3:24. The Wildcats had six drives the lasted at least that long. Stanford’s longest drive, yards-wise, was three plays for 13 yards in the first quarter that ended with a fumble ... The UA defense held Stanford to a 3:23 time of possession in the second quarter. The Cardinal ran three plays for -7 yards in the frame ... Aside from the interception return for a TD, Stanford did not possess the ball inside of Arizona’s territory all game long. The Cardinal’s best effort brought it out to its own 43 yard-line once in the third quarter.


26 and Counting

Senior WR Syndric Steptoe extended his streak to 26 straight games with at least one catch with six receptions for 52 yards against Washington State on Nov. 4. His streak is second only to USC junior Dwyane Jarrett (33 straight games) among active Pac-10 players. Dating back to the Washington State game on Sept. 25, 2004, Steptoe has hauled in at least one pass in all 26 games he has played in (he missed an Oregon State game twice during his streak due to injury). Step has caught 104 passes for 1,280 yards and five TDs over the 26 games. He is averaging over four catches per game, and 12.1 yards per reception. Steptoe’s last game played without a catch was Sept. 18, 2004 against Wisconsin. Former Wildcat Dennis Northcutt is the all-time leader at Arizona for consecutive games with a reception with 42-straight.


Among the Best at Arizona

Sr WR Syndric Steptoe’s six receptions against Washington State on Nov. 4 pushed him further into the top 10 all-time at Arizona. The four-year letterwinner caught nine passes his freshman season, 30 as a sophomore, 37 as a junior last season and has a team-high 43 this year for a career total of 119. His eight-catch effort against UCLA on Oct. 7 moved him past former Wildcats Vance Johnson (Now No. 11, 104 career receptions) and Andrae Thurman (Now No. 10, 105 career receptions) on the all-time list for the ninth-most career catches. His five-catch game against Stanford pushed him past TV (Terry Vaughn 1990-93, 109 career receptions) at the No. 8 spot, and his two-reception game against the Beavers shot him past Rodney Williams’ (1995-97) and Derek Hill’s (1985-88) shared No. 7 slot at 112. His six-catch day last weekend moved him into a tie for the No. 5 spot (119 career receptions) with the Dice Man, Richard Dice. Step, who is averaging 4.8 receptions per game this year, is on pace for 134 catches in his Wildcat career, which put him just behind Jon Horton (4th, 136 rec., 1983-86) for fifth all-time at UA.


A Spring in his Step

Senior team captain Syndric Steptoe has proven to be a pain for the opposition throughout his career in his role as wide receiver/kick returner. His 160 all-purpose yards against Washington State marked the 18th time in his career he has racked up 100 or more all-purpose yards in a contest. With 3,826 career all-purpose yards on 269 total plays (14.2/play), Step is now No. 9 all-time at UA, surpassing Eddie Wolgast (1945-48, 3,698 APY) and Chuck Levy (1991-93, 3,795 APY). Up next for Step is Derek Hill’s (1985-88) No. 8 slot at 3,830 APY. Dennis Northcutt (1996-99) is UA’s all-time leader with 5,392 all-purpose yards.

Step’s All-Purpose Yards

Year Rushing Receiving Kickoff Returns Punt Returns Totals
2003 1-3 9-77 28-480 15-69 53-629
2004 3-30 30-446 17-384 6-39 56-899
2005 8-37 37-493 19-484 20-221 84-1,271
2006 5-26 43-458 14-347 14-196 76-1,027
Totals       17-132            119-1,474 78-1,695 55-525
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