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Cats Hit the Road to Battle Buffs in Boulder
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 10/21/2013
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Sione Tuihalamaka
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics

Game 7
Arizona (4-2, 1-2 Pac-12) at Colorado (3-3, 0-3 Pac-12)

Date: Saturday, Oct. 26         Time: 6 p.m. (MDT)
Location: Boulder, Colo. (Folsom Field -- 53,613)
Television Broadcast: Pac-12 Networks
TV Broadcasters: Roxy Bernstein (pxp), Glenn Parker (analyst) and Drea Avent (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 112, XM 194

Arizona-Colorado Series History
All-Time: Colorado leads, 13-2
First Meeting: Nov. 26, 1931 (Colorado 27, Arizona 7 – at Tucson)
Last Meeting: Nov. 10, 2012 (Arizona 56, Colorado 31 – at Tucson)
Streak/Note: Split two meetings since CU joined Pac-12

Some Game Themes: Two squads feeling good following lengthy droughts between victories … Arizona had lost two in a row and sprinkled in a pair of bye weeks before downing Utah last Saturday. Meanwhile, Colorado was in a similar boat with a three-game skid, a bye week and a canceled game that led to the addition of Charleston Southern, which the Buffaloes defeated last week … Fresh off his season-high 236 rushing yards, Ka’Deem Carey is again the nation’s rushing leader and goes toe-to-toe with the Buffaloes, who he set a conference record against with 366 yards on Homecoming a year ago in Tucson … Arizona quarterback B.J. Denker is riding high following his two best games of the season and faces the squad he made his first career start against a year ago … Colorado figures to turn to its talented freshman quarterback, Sefo Liufau, who has steadily completed 69.6 percent of his passes and surely gained confidence in last week’s victory … Indeed, CU can throw the ball around, but the Wildcats have been pretty strong defending the pass, especially if the pass rush continues to improve as it did against Utah … The Buffs’ playmaker is Paul Richardson, who already has 782 receiving yards and six touchdowns this season … Arizona’s improved defense will include Paul’s cousin, Shaquille Richardson, who has two of the club’s nine interceptions this year … The Wildcats find themselves on the road again in a stretch that has them playing four of five away from home to open Pac-12 play … A pivotal game in the big picture as the school’s think about potential bowl eligibility down the road … It’s CU’s annual Back To Boulder Homecoming Game and the Buffs are encouraging fans to Blackout Breast Cancer … Make no mistake, Saturday will have a big game feel to it on both sidelines.

Last Week: Arizona started strong, faltered a bit in the third quarter, rallied back and eventually held off a pesky Utah squad for a 35-24 victory at Arizona Stadium last week. Junior running back Ka’Deem Carey set the tone with bookend highlights while setting a school record with 40 carries in a workhorse effort. Carey took his first touch of the game 30 yards and punctuated a 236-yard day with a 44-yard burst to paydirt for the final score with 90 seconds left that all but put the Utes away. Quarterback B.J. Denker complemented Carey with 51 markers and a pair of rushing touchdowns of his own, while he added 168 yards and a score without an interception in the passing game. The Arizona defense was up for a stern test and it didn’t back down against a Utah unit that averaged 470 yards of offense per game. The Wildcats held them to their lowest total of the season to date (329 yards), and by and large made the big plays when needed. Linebacker Marquis Flowers registered a 14-yard interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter that helped hand the Wildcats a 20-7 halftime lead. The Utes appeared to gather some momentum when they scored 14 quick points in the third quarter to claim a one-point lead. Johnny Jackson muffed a punt at UA’s own 17-yard to aid a short-field score, then Utah backup quarterback Adam Schulz hit Sean Fitzgerald on a 55-yard flea-flicker on the first play of the next drive. The Utes looked to keep their foot on the gas pedal on their next possession, but on third-and-two from the UA 45-yardline, Sione Tuihalamaka stuffed Kelvin York for a four-yard loss to force a punt and send Uncle ‘Mo back to the Wildcats’ sideline for the fourth quarter. In the final frame, Denker found Nate Phillips on a switch route deep down the sideline for a 36-yard conversion on third-and-three. A few plays later, Denker connected with Phillips again on third down, this time for a seven-yard touchdown to regain the lead and spark a 15-3 run for the Wildcats to end the game. The win delighted the Family Weekend crowd of 50,871 and marked Arizona’s 575th all-time victory.

2012 Colorado at Arizona Recap: Ka'Deem Carey carried the Wildcats to a 56-31 Homecoming victory against Colorado in a rare 11:30 a.m. kickoff at Arizona Stadium. In the process, Carey gained 366 rushing yards on 25 carries to shatter the school record (288) and break the Pac-12 record (357). Nearly half his rushes (12) went for 10-plus yards and he had four of 30-plus yards, including bursts of 71, 64 and 46 yards. His 14.6 yards per carry average easily set a new school record for players with a minimum of 20 attempts. He scored five times on the ground, which set a new school record and tied the conference record. To boot, Carey had 34 receiving yards, giving him an even 400 all-purpose yards - another school record. But before all of that happened, the game was off to an inauspicious start for the Cats, who were without their starting quarterback Matt Scott. Junior B.J. Denker filled in and fumbled on his first play inside the five-yard line, setting up an easy Colorado touchdown on the next play. Arizona found itself down 10-7 going into the second quarter, when Denker and the offense settled into a rhythm. The southpaw completed 12-of-14 passes on the day for 136 yards, including a pair of touchdown tosses to Dan Buckner. Denker also added 44 rushing yards of his own to go with his 214.5 pass efficiency rating, the highest single-game mark for a UA quarterback in 2012. The Buffs found some offense, too, but it wasn't enough to match the Wildcats who moved the ball at will. CU's 437 yards of offense came on 76 snaps, while the Cats needed just 52 plays to rack up 574 yards - an astounding 11.0 yards per play. A consistent Buffs' ground game produced 224 yards led by Christian Powell's 137 markers and two scores on 32 totes. It helped produce a 41:48-18:12 advantage in time of possession, which was meaningless since the Cats didn't need the ball long to score and top 50 points for the fourth time at home last year. The win improved Arizona to 6-4, making them bowl eligible for the fourth time in five seasons.

The Coaches: Arizona - Rich Rodriguez (West Virginia '86), second year at Arizona (12-7) and 19th as a head coach overall (132-91-2). At Arizona, Rodriguez’s teams are 9-2 at Arizona Stadium, 2-6 on the road, 1-0 at neutral sites, 5-7 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 12-7 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 … Colorado – Mike MacIntyre (Georgia Tech ‘89), first year at Colorado (3-3) and fourth overall as a head coach. Spent three seasons revamping the San Jose State program, which he led to a 10-win season in 2012. Previously served as defensive coordinator at Duke where he was the 2009 AFCA FBS Assistant Coach of the Year. Has NFL roots with the Jets and Cowboys, where he worked under Bill Parcells. MacIntyre is the son of George MacIntyre, who coached at Vanderbilt (the 1982 national coach of the year).

Pac-12 Player of the Week: Arizona junior running back Ka’Deem Carey was named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week on Monday. Against Utah, he set a school single-game record with 40 carries and ran for the third-most yards in school history (236). His 44-yard touchdown burst with 90 seconds left in the game sealed the win for the Wildcats. Carey’s weekly honor marks the third for a Wildcat this season. Junior safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant was the Defensive Player of the Week for his two-interception effort against Northern Arizona (Aug. 30). Senior kicker Jake Smith collected the Special Teams Player of the Week honor after setting a school record with 16 points, including 3-of-4 field goals, in a win at UNLV (Sept. 7).

Another Record-Breaking Game: Ka’Deem Carey continues to rewrite the Arizona rushing records. Last week against Utah, Carey carried the ball 40 times for 236 yards and a touchdown. The attempts broke the school record of 36 set by Ontiwaun Carter against Colorado State on Oct. 8, 1994. Not to be overshadowed, the 236 yards ranked as the third-highest single-game rushing total in program history. Only Trung Canidate’s 288 against Arizona State in 1998 and Carey’s 366 against Colorado last season stand above last week’s effort.

3,000-Yard Club: Behind his 236 rushing yards last week, Ka’Deem Carey became the sixth player in school history to total 3,000 career rushing yards. Now at 3,159 all-time yards, Carey is No. 5 on the school charts after passing Hubie Oliver (3,096) last Saturday. Next up is Mike Bell (3,163) who is only four yards ahead of Carey at No. 4. The top three include: Trung Canidate (3,824), Ontiwaun Carter (3,501) and Art Luppino (3,381).

‘Zona Defense: You won’t confuse this bunch of Wildcats for the Desert Swarms teams of the 1990s, but Arizona has made significant strides on the defensive side of the ball. Nearly all of the personnel is the same as it was in 2012, but a year of experience and development in Jeff Casteel’s 3-3-5 odd stack defense has produced markedly improved numbers. Here’s a look at the major defensive statistics and where Arizona has ranked among the FBS teams each of the last two seasons:

Category 2013 (Rank) 2012 (Rank)
Scoring defense 19.8 (21st) 35.3 (104th)
Total defense 369.2 (41st) 499.0 (122nd)
Rushing defense 169.7 (74th) 206.2 (107th)
Passing defense 199.5 (21st) 292.9 (121st)

On the Road, Again: It was nice for the Wildcats to stop by Arizona Stadium last week for Family Weekend, but now they are back on the road. It’s nothing new as Arizona’s slate has it playing four of its first five conference games on the road this season. In fact, last weekend’s home game was the only one scheduled at Arizona Stadium in a 55-game span with six of seven weeks scheduled as road games or byes. This weekend’s trip to Colorado will mark the fifth state that the Wildcats have played in already this season.

No Denk and Dunk: Over the last two games, Arizona has begun to stretch the field through the passing game. Quarterback B.J. Denker has completed eight passes for 20 yards or longer against USC and Utah after only tallying four such completions in the first four games of the season. Freshman receiver Nate Phillips has provided a pair of big catches in the two recent games, including a 57-yard touchdown against the Trojans and a 36-yard grab to set up his own seven-yard touchdown last weekend. Junior receiver Garic Wharton, perhaps the fastest player on the club, leads Arizona with five receptions of 20-plus yards this season.

Dashing Denker: While B.J. Denker has shown more confidence in the passing game in recent weeks, he remains a dangerous runner. The senior has gained 327 yards on 75 carries and has four runs of 30 or more yards this season. In fact, Denker ranks No. 10 in the Pac-12 with 54.5 rushing yards per game, which makes Arizona one of only two schools (Oregon) to have two players among the top 10 rushing leaders in the conference. Denker leads Arizona with eight rushing touchdowns (No. 9 in Pac-12 scoring), including two last Saturday against Utah.

Cats Converting: Third-down conversions are critical to keep drives alive, and Arizona’s offense has been good in that department. The Wildcats have converted 50-of-101 third downs this season, a 49.5 percent clip that ranks No. 19 nationally. Such conversions were key to Arizona’s win over Utah last week, as the Wildcats went 12-of-20 on third downs while at the same time limiting the Utes to a lowly 5-of-18 clip. Expect third downs to be a point of interest this week, too. Colorado has converted only 31 percent of its third downs this season, but its defense has limited opponents to a similar 35 percent clip.

Conversion Cats: Senior quarterback B.J. Denker and true freshman wide receiver Nate Phillips formed quite the connection on critical fourth quarter drive last Saturday. With the Wildcats trailing by a point and facing a third-and-three, Denker tossed a perfectly thrown ball on a switch route down the right sideline to Phillips who hauled in the catch. Three plays later, the duo hooked up again to convert third-and-goal from the seven-yardline. Denker rolled left and fired a strike to a sliding Phillips to give the Wildcats the lead for good.

Difference Makers: Two of the unsung heroes in Arizona’s win last Saturday were defensive linemen Reggie Gilbert and Sione Tuihalamaka. Gilbert, a junior, registered four tackles, including two for loss, and registered his second sack of the season. Tuihalamaka collected a career-high eight tackles, including one-and-a-half for loss. The senior from Hawthorne, Calif., provided perhaps the biggest momentum-changing play of the game. Utah had possession and a one-point lead in the middle of the third quarter when it faced third-and-two from the UA 45-yardline. That’s where Tuihalamaka stuffed Kelvin York for a four-yard loss to force a punt, and Arizona would outscore Utah 15-3 the rest of the way. On the season, Gilbert has 16 total tackles, including 4.5 for loss and a team-leading 2.0 sacks. Tuihalamaka has added 23 tackles and leads the club with 5.0 tackles for loss.

Desert S.W.A.T.: Defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel utilizes his S.W.A.T team in most third down passing situations. The concept is to get fresh bodies, more speed and better coverage ability on the field, while disguising where pressure may come from. The Wildcats typically swap out their entire defensive line and insert Kirifi Taula at nose tackle to anchor the middle, while using backup linebackers Sir Thomas Jackson and Derrick Turituri as pass rushers at defensive end. Jake Fischer or Marquis Flowers usually stay on the field at the linebacker position, where they are joined by reserve speedster Tellas Jones. In the back end, Devin Holiday assumes a corner position and Shaquille Richardson slides to a second free safety spot as part of spread of six defensive backs.

Four Score: Arizona’s defense has four touchdowns to its credit this season all via interception returns. The Wildcats and their relatives at Northwestern lead the nation in pick-sixes with four apiece. Senior linebacker Marquis Flowers was the latest to get in on the scoring with his 14-yard return last week, which marked his first career touchdown. Earlier this season at UNLV, Jake Fischer scored his first touchdown on a 49-yard return. In that same game, Tra’Mayne Bondurant had a 52-yard return for a score – his second in as many games (also 23 yards vs. NAU). Bondurant has three career touchdown returns, the first of which came on a 29-yard return against Colorado on Nov. 12, 2011, during his true freshman season. Arizona’s single-season school record for interceptions returned for touchdowns is six in 1996.

Run KDC: The reigning national rushing champion is back on top. Ka’Deem Carey is averaging 161.0 rushing yards per game, which is a full 13 yards more than Western Kentucky’s Antonio Andrews, who is second with 148.0 per game.

- In 2012, became first Wildcat to lead the nation in rushing since Art Luppino in 1955 (also 1954).
- Has 38 career total touchdowns (No. 2 at UA and tied No. 3 among active FBS players).
- Has 35 career rushing touchdowns (No. 2 at UA and No. 4 among active FBS players).
- Has 3,159 career rushing yards (No. 6 among active FBS players).
- Leads all active FBS players with 108.9 rushing yards per game (career).
- Has 4,349 career all-purpose yards (No. 10 among active FBS players)
- Averages 6.0 yards per carry (No. 8 in FBS) on 528 career rushes.
- Leads all active Pac-12 players and ranks No. 3 in FBS for career 100-yard games (15).
- 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.

Fine Nine: Running back Ka’Deem Carey has rushed for 100 yards in nine 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
Oct. 11, 2013 at USC 21-138 0 6.6
Oct. 19, 2013 Utah 40!-236 1 5.9
Totals 9 games 238-1,721 16 7.2/191.2 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):
- 4 rushing yards away from No. 4 in UA history (Mike Bell, 3,163).
- 222 rushing yards away from No. 3 in UA history (Art Luppin, 3,381)
- 44 rush attempts away from No. 6 in program history (Nic Grigsby, 572)
- 29 all-purpose yards away from No. 6 in program history (Trung Canidate, 4,378)
- 9 rushing touchdowns away from No. 1 in school history (Art Luppino, 44)
- 10 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 nine-straight games (13 of last 14) played
- Has 150-plus all-purpose yards in nine-straight games played
- Has a rushing touchdown in 16 of last 18 games played
- Has 16 or more carries in 15-straight games played
- Has a pass reception in 19 of the last 20 games played
- Has scored a touchdown in 18 of last 20 games played

3,000/4,000: Ka’Deem Carey became the fourth player in school history with 3,000 rushing yards and 4,000 all-purpose yards for a career. He joined 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 accomplish the combined feat.

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 70 games), Arizona is 19-2 when it wins the turnover battle, 13-10 when it ties and 7-19 when it loses the turnover battle. That adds up to a 32-12 mark when Arizona wins or ties the turnover battle. Under Rodriguez, the Wildcats are 10-2 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. 21 nationally. The Wildcats have only turned the ball over six times while they have secured 11 takeaways in six contests. It’s a positive 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 55-13 advantage in points off turnovers.

In a Rush to Win: Arizona has won nine of its last 13 games dating to last season, a trend that may or may not coincide with a dominant rushing attack. Over their last 13 games, the Wildcats have gained 3,474 yards on 600 rushing attempts, a 5.79 yards per carry clip good enough for 267.23 yards per game. The Wildcats have rushed for 300 or more yards in five of the 13 contests with a perfect 5-0 record in those games. Arizona is 7-1 when it rushes for 250-plus yards and 8-1 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 10-straight contests (last time failed to do so: at UCLA, 11/3/2012) … Under Rodriguez, a Wildcat has rushed for 100 yards 16 times in 19 total games, including 14 of the last 15 … Ka’Deem Carey (15), Daniel Jenkins (1) and Matt Scott (1) have combined for 17 100-yard performances in the 19 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 second-least penalized team in the Pac-12 having been flagged for only 36.5 yards per game. That figure also ranks No. 15 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 63.0 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 82-percent of its red zone drives this season (18 of 22) with 14 drives resulting in touchdowns. However, Arizona has 13 touchdowns this season outside the red zone (of 20 yards or longer), including 10 by the offense. The Wildcats have touchdown runs of 91 yards (Daniel Jenkins), 61 yards (Javelle Allen), 58 yards (Ka’Deem Carey), 44 yards (Ka’Deem Carey), 35 yards (twice, B.J. Denker) 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 from outside the 20-yardline.

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 276 career starts. Senior lineman Sione Tuihalamaka and senior cornerback Shaquille Richardson lead with 30 career starts apiece, while senior linebackers Marquis Flowers and Jake Fischer boast 29 and 27 starts, respectively. Junior “spur” safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant has tallied 24 starts, including 24 of Arizona’s last 25 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 six collegiate games.

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 six games at strongside linebacker and has not disappointed. The Windsor, Calif., native is tied for the team lead with 40 tackles and has added and four tackles for loss. He’s registered a tackle for loss in four of six 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.

Shaq on the Attack: Senior cornerback Shaquille Richardson intercepted his ninth career pass last week against Utah. A 30-game starter in his four-year career, Richardson has broken up 26 passes (tied for 12th in program history) and registered 157 tackles for the Wildcats. He’s also forced three fumbles and recovered two, while collecting eight tackles for loss. Already in 2013, Richardson has 26 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 15 months later, Flowers has settled in to become one of the top linebackers in the Pac-12. Six games into his senior season, Flowers has 37 tackles, including 4.5 for loss, and has one fumble recovery for 36 yards. Last week against Utah, Flowers intercepted his first pass of the season and returned it 14 yards for a score – his first career touchdown. 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.

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 24 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 61 of Arizona’s 100 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 31 career starts and Ebbele was back in the starting rotation at USC to bump his total to 30. 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 27 sacks over the last 19 games.

Tackling Machine: Senior linebacker Jake Fischer continues to rack up the tackles. Against Utah last week, Fischer had a season-high 12 tackles, including 0.5 for loss. That increased his season tally to 40, which is tied with fellow linebacker Scooby Wright for most on the team. A year ago, the Oro Valley, Ariz., native led Arizona with 119 stops and ranked third in the conference with 9.2 tackles per game. In his career, Fischer has registered 224 tackles, including 16 for loss. He has broken up six passes, forced three fumbles, recovered six fumbles and returned one interception 49 yards for a touchdown (at UNLV on Sept. 7, 2013).

Special Teams Standouts: One of the most underappreciated aspects is not just the kicking game, but those who are on coverage units whether it be the kickoff or punt teams. Arizona has several players who excel on coverage teams and last Saturday against Utah was a perfect example. Terris Jones-Grigsby, a running back/slot receiver, had a career-high four tackles, including three solo stops, against the Utes. Trevor Ermisch, a receiver, added two tackles in the game and is a regular on the coverage units. The Wildcats leading tackler on special teams happens to be Shane Wilson, a cornerback, with four tackles. Wilson was named a special teams game captain for the Utah game.

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.

Up Next: Arizona has one more road trip before it hosts three-straight home games. The Wildcats will travel to Berkeley, Calif., to take on the California Golden Bears on Saturday, Nov. 2. Kickoff is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. (PDT) with a live television broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks.

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