UTSA (1-1) at Arizona (2-0)
Date: Saturday, Sept. 14 Time: 7:30 p.m. (MST)
Location: Tucson, Ariz. (Arizona Stadium – 56,037)
Television Broadcast: Pac-12 Networks
TV Broadcasters: Roxy Bernstein (play-by-play), Anthony Herron (analyst)
UA Radio: Arizona IMG Sports Network, 1290 AM and 107.5 FM in Tucson
UA Radio Broadcasters: Brian Jeffries (pxp), Lamont Lovett (color analyst), Dana Cooper (sideline analyst)
UA Spanish Radio: 990 AM (Samuel Sandoval - pxp; Marco Rincon - analyst)
Satellite Radio: SIRIUS 93, XM 197
UA-UTSA Series History
All-Time: First meeting
First Meeting: Sept. 14, 2013
Last Meeting: None
Streak: First meeting
Some Game Themes: Arizona returns home with a crack at an undefeated run through its non-conference slate, but an up-and-coming UTSA program has visions of spoiling such a bid … The Wildcats bring with them a high-powered run game bolstered by the return of All-American running back Ka’Deem Carey, who racked up 171 yards and a pair of scores in his season debut at UNLV … The backfield is loaded for the Cardinal and Navy with two premier running backs (Carey and Daniel Jenkins) and a quarterback (B.J. Denker) that has found running lanes himself while the passing game awaits a necessary breakout effort … The Wildcats will be challenged by a formidable Roadrunners squad that already has a Western road win (at New Mexico) and a closer-than-the-score indicated home loss to nationally-ranked Oklahoma State … The only opposing coach with a national title to his credit on the Wildcats’ schedule, Larry Coker has UTSA humming offensively with 449 yards per game … The Roadrunners, like the Wildcats, have moved the ball at a six yards-per-play clip … Eric Soza calls the signals and leads the Roadrunners in rushing, but most impressively has an array of targets – 15 with at least one catch – pass to challenge Arizona’s rejuvenated defense … In that sense, can the Wildcats continue their attacking style that has stymied opponents? … Experience, depth and confidence appears to be blueprint for a vastly improved defensive unit, but consistency will be the ultimate decider …A back-loaded home schedule leaves this as the last home game until mid-October for the Wildcats … Not surprisingly, the first meeting between the schools.
The Coaches: Arizona - Rich Rodriguez (West Virginia '86), second year at Arizona (10-5) and 19th as a head coach overall (130-89-2). At Arizona, Rodriguez’s teams are 7-2 at Arizona Stadium, 2-3 on the road, 1-0 at neutral sites, 4-5 in Pac-12 games and 1-0 in bowl games (2012 Gildan New Mexico). Rodriguez was introduced as the 30th head coach of the UA football program on Nov. 22, 2011. He carries Division I records of 10-5 at Arizona, 60-26 at West Virginia (2001-2007) and 15-22 at Michigan (2008-10). He began his head coaching career at Salem University (W.Va.) 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. His teams have appeared in bowls in eight of 11 seasons an FBS head coach UTSA – Larry Coker (Northeastern State ’70), third season at UTSA (13-11) and ninth season as head coach overall (73-26) … Coker was hired to start the UTSA football program from scratch in 2009 and has quickly turned the Roadrunners into a program on the rise, evidenced by an 8-4 record and 3-3 finish in its first and only season in the WAC in 2012. Prior to UTSA, led Miami to the 2001 national championship and posted a 60-15 record in six seasons (2001-06) with the school. Longtime offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach with stints at Miami (1995-2000), Oklahoma (1990-92), Oklahoma State (1983-89) and Tulsa (1980-82). Two-time national coach of the year.
What Happened in Vegas: Arizona hit the road and hit the jackpot with a convincing 58-13 victory that was seemingly over from the get-go … The Wildcats opened up a 17-0 first quarter lead and then Ka’Deem Carey and the defense provided a highlight-filled second quarter … Carey took his first carry to the house – a 58-yard burst – to show he has the capability to back up his All-American sophomore season. He needed just nine carries in the second quarter alone to rack up his 11th career 100-yard game and he finished with a game-high 171 yards – the fifth straight game he has rushed for 170 or more yards … Not to be overshadowed, backfield mate Daniel Jenkins ran for 82 yards and quarterback B.J. Denker added 60 yards and two touchdowns … Meanwhile, the Wildcats’ defense got into the action with Jake Fischer (49 yards) and Tra’Mayne Bondurant (52 yards) stepping in front of Nick Sherry passes and returning them for touchdowns … It was a two-touchdown game for the defense – it’s first in some 202 contests dating to 1996 … Continuing with the defensive trends, the unit was stout on third downs, holding the Rebels to a 4-for-15 conversion rate and even worse 0-for-3 rate on fourth downs … Kicker Jake Smith connected on 3-of-4 field goals, added seven extra points and kicked off 11 times in a game that saw him set a school record with 16 points by kicking … Freshman linebacker Scooby Wright continued to show what he can do defensively, leading the charge with seven tackles and one for loss … The scoring output was the second-most in modern history for Arizona in a road game, and it was the largest margin of victory in road contest since 1952 … Rich Rodriguez won his 130th career game and the Wildcats won for the third straight time away from home.
The Win Was Ten: Second-year Head Coach Rich Rodriguez became the second coach in the modern era of Arizona football to reach 10 wins in his first 15 games at the school. Only college football hall-of-famer Jim Young, whose Wildcat squads were 12-3 after his first 15 tilts, previous tallied double-digit wins. In the early decades of the program, Miles W. Casteel (1939-48) posted a 10-5 mark, G.A. “Tex” Oliver (1933-37) went 10-4-1 and J.F. “Pop” McKale (1914-30) registered an 11-4 record through the first 15 games.
Pound the Ground Game: After two games, Arizona ranks fourth nationally with 703 rushing yards – a current clip of 351.5 yards per game that if it held up would shatter the school record of 276.5 per game set in 1954. The Wildcats are averaging 6.89 yards per carry and have scored eight touchdowns on the ground – tied for third-most nationally. It’s a continuation of the way Arizona closed the 2012 season by gaining 1,246 yards over the final four games. Added with the first two games of 2013, the Wildcats have rolled up 1,949 yards – or 324.8 yards per game – over essentially a half-season of six games. Running backs Ka’Deem Carey and Daniel Jenkins have shouldered a majority of the load with 1,085 and 351 yards, respectively, in those last six games.
Run KDC: Junior running back Ka’Deem Carey returned to action last Saturday and began backing up his All-American sophomore campaign. On several preseason watch lists (Maxwell Player of the Year Award, Doak Walker Award and Walter Camp Football Foundation), Carey took his first handoff of the season 58 yards for a touchdown as part of a nine-carry, 106-yard and two-touchdown effort in the second quarter alone against the Rebels. He went on to finish with a game-high 171 rushing yards on 16 carries. Here are some nuggets of note regarding the nation’s defending rushing leader:
- In 2012, became first Wildcat to lead the nation in rushing since Art Luppino in 1955 (also 1954).
- Has 2,525 career rushing yards (No. 8 among active FBS players)
- Has 3,596 career all-purpose yards (No. 14 among active FBS players)
- Career average 101.0 rushing yards per game (one of two players with 100+)
- Has 11 career 100-yard rushing games (five straight).
- Scored 31 rushing touchdowns (No. 2 all-time at UA and No. 2 active in FBS)
- Scored 34 total touchdowns (leads Pac-12 and ranks No. 2 in FBS for active players)
- Ranks No. 3 among FBS for career points per game (8.2)
- Averages 6.2 yards per carry on 410 career rushes (No. 5 in FBS)
- Set UA single-season record with 1,929 rushing yards in 2012.
- Set an Arizona program record with 23 rushing touchdowns in 2012.
- Led the Pac-12 with 10 100-yard rushing games in 2012 and matched Trung Canidate (1999) for the school record for 100-yard games in a season.
- Finished the 2012 season with 2,248 all-purpose yards, falling one yard shy of Dennis Northcutt's single-season school record of 2,249 set in 1999.
- Carey finished the 2012 season with 24 total touchdowns to tie Art Luppino (1954) for the most individual touchdowns in school single-season history.
The Last Five for Two-Five: Last week’s season debut for Ka’Deem Carey showed he has picked up where he left off after leading the nation in rushing as a sophomore. His final four games of 2012 and his first in 2013 mount to one of the most impressive five-game stretches one could imagine for a running back. Here’s a look:
|Nov. 10, 2012||Colorado||25-366*||5^||14.6|
|Nov. 17, 2012||at Utah||26-206||1||7.9|
|Nov. 23, 2012||Arizona St.||25-172||1||6.9|
|Dec. 15, 2012||vs. Nevada||28-172||3||6.1|
|Sept. 7, 2013||at UNLV||16-171||2||10.7|
|Totals||5 games||120-1,087||12||9.1/217.4 per game|
* Pac-12 and Arizona single-game rushing record
^ School single-game record; tied Pac-12 single-game record
Big Play Ability: Early in the season, the Wildcats have shown a knack for making big plays. Arizona already has 10 plays (six rush, one pass, two interception returns, one fumble return) of 30 or yards this season (5.0 per game) after collecting 33 during the 13-game 2012 campaign (2.5 per game). The uptick has been in big plays on the ground with six runs already going for 30 or more yards after having eight all of last year. Added with a 31-yard pass, the Wildcats’ seven scrimmage plays of 30-plus yards is currently 14th-most nationally. Defensively, Arizona has three returns over 30 yards to already match last year’s season total.
Outta Their League: Rich Rodriguez is 6-0 against non-conference opponents, including 4-0 at home, since debuting as the Wildcats’ head coach in 2012. Arizona has won seven-straight games against non-conference foes and is 16-5 over its last 21 such games dating back to 2008. Considering regular season games only, the Wildcats have won 10 of their last 11 non-conference games and are 14-3 since the start of the 2008 season.
Desert SWAT: In passing situations, Arizona will deploy its “SWAT team” defensive unit – a mix of extra defensive backs to defend the back end and quicker players up front to rush the passer. It’s a unit that is helping the Wildcats get off the field on third downs after struggling to do so a year ago. While not used exclusively in all third down situations, it’s the most obvious passing down in long to-gain situations. Arizona has held NAU and UNLV to a combined 8-for-34 which is a 24-percent conversion rate that ranks No. 13 nationally. A year ago, the Wildcats finished No. 90 by allowing opponents to convert 44 percent of third downs.
Records Check: Here are some nuggets gleaned from a glance at the box score and record books after last Saturday’s game … Arizona’s 45-point victory against UNLV was the school’s largest margin of victory in a road game since a 55-7 thumping of UTEP in El Paso, Texas, on Nov. 18, 1952 … The Wildcats’ 58 points scored on the Rebels mark the most in a road game since dropping Washington State, 59-28, in Pullman, Wash., on Nov. 8, 2008 … In the modern history of Arizona football (since 1950), the 59 points scored against the Cougars stands as the school record in a road game, with last Saturday’s win in Las Vegas checking in second … At halftime, the Wildcats led the Rebels 45-6, setting a modern day program record for most points scored in a single half of a road game … UA scored 28 points in the second quarter – its most in any quarter since the second period of a 48-12 victory over UCLA on Oct. 20, 2011, at Arizona Stadium.
Turnover Turnaround: One stat the Wildcats want to keep going is their positive turnover margin. They have forced three turnovers in each game to open the season, while coughing it up just once to rank tied for seventh nationally with a plus-five turnover margin. A year ago, Arizona finished minus-one in turnover margin and ranked 65th nationally. The stat is worth keeping an eye on if past results are any indication. Under Rich Rodriguez, the Wildcats are 6-0 when winning the turnover battle in games, 2-4 when committing more turnovers and 2-1 when turnovers are even.
Blackjack 21: The reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week – Tra’Mayne Bondurant – doubled down with a second-consecutive breakout performance to open his junior season. After registering seven tackles and two interceptions, including one for a touchdown, in the opener against NAU, Bondurant added four more tackles and another pick-six in Las Vegas. He returned his interception for a 52-yard touchdown to add to his 23-yarder a week prior. The “spur” safety, who wears No. 21, has 11 tackles, two tackles for loss, three interceptions and one sack in his first two games of the year. He is a 20-game starter in his career with 130 tackles – 17 for loss – to go with six interceptions, three forced fumbles and three touchdown returns.
Fifty is Nifty: In 15 games with Rich Rodriguez as head coach, the Wildcats have hung 50 points on their opponents five separate times, including the 58 scored at UNLV. Arizona is 5-0 in those games. It’s become a once every three games occurrence for a program that has only had 18 games with 50 or more points since joining the Pac-12 in 1978. In fact, in the 10 seasons prior to Rodriguez arriving, the Wildcats had exactly the same number – five – of 50-point games as he does in just over one full season. Whether it be under Rodriguez or other coaches, the Wildcats have been good when dropping a half-a-hundred in a game. Try a 17-1 mark since 1978 with the loss a 56-55 setback to California in 1996 when coach Dick Tomey elected to try for, but failed, a two-point conversion in the fourth overtime.
Pick Your Poison: Run to set up the pass, or pass to set up the run? This time a year ago, Arizona was 2-0 and ranked No. 9 nationally with 353.5 passing yards per game. A year later, the Wildcats are again 2-0 but have passed for only 168 total yards and find themselves No. 6 nationally by rushing for 351.5 yards per game. That’s quite a shift in philosophy or production, but also hints at what lies ahead in the Pac-12. Staring at the stats reveals four Pac-12 teams (California, Oregon State, Colorado and Arizona State) rank among the top 10 FBS schools in passing yards per game. At the same time, three squads (Oregon, Arizona and UCLA) show up in the top 10 for rushing offense per game. If early results are any indication, being top 10 in either category is positive beyond the stat sheet. The 10 teams leading the way in passing are 16-2 on the year, while the 10 rushing leaders are 14-3. Pretty good company either way.
Refuting Reputation: Ever hear the stereotype that defensive players would have played on offense if they could catch the ball? Well, Arizona’s defense is not buying into that generalization. Tra’Mayne Bondurant (3-79, 2 TD), Jake Fischer (1-49, TD) and Devin Holiday (1-10) have combined for nearly as many interception return yards (138) as UA’s receiving corps has offensively (168). Bondurant, the “spur” safety, already has two interception returns for touchdowns this season (52 and 23 yards), and Fischer, a middle linebacker snared his first career pick and returned it 49 yards for a score last Saturday against UNLV. That’s three touchdown returns for the defense, which trumps the one receiving touchdown the Wildcats have offensively. In fact, UA’s receiving corps is without a touchdown reception as senior running back Daniel Jenkins is the only player to catch a pass for a score this year. To be fair to the offense, the ground game has rolled up 351.5 yards per game and accounted for eight touchdowns – so the need to air it out has been minimal.
Career Interception Returns for Touchdowns (Current Players)
|Tra’Mayne Bondurant||52 yards at UNLV||Sept. 7, 2013|
|Jake Fischer||49 yards at UNLV||Sept. 7, 2013|
|Tra’Mayne Bondurant||23 yards vs. NAU||Aug. 30, 2013|
|Johnathan McKnight||48 yards vs. Oklahoma State||Sept. 8, 2012|
|Tra’Mayne Bondurant||29 yards at Colorado||Nov. 12, 2011|
|Shaquille Richardson||28 yards at Oregon State||Oct. 8, 2011|
Defense on the Offensive: Arizona’s defense has accounted for three touchdowns in two games (all via interception returns). That’s more touchdowns than the unit has allowed (two) – a nugget of note in its own right. But perhaps most impressive is the fact that Tra’Mayne Bondurant (52 yards) and Jake Fischer (49 yards) produced the first multiple-touchdown game for the Arizona defense since Sept. 14, 1996. On that day, Chester Burnett (33 yards), Mikal Smith (86 yards) and then-defensive back Dennis Northcutt (63 yards) returned a trio of interceptions back for touchdowns – all in the fourth quarter – against Illinois in a 41-0 thumping. It was a span of 202 games without the defense scoring two touchdowns in a game by itself. In terms of all non-offensive scores (kicks, blocks, etc.), the Wildcats had collected seven multiple-touchdown games with the last coming on Sept. 18, 2010. Trevin Wade returned an interception 85 yards and Travis Cobb returned a kickoff 100 yards in a 34-27 upset of Iowa.
Early Returns: Arizona showed improvement in the kick and punt return game at UNLV. Sophomore receiver Johnny Jackson earned his first start as the punt returner, taking over for Nate Phillips who had troubling hanging on in Week 1 against NAU. Jackson filled in more than adequately, returning five punts for 59 yards, including a long of 25. Those 59 yards are more than a third of UA’s season return total from a year ago (170), which included a 63-yard Richard Morrison touchdown return. Meanwhile, Phillips bounced back with some solid work as the starting kickoff return man – totaling 42 yards on a pair of runbacks. He had a long of 26.
Quarter Scores: The Wildcats have scored in all eight quarters to open the season with a particular liking to the first half. Arizona has jumped on its opponents for 24 first-quarter and 35 second-quarter points, enjoying a cumulative 59-6 halftime lead through two games. An even split of 17 points per period in the third and fourth quarters, respectively, rounds out Arizona’s 93-13 cumulative scoring margin this season. Including the fourth quarter of the Gildan New Mexico Bowl, the Wildcats have scored in nine consecutive quarters.
Disciplined Start: Through two games, the Wildcats have been flagged seven times for 65 yards – a 32.5 yards per game clip that ranks No. 27 in the nation. That mark is nearly half of what UA’s opponents are averaging per game (13-130, 65.0 yards per game). It is also a welcomed decrease from last year’s tally of 55.1 penalty yards per game – a figure that finished No. 77 nationally.
That’s More Like It: Offensive execution and tempo improved for Arizona last week in Las Vegas. The proof is in the fact the Wildcats ran nearly twice as many plays at UNLV (90) as they did a week earlier against Northern Arizona (47). Against the Rebels, the Wildcats cranked out 46 plays for 291 yards in the first half alone – a 6.3 yards per play clip that will keep any coach happy. It wasn’t quite the explosive 8.4 yards per play from the NAU game, but Arizona was much more economical in moving the chains, totaling 25 first downs against UNLV compared to tallying 14 over four quarters with the Lumberjacks. Last season, Arizona led all FBS schools with 381 first downs and check in fourth nationally for most total plays (1,082).
Quick Strikes: Don’t turn away from the action when watching the Wildcats – sudden scores have become a common theme. Offensively, Arizona has twice scored on one-play drives (91-yard Daniel Jenkins run and a 58-yard Ka’Deem Carey rush) and has one two-play drive and two three-play drives. That’s more than half of UA’s offensive touchdown drives that have been composed of three plays or less. Plus, the Wildcat defense has three touchdown returns on interceptions – effectively one-play drives.
Bookend Tackles: Junior tackles Fabbians Ebbele and Mickey Baucus account for 54 of Arizona’s 80 career starts along the offensive line. With each registering 27 consecutive starts, the bookend duo was a significant part of the Wildcats’ record-breaking offense in 2012. They helped pave the way 227.8 rushing yards per game and the offense yielded only 18 sacks in 13 games while tallying 298.4 passing yards per game. The unit has picked up where it left off, with Baucus and Ebbele helping roll up 351.5 rushing yards per game and only two sacks allowed through two games in 2013.
Mr. Versatility: One of Arizona’s offensive leaders is the ever versatile Chris Putton, a fifth-year senior who has mastered all five positions on the offensive line. Putton doesn’t claim a natural position – he willing says he will play wherever coaches need him – but his skills are perhaps best suited at guard where he has made 21 career starts. In a pinch, he can slide out to tackle if needed behind starters Fabbians Ebbele and Mickey Baucus, or take the controls at center. His experience and versatility will pay dividends in the trenches this season.
Senior Encore: Arizona welcomes back senior wide receiver/tight end Terrence Miller for a fifth season. The Moreno Valley, Calif., native was granted a medical hardship waiver in the spring and his return to the Wildcats gives Arizona a proven target in the offense and a leader on and off the field. Miller, who also received his degree in the spring, caught 13 passes for 143 yards and two scores in four games last year despite battling a series of injuries. His season was cut short for good after sustaining an injury on a touchdown at Stanford last October. Now healthy again, Miller can play any of UA’s receiver positions in the slot or on the outside. He will also put his hand down as a tight end, so expect the Wildcats to move him around early and often. He has one catch for 14 yards on the year.
Defensive Development: What a difference a year makes for defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel. In his first season implementing the 3-3-5 stack at Arizona, Casteel inherited one of the thinnest and youngest defenses in the nation evidenced by more than half of his depth chart comprising freshman or sophomore. This year, things have shifted in his favor with more depth and more experience. In fact, Wildcat defenders have combined for 232 career starts with the same 11 starting each contest this season. Senior lineman Sione Tuihalamaka and senior cornerback Shaquille Richardson lead with 26 career starts apiece, while senior linebackers Marquis Flowers and Jake Fischer boast 25 and 23 starts, respectively. Junior “spur” safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant has tallied 20 starts, including 20 of Arizona’s last 21 games (only missed 2012 New Mexico Bowl). True freshman linebacker Scooby Wright is the only player without prior starting experience and has earned the nod in each of his first two collegiate games.
Desert Bloom: It was in fall camp a year ago when Marquis Flowers was shifted from safety to linebacker to add depth at a position of need. Now, some 12 months later, Flowers figures to be one of the top linebackers in the Pac-12 Conference. As a junior, he was second on the squad with exactly 100 tackles and led the team with 13 tackles for loss and a team-high 5.5 sacks. He also proved to have a nose for the football, intercepting three pass, forcing three fumbles and recovering another. A full year of experience and an offseason to study the defense in the film room should benefit Flowers even more, and he has eight tackles – one for loss – and a 36-yard fumble recovery to open his senior campaign.
Scooby (Can) Doo: Despite a veteran starting unit on the defensive side of the ball, the Wildcats have a new face in their starting lineup: Scooby Wright. The true freshman has started each game at strongside linebacker and leads the team with 13 total tackles, including two for loss. In his first collegiate game against NAU, Wright finished with six tackles, including one for loss, and tipped the pass that Tra’Mayne Bondurant stepped in front of before returning it 21 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter.
Tackling Machine: Senior middle linebacker Jake Fischer returns as one of the top tacklers in the Pac-12. A year ago, Fischer led Arizona with 119 stops and ranked third in the conference with 9.2 tackles per game. A physical, yet slightly undersized player, Fischer uses his high football IQ to put himself in position to make plays. He had 6.5 tackles for loss, four fumble recoveries, three forced fumbles and three passes defended a season ago as he returned to full strength after missing the 2011 campaign with an ACL injury. His perseverance paid off as he was a Pac-12 honorable mention selection in 2012 and could contend for higher honors this season. Fischer is on the Lott IMPACT Trophy Watch List and the Bednarik Award Watch List. He has eight tackles and a 49-yard interception return for a touchdown through two games as a senior.
Scholarships Earned: Several walk-ons earned the praise of head coach Rich Rodriguez, who rewarded them with scholarships this offseason. Nose guard Tevin Hood, linebacker Sir Thomas Jackson and receiver Johnny Jackson earned scholarships in the spring, while running back Terris Jones and receiver Trevor Ermisch were put on scholarship last week. Rodriguez values a strong walk-on program and benefitted such a program himself. At West Virginia, Rodriguez started as a walk-on in 1981 and became a three-year letter winner as a defensive back from 1982-84.
Gridiron Graduates: Eight Wildcats have earned their degrees from the University of Arizona, a tally that ranks fifth nationally for FBS programs. Included are running backs Daniel Jenkins and Kylan Butler, receivers Terrence Miller and Richard Morrison, defensive backs Derrick Rainey and Justin Samuels, offensive lineman Eric Bender-Ramsey and defensive lineman Sione Tuihalamaka.
Up Next: Arizona is off next weekend for its first bye weekend (Sept. 21). The Wildcats re-load before hitting the road to face Pac-12 foes Washington (Sept. 28) and, after another bye weekend, USC (Oct. 10). A kickoff time for the game in Seattle is expected to be announced as part of the 12-day televisions selections by Pac-12 television partners on Monday, Sept. 16.