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Thursday Night Battle Pits Cats vs. Trojans
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 10/07/2013
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Senior CB Shaquille Richardson
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics

Game 5
Arizona (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12) at USC (3-2, 0-2 Pac-12)

Date: Thursday, Oct. 10           Time: 7:30 p.m. (PDT)
Location: Los Angeles, Calif. (Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum – 93,607)
Television Broadcast: Fox Sports 1
TV Broadcasters: Justin Kutcher (pxp), Petros Papadakis (analyst), Joel Klatt (analyst), Kristina Pink (sideline)
UA Radio: Arizona IMG Sports Network, 1290 AM and 107.5 FM in Tucson (complete list of affiliates on page 4)
UA Radio Broadcasters: Brian Jeffries (pxp), Lamont Lovett (color analyst), Dana Cooper (sideline analyst)
Satellite Radio: SIRIUS (94 - Arizona call, 85 - USC call), XM (191 - Arizona call, 85 - USC call)

Arizona-USC Series History
All-Time: USC leads, 28-8
First Meeting: Dec. 9, 1916 (USC 20, Arizona 7 – at Phoenix)
Last Meeting: Oct. 27, 2012 (Arizona 39, USC 36 – at Tucson)
Streak/Note: Teams have split last four meetings

Some Game Themes: The Thursday night spotlight shines on Pac-12 South rivals in the City of Angels … The Trojans have garnered all the headlines over the last week following the dismissal of head coach Lane Kiffin, a situation the Wildcats experienced themselves two season ago … Ed Orgeron is seemingly doing his best to lighten the mood in Troy, and the Wildcats wonder what, if anything, will change schematically … Rich Rodriguez, meanwhile, has his team refocused following its first setback of the season … The Wildcats saw plenty of room for improvement on film from their loss at Washington, and a bye week has provided ample time to clean up those areas … Questions remain in the pass game for Arizona, but Ka’Deem Carey brings playmaking abilities that give the Wildcats a chance to move the ball against anyone … A stingy Wildcat defense kept the club in the game in Seattle and that will again be something Arizona relies on against the Trojans, who have had some trouble moving the ball this season … USC’s defense had been dominant in the opening weeks of the season, but Arizona State exposed some holes in a blowout two weeks ago … Can the coaching change restore confidence and intensity in the Trojans? … Or will Arizona regain its own hard edge and position itself for a run in the Pac-12 South? … Both sides are looking to tally a mark in the win column for the first time in conference play … Arizona plays its second non-Saturday game of the season (opened with a 35-0 victory over Northern Arizona on Friday, Aug. 30) … The Wildcats are coming off two byes in three weeks – a stretch that will have put them on the field just once (Sept. 28 at Washington) in a span of 25 days before Thursday’s kickoff.

Last Week: Arizona kept busy during its second bye in three weeks after dropping a 31-13 contest at Washington on Sept. 28. In that soaker in Seattle, the Wildcats kept themselves in the ballgame with some stingy first-half defense and the teams traded scores early in the third quarter before the Huskies scored the final 13 points. B.J. Denker threw his first interception of the season on the game’s opening drive and it turned into a quick six points for UW. The Huskies’ defense then forced three-and-outs on UA’s next three possessions, before the Wildcats spotted them two more points when a snap on a punt play when through the endzone. Washington added a field goal for an 11-0 lead before Arizona finally mounted a 14-play, 84-yard drive before halftime to get on the board. The second half opened with a 95-yard Washington drive that was followed by a 72-yard Arizona march for an 18-13 contest. But the Huskies answered with another 90-plus yard drive the a two-score advantage and a 10-play, 59-yard drive following another Denker interception put the game out of reach in the fourth. It was a tough all-around game offensively for Denker and the Wildcats, who totaled 313 yards and went three-and-out six times. The senior quarterback suffered his first career loss in five tries as a starter and tossed his first two interceptions of the season while completing 14-of-25 passes for 119 yards. He and Ka’Deem Carey provided the highlights with seven-yard and three-yard touchdown runs, respectively. Carey turned his typical workhorse effort with 132 yards on a career-high 30 carries and was the Wildcats’ leading receiver with four grabs for 49 yards. Keith Price and Bishop Sankey paced a workmanlike Washington offense. Price finished an efficient 14-for-25 opassing for 165 yards and two touchdowns through the air, while Sankey added 161 rushing yards and a score on a school-record 40 carries. The home team won for the sixth consecutive time in the series.

The Coaches: Arizona - Rich Rodriguez (West Virginia '86), second year at Arizona (11-6) and 19th as a head coach overall (131-90-2). At Arizona, Rodriguez’s teams are 8-2 at Arizona Stadium, 2-4 on the road, 1-0 at neutral sites, 4-6 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 11-6 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 … USC – Ed Orgeron (Northwestern State ‘84). Orgeron is making his debut as USC’s interim head coach following the dismissal of Lane Kiffin on Sept. 29. Orgeron was USC's defensive line coach from 1998 to 2004 and is currently in his fourth year back at Troy as the recruiting coordinator and defensive line coach after returning to the Trojan staff in January of 2010. Orgeron left USC after 7 seasons to become the head coach at Mississippi for 3 years (2005-07), where he went 10-25. He then was the defensive line coach with the NFL's New Orleans Saints in 2008 and spent 2009 as Tennessee's assistant head coach, recruiting coordinator and defensive line coach.

2012 USC at Arizona: Arizona jumped out to an early 10-point lead before it fell behind by 15 in the second half, but the Wildcats rallied with 26 unanswered points to hold on and upset No. 10 USC, 39-36, on Oct. 26, 2012, at Arizona Stadium in a record-setting game for two Trojans. Indeed, Matt Barkley passed for a USC record 493 yards, while top target Marqise Lee shattered the Pac-12 receiving record with 345 yards and two scores as part of a 469-yard all-purpose day that ranks as the third-best ever in FBS history. However, the more balanced offense and hungrier defense prevailed in the end. The Wildcats rushed for 219 yards with a pair of 100-yard days from Matt Scott and Ka'Deem Carey, while the defense forced five turnovers (most in five seasons). Marquis Flowers was the defensive star for the Wildcats, intercepting a pair of Barkley passes and forcing a fumble to keep the game in check in the first half. In the second half, Flowers' defensive mates stopped the Trojans on their final five third down tries and one critical fourth down early in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Scott and the offense scored touchdowns on four straight possessions over 13:20 from the late third quarter into the middle of the fourth quarter. Austin Hill's 259 receiving yards (second-most in school history) were highlighted by third-down conversion grabs of 42 and 60-yards respectively to set up two of the scores. Once the Wildcats had a lead in tow, they turned the ball over to Carey to kill some clock and he did just that by gaining a pair of first downs on UA's final drive and leaving USC with only 55 seconds and a long field to try and tie or win. In the end, Barkley's heave at the buzzer dropped to the ground in the endzone, though Lee got a hand on it but couldn't pull it away from Shaquille Richardson and a host of Wildcat defenders. It was UA's second win against an AP Top-25 team at Arizona Stadium in 2012 – the first such occurrence since 1992. It was also the Wildcats' first win in the desert against USC since 1999.

Sophomore Surge: Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez knows how to build a program. In simple terms, program-building starts with a firm foundation put in place in Year 1 and grows from there. His track record is one that has produced improvement in his second year at a school where players and coaches alike are fully bought into his program. Here are the first and second year records by school for Rodriguez-coached teams:

School Year 1 Year 2 Improvement
Glenville State 1-7-1 4-5-1 +3 wins
West Virginia 3-8 9-4 + 6 wins
Michigan 3-9 5-7 + 2 wins
Arizona 8-5 ??? ???

Well Rested: Looking at Arizona’s schedule from a positive perspective, the Wildcats should be well-rested heading into Thursday’s game. After defeating UTSA, 38-13, on Sept. 14, the Wildcats were off the following weekend before playing at Washington on Sept. 28. It was another bye week last weekend leaving the loss to the Huskies as Arizona’s only game in a 25-day span. That stretch will come to an end on Thursday and the Wildcats will then get a couple extra days off to prepare for an Oct. 19 showdown against Utah in Tucson. Thereafter, Arizona is in action each Saturday for six consecutive weeks to close the regular season.

Road Warriors: Arizona plays on the road for the third time in five games to open the season, a theme that will continue the next several weeks. The Wildcats will be back at home on Oct. 19 against Utah, but then play back-to-back road games at Colorado (Oct. 26) and at California (Nov. 2). The schedule balances in Arizona’s favor in November with three straight home games. The Wildcats had won three straight games away from home before a 31-13 setback at Washington two weeks ago.

Turning Points: Perhaps no statistic is more indicative of Arizona’s success in recent seasons than the turnover battle. The Wildcats have won 16-consecutive games, including all seven under Rich Rodriguez, when they win the turnover battle (last loss was vs. USC on Oct. 25, 2008). Considering all games since the start of 2008 (last 68 games), Arizona is 19-2 when it wins the turnover battle, 12-9 when it ties and 7-19 when it loses the turnover battle. That adds up to a 31-11 mark when Arizona wins or ties the turnover battle. Under Rodriguez, the Wildcats are 9-1 when winning or tying the turnover battle (only loss at Stanford in 2012).

Turning Points Part II: The Wildcats enter play this week with a plus-five turnover margin for the season, which is good enough for No. 19 nationally. The Wildcats have only turned the ball over four times while they have secured nine takeaways in four contests. It’s a positive early-season trend for Arizona, which has not finished a season with a positive turnover margin since 2008 (+6). In 2012, the Wildcats turned the ball over 28 times and gained 27. The net result was a 122-104 deficit in points scored off turnovers. So far in 2012, Arizona enjoys a 42-6 advantage in points off turnovers.

Longing for Long Plays: Arizona’s offense has steadily moved the ball at a clip of 402.8 yards per game, but the chunk plays have been lacking. After four games, the Wildcats only have 40 scrimmage plays that have gone for 10 or more yards and the end result is they are averaging only 5.54 yards per play. That average is 10th in the Pac-12 which matches where they stand in total offense per game. Compare those ranks to a season ago when the Wildcats were No.3 in the conference yards per play (6.32) and No. 2 in the league in yards per game (526.2). In terms of explosive plays (20-plus yards), quarterback B.J. Denker is the team leader with four runs of 30-plus yards. However, Denker has also produced only four pass plays of 20 or more yards.

Pass Defense Improvement: It’s only been four games and the meat of Arizona’s schedule remains, but credit the Wildcats for showing improvement defending the pass. In 2012, Arizona ranked near the bottom nationally in passing yards allowed, but the early indications are that won’t be the case this year. A season ago, Arizona intercepted just 12 passes all season, including only one returned for a touchdown. So far this year, the Wildcats have an interception in each game and have three returned for scores. Here’s a look at the tale of two seasons:

Stat 2012 (FBS Rank) 2013 (FBS Rank)
Pass Yds/Game 292.8 (121) 185.8 (19)
Pass Def. Efficiency 137.46 (85) 97.2 (11)
Comp. Percentage 61.8 (84) 53.4 (28)
Interceptions/Game 0.92 (62) 1.75 (14)

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 freshmen or sophomores. This year, things have shifted in his favor with more depth and more experience. In fact, Wildcat defenders have combined for 254 career starts with the same 11 starting each contest this season. Senior lineman Sione Tuihalamaka and senior cornerback Shaquille Richardson lead with 28 career starts apiece, while senior linebackers Marquis Flowers and Jake Fischer boast 27 and 25 starts, respectively. Junior “spur” safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant has tallied 22 starts, including 22 of Arizona’s last 23 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 four collegiate games.

Cats Get Picky: Arizona’s defense has intercepted seven passes – and returned three for scores – through the first four games of the season. That is 1.75 interceptions per game (No. 14 nationally, tied for No. 1 in Pac-12), including one in each game. Those seven interceptions have been returned for 173 total yards and the three scores are tied for the second-most on interception returns for any FBS team. Tra’Mayne Bondurant leads the way with three picks (two TDs), while Jake Fischer (one TD), Shaquille Richardson, Jourdon Grandon and Devin Holiday each have one interception. Last season, Arizona intercepted 12 passes in 13 games and had just one returned for a touchdown.

Run KDC: With three games under his belt, junior running back Ka’Deem Carey has begun 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 against UNLV on Sept. 7. He went on to finish with a game-high 171 rushing yards on 16 carries and has added 100-yard games in each of his last two outings. Here are some nuggets of note regarding the nation’s defending rushing leader (see complete career stats on page 12 of this release):

- In 2012, became first Wildcat to lead the nation in rushing since Art Luppino in 1955 (also 1954).
- Has 37 career total touchdowns (No. 2 at UA and tied for FBS lead with Wisconsin’s James White and Georgia Southern’s Jerick McKinnon).
- Has 34 career rushing touchdowns (No. 2 at UA and No. 4 among active FBS players).
- Has 2,785 career rushing yards (No. 11 among active FBS players).
- Leads all active FBS players with 103.1 rushing yards per game.
- Has 3,938 career all-purpose yards (No. 14 among active FBS players)
- Averages 6.0 yards per carry (No. 6 in FBS) on 467 career rushes.
- Leads all active Pac-12 players and ranks No. 3 in FBS for career 100-yard games (13).
- 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.

Seventh Heaven: Running back Ka’Deem Carey has rushed for 100 yards in seven consecutive games – a stretch that includes some remarkable performances. Here’s a look:

Date Opponent Rush Att.-Yards TD Avg.
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
Sept. 14, 2013 UTSA 27-128 2 4.7
Sept. 28, 2013 at Washington 30-132 1 4.4
Totals 7 games 177-1,347 15 7.6/192.4 per game

* Pac-12 and Arizona single-game rushing record
^ School single-game record; tied Pac-12 single-game record

Carey Closing In: Junior running back Ka’Deem Carey is closing in on a few milestones (see complete career stats on page 12 of this release):
- 62 yards away from 4,000 all-purpose yards (currently 9th in UA history with 3,938)
- 172 rushing yards away from No. 6 in UA history (Nic Grigsby, 2,957).
- 215 rushing yards away from 3,000 for his career
- 21 rush attempts away from No. 10 in program history (Jim Upchurch, 488)
- 33 rush attempts away from 500 for his career
- 10 rushing touchdowns away from No. 1 in school history (Art Luppino, 44)
- 11 total touchdowns away from No. 1 in school history (Art Luppino, 48)

Carey Streaking: Ka’Deem Carey, the nation’s leading rusher in 2012, is working on several impressive streaks heading into Thursday’s game:

- Has rushed for 100-plus yards in seven-straight games (11 of last 12) played
- Has 150-plus all-purpose yards in seven-straight games played
- Has a rushing touchdown in 12-straight games (15 of last 16 games) played
- Has 16 or more carries in 13-straight games played
- Has a pass reception in 17 of the last 18 games played
- Has scored a touchdown in 17 of last 18 games played

In a Rush to Win: Arizona has won eight of its last 11 games dating to last season, a trend that may or may not coincide with a dominant rushing attack. Over their last 11 games, the Wildcats have gained 3,029 yards on 509 rushing attempts, a 5.95 yards per carry clip good enough for 275.36 yards per game. The Wildcats have rushed for 300 or more yards in four of the 11 contests with a perfect 4-0 record in those games. Arizona is 6-1 when it rushes for 250-plus yards and 7-1 when it tops the 200-yard mark. Last season against USC, the Wildcats ran for 219 yards in a 39-36 victory that saw Ka’Deem Carey (28-119) and Matt Scott (15-100) each tally 100-yard rushing performances.

Pick Your Poison: Run to set up the pass, or pass to set up the run? Staring at the stats reveals four Pac-12 teams (California, Oregon State, Washington State and Arizona State) rank among the top 10 FBS schools in passing yards per game. At the same time, two squads (Oregon and Arizona) 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 34-16 on the year, while the 10 rushing leaders are 34-14. Pretty good company either way.

100-Yard Rushing Nuggets: Arizona has rushed for 100 or more yards in all but one game under Rich Rodriguez (89 at Oregon, 9/22/2012). Prior to Rodriguez’s arrival, the Wildcats gained 100 rushing yards only five times in 2011 … An Arizona player has rushed for 100 yards in a game in eight-straight contests (last time failed to do so: at UCLA, 11/3/2012) … Under Rodriguez, a Wildcat has rushed for 100 yards 14 times in 17 total games, including 12 of the last 13 … Ka’Deem Carey (13), Daniel Jenkins (1) and Matt Scott (1) have combined for 15 100-yard performances in the 17 games under Rodriguez. Arizona had gone 17-straight games without a 100-yard rusher prior to Rodriguez’s arrival (last was Keola Antolin, 111 yards, at UCLA on Oct. 30, 2010).

Disciplined Cats: Arizona ranks as the least penalized team in the Pac-12 having been flagged for only 34.0 yards per game. That figure also ranks No. 14 nationally and is a healthy improvement from a season ago when the Wildcats finished No. 77 (55.1 per game). It will also be an area of note at USC this week as the Trojans have struggled in the penalty department. USC has been flagged 36 times for 306 yards this season and ranks No. 102 nationally with 61.2 penalty yards per game.

Red Hot Zone: Arizona has produced in the red zone this season scoring on 13 of 15 such trips (87 percent). However, the Wildcats would like to punch it in the endzone more frequently than their 10-for-15 (67 percent) clip. Last season, Arizona scored on 79 percent of red zone drives with a 64-percent touchdown rate. One thing the Wildcats have done well this year is score from outside the redzone. The offense has six scoring players of 30 yards or longer preventing the opportunity – and need – to convert in the red zone. But expect such conversions to be critical moving forward in Pac-12 play.

Dashing Denker: Running back Ka’Deem Carey is known as the Wildcats big-play running threat, but it has been B.J. Denker gaining yards in big chunks this season. The senior signal caller has a run of 30-plus yards in each game this season, including three touchdown runs of 30-plus yards. His four rushing plays of 30-plus yards are tied for the fifth-most of any FBS players and are tied for the most for quarterbacks (BYU’s Taysom Hill and Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch). Denker is the Wildcats’ second-leading rusher (No. 8 in Pac-12) with 280 total yards (70.0 per game) and tops the team with six rushing touchdowns.

Fresh Targets: Two of Arizona’s top receiving targets are a pair of true freshmen: Samajie Grant and Nate Phillips. While the air attack has yet to truly take off in 2013, Grant leads the squad with nine receptions (for 82 yards) and has one of the team’s two receiving touchdowns. Phillips has been the third-most popular target, hauling in seven passes for 65 yards. It’s better than a 9-yard per catch average for both newcomers who, while undersized, are strong, quick options in the passing game. Grant figures to have some stretch-the-field ability in the vertical passing game, while Phillips has proven to get open on short and mid-range routes. Phillips also is one of the Wildcats’ starting kick returners (six returns for 116 yards).

Just What D.R. Ordered: One positive from the game at Washington was the return of sophomore receiver David Richards, a steady contributor in a deep receiving rotation a season ago. Richards missed the first three games of the season recovering from a foot injury and, while he did not catch a pass against the Huskies, saw his first action. He surely will be a big part of the passing game moving forward having hauled in 29 passes for 298 yards and three touchdowns as a redshirt freshman in 2012. At 6-foot-4, 214 pounds, Richards is a big target that can stretch the field vertically or go over the middle to catch passes.

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 23 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.

Mr. Versatility Part II: Arizona welcomed 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 leadership and experience at the wide receiver position. The 6-foot-4, 233-pounder can play any of UA’s inside or outside receiver positions, plus has doubled as a tight end this season. He has three catches for 28 yards to date this season. As a sophomore in 2010, Miller had perhaps his best career game against USC. In that game, Miller hauled in seven passes for 116 yards as the Wildcats passed for 353 yards against the Trojans, who pulled out a 24-21 at Arizona Stadium.

Bookend Tackles: Junior tackles Fabbians Ebbele and Mickey Baucus account for 60 of Arizona’s 90 career starts along the offensive line. The duo started 28 consecutive games together before Ebbele missed a start while recovering from an ankle injury at Washington on Sept. 28. Lene Maiava filled in for Ebbele and earned his first career start, while Baucus made his 29th consecutive start at left tackle. Expect Ebbele back in the starting lineup at right tackle this week. Together, Ebbele and Baucus are literally a big reason the Wildcats have run the ball so successfully the last two seasons. They’ve also done an admirable job protecting the quarterback as the Wildcats have surrendered only 23 sacks over the last 17 games.

Defense on the Offensive: Arizona’s defense has accounted for three touchdowns in the first four games (all via interception returns) this season. At UNLV (Sept. 7), 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.

Terrific Tra’Mayne: Arizona’s biggest defensive playmaker has been “spur” safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant. The junior ranks third on the team with 23 tackles and is tied for second with three tackles for loss, including one sack. He is the team leader in both interceptions (3) and passes broken up (3) and has accounted for two of Arizona’s three defensive touchdowns this season thanks to interception returns (23 yards against NAU and 51 yards at UNLV). In his career, Bondurant has six interceptions for 170 yards and three touchdowns.

Scooby Doo(ing) it Wright: There are some talented freshman in the Pac-12 Conference, but perhaps the most underrated of the group is Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright. The true freshman has started all four games at strongside linebacker and has not disappointed. The Windsor, Calif., native leads the club in both total tackles (28) and tackles for loss (4.0). He’s registered a tackle for loss in each game to open his college career and has shown he has the toughness to be an impact player right away. At No. 16 Washington on Sept. 28, Wright collected a career-high nine tackles, including one for loss, as the Wildcats held the Huskies to a season-low 409 yards of offense.

Tacklin’ Tevis: Junior “bandit” safety Jared Tevis brings a hard-hitting, blue collar edge to the Arizona defense. A native of Tucson, Ariz., Tevis is second on the team with 27 tackles, including a sack, and has two pass breakups to go with a forced fumble in the early part of the season. A 15-game starter over the last two years, Tevis has shown a nose for the football in coordinator Jeff Casteel’s 3-3-5 defense. Two weeks ago at Washington, he set a career-high with 13 tackles and now has 109 in his last 15 games played (7.3 per game). As a sophomore, Tevis has 82 stops and led the team with four forced fumbles, plus added two interceptions to go with six pass breakups.

Production Up Front: Arizona is seeing improved play from its defensive line and seniors Tevin Hood and Sione Tuihalamaka are leading the charge. Both Hood and Tuihalamka have three tackles for loss apiece this season, matching or exceeding their individual totals from last season. In fact, UA’s defensive line across the board had less than stellar numbers in 2012 when the unit tallied only 20 tackles for loss. Paced by the six stops behind the line from Hood and Tuiahlamaka, UA’s defensive front already has nine tackles for loss after only four games in 2013. Production could continue as the Wildcats welcomed back Dan Pettinato for the Washington game on Sept. 28. Pettinato, who had offseason knee surgery and missed the first three games this year, is a 12-game starter in his career for the Wildcats and the added depth will be welcomed.

Shaq on the Attack: Senior cornerback Shaquille Richardson intercepted his eighth career pass at Washington on Sept. 28. A 28-game starter in his four-year career, Richardson has broken up 26 passes (tied for 12th in program history) and registered 153 tackles for the Wildcats. He’s also forced three fumbles and recovered two, while collecting eight tackles for loss. Already in 2013, Richardson has 19 tackles and three behind the line – a new single-season career high for tackles for loss.

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 14 months later, Flowers has settled in to become one of the top linebackers in the Pac-12. Four games into his senior season, Flowers has 19 tackles, including three for loss, and has one fumble recovery for 36 yards. 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.

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-Grigsby 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 (finally) plays again at Arizona Stadium when it hosts Utah on Saturday, Oct. 19. Thereafter, the Wildcats will be on the road for two straight games at Colorado (Oct. 26) and at California (Nov. 2).

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