Utah (4-2, 1-2 Pac-12) at Arizona (3-2, 0-2 Pac-12)
Date: Saturday, Oct. 19 Time: 7 p.m. (MST)
Location: Tucson, Ariz. (Arizona Stadium -- 56,037)
Television Broadcast: Pac-12 Networks
TV Broadcasters: Kevin Calabro (play-by-play), Yogi Roth (analyst), Jill Savage (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)
UA Spanish Radio: 990 AM (Francisco Romero - pxp, Marco Rincon - analyst)
Satellite Radio: SIRIUS 139, XM 197
Arizona-Utah Series History
All-Time: Utah leads, 16-20-2
First Meeting: 1924 (Utah 32, Arizona 7 – at Utah)
Last Meeting: Nov. 17, 2012 (Arizona 34, Utah 24 – at Utah)
Streak/Note: UA has won nine of last 15; series tied 3-3 since 2000
Some Game Themes: It’s Family Weekend on the University of Arizona campus, but it will feel like a homecoming for the Wildcats who last played at Arizona Stadium on Sept. 14 – a span of 34 days between home games … Coming to town are the sky-high Utes, who earned their biggest win since joining the Pac-12 Conference a few seasons ago … Utah has played five of its first six at home and has yet to leave the Beehive State, while Arizona opened with three of five away from home and has played in four different states … The Utes bring a potent offensive attack to the desert led by quarterback Travis Wilson who has proven to be a dual-threat with the ball in his hands. He’s accompanied by Dres Anderson, an athletic playmaker on the outside, and a versatile back in Bubba Poole … Statistically, the Utes have been stingy against the run, which is certainly an Arizona strength led by Ka’Deem Carey … B.J. Denker and the Wildcats found a passing game despite a loss in Los Angeles, and that could be a promising area as the Utes have surrendered some yards through the air … Arizona’s defense looks to get back on track and limiting big plays would be a starting point. So, too, would making plays as the Wildcats failed to force a turnover last week … Turnovers could be a critical area of focus as Arizona has been rather strong in that department this season (plus-5 margin), while Utah has had its share of turnovers (minus-3 margin) … A festive weekend will include a special halftime ceremony to honor Wildcat legend Tedy Bruschi, who will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame later this year.
Last Week: Arizona dug itself an early deficit and found itself on the short end of the stick despite a gritty second-half effort in a 38-31 loss at USC last Thursday night at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Trojan quarterback Cody Kessler hit Nelson Agholor (62 yards) and Tre Madden (63 yards) on a pair of long touchdown passes in the first quarter and USC relied on a steady ground attack (249 yards) the rest of the way. Wildcat quarterback B.J. Denker sparked Arizona with a 57-yard touchdown pass to Nate Phillips right before halftime. Still, an early fourth-quarter touchdown put USC on top by 21, before Arizona surged back. Denker led a 17-play, 96-yard touchdown drive, then two-and-half minutes later connected with Garic Wharton for a 28-yard touchdown on a two-play drive. With 4:18 remaining in the game, two timeouts and trailing by only a touchdown, the Wildcats elected to kick off. The Trojans, however, were able to run the clock out with three first downs, including Silas Redd’s 10-yard conversion on third-and-eight to seal the game with a minute and a half left. In the end, it was Arizona’s best offensive production of the season with 508 total yards (season-high 363 passing), but the Trojans were more balanced (249 rushing, 297 passing) and enjoyed a considerable advantage in field position. Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey again eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark with 138 markers, plus he caught six passes for 36 yards. Denker set career-highs for passing yards (363), attempts (44), completions (28) and touchdowns (four).
The Coaches: Arizona - Rich Rodriguez (West Virginia '86), second year at Arizona (11-7) and 19th as a head coach overall (131-91-2). At Arizona, Rodriguez’s teams are 8-2 at Arizona Stadium, 2-5 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 … Utah - Kyle Whittingham (BYU '84), ninth year at Utah (75-34) and overall as a head coach. He was AFCA 2008 National Coach of the Year following the Utes' 13-0 mark and victory over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. He was a linebacker at BYU from 1978-81 and began his coaching career in Provo as a G.A. in 1985. He coached at Eastern Utah and Idaho State before joining the Utah staff in 1994. He was DC in Salt Lake City from 1995-2004. He is 2-1 against Arizona with his first career regular season victory coming in Salt Lake City in 2005 the school's first Pac-12 Conference road win coming two years ago in Tucson.
2012 Arizona at Utah: Arizona locked up a bowl bid as it earned a satisfying, hard-fought win in rainy Salt Lake City, knocking the Utes from bowl contention for the first time since 2002 with a 34-24 come-from-behind victory. The Cats had been shutout in the first quarter on the road all season, but John Bonano's 44-yard field goal put the visitors up with a field goal late in the initial quarter. Utah wrestled the lead away on a fake field goal flipped backwards through the holder's legs and into the hands of kicker Colem Petersen who ran around right-end for a three-yard touchdown. Ka'Deem Carey and Matt Scott found paydirt for a pair of scores in a span of 1:23 to reclaim a 17-7 lead. After a Utah touchdown cut the lead to only three points, the Cats were poised to tack on more before half, but a redzone turnover in the final minute kept it a 17-14 halftime score. The Utes scored the first 10 points of the second half to claim a touchdown advantage before Daniel Jenkins tied the game with a two-yard rushing touchdown. The Utes sensed momentum was slipping away and tried a fake punt on their next drive, but reserve running back Kylan Butler sniffed it out and made a key fourth down tackle. Four plays later, Austin Hill turned a third-and-seven conversion into an 18-yard touchdown for the go-ahead score. The Cats defense stiffened and did not allow a fourth quarter point, while Bonano's 24-yard field goal capped a run of 17-unanswered points in the final stanza to seal to the 34-24 victory - Rich Rodriguez's first on the road as the UA coach. The key was a dominant rushing attacked that rolled up 310 yards against a physical defensive front, led by All-America candidate Star Lotulelei, which had not yielded more than 171 rushing yards in a game all season. The Wildcats superlative stars - Carey, Scott and Hill - each did their part. Carey topped 200 yards (204) for the second game in a row, Matt Scott returned from a missed start to pass for 160 yards and run for 74 yards, and Hill tallied six catches - each for first downs - for 96 yards. The defense, which played as many as five current or former walkons (Jared Tevis, Sir Thomas Jackson, Tevin Hood, Vince Miles and Blake Brady) held the Utes to 1-of-5 on fourth down tries.
Home Sweet Home: Finally the Wildcats will play again at Arizona Stadium. They last did so on Sept. 14 when they rolled to a 38-13 victory over UTSA. Since then, it’s been two bye weeks accompanied by a pair of road games. When Arizona takes the field Saturday night at Arizona Stadium, it will have been 34 days since their last home game. The Wildcats are 2-0 at home this season and are 8-2 under Rich Rodriguez. Since the start of 2007, Arizona is 29-13 at home (.690).
The Road Ahead: The homecoming will be short-lived for the Wildcats, who will hit the road for their next two games at Colorado (Oct. 26) and at California (Nov. 2). It’s a stretch of play that has the Wildcats on the road five times over the course of seven games before a string of November home games. Arizona hosts UCLA (Nov. 9), Washington State (Nov. 16) and Oregon (Nov. 23) on consecutive Saturdays before closing out the regular season slate at Arizona State on Nov. 30.
Field Position: It’s a hidden stat that doesn’t get any type of bold font on a stat sheet, but it’s been a glaring point of concern for the Wildcats in two consecutive road losses. In three wins to open the season, Arizona won or tied the field position in each game. Then on a trip to Washington on Sept. 28, the Wildcats faced a 12-yard deficit in the battle for field position. The Huskies averaged their own 35 for starting field position, while Arizona was stuck at its own 23 on average. Last Thursday at USC it was not any better. The Wildcats average start was their own 20, while the Trojans started at their own 28.
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 69 games), Arizona is 19-2 when it wins the turnover battle, 12-10 when it ties and 7-19 when it loses the turnover battle. That adds up to a 31-12 mark when Arizona wins or ties the turnover battle. Under Rodriguez, the Wildcats are 9-2 when winning or tying the turnover battle.
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 five 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 2013, Arizona enjoys a 42-6 advantage in points off turnovers.
Turnoverless: Last Thursday’s game was cleanly played from a turnover standpoint as neither USC nor Arizona gave the ball away. For Arizona’s defense, it was the first time this season it did not force a turnover and snapped a string of eight-straight games with a takeaway. Still, Arizona’s defense has intercepted seven passes – and returned three for scores – through the first four games of the season. Those seven interceptions have been returned for 173 total yards. 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.
G-Force: Junior wide receiver Garic Wharton is arguably Arizona’s fastest wide receiver and he used that speed to score a pair of touchdowns at USC last Thursday. Wharton hauled in a 45-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter and later caught a 28-yarder in the fourth quarter that brought the Wildcats to within a touchdown of the Trojans. The 45-yard play ranks as Arizona’s second-longest scoring pass play this season. In five games, Wharton has five receptions of 20 or more yards and is the only Wildcat with multiple 20-plus yard receptions. On the season, Wharton has 10 receptions for a team-high 190 yards – a swift 19 yards per catch.
Grant’s Grabs: True freshman receiver Samajie Grant quietly leads the Wildcats in receptions. The Compton, Calif., native has 15 receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown. Grant has seen his productivity pick up over the last three games, including last week at USC when he had a career-high six receptions. He has 103 yards on 14 receptions in the last three contests. Grant also is a kick returner and he has 56 yards on three returns this season.
Freshman Sidekick: Not to be overshadowed, true freshman receiver Nate Phillips as formed quite the dynamic duo with his classmate Samajie Grant. Phillips ranks second on the team with 136 receiving yards (on nine receptions) and had his best game as a Wildcat at USC last Thursday. Phillips had two receptions for 71 yards in that game, including a 57-yard touchdown that ranks as Arizona’s longest passing play of the season. Phillips also has 116 yards on six kickoff returns this year.
Miller Breaks Out: Senior wide receiver Terrence Miller finally had his breakout performance of the year last Thursday at USC. The Moreno Valley, Calif., native caught a season-high six passes for another season-best 76 yards. He entered the game with only three catches for 28 yards. His presence was much welcomed to the passing game and should bode well for the Wildcats going forward. A fifth-year senior, Miller was granted a medical hardship waiver in the spring and has already earned an undergraduate degree in Social Behavior and Human Understanding.
Tedy’s Back: Arizona will honor Tedy Bruschi, a member of the 2013 NFF College Football Hall of Fame class, at halftime of Saturday’s game against Utah. A 13-year NFL veteran, Bruschi was a two-time consensus All-American at Arizona. He was drafted by the New England Patriots in the third round of the 1996 NFL Draft and played his entire professional career with the Patriots where he won three Super Bowl rings. With the Wildcats, Bruschi was one of the ringleaders of the vaunted Desert Swarm defenses. With Bruschi as a key component, Arizona led the nation in scoring defense in 1992. In 1993, Desert Swarm led the nation in rushing defense and defined a squad that achieved UA's first 10-victory season, defeating Miami, 29-0, in the Fiesta Bowl. Bruschi was named Fiesta Bowl MVP. Bruschi (1991-95) ended his career with 52 sacks, tied for the most in NCAA history. He was a consensus All-American in 1994 and a unanimous All-American in 1995. Bruschi's celebrated senior season included the 1995 Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year honors and winning the Morris Trophy as the league's best defensive lineman. He was a two-time finalist for the Lombardi Award and graduated with 74 tackles for loss, which ranked sixth in FBS history. Bruschi was named all-conference three times and he led the Wildcats to three bowl berths under head coach Dick Tomey.
Wildcats in the HOF: Tedy Bruschi is the fourth Arizona player to join the NFF College Football Hall of Fame, joining Ricky Hunley (1998 inductee), Chuck Cecil (2009) and Rob Waldrop (2011). The Wildcats also have three former coaches in the NFF College Football Hall of Fame, including Warren Woodson (1989), Jim Young (1999) and Darrell Mudra (2000). Bruschi will be honored at the National Football Foundation's Annual Awards Dinner in New York at the Waldorf Astoria on Tues., Dec. 10, 2013.
No Denk and Dunk: If there was anything to take out of the 38-31 loss to USC last Thursday it was the development of the passing game, which consistently clicked for the first time all season. Senior B.J. Denker, after a couple early misses and sacks, settled in and developed a rhythm with his receivers. The lefty went on to set career-highs for yards (363), attempts (44), completions (28) and touchdowns (4), while not throwing an interception. He finished with a 162.94 passer rating – his highest of the season and second-best of his career (214.45 vs. Colorado in 2012). Most impressive was the fact the Wildcats finally made some big plays through the air. Entering the game, Arizona’s longest pass play had been 31 yards. Against the Trojans, Denker hit receivers for gains of 57 yards (touchdown), 45 yards (touchdown) and 32 yards. He also had completions go for 28 yards (touchdowns) and 27 yards. He was the first UA quarterback to throw for 300 yards and four touchdowns without an interception since Nick Foles (2011 opener vs. Northern Arizona). The performance improved Denker’s season numbers to 73-of-136 passing (54.5 percent) for 808 yards, six touchdowns and no two interceptions.
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 265 career starts with the same 11 starting each contest this season. Senior lineman Sione Tuihalamaka and senior cornerback Shaquille Richardson lead with 29 career starts apiece, while senior linebackers Marquis Flowers and Jake Fischer boast 28 and 26 starts, respectively. Junior “spur” safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant has tallied 23 starts, including 23 of Arizona’s last 24 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 five collegiate games.
Run KDC: With four 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 three 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 No. 3 among active FBS players).
- Has 34 career rushing touchdowns (No. 2 at UA and No. 4 among active FBS players).
- Has 2,923 career rushing yards (No. 8 among active FBS players).
- Leads all active FBS players with 104.4 rushing yards per game.
- Has 4,112 career all-purpose yards (No. 14 among active FBS players)
- Averages 6.0 yards per carry (No. 6 in FBS) on 488 career rushes.
- Leads all active Pac-12 players and ranks No. 3 in FBS for career 100-yard games (14).
- One of four FBS players tackled once or fewer times for loss this season (minimum 60 rushes).
- 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.
Great Eight: Running back Ka’Deem Carey has rushed for 100 yards in eight consecutive games – a stretch that includes some remarkable performances. 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|
|Sept. 14, 2013||UTSA||27-128||2||4.7|
|Sept. 28, 2013||at Washington||30-132||1||4.4|
|Oct. 11, 2013||at USC||21-138||0||6.6|
|Totals||8 games||198-1,485||15||7.5/185.7 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):
- 34 rushing yards away from No. 6 in UA history (Nic Grigsby, 2,957).
- 77 rushing yards away from 3,000 for his career
- 173 rushing yards away from No. 5 in UA history (Hubie Oliver, 3,096)
- 21 rush attempts away from No. 10 in program history (Jim Upchurch, 488)
- 12 rush attempts away from 500 for his career (held by Keola Antolin, No. 9 in UA history)
- 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 Saturday’s game:
- Has rushed for 100-plus yards in eight-straight games (12 of last 13) played
- Has 150-plus all-purpose yards in eight-straight games played
- Has a rushing touchdown in 15 of last 17 games played
- Has 16 or more carries in 14-straight games played
- Has a pass reception in 18 of the last 19 games played
- Has scored a touchdown in 17 of last 19 games played
3,000/4,000: Ka’Deem Carey is seeking to become the fourth player in school history with 3,000 rushing yards and 4,000 all-purpose yards for a career. Last week at USC, Carey gained 174 all-purpose yards to surpass the 4,000-yard mark and push his career tally to 4,112. He has at least 150 all-purpose yards in eight-straight games dating back to last season. Now he is 77 rushing yards shy of 3,000 for his career. Should he reach the mark, Carey will join Trung Canidate (3,824 rushing/4,378 all-purpose), Ontiwaun Carter (3,501 rushing/4,023 all-purpose) and Art Luppino (3,381 rushing/4,963 all-purpose) as the only Wildcats to reach the 3,000 rushing/4,000 all-purpose yard mark for a career.
In a Rush to Win: Arizona has won eight of its last 12 games dating to last season, a trend that may or may not coincide with a dominant rushing attack. Over their last 12 games, the Wildcats have gained 3,174 yards on 542 rushing attempts, a 5.86 yards per carry clip good enough for 264.50 yards per game. The Wildcats have rushed for 300 or more yards in four of the 12 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.
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 nine-straight contests (last time failed to do so: at UCLA, 11/3/2012) … Under Rodriguez, a Wildcat has rushed for 100 yards 15 times in 18 total games, including 13 of the last 14 … Ka’Deem Carey (14), Daniel Jenkins (1) and Matt Scott (1) have combined for 16 100-yard performances in the 18 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).
KDC’s Versatility: Ka’Deem Carey may be one of the nation’s leading rushers, but he does a little bit of everything offensively for the Wildcats. Carey actually is second on the squad with 12 receptions and he is third with 118 receiving yards. That’s a 9.8 yards per catch clip that compliments his 6.1-yard rushing average. Carey is also a willing and able blocker – either in the run game or just as importantly in pass protection.
Disciplined Cats: Arizona ranks as the second-least penalized team in the Pac-12 having been flagged for only 37.6 yards per game. That figure also ranks No. 20 nationally and is a healthy improvement from a season ago when the Wildcats finished No. 77 (55.1 per game). Interestingly, Arizona’s opponents have been penalized for 63.6 yards per game – which is the 16th-most nationally for opponent penalty yards.
A Different Zone: A look at the stat sheet shows Arizona scoring on 83-percent of its red zone drives this season (15 of 18) with 11 drives resulting in touchdowns. However, Arizona has 12 touchdowns this season outside the red zone (of 20 yards or longer), including nine by the offense. The Wildcats have touchdown runs of 91 yards (Daniel Jenkins), 61 yards (Javelle Allen), 58 yards (Ka’Deem Carey), 35 yards (twice, B.J. Denke) and 30 yards (B.J. Denker). Last Thursday at USC, the Wildcats had passing touchdowns of 57 yards (Nate Phillips), 45 yards (Garic Wharton) and 28 yards (Garic Wharton) from outside the redzone. Arizona’s defense has three interception returns for scores.
Just What D.R. Ordered: After missing the first three games of the season recovering from foot surgery, David Richards returned to the lineup at Washington and hauled in his first catches at USC last week. Against the Trojans, Richards had three catches for 21 yards, including a nine-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter. 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.
Bookend Tackles: Junior tackles Fabbians Ebbele and Mickey Baucus account for 59 of Arizona’s 95 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. Now Baucus accounts for 30 career starts and Ebbele was back in the starting rotation at USC to bump his total to 29. 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 25 sacks over the last 18 games.
Terrific Tra’Mayne: Arizona’s biggest defensive playmaker has been “spur” safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant. The junior ranks fourth on the team with 29 tackles and is tied for third with three tackles for loss, including one sack. He is the team leader for interceptions (3) and second in 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 five games at strongside linebacker and has not disappointed. The Windsor, Calif., native is second on the club in both tackles (34) and tackles for loss (4.0) He’s registered a tackle for loss in four of five games 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 36 tackles, including a sack, and has two pass breakups to go with a forced fumble in the early part of the season. A 16-game starter over the last two years, Tevis has shown a nose for the football in coordinator Jeff Casteel’s 3-3-5 defense. Three weeks ago at Washington, he set a career-high with 13 tackles and now has 118 in his last 16 games played (7.4 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.
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 22 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. Five games into his senior season, Flowers has 33 tackles, including 4.5 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 this fall. 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.
The Bear Down Story: Arizona’s new FieldTurf playing surface features the school motto “Bear Down” in ghost lettering behind the prominent block “A” logo at midfield. The rally cry, which predates “Win One For the Gipper” by two years, was coined by John “Button” Salmon – a quarterback, baseball catcher and student body president – all the way back in 1926. In early October that year, after the Wildcat varsity defeated the freshman squad in an annual match at the time, Salmon and several friends were returning from a visit to Phoenix, and an automobile crash north of Tucson near Florence left the young athlete critically injured. Two weeks later, Salmon died from his injuries. The coach at the time, J.F. “Pop” McKale, had visited Salmon in the hospital regularly before his death, and later told the squad the young athlete’s last message to his teammates was, “Tell them... tell the team to bear down.” When word spread, the UA student body drew to the phrase swiftly, and among other uses painted the slogan on the roof of the university gymnasium shortly thereafter, known since as Bear Down Gym. An airplane view of that huge-lettered phrase caused eventual long-time band director Jack K. Lee to write the song, “Bear Down, Arizona” during his application for the UA band job. Now – 87 years since – “Bear Down” remains UA’s most enduring tradition. In addition to the rally cry on the field, a bust of Salmon stands outside the entrance to the Lowell-Stevens Football Facility where Wildcat fans can read his final words. Arizona players also will pass by the statue on the “Wildcat Walk” as they enter the facility before every home game.
Up Next: Arizona will hit the road for two straight weeks with games at Colorado (Oct. 26) and at California (Nov. 2). Kickoff in Boulder, Colo., has been set for 6 p.m. MDT (5 p.m. in Tucson) with a live television broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks. Start time and television information for the game at California is expected to be announced on Monday, Oct. 21.