Game 12: The Territorial Cup
Arizona (7-4, 4-4 Pac-12) at #13 Arizona State (9-2, 7-1)
Date: Saturday, Nov. 30 Time: 7:30 p.m. (MST)
Location: Tempe, Ariz. (Sun Devil Stadium -- 71,706)
Television Broadcast: Pac-12 Networks
TV Broadcasters: Ted Robinson (pxp), Glenn Parker (analyst), 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 93, XM 193
Territorial Cup Series History
All-Time: Arizona leads, 47-38-1
First Meeting: Nov. 30, 1899 (ASU 11, Arizona 2 -- at Tucson)
Last Meeting: Nov. 23, 2012 (ASU 41, Arizona 34 -- at Tucson).
Streak/Note: Visiting team has won last four meetings
Some Game Themes: The nation’s oldest rivalry trophy is at stake and much more in the 87th all-time meeting between the schools which falls on the 114th birthday of the series which dates to 1899 … Postseason implications are significant in this meeting. A Sun Devil victory tabs ASU the host of the Pac-12 Championship game, the next step in a quest for a potential Rose Bowl. A Wildcat win moves UA higher up the Pac-12 bowl pecking order, while a loss could mean it finds a bowl bid outside of conference affiliation … Momentum means little in this meeting as both teams have it. The Devils have won six-straight games, while the Cats gave Rich Rodriguez a signature victory over a top-five club last week … Home field has been a disadvantage in recent years, a trend UA would like to keep going. Since the Cats beat the Devils in Tempe in 2009, the road team has won four-straight contests … All eyes will be on two of the nation’s most prolific scorers: ASU’s Marion Grice leads the Pac-12 in scoring, but may be dinged up, while UA’s all-time leading rusher, Ka’Deem Carey, is second in scoring … Quarterbacks Taylor Kelly and B.J. Denker both pose dual threat abilities to keep two stingy, if not opportunistic, defenses honest … Will Sutton and Carl Bradford headline a stout Sun Devil front seven that holds opponents 123 rushing yards per game. Carey averages 155 per game himself, and the Cats are 12th nationally in rushing … The Sun Devils have forced more turnovers than any Pac-12 foe, and the Wildcats have turned it over the fewest times. So what will give? … Discipline a staple inside each program and these are the two least-penalized teams in the league … These games have routinely been decided by special teams play and unsung heroes writing their name into the history books … The third down battle will be intriguing, too. ASU is one of the nation’s top three-and-out defenses, but UA converts third downs at a 46-percent clip. Moving the chains and finishing drives will be critical for each squad … It’s Thanksgiving Weekend. Save some leftovers, sit back and soak in one of the best rivalries in college football. The Territorial Cup is up for grabs.
Last Week: Arizona gave fifth-ranked Oregon a dose of its own medicine as it routed the Ducks on a wet and cold day at Arizona Stadium. Junior Ka’Deem Carey ran for 206 yards and scored a touchdown in each quarter as he surpassed Trung Canidate to become the school’s all-time rushing leader. The Wildcats’ 18 seniors weren’t about to let their final crack at Oregon slip away. Senior CB Shaquille Richardson made the defensive play of the year on the first play of the game, which seemed to foreshadow the events of the next three hours. UO’s Marcus Mariota entered as a Heisman Trophy candidate and had not thrown an interception all season (or in 353 pass attempts), but his quick pass to the sideline glanced off the hands of Bralon Addision in front of the UA bench. In coverage, Richardson dove over the sideline, corralled the ball and slung it back inbounds to Scooby Wright, who intercepted it and returned it 13 yards. Arizona’s offense took over from there, scoring on its first three possessions. Carey capped the opening drive with a 6-yard plunge, senior QB B.J. Denker hit Nate Phillips for a 9-yard TD pass on the next drive and later found senior Terrence Miller for a 5-yard score. The Ducks cut and 18-point deficit to 12 points in the second quarter and had an opportunity to get closer before halftime, but Jared Tevis forced a Mariota fumble when the quarterback scrambled on 4th-and-2 near midfield. That gave UA the ball with a minute left, and the Cats needed only 42 seconds before Carey scored a 1-yard touchdown to put the underdogs up 28-9 at intermission. The second half was about ball control, and UA was masterful. Behind a dominating effort by the offensive line, Carey ran a school-record 48 times and Denker added 102 for a 305-yard rushing day which produced a 35:29-24:31 edge in time of possession. Denker was nearly perfect passing, too, completing 19-of-22 attempts for 178 yards and two scores. Senior Jake Fischer led the defensive effort by tying his career high with 14 tackles, and Richardson put an exclamation mark on things with his 10th career interception in the fourth quarter as UA held Oregon to its lowest scoring total of the season. Arizona defeated an Associated Press top-5 team for the first time since downing No. 2 Oregon, 34-24, on Nov. 15, 2007, in Tucson. The Wildcats have knocked off a ranked team in nine of the last 10 seasons, including three times under Rich Rodriguez.
The Territorial Cup: The Territorial Championship Cup was first presented to Tempe Normal School after its 11-2 victory over Arizona at Tucson's Carrillo Gardens field downtown on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 30, 1899. That makes it the oldest rivalry trophy game in America (Comparisons: Michigan-Minnesota/Little Brown Jug/1909; Indiana-Purdue/Old Oaken Bucket/1925). Carrillo Gardens was in a downtown park on a side street south of the current Tucson Convention Center in the Barrio Historico district. The Cup has been registered with the NCAA and thereby sanctions the game as the oldest trophy game. Early origins of the piece are unclear but the cup itself is silver-plated over base metal and was manufactured by Reed and Barton of Taunton, Mass., according to some reports, which also indicate a catalog price of $20. The lone inscription reads: "Arizona Foot Ball League 1899 Normal." The Cup's whereabouts for the next eight decades also remains unclear until its discovery among items found in the baseman of a church near ASU in the early 1980s and then displayed in various ASU collections. In 2001, then ASU President Lattie Coor led the move to have it again presented to the game winner. Over the years the Governor's Trophy (1953-1979) and a "Victory" sculpture by artist Ben Goo (1979-1997) were presented to the game's winner. The Saguaro Trophy, a bronze piece commissioned from artist Dora Perry in 1998, also has been in the mix, and now goes to the winning coach each year. The Bob Moran Most Outstanding Player in the game, named in 2008 after the late sportswriter who covered both teams, earns the Ben Goo sculpture for his school's hall of fame. The Cup on the sideline at the game itself is a replica, with the original piece requiring curator treatment for its hall of fame type display. The games themselves are not atypical of a state where the Territorial Legislature awarded one city (Phoenix) the initial economic prize, the state hospital, while the other town (Tucson) got the fledgling first state university. The games are competitive, territorial and a distinct matter of pride.
The Coaches: Arizona - Rich Rodriguez (West Virginia '86), second year at Arizona (15-9) and 19th as a head coach overall (135-93-2). At Arizona, Rodriguez’s teams are 10-4 at Arizona Stadium, 4-5 on the road, 1-0 at neutral sites, 8-9 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 15-9 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 …Arizona State - Todd Graham (East Central University [Ada, Okla.] '87), second year at Arizona State (17-7) and eighth as head coach overall (66-36). Arrived at ASU following one season as the head guy at Pittsburgh. Previously coached Tulsa to three 10-win seasons in his four years with the Golden Hurricane, after making his head coaching debut in one season at Rice in 2006. Despite coaching some high-scoring offenses as a head coach, his background is on the defensive side as both a player and coach, including two seasons as a co-defensive coordinator under Rich Rodriguez at West Virginia (2001-02).
2012 UA-ASU Flashback: Arizona's regular season ended on a heart-breaking note as it surrendered the Territorial Cup (the nation's oldest rivalry trophy) to rival Arizona State in a 41-34 outcome before a sold-out crowd of 51,901 at Arizona Stadium on Nov. 23. The Wildcats jumped out to an early lead on Ka'Deem Carey's 1-yard touchdown run in the opening period, but the Sun Devils outscored Arizona 14-3 in the second stanza to claim a 14-9 halftime edge. After ASU kicked a field goal early in the third quarter, the Wildcats stormed back with 18 unanswered points to take a 27-17 lead into the fourth quarter. Another field goal by Jon Mora brought the Sun Devils to within a touchdown with 11:51 to play in the game. Arizona was poised to extend that lead minutes later with a redzone drive, but Matt Scott fumbled and the Sun Devils promptly recovered and marched in for the tying touchdown on the ensuing drive. The Cats went three plays and out on their next series, and Kyle Dugandzic's punt was blocked. One play later, the visitors had the lead and never looked back. They intercepted Scott on the next drive and punched in another touchdown to take a 41-27 lead. The Wildcats scored with 1:54 remaining in the game, but were unable to recover the onside kick and with no timeouts saw the clock hit zero with a 41-34 score standing. The Wildcats outgained the Sun Devils, 522-460, but Arizona State scored 35 points off four UA turnovers and the blocked punt. That proved to be the difference as the Wildcats scored just six points off two Sun Devil turnovers in the game. Arizona's Carey set the school's single-season rushing record thanks to his 172 rushing yards, but ASU's running back Marion Grice stole the show with 156 yards and three touchdowns to win the Bob Moran Most Outstanding Player Award. It was the fourth-straight game in the series decided by a touchdown or less (15 total points) with the visiting team winning each of those tilts.
Against The Top 25: Arizona is playing a team ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 for the fourth time this season (1-2 in those games), including a third showdown in the last four weeks. Last week, the Wildcats defeated No. 5 Oregon, 42-16, after previously dropping contests at No. 16 Washington (31-13 on Sept. 28) and to No. 16 UCLA (31-26 on Nov. 9). Last week’s win extended Arizona’s streak of defeating AP Top 25 teams to nine of the last 10 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 42-103-1 against teams ranked in the AP Top 25. Rich Rodriguez is 3-6 such games at Arizona. Since 2000, Arizona is 1-1 against ranked ASU squads, winning 34-27 on Nov. 26, 2004, in Tucson, and losing 20-17 on Dec. 1, 2007, in Tempe.
Fantastic Finishes: Recent Territorial Cups have produced some dramatic endings. The last four UA-ASU games have been decided by a grand total of 15 points with the visiting team breaking the hearts of the home crowd each time. The last two Wildcat wins in Tempe have seen Arizona escape 20-17 (2009) and 31-27 (2011), while the Sun Devils pulled out victories in Tucson 30-29 (overtime, 2010) and 41-34 (2012). Special teams miscues have proved costly at times. The ’09 affair saw the Sun Devils muff a punt to set up UA’s game-winning, last-second field goal. A year later, the Wildcats had an extra point blocked in overtime. It’s a series where the unexpected is expected.
Downing the Ducks: Last week’s 42-16 victory over fifth-ranked Oregon was the Wildcats first win over an Associated Press top-5 team since they upset No. 2 Oregon, 34-24, on Nov. 15, 2007, at Arizona Stadium. The victory snapped a five-game losing streak to the Ducks and was the Wildcats largest margin of victory in the series since a 37-10 rout in Eugene, Ore., on Nov. 18, 2006. The 16 points were the fewest Oregon had scored in a game since a 17-14 loss to Stanford on Nov. 17, 2012.
Pac-12 Player of the Week: For the second time this season, Ka’Deem Carey has been named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week. Last week, Carey set a school record with 48 carries for 206 yards and four touchdowns in a win over Oregon. He became the school’s all-time rushing leader and set a new school record for career touchdowns in the process. Earlier this season, Carey garnered the award in a victory over Utah (Oct. 19) when he set the previous school record with 39 rushes for 232 yards and a touchdown. B.J. Denker was named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the week seven days later after leading the Wildcats to a road win at Colorado (Oct. 26) when he had 457 yards of total offense, including 192 rushing and 265 passing.
With a Carey on Top: Arizona’s all-time leading rusher and career touchdowns leader is now junior Ka’Deem Carey. The Tucson, Ariz., native rushed for 206 yards and four touchdowns against No. 5 Oregon last Saturday, giving him 3,913 career rushing yards and 49 total touchdowns. He surpassed Trung Canidate (3,824 yards from 1996-99) for the rushing mark and Art Luppino (48 touchdowns from 1953-56) for the touchdown record. Added up, Carey owns 20 school records in single-game, season or career categories.
Closing in on 4,000: Ka’Deem Carey is closing in on 4,000 career rushing yards, needing 87 markers to become the first Wildcat to ever do so. Only nine players in conference history have topped 4,000 rushing yards, and Carey’s current total already ranks No. 10. Additionally, Carey’s 45 career rushing touchdowns are tied with USC’s Marcus Allen (1978-81) for seventh-most in conference history.
Carey a Doak Walker Award Finalist: Junior running back Ka’Deem Carey has been named a finalist for the Doak Walker Award (Premier Running Back), along with Washington’s Bishop Sankey and Boston College’s Andre Williams. Carey is also semifinalist for the Maxwell Award (Outstanding Player) and the Walter Camp Award (Player of the Year). Carey has rushed for at least 119 yards in all 10 games he has played this season. He has gained 1,559 rushing yards on 290 attempts with 16 touchdowns. He also has 173 receiving yards on 26 catches with a touchdown, giving him 1,732 all-purpose yards. The Tucson, Ariz., native ranks second nationally with 155.9 rushing yards per game and is No. 3 nationally with 173.2 total yards from scrimmage per game.
Quite the Encore: Running back Ka’Deem Carey set a school record with 1,929 rushing yards and led the nation with 148.4 yards per game as a sophomore. He’s followed up that All-American campaign with another one of the top seasons in program history. Carey has rushed for 1,353 yards and 12 touchdowns entering play this week, putting him No. 4 on the school’s single-season rushing charts. Here’s the top five:
|Ka’Deem Carey||1,929 (303)||2012|
|Trung Canidate||1,602 (253)||1999|
|Ka’Deem Carey||1,559 (290)||2013|
|Art Luppino||1,359 (179)||1954|
|Art Luppino||1,313 (209)||1955|
Carey Nears All-Purpose Record: Most of the focus is where Ka’Deem Carey ranks in the school rushing records, but the junior is also closing in on the top all-purpose mark in Arizona history. Carey is second on the school’s all-purpose yardage chart with his 5,157 yards (3,913 rushing, 679 receiving and 565 on kickoff returns). The Tucson, Ariz., native ranks No. 7 among all active FBS players for career all-purpose yardage. With 235 more yards, Carey can match Dennis Northcutt’s school record. Here’s a look at the top five:
The Streak: Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey has rushed for 100 yards in a school-record 14-consecutive games, which leads all active FBS players and has tied the conference record held by Washington State’s Jerome Harrison (2004-05). In fact, according to ESPN.com, Carey and Harrison hold the longest such streak of any FBS player in the last 10 seasons. Over the 14 games, Carey has gained 2,473 yards on 394 carries with 26 touchdowns. That’s a heady 176.6 yards and nearly two touchdowns per game, while averaging 6.3 yards per carry. He has collected at least 130 all-purpose yards in each of those 14 games, and has 2,702 yards from scrimmage with receiving factored in. For more notes and statistics regarding Carey, see pages 8-9 of this release.
Denker’s Career Day: Senior B.J. Denker was brilliant last Saturday and it’s not a stretch to say he turned in one the best games for a quarterback in school history. The lefty completed 19-of-22 pass with pinpoint precision, collected 178 passing yards and two touchdowns, and finished with a season-high 184.33 pass efficiency rating. The Torrance, Calif., native turned in his second career 100-yard rushing day, too, gaining 102 markers on 14 attempts. In terms of pass completion percentage, Denker’s 86.4-percent clip ranks as the second-best in program history (at least 15 completions). The only better mark was Nick Foles’ 86.5 completion percentage against Toledo on Sept. 3, 2010, when he was 32-of-37. Tom Tunnicliffe tallied a 91.7 completion percentage against UTEP on Oct. 31, 1981, but that was on 11-of-12 attempts.
Red Zone Red Out: Arizona solved its red zone struggles last week against Oregon and did so while wearing all red uniforms. Coincidence? Probably. Nonetheless, the Wildcats were a perfect 6-for-6 with six touchdowns in the red zone against the Ducks, who meanwhile were 3-of-5 with only two touchdowns in the red zone. Arizona had scored on only 6-of-10 red zone opportunities over the previous two games, with those 10 possessions resulting in only four touchdowns prior to Oregon. For the season, the Wildcats are scoring on 82 percent of their red zone trips (40-of-49), including 63 percent touchdowns (31-of-49).
Cats Recognized: Numerous members of the Arizona football team, and defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel, were awarded national weekly honors on Sunday and Monday. College Football Performance Awards named junior Ka’Deem Carey the national running back of the week. He rushed 48 times for 206 yards and four touchdowns in Arizona’s 42-16 win over the Ducks. Senior quarterback B.J. Denker and sophomore punter Drew Riggleman earned CFPA Honorable Mention honors at their respective positions. Athlon Sports named Carey its Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week, Scooby Wright its Pac-12 Freshman of the Week and Casteel its Pac-12 Coordinator of the Week.
Three-and-Out: Third downs are going to be a critical stat to keep an eye on this week. Arizona State’s defense ranks among the national leaders in forcing three-and-outs and has limited opponents to 33.9 percent on third conversions, a figure that is third-best in the Pac-12 and No. 21 nationally. Meanwhile, Arizona’s offense converts 46 percent of third down opportunities, including 11-of-16 (68.8 percent) last week against Oregon (started 7-for-7). On the flip side, the Wildcats also rank in the top 30 nationally forcing an average of 4.4 three-and-outs per game. Opponents are converting 39 percent of third downs against Arizona, while ASU converts at a 41 percent clip.
Miller Time: Senior Terrence Miller turned in one of his best career games in his final home contest last week, a key contribution in the upset victory over fifth-ranked Oregon. The fifth-year player, who doubles as a tight end and receiver, caught a career-high nine passes for 88 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown reception – the third score of his career. Miller was a reliable target early in the game as he found holes in the Oregon secondary to keep the Ducks off balance. The Moreno Valley, Calif., native had eight receptions in the first half alone, which matched his previous career high which was coincidentally set against Oregon on Nov. 26, 2010.
Miller’s Milestone: With his 9-catch, 88-yard game against Oregon, senior receiver Terrence Miller topped the 1,000-yard mark for his career. The fifth-year senior now has 91 receptions for 1,085 yards and three touchdowns in his career. He’s been a versatile part of the Wildcat offense this season, doubling as a receiver and a tight end. The 6-foot-4, 233-pounder has 36 receptions for 435 yards and a score this season – a 12.1 yards per catch clip that is third-best on the team.
Shaq Attack: Arizona received a handful of big time performances from its senior class in a Senior Day win over Oregon last week, but perhaps none was bigger than the game turned in by cornerback Shaquille Richardson. The Carson, Calif., native set the tone with a sensational defensive play to open the game in Arizona’s 42-16 upset over No. 5 Oregon last Saturday at Arizona Stadium. On the game’s first snap, UO quarterback Marcus Mariota’s pass to Bralon Addison went through the receiver’s hands near the UA sideline, where Richardson leapt to bat the pass inbounds to teammate Scooby Wright, who intercepted the ball and returned it 13 yards to set up the Wildcats’ first touchdown of the game. The interception was the first thrown by Mariota this season and the first in his last 353 pass attempts. Richardson, who had four tackles for the opportunistic Wildcat defense, put the finishing touch on the victory with a fourth-quarter interception of his own. The pick was his third of the season and the 10th of his career, which ranks 17th-most for active FBS players.
Picky Cats: Arizona’s nose for the ball on defense has been mentioned here throughout the season, but getting two picks against the Ducks last weeks is especially noteworthy. Marcus Mariota entered the game having not thrown an interception this season, or in 353 total attempts, but Scooby Wright hauled in an interception on the game’s first play following an assist from Shaquille Richardson. Later, Richardson intercepted a pass on Oregon’s final drive, his third of the year. Wright became the ninth defender with an interception this season, and Arizona has 15 total this year after collecting just 12 over 13 games a year ago. It’s now the most interceptions in a season since the Cats had 16 in 2008. Junior safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant leads all players with four this season, including two returned for touchdowns.
Dynamic Duo: Running back Ka’Deem Carey and quarterback B.J. Denker have formed quite a tandem in the backfield. The duo has accounted for 39 of Arizona’s 45 offensive touchdowns, with Carey tallying 16 rushing scores plus one receiving, and Denker adding 11 on the ground and 14 through the air. They have combined to rush for 2,370 yards on 442 attempts, while Denker’s 2,066 passing yards give him 2,877 yards of total offense this season.
The Other 99 Percent: Senior B.J. Denker, known more for his running abilities, quietly surpassed the 2,000-yard passing mark last week. His season numbers are steady: 201 completions on 327 attempts, 2,066 yards, 14 touchdowns and just four interceptions. That last number is quite impressive as it means he’s thrown an interception just 1.2 percent of the time. It seems small, but UA’s best quarterbacks usually threw an interception between 2 and 5 percent of the time in their careers. Last year, Matt Scott threw 14 interceptions on 499 attempts, or 2.8 percent of his throws. Nick Foles, the school’s all-time leading passer, threw 33 interceptions on 1,396 career attempts, or 2.4 percent. Denker’s clip this season is half that number. In a more conventional look at his numbers, Denker’s 61.5 percent completion percentage would rank sixth-best in school single-season history if it held up. Throwing to the right guy has helped give him 201 completions this year – the eighth-best tally in UA single-season history.
Denker Dashes to a Record: Senior quarterback B.J. Denker ranks as Arizona’s second-leading rusher with 811 yards on 152 attempts this season. That’s a 73.7 yards per game clip that actually ranks sixth individually in the Pac-12. The Torrance, Calif., native has set a modern day school record for rushing by a quarterback with his 811 yards, which is over 200 more than the next-best total turned in by Ronnie Veal (566) in 1987. The lefty also has 11 rushing touchdowns this season, which is another top mark, and he set the school’s single-game record for rushing by a quarterback with 192 yards on 15 carries at Colorado (Oct. 26). Here’s where Denker’s season ranks compared to other running quarterbacks at Arizona:
|B.J. Denker||2013||152-811, 11 TD|
|Ronnie Veal||1987||161-566, 9 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)|
Total Offense: The Wildcats have racked up 5,007 yards of total offense in 11 games, a 455.2 per-game average that would rank fourth-best in program history if it held up the rest of the way. Last year, UA set a new school record and finished seventh nationally with 526.2 yards per game. Otherwise, 471.9 yards per game in 1999 and 465.2 per game in 2011 are the only two seasons with better total offense averages than the 2013 Wildcats.
Production Up Front: Arizona’s defensive front has significantly improved its production over the last few weeks. The Wildcats have registered 20 tackles for loss and eight sacks, giving them 63 tackles for loss and 18 sacks on the season. Last season, UA totaled 67 tackles for loss and 16 sacks over a 13-game season. Starting defensive linemen Sione Tuihalamaka (8.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks), Reggie Gilbert (7.0 TFL, 4.0 sacks) and Tevin Hood (5.5 TFL and 1.0 sacks) have combined for 20.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks this season. Last year, that trio totaled 11.0 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks.
Man in the Middle: Senior middle linebacker Jake Fischer matched his career high with 14 tackles in last week’s win over No. 5 Oregon. A local product from Ironwood Ridge High School in Oro Valley, Ariz., Fischer has played in 50 games in his Wildcat career with 31 starts. As a senior, Fischer has 75 tackles and a 49-yard interception return for a touchdown to put an exclamation mark on a tremendous Wildcat career. He has racked up 259 tackles, including 17.0 for loss, along with six fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles in his career.
#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 (36 career starts) and Fabbians Ebbele (35 starts), along with versatile guard Chris Putton (29 starts) for nearly all of his 3,913 career rushing yards. This year, junior college transfer Steven Gurrola has steadily stepped in to start 11 games at center, while sophomores Cayman Bundage (12 starts) and Lene Maiava (2 starts) have also been a part of the rotation the last two seasons. Added up, it’s 125 career starts for Arizona’s offensive linemen, and that continuity is a big reason why Arizona is No. 12 nationally with 267.4 rushing yards per game.
Beyond His Years: True freshman receiver Nate Phillips is turning in an impressive rookie season. The Chandler, Ariz., native is second on the squad with 39 receptions and has a team-best 486 receiving yards and another team-high seven touchdown receptions. The 5-foot-7, 177-pounder has racked up 32 catches for 421 yards and seven touchdowns over his last seven games, an impressive 13.2 yards-per-catch mark. Phillips has emerged as a go-to target in key situations for the Wildcats, as 27 of his 39 receptions (69.2 percent) this season have resulted in a first down or a touchdown.
Grant’s Grabs: Fellow true freshman receiver Samajie Grant continues to lead the Wildcats with 44 pass receptions. The Compton, Calif., native has 353 yards on his 44 catches, including a touchdown. He’s been a reliable target having played in all 11 games this season, including eight starts, and has three or more receptions in each of the last nine games.
Scooby Doo it Wright: True freshman linebacker Scooby Wright has turned in a sterling rookie campaign as a starting linebacker. The Windsor, Calif., native is battling for the team lead with 76 tackles through 11 games, a tally that ranks second-most nationally among all true freshman defenders. The 6-foot-1, 230-pounder does lead with 9.0 tackles for loss, which includes 0.5 sacks. He has started 10 of 11 games, with the only missed start being last week against Washington State when the Wildcats tweaked their defensive alignment to include an extra defensive back against the pass-heavy Cougs. Wright is a hard edge player that fits well with the Arizona mentality and figures to be a mainstay for the Cats in the coming years.
Disciplined Cats: Arizona ranks as the third-least penalized team in the Pac-12 having been flagged for only 4.4 times per game (No. 18 nationally for fewest per game). It’s resulted in only 40.0 penalty yards per game, a figure that ranks No. 25 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 59.2 yards per game – which is the 20th-most nationally for opponent penalty yards. However, this week’s foe, ASU, is the fourth-least penalized team in the nation (3.6 per game for 29.3 yards). Something has to give.
Classroom Cats: Arizona senior defenders Jake Fischer and Tevin Hood earned CoSIDA Academic All-District honors last week, and both will now be on the ballot for CoSIDA Academic All-America voting. Fischer, a linebacker from Oro Valley, Ariz., holds a 3.36 cumulative GPA as a marketing major and has 51 tackles this season. Hood, a defensive lineman from Chandler, Ariz., holds a 3.46 cumulative GPA as a general studies major and has 32 stops, including 5.0 for loss, this year.
Turning Points: Perhaps no statistic is more indicative of Arizona’s success in recent seasons than the turnover battle. The Wildcats have won 18-consecutive games, including all nine 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 74 games), Arizona is 21-2 when it wins the turnover battle, 13-10 when it ties and 8-21 when it loses the turnover battle. That adds up to a 34-12 mark when Arizona wins or ties the turnover battle. Under Rodriguez, the Wildcats are 12-2 when winning or tying the turnover battle.
Turning Points Part II: The Wildcats enter play this week with a plus-7 turnover margin for the season, which is good enough for No. 23 nationally. The Wildcats have only turned the ball over 12 times while they have secured 19 takeaways in 11 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 75-26 advantage in points off turnovers.
In a Rush to Win: Arizona has won 12 of its last 18 games dating to last season, a trend that may or may not coincide with a dominant rushing attack. Over their last 18 games, the Wildcats have gained 4,805 yards on 858 rushing attempts, a 5.8 yards per carry clip good enough for 266.9 yards per game. The Wildcats have rushed for 300 or more yards in seven of the 18 contests with a perfect 7-0 record in those games. Arizona is 9-1 when it rushes for 250-plus yards and 10-2 when it tops the 200-yard mark.
Carey Tops 1,000 Yards: Ka’Deem Carey (290-1,559) 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.
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 331 career starts. Senior lineman Sione Tuihalamaka and senior cornerback Shaquille Richardson lead with 35 career starts apiece, while senior linebackers Marquis Flowers and Jake Fischer boast 34 and 31 starts, respectively. Junior “spur” safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant has tallied 28 starts, including 28 of Arizona’s last 30 games (only missed 2012 New Mexico Bowl and at Colorado last month), while junior free safety Jourdon Grandon now has 24 career starts.
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.
Up Next: Arizona’s regular season comes to a close this weekend. The Wildcats are bowl-eligible for the fifth time in the last six seasons and will wait to accept an invitation to a game in the coming weeks.