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Cats Eye Eagles in Bid For Second-Straight Bowl Victory
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 12/23/2013
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Jared Tevis
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics

Game 13
AdvoCare V100 Bowl
Arizona (7-5, 4-5 Pac-12) vs. Boston College (7-5, 4-4 ACC)

Date: Tuesday, Dec. 31 Time: 11:30 a.m. (CST)
Location: Shreveport, La. (Independence Stadium – 48,975)
Television Broadcast: ESPN
TV Broadcasters: Tom Hart (pxp), John Cangemi (analyst), Niki Noto (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)
National Radio: Sports USA (Aaron Goldsmith, pxp; Charles Arbuckle, analyst)

Arizona-Boston College Series History
All-Time: First meeting
Arizona vs. ACC: 4-0 (2-0 vs. Georgia Tech, 1-0 vs. North Carolina, 1-0 vs. N.C. State)
Last meeting vs. ACC: Arizona 20, Georgia Tech 19 (Sept. 7, 1995 at Tucson)

Some Game Themes: Arizona ventures to its eastern-most bowl destination to take on Boston College, a program it has never faced on the gridiron, for a New Year’s Eve bowl game … Surely much of the spotlight will shine on the nation’s two leading rushers: BC’s Andre Williams and UA’s Ka’Deem Carey. Williams edged out Carey for the Doak Walker Award and it’s the first time a pair of first-team Associated Press All-America running backs square off in a bowl game … While both teams have found success on the ground this season, they do it in different ways. The Eagles are a more traditional offensive system, while the Wildcats spread teams out and play at a fast tempo … The Cats have found more room to throw the ball, especially late in the season as the passing game progressed … The Eagles pose a stern threat with a pass rush that produced 35 sacks, while the Wildcats created more pressure themselves late in the campaign … Two disciplined squads, led by the Eagles who are the third-least penalized team in the nation … Keep an eye on third downs: The Wildcats convert at a 46-percent clip when they have the ball, while the Eagles have moved the chains just 33-percent of the time … Motivation should be high for each school, which both suffered setbacks to end the regular season in late November. However, BC head coach Steve Addazio has his club in a bowl in his first season, something UA’s Rich Rodriguez did a year ago. Each has his program poised for bigger successes, and a win will set a positive tone for the offseason … As always, bowls are a great salute for seniors capping careers, and Arizona has a dozen players who already have their degrees in hand … Happy New Year, football fans!

Last Time Out: With the nation’s oldest rivalry trophy at stake – The Territorial Championship Cup – then-No. 13 Arizona State (10-2, 8-1 Pac-12) cruised to a 58-21 victory over rival Arizona (7-5, 4-5 Pac-12) on Nov. 30 in Tempe, Ariz.. D.J. Foster filled in for the injured Marion Grice at running back by gaining 124 yards and a pair of scores on the ground, while Taylor Kelly passed for 274 yards and two touchdowns. The Sun Devils, who secured home field advantage in the Pac-12 Championship game with the win, raced out to a 27-0 lead in the second quarter and led by 23 points at halftime. The Wildcats began to claw back in the second half scoring on the opening possession of the third period, then got a defensive stop on ASU’s first possession. The Wildcats were again driving inside Sun Devil territory, but Damarious Randall intercepted a B.J. Denker pass and returned it 64 yards for a touchdown, which all but buried the visitors. Randall finished with 12 tackles and forced a fumble to lead a strong defensive effort. Jaelen Strong stretched the field with four receptions for 142 yards, including a 61-yard scoring play in the third quarter to give ASU plenty of breathing room after the pick-six. Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey was able to do what he usually does as he gained 157 rushing yards with a score. Denker made some plays with his legs, carrying for 87 yards and a touchdown, but he threw a career-high three interceptions as UA tried unsuccessfully to play catch-up much of the game. The victory was ASU’s second straight in the rivalry and snapped a four-year streak of the visiting team claiming the Territorial Cup.

Last Time in a Bowl: Arizona defeated Nevada, 49-48, behind a furious fourth-quarter comeback in the 2012 Gildan New Mexico Bowl last Dec. 15. Arizona capped Rich Rodriguez’s first season in thrilling fashion behind a furious late rally to win the Gildan New Mexico Bowl, 49-48, in Albuquerque on Dec. 15, 2012. Arizona dug itself a 21-0 hole early, rallied to the tie the game and yet still found itself down by 17 in the fourth quarter. Even bleaker, only 1:48 remained when Nevada kicked a field goal and gave the Wildcats the ball back, down 13. Matt Scott led a 7-play, 75-yard drive that ate up only 1:02 of clock to get UA within a score. A successful onside kick recovery set up a quick 3-play, 51-yard drive which required just 21 seconds as the Wildcats tied the game. The ensuing extra point gave Arizona its only lead of the game, and Marquis Flowers’ interception sealed the win in the waning seconds to give the Wildcats their first bowl victory since 2008. Scott finished a remarkable season – and career – with 382 yards passing and three fourth-quarter touchdowns. Running back Ka’Deem Carey rushed for 172 yards and three-first half touchdowns to win the nation’s rushing title, an exclamation point on a consensus All-America season. Nevada signal caller Cody Fajardo was sensational keeping the UA defense off balance as he passed for 256 yards and ran for 140. In fact, the Wolf Pack tallied 659 yards of offense to Arizona’s 578, but in the end it was a resilient, refuse-to-lose Wildcat squad that had the fire power to polish off an eight-win campaign.

Cats Are Bowling Again: Arizona will appear in its 17th all-time bowl game … This is the Wildcats’ fifth bowl appearance in the last six seasons, something the program has accomplished just one other time (1989-1994) … Rich Rodriguez is the first Wildcat coach to lead the program to a bowl appearance in his first two seasons at the school … The Wildcats have won four of their last six bowl games and are 2-2 in their last four appearances … This is UA’s 16th December bowl game (6-8-1) and 22nd overall game played in the final month of the year (9-11-1).

Trivia Tuesday: Arizona has played three all-time Tuesday games and each has been in a bowl game. Arizona lost to Pittsburgh (16-10) in the Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 25, 1979, lost to Syracuse (28-0) in the Aloha Bowl on Dec. 25, 1990, and lost to Utah (16-13) in the Freedom Bowl on Dec. 27, 1994 … Arizona has previously played two New Year’s Eve games, winning 17-10 against N.C. State in 1989 (at the Copper Bowl in Tucson) and dropping a narrow 20-15 decision to Baylor in 1992 (at the John Hancock Bowl in El Paso) … The Wildcats will play their 22nd all-time game in the month of December, including their first since last year’s 49-48 victory over Nevada in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl. UA is 9-11-1 in the year’s final month … The AdvoCare V100 Bowl will mark the fourth day of the week UA has played a game this season. The Wildcats opened on a Friday night against NAU (W, 35-0 on Aug. 30), played on a Thursday night at USC (L, 38-31) and, of course, played 10 times on Saturdays during the regular season.

Holiday Travel: Arizona will venture over 1,100 miles to its bowl destination, the third-longest postseason trip in school history. Shreveport, La., is listed as a 1,138.4-mile trek by Google, and is the eastern-most city the Wildcats have played in a bowl game (previously: 2010 Valero Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, Texas). The Wildcats’ farthest destination has been a pair of trips to Honolulu, Hawaii, which Google calculates as being 2,966 miles from Tucson. Arizona knocked off ACC foe North Carolina, 30-21, on Dec. 27, 1986, at the Aloha Bowl. On Dec. 25, 1990, the Wildcats fell to Syracuse, 28-0, at the Eagle Aloha Bowl. Louisiana will be the seventh state in which Arizona has participated in a bowl game. The Wildcats have appeared in five bowl games in their home state, four in both Texas and California, twice in Hawaii and once each in Nevada and New Mexico.

Eight Would be Great: A win in the AdvoCare V100 Bowl would give the Wildcats eight wins for the second season in a row and only the 10th time since joining the Pac-10/12 in 1978. Arizona has nine previous eight-win (or better) campaigns (2012, 2009, 2008, 1998, 1994, 1993, 1989, 1986, and 1985) since becoming a Pac-10/12 member. Of those years, only the 2008-09, 1993-94 and 1985-86 teams have compiled consecutive eight-win seasons. Should the Wildcats win their eighth game this season, it would put Rich Rodriguez in select company at Arizona. The only coach in program history to post eight (or more) victories in his first two seasons at the school was Jim Young, who went 8-3 and 9-2 in 1973 and 1974, respectively, before following it up with another nine-win season in 1975.

Rodriguez in Bowl Games: Rich Rodriguez is no stranger to bowl games. A 12-year veteran at the BCS level, Rodriguez has now led his teams to bowls in nine of his last 11 seasons, including two-straight at Arizona (also 2012 Gildan New Mexico Bowl) and three-straight overall with the 2010 Gator Bowl appearance from his time at Michigan. Rodriguez previously guided West Virginia to six-straight postseason appearances (2002 Continental Tires Bowl, 2003 Gator Bowl, 2004 Gator Bowl, 2005 Sugar Bowl, 2006 Gator Bowl and 2007 Fiesta Bowl). Rodriguez’s teams are 4-4 in bowl games, including 2-0 in the BCS games, though he did not coach West Virginia in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl having already accepted the head job at Michigan (the late Bill Stewart coached WVU in the game and was named the full-time head coach after the contest).

All-Pac-12: Consensus All-American running back Ka’Deem Carey was named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year and was the only unanimous player voted first-team All-Pac-12 by the league coaches this season. Carey is a two-time first0team all-conference honoree and is the first Wildcat to be named the conference’s offensive player of the year. The Wildcats had seven winners of the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Award. In 2005, WR Mike Thomas was named Pac-12 Freshman Offensive Player of the Year. In addition to Carey, freshman receiver Nate Phillips was named All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention. On defense, senior linebacker Marquis Flowers, senior defensive lineman Tevin Hood, junior safety Jared Tevis and freshman linebacker Scooby Wright also earned All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention.

Carey Earns Consensus All-America, Again: Junior running back Ka’Deem Carey, a finalist for the Doak Walker Award who finished 10th in the Heisman Trophy voting, became a consensus All-American for the second straight season. The Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year was named a first-team All-American by the Associated Press, the American Football Coaches Association, the Football Writers Association of America and the Walter Camp Football Foundation. The Sporting News, one of the five entities that are used to determine consensus and unanimous All-Americans, did not include Carey this season. Carey also garnered All-America honors from ESPN.com, CBSSports.com, Sports Illustrated, Lindy’s, Athlon, and SB Nation.

Arizona’s Offense at a Glance: Arizona’s offense is highlighted by a dynamic rushing attack that features two-time consensus All-American Ka’Deem Carey (1,716 rushing yards, 17 TD) and dual-threat quarterback B.J. Denker, who totaled 3,139 yards of total offense and accounted for 26 touchdowns this season. The rushing attack combines for 265.8 yards per game, which ranks No. 11 nationally. The Wildcats have a reliable complement to Carey in senior Daniel Jenkins, who totaled 377 yards and averaged 6.5 yards per carry on the season. In the passing game, Denker completed 60.5 percent of his passes for 2,241 yards and 14 scores against seven interceptions (three came in final regular season game). His top targets are a pair of true freshmen, Samajie Grant and Nate Phillips. Grant led the Wildcats with 45 receptions for 355 yards and a score, while Phillips tops the team with 503 yards and seven touchdowns on 42 receptions. Versatile fifth-year senior Terrence Miller, who doubles as a tight end and receiver, hauled in 39 receptions for 456 yards and a score. Garic Wharton (16-290, 2 TD) adds speed to the position, while David Richards (15-148, TD) and Trey Griffey (11-129) had moments. Up front, the Wildcats feature a six-man rotation with 130 career starts led by senior guard Chris Putton and veteran junior tackles Mickey Baucus and Fabbians Ebbele.

Arizona’s Defense at a Glance: Arizona’s defensive alignment is a 3-3-5 odd stack, which is engineered by coordinator Jeff Casteel who also served as Rodriguez’s top defensive aid at West Virginia. The Wildcats are one of the nation’s most improved defensive units in terms of total yardage (93.7 fewer yards per game allowed this season) in the country, and it started up front. The Wildcats starting trio of linemen made significant strides and the linebackers turned in consistent production all season. Senior ‘backers Marquis Flowers (86 tackles) and Jake Fischer (85) were the leading tacklers, while end Sione Tuihalamaka (11.0 TFL, 5.0 sacks) led in both tackles for loss and sacks. Tevin Hood added 7.5 stops behind the line while playing tough at nose guard, while Reggie Gilbert added four sacks at the other end. The Wildcats lacked a consistent pass rush, but did improve with 21 sacks on the season while also intercepting 16 passes. Junior “spur” safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant was the big playmaker with four picks, including two for scores, while veteran corners Shaquille Richardson and Johnathan McKnight combined for five interceptions and 11 pass breakups. Junior “bandit” safety Jared Tevis is a big-hitter who forced three fumbles while registering 78 tackles, and Jourdon Grandon roams the middle at free safety with two interceptions and five breakups.

True Freshmen Step Up: Arizona entered the season without its top returning receiver, Austin Hill, who missed the regular season with an ACL injury, and projected starter David Richards missed the first month of the season with a foot injury. Hill accounted for 1,364 yards and 11 touchdowns as a sophomore in 2012, while Richards added nearly 300 yards and three scores. In their place, a pair of true freshmen emerged as reliable targets. Samajie Grant and Nate Phillips each started nine games and combined for 87 receptions for 858 yards and eight touchdowns. Grant was the leader in receptions (45), while Phillips led in yards (503) and touchdowns (7).

Great Eight for Nate: True freshman receiver Nate Phillips emerged as the Wildcats top receiver over the second half of the season. Over his last eight games, Phillips led the team with 35 receptions for 438 yards and seven touchdowns. The nice stretch of play capped a strong freshman campaign that saw him catch 42 passes for a team-leading 503 yards. He earned All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention honors as voted by the league coaches.

Senior Steps Up: Senior receiver/tight end Terrence Miller, who in the offseason received a medical waiver for his fifth year of eligibility, became a valuable target in the passing game that steadily improved throughout the season. Miller had just three receptions for 28 yards after the first four games of the season, but came on to haul in 36 passes for 428 yards over the last eight contests. Miller’s biggest game came against then-No 5 Oregon in the upset victory on Nov. 23 when he snared a career-best nine passes for 88 yards and a score. Miller is six receptions shy of 100 for his career and has totaled 1,106 yards in his career.

Defensive Improvement: The Wildcats’ defense ranks as one of the most improved units in the nation. While not one of the top-ranked squads, Arizona made major strides as experience and understanding of the 3-3-5 odd stack defense paid dividends. In 2012, the Wildcats surrendered 499.0 yards per game (most in school history) but chopped off nearly 100 yards in just one season. This year, UA allowed 405.2 yards per game – a 93.4 yard per game improvement that ranks fourth-best among all FBS teams this season. Here’s a look at the top-five:

  2012 2013 Difference
1. Baylor 502.2 343.7 158.5
2. Tulane 482.6 353.1 129.5
3. La. Tech 526.1 408.3 117.8
4. Arizona 499 405.3 93.7
5. Marshall 456.8 367 89.8


With a Carey on Top: Arizona’s all-time leading rusher and career touchdowns leader is now junior Ka’Deem Carey. Carey has 4,070 career rushing yards and 50 total touchdowns. The Tucson, Ariz., native 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 21 school records in single-game, season or career categories.

Leaving His Mark: Ka’Deem Carey has etched his name into ninth place on the Pac-12 all-time rushing list with 4,070 career rushing yards. With his 156.0 yards per game average, Carey is within reach of racing past Napoleon Kaufman (4,106 yards at Washington from 1991-94) and Darrin Nelson (4,169 yards at Stanford from 1977-81) to the No. 7 spot on the conference charts. Carey also stands tied for sixth all-time with 46 career rushing touchdowns (Oregon State’s Jacquizz Rodgers from 2008-10). Carey has 50 career total touchdowns and the conference record is held by Oregon State’s Ken Simonton (60 from 1998-2001).

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-America campaign with another one of the top seasons in program history. Carey has rushed for 1,716 yards and 17 touchdowns entering play this week, giving him the top two rushing totals on the school’s single-season rushing charts. Here’s the top five:

Player Yards (Att.) Year
1. Ka’Deem Carey 1,929 (303) 2012
2. Ka’Deem Carey 1,716 (322) 2013
3. Trung Canidate 1,602 (253) 1999
4. Art Luppino 1,359 (179) 1954
5. 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 5,314 yards (4,070 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 79 more yards, Carey can break Dennis Northcutt’s school record. Here’s a look at the top five:

Player Yards Years
1. Dennis Northcutt 5,392 1996-99
2. Ka’Deem Carey 5,314 2011-13
3. Mike Thomas 4,981 2005-08
4. Art Luppino 4,963 1953-56
5. Theopolis Bell 4,943 1972-75


The Streak: Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey has rushed for 100 yards in a school-record 15-consecutive games, which leads all active FBS players and has also broken the previous conference record held by Washington State’s Jerome Harrison (2004-05). In fact, according to ESPN.com, Carey’s streak is the longest for any FBS player in the last 10 seasons. Over the 15 games, Carey has gained 2,630 yards on 426 carries with 27 touchdowns. That’s a heady 175.3 yards and nearly two touchdowns per game, while averaging 6.2 yards per carry. He has collected at least 130 all-purpose yards in each of those 15 games, and has 2,859 yards from scrimmage with receiving factored in.

Picky Cats: Arizona’s nose for the ball on defense has been mentioned here throughout the season, but getting two picks against the Ducks on Nov. 23 was 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. Altogether, nine Wildcats had an interception and the club finished the season with 16 interceptions, led by Tra’Mayne Bondurant with four and Shaquille Richardson with three. The 16 interceptions are the most for a UA squad since 2008 (also 16). A year ago, the Wildcats collected just 12 picks in 13 total contests.

Denker’s Development: From an experience standpoint, quarterback B.J. Denker entered the season as anything but a senior. The Torrance, Calif., native had one start and a few token appearances in his first and only Division I season in 2012 before becoming the full-time starter in 2013. That lack of experience showed as the Wildcats leaned on the ground game early in the season. But Denker steadily improved with each game and by season’s end emerged as a threat to spread the ball around through the air. Here’s a look at Denker’s first four games compared to his final eight contests as a passer:

  Att.-Comp. Pct. Yards TD INT Yds./Game
First 4 Games 45-90 50 445 2 2 111.25
Last 8 Games 171-267 64 1,796 12 5 224.5


Denker Dashes to a Record:
Senior quarterback B.J. Denker ranks as Arizona’s second-leading rusher with 898 yards on 167 attempts this season. That’s a 74.8 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 898 yards, which is over 300 more than the next-best total turned in by Ronnie Veal (566) in 1987. The lefty also has 12 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:

Quarterback Year Att-Yards, TD
1. B.J. Denker 2013 167-898, 12 TD
2. Ronnie Veal 1987 161-566, 9 TD
3. Keith Smith 1996 136-546, 8 TD
4. Matt Scott 2012 113-506, 6 TD
5. Chuck Levy 1991 128-505, 7 TD (RB w/4 QB starts)



Total Offense:
The Wildcats have racked up 5,431 yards of total offense in 12 games, a 452.6 per-game average that would rank fourth-best in program history if it holds up through the bowl game. 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 final third of the season. The Wildcats have registered 28 tackles for loss and 11 sacks in their last four contests, giving them 71 tackles for loss and 21 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 (11.0 TFL, 5.0 sacks), Reggie Gilbert (7.0 TFL, 4.0 sacks) and Tevin Hood (7.5 TFL and 1.0 sacks) have combined for 25.5 tackles for loss and 10 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 has turned in a steady final campaign as the quarterback of the defense. The Oro Valley, Ariz., native is battling for the team lead with 85 tackles, and he’s added two tackles for loss, a fumble recovery and turned in a 49-yard interception return for a touchdown at UNLV (Sept. 7). He was instrumental in UA’s biggest win of the year when he matched his career high with 14 tackles in the win over No. 5 Oregon on Nov. 23. A local product from Ironwood Ridge High School, Fischer has played in 51 games in his Wildcat career with 32 starts.

#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 (37 career starts) and Fabbians Ebbele (36 starts), along with versatile guard Chris Putton (30 starts) for nearly all of his 4,070 career rushing yards. This year, junior college transfer Steven Gurrola has steadily stepped in to start 12 games at center, while sophomores Cayman Bundage (13 starts) and Lene Maiava (2 starts) have also been a part of the rotation the last two seasons. Added up, it’s 130 career starts for Arizona’s offensive linemen, and that continuity is a big reason why Arizona is No. 11 nationally with 265.8 rushing yards per game.

The Rushing Attack: Arizona ranks No. 11 nationally by averaging 265.8 yards per game. All-American Ka’Deem Carey accounts for 156.0 yards per game, while quarterback B.J. Denker and back Daniel Jenkins chip in 74.8 and 31.4 yards per game, respectively. The season average currently ranks as the fourth-best clip in school history. Here’s a look at the top five that the 2013 Cats are looking to break into for good:

Rush Avg. Year
1. 276.5 1954
2. 270.8 1973
3. 268.9 1953
4. 254.8 1952
5. 254.1 1975


Scooby Doo it Wright: True freshman linebacker Scooby Wright has turned in a sterling rookie and garnered a freshman All-America accolade from 247Sports.com. The Windsor, Calif., native totaled 78 tackles during the regular season and was second on the team with 9.5 tackles for loss, which included 0.5 sack. He has started 11 of 12 games, with the only missed start being against Washington State when the Wildcats tweaked their defensive alignment to include an extra defensive back against the pass-heavy Cougs. A week later against Oregon, Wright was back in the lineup and hauled in the interception following a deflection by Shaquille Richardson on the game’s opening play. 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 second-least penalized team in the Pac-12 having been flagged for only 4.2 times per game (No. 16 nationally for fewest per game). It’s resulted in only 37.9 penalty yards per game, a figure that ranks No. 19 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 55.9 yards per game – which is the 25th-most nationally for opponent penalty yards. However, this week’s foe, Boston College, is the third-least penalized team in the nation (3.5 per game for 28.7 yards). Something has to give.

Classroom Cats: Arizona senior defenders Jake Fischer and Tevin Hood earned CoSIDA Academic All-District honors last month, and both will were 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 85 tackles this season. Hood, a defensive lineman from Chandler, Ariz., holds a 3.46 cumulative GPA as a general studies major and has 37 stops, including 7.5 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 76 games), Arizona is 21-2 when it wins the turnover battle, 13-10 when it ties and 8-22 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-4 turnover margin for the season, which is good enough for No. 39 nationally. The Wildcats have only turned the ball over 16 times while they have secured 20 takeaways in 12 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 has a 75-54 advantage in points off turnovers. That margin saw a 28-point swing in the finale against ASU when the Sun Devils outscored the Wildcats 28-0 on four turnovers. 

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 90-58 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 65-18 (.780) 25-40 (.385)
Home 41-9 (.816) 13-17 (.433)
Road 22-7 (.759) 11-21 (.344)
Neutral 2-2 (.500) 1-2 (.333)
     
Arizona 9-2 (.800) 6-8 (.429)
Arizona (Home) 6-2 4-2
Arizona (Road) 3-0 1-6
Arizona (Neutral) 0-0 1-0


In a Rush to Win:
Arizona has won 12 of its last 19 games dating to last season, a trend that may or may not coincide with a dominant rushing attack. Over their last 19 games, the Wildcats have gained 5,054 yards on 907 rushing attempts, a 5.6 yards per carry clip good enough for 266.0 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 10-3 when it tops the 200-yard mark.

Carey Tops 1,000 Yards: Ka’Deem Carey (322-1,716) 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. Quarterback B.J. Denker has gained over 1,000 yards (1,019), but currently has a net total of 898 this season.

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 342 career starts. Senior lineman Sione Tuihalamaka and senior cornerback Shaquille Richardson lead with 36 career starts apiece, while senior linebackers Marquis Flowers and Jake Fischer boast 35 and 32 starts, respectively. Junior “spur” safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant has tallied 29 starts, including 29 of Arizona’s last 31 games (only missed 2012 New Mexico Bowl and at Colorado last month), while junior free safety Jourdon Grandon now has 25 career starts.

Gridiron Graduates: Eleven current Wildcats have earned their degrees from the University of Arizona, a tally that ranks among the most in the FBS. Those that entered the season with degrees include running backs Daniel Jenkins and Kylan Butler, receivers Terrence Miller and Richard Morrison, defensive backs Derrick Rainey and Justin Samuels, and defensive lineman Sione Tuihalamaka. December graduates include Jake Fischer, Tevin Hood, Chris Putton and Shane Wilson.

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.

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