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Arizona Hosts 16th-Ranked UCLA for Annual Homecoming Game
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 11/04/2013
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WR Nate Phillips
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics

Game 9
#16 UCLA (6-2, 3-2 Pac-12) at Arizona (6-2, 3-2 Pac-12)

Date: Saturday, Nov. 9      Time: 8 p.m. (MST)
Location: Tucson, Ariz. (Arizona Stadium -- 56,037)
Television Broadcast: ESPN
TV Broadcasters: Joe Tessitore (pxp), Matt Millen (analyst), Maria Taylor (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)
National Radio Broadcast: Sports USA (John Ahlers, pxp; Gary Barnett, analyst; Rich Grey, sideline)
Satellite Radio: SIRIUS 93, XM 195

Arizona-UCLA Series History
All-Time: UCLA leads, 20-15-2
First Meeting: Nov. 19, 1927 (Arizona 16, UCLA 13 -- at Tucson)
Last Meeting: Nov. 3, 2012 (UCLA 66, Arizona 10 -- at Pasadena)
Streak/Note: Arizona has won five of last six

Some Game Themes: If good things come to those that wait, then we may be looking at a doozy this Saturday night at Arizona Stadium … An 8 p.m. local start time pits two contenders in the Pac-12 South race as college football heads for the home stretch … Arizona enters play riding a three-game conference winning streak, while 16th-ranked UCLA shook off consecutive losses with a home rout over Colorado last week … At stake is the opportunity to remain in the mix for the Pac-12 South race as both the Bruins and Wildcats get a crack at division leader Arizona State later this month … But first things first, these squads look quite similar on paper and each has come up short in the first “big game” opportunities to date in league play, meaning one is due for a breakthrough … Both teams are outscoring opponents by 15 points per game, average just over 460 yards per game and allow less than 390 yards per game … The Wildcats are led by a dynamic backfield duo in running back Ka’Deem Carey and quarterback B.J. Denker, who is fresh off a sensational four-game stretch … The Bruins’ trigger man, Brett Hundley, is the son of former Wildcat running back Brett Hundley Sr. – a 1986 letterman – and poses a serious challenge to the Wildcats’ significantly improved defense … Hundley could benefit from a healthy sidekick in Jordan James, who earlier this season led the nation in rushing but has been hampered by injuries in recent weeks … In the meantime, Carey has assumed the FBS rushing lead and brings an 11-game streak of 100-yard rushing contests into a matchup with the team that last held him under the century mark … On the other side of the ball, UCLA linebacker senior Anthony Barr is a force and a sure-fire early draft pick next spring. The Wildcats will counter with a pair of senior ‘backers and an emerging star in true freshman Scooby Wright … As with any game of this magnitude, solid play in all three phases will be paramount … The Bruins have a penchant for blocking kicks, while the Wildcats have steadily improved their special teams play … A couple hidden stats to keep an eye on: third downs and penalties. The Bruins covert third downs at the highest percentage in the conference, but they also have been penalized more than any league team … A festive week in store for Arizona’s 99th Homecoming celebration, which include women’s soccer, women’s volleyball and the top-10 men’s basketball team all in action … The buzz is back in Tucson, and a stretch of three-straight home games surely will determine whether it’s a November to remember for the Wildcats.

The Coaches: Arizona - Rich Rodriguez (West Virginia '86), second year at Arizona (14-7) and 19th as a head coach overall (134-91-2). At Arizona, Rodriguez’s teams are 9-2 at Arizona Stadium, 4-5 on the road, 1-0 at neutral sites, 7-7 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 14-7 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 … UCLA -- Jim Mora (Washington ‘84), second year at UCLA (15-7) and second year overall as a college head coach (15-7). The former Atlanta Falcons (2005-06) and Seattle Seahawks (2009) head coach was named UCLA’s 17th head coach in school history in December of 2011, bringing a defensive background to the program after a long string of offensive-minded coaches including Dick Vermeil, Terry Donahue, Bob Toledo and most recently Rick Neuheisel. Mora has an extensive history as an NFL defensive coordinator with limited time in the college game. Broke into coaching at Washington as a defensive assistant under Don James following his four-year playing career as a defensive back for the Huskies.

Last Week: It wasn’t always pretty, but Arizona got its first win in the Bay Area in six seasons with a 33-28 victory over California last Saturday in Berkeley. Quarterback B.J. Denker accounted for four touchdowns in a balanced game that saw the senior rush for three scores and throw for 261 yards. Running back Ka’Deem Carey extended his FBS-leading streak of 100-yard rushing games to 11 as the junior netted 152 on 32 attempts. The Wildcats asserted themselves after the Golden Bears mounted a 12-play, 75-yard drive to claim an early lead. Arizona had the answer with a nine-play, 73-yard march to tie the game just two minutes later. A couple possessions later, Scooby Wright and Jared Tevis teamed up to tackle Cal’s Darren Ervin in the end zone for a safety that put the Wildcats on top, and they never looked back. Kicker Jake Smith booted a 53-yard field goal early in the second period and Denker later connected with Nate Phillips for a 21-yard touchdown pass to push the UA advantage to 19-7. Cal quarterback Jared Goff hit Kenny Lawler for a 17-yard touchdown toss six minutes before half, which was the first of three scoring plays between the Golden Bear duo. With a 19-14 edge, Arizona opened up the second half with an 8-play, 75-yard for some breathing room. Denker converted a 3rd-and-10 to extend the drive when he threw to Terrence Miller for a 60-yard gain (UA’s longest pass play of the year) and the quarterback capped the drive with a one-yard touchdown run. Another Goff to Lawler touchdown brought Cal to within 26-21 and UA was forced to punt on its next possession, which gave the Golden Bears the ball with the chance to take the lead. But Jonathan McKnight intercepted Goff and set up a short field, which Denker turned into a 14-yard touchdown run a few plays later for a 33-21 lead going to the fourth quarter. The Golden Bears made a late bid to rally when Goff’s hit Lawler for a 29-yard touchdown with 1:42 remaining, but McKnight recovered the ensuing onside kick and Carey and the Wildcats ran out the clock for a five-point victory.

2012 Arizona at UCLA: A battle of top-25 teams jockeying for position atop the Pac-12 South standings turned into a Bruin blowout (66-10, Nov. 3 at Pasadena) as UCLA scored early and often while it racked up the fourth-most points ever scored against Arizona, including the most since 1949 (Michigan State, 75). The Bruins won the coin toss and elected to receive, mounting a purposeful nine-play, 75-yard drive that featured a pair of third down conversions. Johnathan Franklin capped the drive with a 37-yard burst for the opening score, and in the process became UCLA’s all-time leading rusher. It was a sign of things to come for a well-balanced offense (308 rush, 303 pass), as the Bruins scored three touchdowns in the first quarter and three more in the second quarter to enjoy a 42-3 halftime advantage that had all but sealed the game. A UCLA field goal made it 45-3 early in the third quarter, before the Wildcats finally found paydirt on a 12-play drive topped off by Ka’Deem Carey’s 13th rushing touchdown of the season. But on UA’s next drive, quarterback Matt Scott was knocked out of the game after taking a shot to the head from a defender’s knee, and any hope of a valiant comeback soon faded. The Bruins scored the game’s final 21 points on an impressive performance from quarterback Brett Hundley, who completed 23-of-28 passed for three scores and no interceptions, while adding 16 yards and a score on the ground. Franklin finished with 162 yards and two scores as part of a 190-yard all-purpose day. The Bruins had control on both sides, forcing three turnovers on defense and sacking UA quarterbacks four times, including three after Scott left. The Wildcats struggled to a 3-for-14 clip on third downs, while the Bruins converted 8-for-15 such situations. All added up, it was 66-10 romp that left the Wildcats still a victory shy of bowl eligibility and moved UCLA to the front of the Pac-12 South chase.

Leading the Nation: Junior running back Ka’Deem Carey, the nation’s leading rusher and a consensus All-American a year ago, is once again the FBS leader with an average of 153.1 rushing yards per game entering play this week. Carey also happens to be the active FBS leader for consecutive 100-yard rushing games (11) and leads all active players by averaging 110.5 rushing yards per game. This season, Carey has rushed for 1,072 yards on 188 carries with 10 touchdowns. He is the fourth player in school history to gain 1,000 rushing yards twice in his career (1,929 last season). For more notes and statistics regarding Carey, see pages 8-9 of this release.

The Streak: Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey has rushed for 100 yards in a school-record 11-consecutive games, which also leads all active FBS players. In the 11 games, Carey has gained 1,986 yards on 292 carries with 20 touchdowns. That’s a heady 180.5 yards and nearly two touchdowns per game, while averaging 6.8 yards per carry. He has collected at least 130 all-purpose yards in each of those 11 games, and has 2,173 yards from scrimmage with receiving factored in. For more notes and statistics regarding Carey, see pages 8-9 of this release.

First Strike: Rich Rodriguez pioneered the fast-tempo spread offense that is prevalent in college football today. And if history is any indication, it’s not just about playing fast, but starting fast. Rodriguez boasts an 89-55 record in 12 seasons as an FBS coach at West Virginia, Michigan and Arizona, but no matter the school, his teams have been dominant when they strike first. Here’s a look at the record breakdown:

  Scores First Opp. Scores First
All Games 64-17 (.790) 25-38 (.397)
Home 40-8 (.833) 13-16 (.448)
Road 22-7 (.759) 11-20 (.355)
Neutral 2-2 (.500) 1-2 (.333)
     
Arizona 8-1 (.889) 6-6 (.500)
Arizona (Home) 5-1 4-1
Arizona (Road) 3-0 1-5
Arizona (Neutral) 0-0 1-0

 

Against The Top 25: Saturday’s showdown is Arizona’s second chance at knocking off an Associated Press Top 25 team after dropping a contest, 31-13, at then-No. 16 Washington on Sept. 28, 2013. Last season, the Wildcats upset No. 18 Oklahoma State (Sept. 8) and No. 10 USC (Oct. 27) to give Arizona at least one win against a team ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll in eight of the previous nine seasons. The highest-ranked foe to go down in the last nine seasons was then-No. 2 Oregon, 34-24, in Tucson on Nov. 15, 2007. Historically, Arizona is 41-102-1 against teams ranked in the AP Top 25. Rich Rodriguez is 2-5 such games at Arizona.

The Boys Are Back in Town: Arizona will enter Saturday’s game having played just one home game over the previous 54 days dating back to mid-September. The Wildcats have played four of their last five games on the road along with two bye weeks mixed in over the last seven weeks. The last home game was a 35-24 victory over Utah on Oct. 19. Despite only three home games to date, the Wildcats have played at Arizona Stadium in three separate months (August, September and October). Arizona does not leave the state the rest of month, playing three-straight at home and concluding the regular season at Arizona State in Tempe.

Home Sweet Home: Finally back at home, Arizona will look to build on a strong resume at Arizona Stadium over recent years. The Wildcats are 3-0 so far in 2013 and are 9-2 at home in two seasons under Rich Rodriguez. The two losses have come by a total of 10 points (to Oregon State and Arizona State in 2012), while the victories been decided by an average of 24.2 points. Since the start of 2007, Arizona is 30-13 at home (.698).

Three-in-a-Row: Thanks to a home win over Utah (35-24 on Oct. 19) and consecutive road victories at Colorado (44-20 on Oct. 26) and at California (33-28 on Nov. 2), the Wildcats have mounted a three-game conference winning streak. UA’s last three-game Pac-12 winning streak came in October 2010 with victories at Washington State (24-7 on Oct. 16), against Washington (44-14 on Oct. 23) and at UCLA (29-21 on Oct. 30). A victory this week would give the Wildcats a four-game win conference win streak for the first time since 1998, when they ended the season with five-straight conference wins. Interestingly, that five-game stretch followed a loss to this week’s opponent, UCLA, which was ranked No. 5 in the nation for that 52-28 victory over the Wildcats in Tucson.

A Good Day by the Bay: Arizona won its second-straight conference road game with a 33-28 decision at California last Saturday. The victory was noteworthy on a couple of fronts. First, it snapped a seven-game losing streak in the Bay Area and marked the Wildcats first win at California or Stanford since a 20-7 victory over the Cardinal on Oct. 14, 2006. Arizona had fallen at Cal on its four previous trips with the last win coming on Nov. 16, 2002 (52-41). Additionally, the win was Rich Rodriguez’s first road victory in the state of California after previously dropping contests at Stanford and UCLA in 2012, and a seven-point defeat earlier this year at USC.

How do you do, 6-2? A three-game win streak has improved Arizona’s record to 6-2. Since joining the Pac-10/12 for the 1978 season, only nine Wildcat squads have posted a 6-2 or better record through eight games. The 2010, 1998 and 1993 teams are the only ones to top a 6-2 start as each went 7-1 to open their respective seasons. Other 6-2 starts include 2009, 1994, 1990, 1989, 1986 and 1985.

Bowl-Eligible: The Wildcats have themselves bowl-eligible with still four regular season games remaining. The bowl picture is unclear and 10 conference teams still have solid hopes of holiday plans, so there is plenty of work left to do. Even so, Arizona has positioned itself for a bowl bid and should it play in a postseason game this year, will do so for the fifth time in six years. The only other time the Wildcats have gone bowling five times in six seasons was from 1989-1994 under head coach Dick Tomey.

Games to Remember in November: Arizona Stadium has been home to a number of big games in November over the years, including upsets of the nation’s No. 1 and No. 2 teams. Arizona’s first ever win against an Associated Press top-10 club came against UCLA in a 23-17 victory at Arizona Stadium on Nov. 1, 1980. A dozen years later, on November 7, 1992, the Wildcats stunned top-ranked Washington, 16-3, in one of the school’s most memorable victories. Some 15 years later, Arizona shocked No. 2 Oregon, 34-24, on an ESPN Thursday night game on Nov. 15, 2007. Here’s a look at some other recent November games against top-25 teams in Tucson:

Nov. 26, 2004 #18 Arizona State W, 34-27
Nov. 5, 2005 #7 UCLA W, 52-14
Nov. 11, 2006 #8 California W, 24-20
Nov. 15, 2007 #2 Oregon W, 34-24
Nov. 22, 2008 #22 Oregon State L, 17-19
Nov. 21, 2009 #11 Oregon L, 41-44 (2 OT)

 

Offensive Evolution: There is no mistaking the improvement Arizona’s offense made in the last four games after a somewhat inconsistent first four games of the season. B.J. Denker has developed a rhythm with his receivers, the ground game continues to click and the tempo has improved seemingly each week. One key statistical trend that jumps out is the fact that the Wildcats have doubled the number of big plays per game that offense is producing. The result, not surprisingly, is more offense. Arizona averaged 3.5 big plays (20-plus yards) per game during four August/September games, while increasing that average to 6.0 over four October/November contests. Here’s a close look at some of the trends:

Stat First 4 Games Last 4 Games
Total Offense Per Game 402.8 523.5
First Downs Per Game 20.8 25.8
Avg. Gain Per Play 5.6 6.2
Scrimmage Plays 20+ Yards 14 24
Rushing Plays 20+ Yards 10 8
Passing Plays 20+ yards 4 16

 

Denker’s Development: Arizona’s offensive improvement coincides with quarterback B.J. Denker development as a passer. While listed as a senior on the roster, the lefty is essentially a true sophomore in Rich Rodriguez’s offensive system. Denker is set to make his 10th career start (one last year, eight to date in 2013) this Saturday, but it’s his last four that are indicative of his development. He’s a look at his last four games compared to the first four of the season:

  Comp. Att. Yards TD INT Comp. %
First 4 Games 45 90 445 2 2 50
Last 4 Games 91 144 1,057 7 1 63.2
2013 Season 136 234 1,502 9 3 58.1

 

Dashing Denker: Just eight games into the season, B.J. Denker is poised to become the school’s modern day single-season rushing leader for quarterbacks. Denker ranks second on the team with 563 net rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. It’s a 5.4 yard per carry clip that also churns out 70.4 yards per contest – the eighth-best mark in the Pac-12. Denker’s 11 rushing touchdowns the season are a modern day school record for a quarterback, and he set the school’s single-game record for rushing by a quarterback with 192 yards on 15 carries at Colorado (Oct. 26). His yardage total against the Buffs is the fourth-highest for an FBS quarterback this season behind Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch (316 vs. Central Michigan), BYU’s Taysom Hill (259 vs. Texas) and Kansas State’s Daniel Sams (199 vs. Baylor). Here’s where Denker’s still young season ranks compared to other running quarterbacks at Arizona:

Quarterback Year Att-Yards, TD
Ronnie Veal 1987 161-566, 9 TD
B.J. Denker 2013 105-563, 11 TD
Keith Smith 1996 136-546, 8 TD
Matt Scott 2012 113-506, 6 TD
Chuck Levy 1991 128-505, 7 TD (4 QB starts)

 

Defensive Improvement: In terms of yards allowed per game, Arizona’s defense currently ranks as the fourth-most improved unit in the nation. In 2012, the Wildcats ranked No. 122 out of 125 FBS teams by allowing 499.0 yards per game. Entering Saturday’s contest, the Wildcats sit at No. 37 with just 372.9 yards per game in 2013. Here’s a look at where Arizona stands with the other most improved defensive (total defense yards listed):

School 2012 2013 Improvement
Baylor 502.2 316 186.2
Louisiana Tech 526.1 389.6 136.5
Arizona 499 372.9 126.1
Miami (Florida) 486.4 364.1 122.3
Marshall 456.8 346.4 110.4

 

No Free Pass: Sure to get a test from the efficient Brett Hundley, Arizona will see if it can maintain its impressive pass defense numbers. The Wildcats rank in the top 25 nationally in several pass defense categories and are allowing 80 fewer passing yards per game than they did a season ago. The group is also tied with Northwestern and Nebraska for the national lead with four interception returns for touchdowns. Here’s a look at where Arizona’s pass defense stands and where it was last season (FBS rank in parenthesis):

Category 2013 2012
Yards Allowed Per Game 212.3 (29th) 292.8 (121st)
Defensive Pass Efficiency 109.14 (15th) 137.45 (85th)
Completion Percentage 54.0 (22nd) 61.8 (84th)
Interceptions 12 (17th) 12 (58th)

 

#TeamKaDeem and the Running Machine: Yes, Ka’Deem Carey is arguably the most complete running back in the nation, but he would not have his gaudy statistics without some horses up front leading the charge. Carey has reaped the benefits of an experienced offensive line that has included tackles Mickey Baucus (33 career starts) and Fabbians Ebbele (32 starts), along with versatile guard Chris Putton (26 starts) for nearly all of his 3,426 career rushing yards. This year, junior college transfer Steven Gurrola has steadily stepped in to start eight games at center, while sophomores Cayman Bundage (9 starts) and Lene Maiava (2 starts) have also been a part of the rotation the last two seasons. Added up, it’s 110 career starts for Arizona’s offensive linemen, and that continuity is a big reason why Arizona is No. 12 nationally with 275.4 rushing yards per game.

Fresh Targets: The Wildcats have a pair of true freshmen receivers who are turning in strong rookie campaigns. Samajie Grant (33-255, TD) and Nate Phillips (21-312, 4 TD) have combined for 54 catches for 567 yards and five of Arizona’s nine receiving touchdowns. Grant, a 5-foot-9, 173-pound target from Compton, Calif., leads the team with his 33 receptions. Phillips, a 5-foot-7, 177-pound receiver, leads the squad in receiving yards, and has a touchdown catch in four straight games. Phillips is averaging a swift 14.9 yards per grab and has scored touchdowns on plays of 21, 44, 7 and 57 yards.

Dynamic Duo: Running back Ka’Deem Carey and quarterback B.J. Denker have formed quite tandem in the backfield. The duo has accounted for 30 of Arizona’s 34 offensive touchdowns, with Carey tallying 10 rushing scores and Denker scoring 11 on the ground and nine through the air. They have combined to rush for 1,635 yards on 293 attempts, while Denker’s 1,502 passing yards give him 2,065 yards of total offense this season.

Miller Time: The versatile Terrence Miller has come on strong over the last four games. The fifth-year senior, who was granted a medical hardship waiver in the spring, has 15 receptions for 255 yards in the last four games. Miller is comfortable at any of UA’s receiver positions and doubles as a tight end when necessary. He has 18 catches for 283 yards on the year, a 15.7 yard-per-catch clip that is second-best on the team. The two-longest receptions of his career have come in the last two games against Colorado (43 yards) and California (60), respectively. The reception against the Buffaloes converted a 4th-and-2 and set up a touchdown, while the big play against the Bears converted a 3rd-and-10 to set up a touchdown to open the second half.

Just What D.R. Ordered: Sophomore receiver David Richards missed the first three games of the season and played sparingly in his return at Washington Sept. 28. The 6-foot-4, 214-pounder has seen his workload increase each game since, and has started each of the last two contests. He has 13 catches for 125 yards and a touchdown in those last four games. Richards’ return to the lineup has allowed the Wildcats to use freshmen Nate Phillips and Samajie Grant in the slot more frequently to create mismatches, while giving the Wildcats a big target on the outside.

What Can Scooby Doo? He can tackle, that’s for sure. A true freshman linebacker Scooby Wright is making a claim to become a freshman All-American if his first eight collegiate games are any indication. A native of Windsor, Calif., Wright was not a high-profile recruit, but he has become a high-impact player for the Wildcats. The 6-foot-1, 230-pounder currently leads Arizona with 60 tackles, including 7.5 for loss, to go with a pass breakup and 0.5 sacks. He ranks tied for second nationally among all true freshman defenders with 7.5 tackles per game, a figure that ranks 11th overall in the Pac-12. He turned in his best collegiate game last week at California as he registered career-highs for total tackles (11) and tackles for loss (3.0). He also recorded his first career sack, splitting it with Justin Washington.

Welcome Back: The Wildcats welcomed back a pair of starting defenders at California last week. Junior “bandit” safety Jared Tevis returned after two missed games (knee), while junior “spur” safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant missed the Colorado game (concussion). The pair combined for 15 tackles and a pass breakup against the Golden Bears. Tevis, a native of Tucson, Ariz., is fourth on the team with 44 tackles, including 1.5 for loss, with two pass breakups and a forced fumble in six games. Bondurant, a native of Vallejo, Calif., has 36 stops, including three for loss and has three interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns. Together, Tevis (17 starts) and Bondurant (25) have started 42 career games for the Wildcats.

Middle Man Missing: Arizona’s defense was without senior middle linebacker Jake Fischer last week. The Oro Valley, Ariz., native was available to play, but coaches held him out of the lineup as he recovers from a minor knee injury. Fischer was on the field for the onside kick at the end of the game, but otherwise did not see time on defense. His expected return to the lineup this week will be welcomed, as he provides unquestioned leadership and toughness. He ranks third on the team with 47 total tackles, including one for loss, and he has a 49-yard interception return for a touchdown. Last season he registered a team-leading 119 tackles and now has 231 stops in his career.

Busy ‘Backers: One indication of Arizona’s defense success this season is the fact the its three starting linebackers – Scooby Wright, Jake Fischer and Marquis Flowers – rank as the top three tacklers on the team. It means the Wildcats are making more plays near the line of scrimmage instead of downfield. Wright leads the way with 60 total tackles (7.5 for loss), while Flowers is on his heels with 53 (5.0 for loss) and Fischer has added 47 stops (1.0). Last year Fischer (119) and Flowers (100) led the club in tackles, but Wright’s emergence as a true freshman has balanced the defense and take pressure off of the safeties.

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 298 career starts. Senior lineman Sione Tuihalamaka and senior cornerback Shaquille Richardson lead with 32 career starts apiece, while senior linebackers Marquis Flowers and Jake Fischer boast 31 and 28 starts, respectively. Junior “spur” safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant has tallied 25 starts, including 24 of Arizona’s last 27 games (only missed 2012 New Mexico Bowl and at Colorado last month), while junior free safety Jourdon Grandon now has 21 career starts.

Disciplined Cats: Arizona ranks as the second-least penalized team in the Pac-12 having been flagged for only 43.0 yards per game. That figure also ranks No. 37 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 60.0 yards per game – which is the 20th-most nationally for opponent penalty yards.

Cats Get Picky: After eight games, Arizona’s defense has already matched last season’s 13-game total of 12 interceptions. Wildcat defenders have at least one interception in seven of eight games played this year, and seven players have combined for the dozen picks. Junior safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant leads the club with three interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns. Junior safety Jourdon Grandon and senior corner Shaquille Richardson each have two apiece.

Sound Kicking Game: Arizona received two key contributions last week at California. Senior placekicker Jake Smith knocked home a career-long 53-yard field goal to extend the Wildcats’ lead early in the second quarter. It was the longest made field goal for a Wildcat kicker since current New York Jet Nick Folk also made a 53-yarder against Arizona State on Nov. 27, 2004. Smith is now 9-of-13 on field goal tries this season and 34-for-36 on extra points. Meanwhile, Drew Riggleman delivered perhaps his most consistent game last week. The sophomore punted a career-high eight times for 331 yards, a strong 41.4 average. Riggleman also established a new career best with four of his punts being downed inside the 20-yardline, while he boomed the second-longest punt of his career (56 yards). Arizona’s 38.8 net average on eight punts was its best mark of the season. Riggleman’s leg helped the Wildcats hold the Golden Bears to an average staring field position of their own 20-yardline. Arizona enjoyed a 15-yard advantage in average starting field position, and won the field position battle for the first time in five games.

Turning Points: Perhaps no statistic is more indicative of Arizona’s success in recent seasons than the turnover battle. The Wildcats have won 17-consecutive games, including all eight 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 72 games), Arizona is 20-2 when it wins the turnover battle, 13-10 when it ties and 8-19 when it loses the turnover battle. That adds up to a 33-12 mark when Arizona wins or ties the turnover battle. Under Rodriguez, the Wildcats are 11-2 when winning or tying the turnover battle.

Turning Points Part II: The Wildcats enter play this week with a plus-six turnover margin for the season, which is good enough for No. 21 nationally. The Wildcats have only turned the ball over eight times while they have secured 14 takeaways in eight 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 65-19 advantage in points off turnovers.

Carey Tops 1,000 Yards: Ka’Deem Carey (188-1,072) has secured his second-consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season at Arizona, something only three other players have done in school history (Trung Canidate, 1998-90; Art Luppino, 1954-55; and Jim Upchurch, 1973-74). In 2012, Carey became the first running back to post a 1,000-yard season under head coach Rich Rodriguez since Steve Slaton did so at West Virginia in 2007. At Michigan, only dual-threat quarterback Denard Robinson (2010) mounted a 1,000-yard season during Rodriguez's three seasons. At West Virginia, Slaton had three-straight 1,000-yard campaigns, including in 2007, 2006 and 2005. His quarterback during those years, Pat White, also turned in 1,000-yard seasons in 2006 and 2007. Prior to the Slaton-White years, running backs Avon Cobourne (2001 and 2002) and Quincy Wilson (2003) had 1,000-yard seasons under Rodriguez. Added up, and with Carey included, that's 11 (eleven) 1,000-yard rushers over 12 seasons as an FBS head coach for Rodriguez.

Carey Closing In: Junior running back Ka’Deem Carey is closing in on a few milestones (For more notes and statistics regarding Carey, see pages 8-9 of this release):

- 75 rushing yards away from No. 2 in UA history (Ontiwaun Carter, 3,501)
- 18 rush attempts away from No. 5 in program history (David Adams, 600)
- 117 all-purpose yards away from No. 5 in program history (Bobby Wade, 4,745)
- 5 rushing touchdowns away from No. 1 in school history (Art Luppino, 44)
- 6 total touchdowns away from No. 1 in school history (Art Luppino, 48)

In a Rush to Win: Arizona has won 11 of its last 15 games dating to last season, a trend that may or may not coincide with a dominant rushing attack. Over their last 15 games, the Wildcats have gained 4,066 yards on 701 rushing attempts, a 5.8 yards per carry clip good enough for 271.1 yards per game. The Wildcats have rushed for 300 or more yards in six of the 15 contests with a perfect 6-0 record in those games. Arizona is 8-1 when it rushes for 250-plus yards and 9-1 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 12-straight contests (last time failed to do so: at UCLA, 11/3/2012) … Under Rodriguez, a Wildcat has rushed for 100 yards 19 times in 21 total games, including 16 of the last 17 … Ka’Deem Carey (17), Daniel Jenkins (1), B.J. Denker (1) and Matt Scott (1) have combined for the 19 100-yard performances in the 21 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).

Sturdy Thirty: Arizona is tied for second nationally with 15 rushing plays of 30-plus yards this season. New Mexico leads the way with 16 such contests, while the Wildcats are tied with Oregon and Georgia Tech for No. 2. Five different Wildcats have combined to produce 15 runs of 30 or more yards led by quarterback B.J. Denker, who has six such plays. Denker is tied for fifth individually for the most 30-plus yard runs, including second-most among quarterbacks (Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch has eight). Running back Ka’Deem Carey has added five such runs (tied for ninth in FBS), while backfield mate Daniel Jenkins has two, including UA’s longest of the season (91 yards vs. NAU on Aug. 30). Reserve quarterback Javelle Allen and reserve running back Jared Baker each have one apiece.

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.

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 in fall camp. 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.

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 remains at home for its next two games. The Wildcats will host Washington State on Saturday, Nov. 16, with kickoff scheduled for noon (MST) on the Pac-12 Networks. The final home game of the year against Oregon will be played Saturday, Nov. 23. Kickoff time and television information for that contest is expected to be announced by the Pac-12 Conference and its television partners next Monday, Nov. 11.

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