Fresh off a victory over Iowa that propelled Arizona to No. 14 in the latest AP poll, the Wildcats host California to open conference action.
Sept. 20, 2010
Complete Game Notes (PDF)
California (2-1, 0-0 Pac-10) at No. 14 Arizona (3-0, 0-0 Pac-10)
7 p.m. (MST) | Arizona Stadium | Tucson, Ariz.
Live TV Broadcast: KWBA (Tucson), Fox Sports Arizona Plus, FCS Pacific
Replay: KGUN (10:35 p.m., Tucson), Fox Sports Arizona (11 p.m.)
Television Talent: Dave Sitton (play-by-play), John Fina (analyst), Glenn Howell (sideline)
UA English Radio: Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries, play-by-play; Lamont Lovette, analtst; Dana Cooper, sideline) UA Spanish Radio: Wildcat Radio Network (Francsico Romero, play-by-play; Marco Rincon, analyst)
Satellite Radio: XM 193; SIRIUS 214
All-Time Series: Cal leads, 14-13-2
First Meeting: Oct. 14, 1978 (Cal 33, UA 20 at Tucson)
Last Meeting: Nov. 14, 2009 (Cal 24, UA 16 at Berkeley)
Some Game Themes
Arizona can forget about its solid start and aim its energy at the start of Pac-10 play... The Cats would like to avoid a repeat -- when a year ago when they put their highest 2009 ranking (18) on the line against Cal and lost to drop out of the rankings until the conclusion of the regular season... Among UA's conference match-ups, this one always has a slight taste of rivalry despite the geographical distance between the clubs... UA continues a three-game homestand with its middle contest therein... The Cats can let it all hang out, with a bye week Oct. 2... A match of quarterbacks in the national top 14 in pass efficiency, with UC's Kevin Riley holding a slim edge over Nick Foles... Arizona puts some gaudy rankings on the line including No. 6 in passing offense and No. 3 in total defense. But it's two clubs that bring stout defenses to the fray, with the Bears checking in at No. 21 in total D... A game featuring some dynamic kick returners in UA's Travis Cobb (KOR, 5th nationally) and Cal's Jeremy Ross (PR, 10th nationally)... Additional electricity on tap with UA's Nic Grigsby and Juron Criner against Cal's Shane Vereen and Marvin Jones, among others... Vereen's second in the nation with 16 points per game scoring... UA redshirt freshman Justin Washington (7th) leads a sack attack that checks in No. 6 nationally while the Bears also have shown the ability to put pressure on the opposing QB... It's Hispanic Heritage Day on the UA campus.
Arizona built a stunning two-touchdown lead five minutes into the game but had to use a blocked extra point and a late 72-yard drive to snap a tie and foil an Iowa rally, turning back the No. 9 Hawkeyes, 34-27. A sellout crowd in Arizona Stadium saw the Wildcats hold some Big Ten bullies to 29 net rushing yards, and use some special teams' play to extreme advantage. The first was a blocked punt by David Roberts that set up a short red-zone scoring drive for the first points in the game. Two minutes later, UA cornerback Trevin Wade snared a tipped pass and raced 85 yards for the sixth-longest interception return in UA history and 14-0 lead. After a Nick Foles to Juron Criner pass of 46 yards moved UA downfield again, the Cats had a chance to make it a huge lead but Nic Grigsby fumbled on the Iowa 7-yard line and the Hawkeyes drove 93 yards behind the passing of Ricky Stanzi to cut the lead. On the ensuing kickoff, UA's Travis Cobb took off from the goal-line and matched the UA record with a 100-yard return for a 21-7 lead. The Cats added two Alex Zendejas field goals for a sizeable halftime lead of 27-7. Not to be put down easily, Iowa struck for a short-field drive and a score in the middle of the third period, then used two UA turnovers to score twice in 47 seconds -- one an 18-yard drive after a fumbled punt by Bug Wright and the other a 20-yard pick off Foles by Broderick Binns. On the extra-point try, however, UA defensive tackle Justin Washington got two hands on the ball to keep it tied at 27-all. Definitively, UA drove 72 yards in nine plays for the go-ahead touchdown, a four-yard pass to atonement-seeking Wright. With just under four minutes left, Stanzi hit one pass, then was sacked on three successive plays by Washington, Brooks Reed/Ricky Elmore and Washington again. The Cats ran out most of the clock then played triple deep for one final pass by Stanzi. Foles, a junior, got the best of the match against Stanzi, a senior, completing 71 percent of his throws for 303 yards and two scores, although Stanzi did toss for three scores and 278 markers. One huge factor was the 26 totes for 29 net rushing yards by Iowa, thanks in part to six overall sacks and 11 total tackles for losses by Wildcats. UA was held to only 63 net rushing yards but David Douglas (7-74 and a TD), Wright (5-67 and TD) led an 11-man receiving corps, none more important than David Roberts' one ctach -- a 38-yarder on first-and10 to open the final scoring drive.
Arizona - Mike Stoops (Iowa '86), seventh year (36-39) at UA and overall as a head coach. Stoops returned Arizona from a 2-10 program the year before his arrival to the national rankings in his tenure, and has taken the Wildcats to successive bowl games to close the decade. His Arizona clubs have beaten a ranked team each of his years in the red and blue including this year's victory over No. 9 Iowa. His recruiting and player development programs have put talent back on the field and sent more than a dozen players to the professional ranks via the draft or free agency in the past four years. He has coached national award winners and a combined 28 All-Pacific-10 players. Arizona football attendance has been a positive feature of a home-field advantage under Coach Stoops, with crowds averaging 93 percent of capacity each of his six seasons at Arizona Stadium. Arizona's football team APR checked in with an improved mark each of the five seasons since his inaugural year. Stoops is 2-4 against the Golden Bears. California - Jeff Tedford (Fresno State '83), ninth year in Berkeley (69-36) and ninth overall as a head coach. His background includes some high-flying offensive stints as coordinator at Oregon (1998-2001) and Fresno State (1993-1997), plus a year as QB coach at his alma mater ('92) and three years with Calgary of the CFL as an offensive assistant. He began his career as a volunteer at Fresno State in 1987. He is 5-3 against Arizona.
Three and Oh
Mike Stoops has coached UA to its first 3-0 mark under his direction, winning all non-conference games for the first time in his tenure in Tucson. With a road victory at a reputable MAC venue and a Top 10 Big Ten foe thrown in there, it's as good as it sounds. UA last we 3-0 to start the year in 2001 in John Mackovic's first season at UA, beating SDSU, Iaho and UNLV before dropping five consecutive Pac-10 games en route to a 5-6 year. Of course, everything goes back to 1998 in UA football "since" categories: that team under Dick Tomey opened 5-0 before a setback in Tucson to UCLA spoiled a 12-1 seasons.
Cats in the Pac
Arizona's 6-3 mark in the Pac-10 in 2009 was its best since 1998 and is the third six-win Pac-10 season in program history. The record gave the Wildcats 14 victories in their last 22 conference games, dating to the last four games of the 2007 season. That 14-8 record (0.636 winning percentage) is impressive by itself, but even in the Wildcats' eight losses, they have been just a few plays away from winning each game. UA has lost five of the eight games by three points or less and by a total of 37 points (average of 4.6 per game).
Staring at the Stats
Arizona has 23 tackles for losses in three games, a nice 7.6 per game figure. The leader is redshirt freshman DT Justin Washington with 5.0 for a team-high 27 lost yards. All defensive starters except strong safety Anthony Wilcox have a TFL, and his job in the Cats' scheme keeps him at the second level much of the time. A year ago Arizona notched 72 TFL in 13 games, so the 2010 Cats appear to have some more prized pressurization... Travis Cobb's 100-yard kickoff return against Iowa helped push the Cats to No. 3 in the nation in the category at 35.6 yards per return -- good enough for second in the Pac-10 behind ASU's 36.9 figure. Individually Cobb's career mark of 36 kick returns for 989 yards gives him a figure of 27.4 per attempt, exactly the UA career record held by Floyd Hudlow (1963-64). It would take some doing for him to reach Syndric Steptoe's 1,757 career KOR yards, set in four years from 2003-06. His blast against Iowa tied him with Art "The Cactus Comet" Luppino, Ricky Stevenson and Chris McAlister with two career KORs for scores... Juron Criner had two catches for 48 markers against the Hawkeyes to push him above the 20-yard level on season per-catch distance. The UA season record is 21.0 set by Keith Hartwig in 1973 with a superlative 54-1134 season... Arizona has a below-par rate of 76 percent effectiveness in the red zone, modest mostly because 87 other teams in the FBS are better. But on the other side, UA has held opponents to only four trips inside the 20, the fifth-lowest defensive total in the FBS. Might come in handy against California, which is tied for the national lead at 100 percent effectiveness with 15 trips and scores... One thing UA did wrong against Iowa was get whistled for a five-year high 12 penalties for 103 yards, considerably unlike most of Mike Stoops' clubs. The UA-Cal series saw the Arizona record book note the most combined penalties in a game -- 29 in the 1998 Cats-Bears contest in Berkeley... Trevin Wade's 85-yard INT return against Iowa tied for the sixth-longest in UA annals, matching Scott Geyer's 75-yarder against NC State in the 1989 Copper Bowl. It also gave Wade 10 career picks, two shy of the UA top 15 where six players sit with 12 apiece tied for No. 10. The most recent? Randy Robbins, former safety and father of UA true freshman safety Josh Robbins. He got his dozen from 1980-83, as did linebacker Ricky Hunley although two of Hunley's were fumble returns carded under old rules as INTs (when you couldn't return a fumble if it hit the ground)... Alex Zendejas improved his career field goal percentage to 80 percent with two-for-two vs. Iowa (3-for-3 this year). He has 20 makes in 25 attempts. A junior, he has plenty of room to make a run at Jason Bondzio's season mark of .875 or the career mark by JB of .833. He's also on track for 100 points this year, only accomplished once by a kicker, Bondzio in 2007.
Turning the Turnstiles
Arizona's capacity crowd against Iowa pushed the season average to 56,339. With home dates against five Pac-10 opponents remaining that kind of figure would represent one of the best ever. UA's listed average attendance record is 56,562 in 1994, while an average of 55,798 passed through gates in 2006. Much has been said of UA's student section, the ZonaZoo, and since it gave itself the nickname near the start of Mike Stoops' UA career, it's been one of the constants, with near 10,000 strong representation game after game, helping urge other patrons to keep coming back.
There's Something About TV
The commercial breaks, for one. The Hawkeyes-Cats game of three hours and 34 minutes seemed like a long one (especially if you were an Arizona fan sitting on a 27-7 lead with 23 minutes left on the clock). The last game to take that long was the three-hour, 47-minute overtime donnybrook against No. 11 Oregon a year ago in Tucson, also on ESPN as was Iowa. Two games on Versus a year ago also hit 210 minutes -- the 3:30 Stanford-Arizona game and the 3:36 Arizona-Oregon State game. Too, all those games were featured by passing. Iowa-Arizona saw 72 passes, Oregon-Arizona had 94 passes, Stanford-Arizona had 88 passes and UA-OSU had 83 passes. the 58-pass Arizona-Iowa game in Iowa City last year took 2:36, even if it was on the telly (ABC/ESPN2).
Not to Be Offensive
Over the course of the last 40 games, Arizona has scored 15 non-offensive touchdowns (once every 3 games). In 2007 and 2008, the Wildcats scored on two punt returns and two interception returns in each season. In 2009 , Travis Cobb scored on a kickoff return (95 yards), Bug Wright returned a punt to the house (86 yards), Orlando Vargas blocked a punt and returned it for a score (23 yards), and defensive backs Trevin Wade (38 yards) and Robert Golden (79 yards) had pick-six's. The Cats hope more are in store in all phases of the game in 2010.
Visiting the ZonaZoo?
The Wildcats have developed quite a home field advantage playing in Arizona Stadium in front of one of the largest and most spirited student sections in the country - the ZonaZoo - and a loyal fan base that has turned out in record numbers during the Mike Stoops era.
• UA has won 14 of its last 17 home games
• Only losses to No. 6 USC and No. 22 Oregon State in 2008, and No. 11 Oregon in 2OT in 2009
• The three losses have come by a total of 12 points (4 ppg average)
• UA has won its 14 games by an average of 23.3 ppg
• UA has just two single-digit victory in the span (2010 vs. Iowa, 2009 vs. Stanford)
• UA's 5-1 record in 2009 was its best home record since it went 5-1 three straight years from `96-98
• UA has averaged 50,000+ fans per game for six straight seasons, the best stretch in school history
• UA has averaged 52,830 fans per game in Mike Stoops' six seasons, with a 23-18 record
• A total of 2,171,090 fans have watched Stoops' teams at Arizona Stadium
• The ZonaZoo seats over 10,000 first-come, first-served patrons from endzone-to-endzone and has a membership well over 12,000 and growing, which accounts for one-third of UA's enrollment.
Foles Making a Name for Himself
Arizona junior quarterback Nick Foles continues to show why he is one of the top quarterbacks in the nation. An honorable mention all-league pick as a first-year starter in 2009. This summer, he was one of four QBs (Jake Locker, Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley) selected by the Pac-10 office to represent the league in East Coast media days in New York and at ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn. Voted by teammates as a team captain, Foles kicked off his junior campaign in style with a record setting performance at Toledo and set what could set up to be a special junior campaign. Here are some quick hits on Nick Foles:
• Preseason watch list for Davey O'Brien and Manning awards
• Surpassed the 3,000 yard mark for career passing yards vs. The Citadel
• Has thrown for 3,363 yards (No. 9 in UA history) in 15 career games (13 starts)
• Tied for No. 9 in UA history with 24 career passing TDs
• Currently ranks No. 2 in nation with 78.6% completion percentage
• 877 passing yards in 2010 are ninth-most in nation to date.
• His 19 passing TDs in 2009 tied for fourth-most in a season at UA
• 63.41% completion percentage in 2009 No. 3 in UA history
• Career-high 416 yards passing vs. Stanford in 2009
• Holds UA record for single game pass completion % for 30+ attempts (86.49% at Toledo, 2010)
In the Nick of Time
Arizona junior quarterback is becoming well known for his poise and perseverance in tough situations. After all, he's already experienced the highs and lows of the position. As a first-year starts in 2009, he endured two of the flukiest plays a quarterback could ever experience in heartbreaking road losses at Washington and California. But, Foles has been spectacular in some of the other tense situations he has faced, including the Sept. 18 showdown against then-No. 9 Iowa. It was the fourth second-half, game-winning performance that he helped to orchestrate in his 13-game career as a starting quarterback. Here's the list:
Sept. 26, 2009 Arizona 37, Oregon State 32
The situation: With Foles making his first career start, Arizona trailed the Beavers, 17-14, at halftime in Corvallis, Ore. ... Foles turned in a sensational second half, completing 15-of-22 passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns in the period ... The Wildcats surged to a road victory and Foles has started every game since for the Wildcats.
Oct. 17, 2009 Arizona 43, Stanford 38
The situation: One week after seeing a victory vanish on a controversial deflected interception that gave Washington a victory in Seattle, Foles made his first start in the home uniforms at Arizona Stadium ... The Wildcats trailed 27-20 at halftime and by as many as 15 points earlier in the first half ... Foles was nearly flawless in the second half, completing 21-of-27 passes for 203 yards and touchdown as UA rallied for the victory ... Foles was a perfect 8-for-8 passing in the final stanza, outdueling the Cardinal's Andrew Luck as both threw for over 400 yards in the game.
Dec. 5, 2009 Arizona 21, No. 20 USC 17
The situation: After guiding the Cats to a 14-7 halftime lead, Foles and the Wildcats found themselves trailing 17-14 with 7:13 remaining in the fourth quarter ... With the ball on their own 20 yard line, the Wildcats marched 80 yards in 10 plays for the game-winning score ... Foles was 4-of-7 passing on the drive for 63 yards, capped by an audible at the line that resulted in a 37-yard touchdown pass to Juron Criner ... Foles was 2-of-2 passing on third downs on the final drive.
Sept. 18, 2010 Arizona 34, No. 9 Iowa 27
The situation: Iowa defensive end Broderick Binns made an exceptionally athletic interception and returned it 20 yards to cap a 20-point rally by the Hawkeyes, who tied the Wildcats at 27-all after trailing 27-7 at halftime ... With the lead and momentum gone, Foles countered with the game-winning drive ... Taking over at UA's own 28-yard line with 8:12 remaining, Foles hit David Roberts for a 38-yard gain on the first play of the drive ... He capped the drive with a clutch throw to Bug Wright on third-and-goal from the four that put the Wildcats ahead for good ... Foles was 5-of-6 for 76 yards on the game-winning series.
Where Grigsby Stacks Up
Senior tailback Nic Grigsby has moved up to No. 3 on the UA career rushing touchdown chart (25) and No. 6 in school history with 2,611 career rushing yards . That total puts him No. 10 on the list of active players in the NCAA for career rushing yards. Grigsby needs 389 yards to become the school's sixth player to reach 3,000 career rushing yards. Here are some more quick hits on Nic Grigsby:
• Currently stands as UA No. 6 rusher in school history with 2,611 yards (10th-most for active FBS players)
• His 25 career rushing TDs tie Trung Canidate for No. 3 all-time at UA.
• Two rushing scores from tying Ronald Veal's 27 for No. 2 at UA
• His 107 rushing yards against The Citadel marked his 11th career 100-yard game
• Arizona is 10-1 in games he rushes for 100 yards or more.
• Tied career high with three rushing touchdowns against The Citadel
• Average of 5.46 yards per carry in career, including 6.02 ypc since start of 2008.
• Had 1,153 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2008
Big Play Juron
Wide receiver Juron Criner turned in a breakout season as a sophomore a year ago when he emerged as UA's big-play threat on the outside. His 2010 debut, which included a 10-catch, 176-yard performance, showed he has taken further steps to becoming on of the nation's most outstanding receivers. The 6-foot-4, 210-pounder is on the Biletnikoff preseason watch list and should be on that list as it narrows down throughout the season. Here are some quick hits on Juron Criner:
• Just one TD (11 currently) shy of breaking into UA's career top-10 for receiving TD's
• Led Pac-10 receivers with nine (9) receiving touchdowns in 2009
• Six of 11 (55 percent) career TD grabs have been 20+ yard plays
• 44 of 65 (65 percent) of career catches result in first down or TD
• 20.3 yards per catch on 14 receptions in 2010
• 10-catch, 176-yard performance at Toledo 2010
• 12-catch, 152-yard effort against Stanford in 2009
• Career-high three (3) touchdowns vs. Oregon in 2009
• Led all UA receivers with a 12.9 yards per catch average in 2009
• As a sophomore, hauled in TD catches at Iowa, at Oregon State and at USC
If at First You Don't Succeed
With the Iowa game in the balance, tied with four minutes left, Nick Foles tossed a back-corner route to inside receiver Bug Wright in the end zone on second-and-goal... that he dropped off outstretched hands. Third-and-goal: a quick post slant to Wright, that he caught, game winner. Wright matched his career high of five grabs (twice previously vs USC and Oregon, 2009) and was a half-dozen yards short of a yardage high with 67 (5-73, 1 TD against UO). The TD was his second receiving score to go with a punt-return TD against WSU a year ago.
Inside out for DD
Junior receiver David Douglas, an inside guy for his first two years, moved to the outside this year and in UA's leading receiver after tying his career best with seven receptions against Iowa (matched his 7-92 vs. Stanford last year). He has 16 catches for 140 yards and two scores. He appears well on the way to topping the 31 receptions he posted last year in the slot.
Make it a Good One
Inside receiver David Roberts has had some big games, notably the 12 catches for 138 yards he posted at Washington a year ago. But that was in a losing effort, and his single snare against Iowa was huge -- a diving over-the-head two-hander down the hash for 38 yards in the fourth quarter to move UA from its 28 to the Iowa 34-yard line. The catch helped keep the Hawks on their heels from the get-go on the winning drive.
Don't Ignore the Big Guys
UA's tight ends only have five catches this year, with A.J. Simmons (3-45) and Jack Baucus (2-14) doing the work. But add those numbers up and you get one key -- 12 yards per catch. That's a handy little piece of multiple-spread football, helping move the chains and keeping defenses honest.
Arizona held opponents without a touchdown over the first nine quarters to start the season. The Wildcat offense surrendered a safety on a holding penalty in the endzone for the only two points scored by Toledo in the opener, while The Citadel mustered a pair of field goals a week later. UA shut out Iowa in the first quarter of Game 3, before the Hawkeyes scored the first touchdown of the year against the Cats in the second quarter. While Iowa put four touchdowns on the board, only three of them were against the Wildcats' defense. An athletic play by DE Broderick Binns was returned by the big guy for a 20-yard score against Cats, meaning UA's defense has surrendered just three touchdowns in three games. In fact, while UA has allowed just 35 points on the season, only 27 of those are allowed by the defense. So UA's scoring defense, which is ranked No. 3 in the nation at 11.7 ppg, could actually be 9.0 ppg if points directly from the offense (safety, pick six) were removed from the equation.
Third Down Turnaround
Want to know a key to UA's victory over No. 9 Iowa last week? Consider success on third downs. While UA's offense converted at a season-low rate of 38.5 percent (5-of-13), it held Iowa to a lower conversion rate of 30.8 percent (4-of-13). That is considerable improvement over the trip to Iowa City a year prior, when UA struggled to a 2-for-12 day on third downs and allowed Iowa to convert at a 10-for-19 clip. This year, Arizona also was able to make third downs count, converting on a pair of them on the game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter. Nic Grigsby plunged ahead for two yards on a third-and-one, and Nick Foles hit Bug Wright for a touchdown on third-and-goal from the four yard line to cap the series. Not to mention, Iowa was just 1-for-8 on third downs over the final three quarters. Of Iowa's four successful conversions in the game, two of them were in the first period by QB Ricky Stanzi, who eluded pressure and picked up first downs on his own. The powerful Iowa ground game and play-action aerial attack found little success otherwise.
Ten For Trevin
Junior cornerback Trevin Wade snared his 10th career interception against Iowa on Sept. 18. Amazingly, it was second career "pick-six" with both coming against the Hawkeyes (one in 2009). While his 10 career interceptions are noteworthy, the most impressive part of the feat is the fact he has started just 17 games in his career. His 85-yard return against the Hawkeyes this year tied for the sixth-longest in school history. To date, he has 13 tackles, one pass breakup and one interception on the season. He is a candidate for a handful of national honors, including the Jim Thorpe Award, the Bonko Nagurski award and the Bednarik Award.
Flaring, Dumping and Swinging Away
Arizona's Keola Antolin (11-85) and Nic Grigsby (9-57) showed in the first three games that UA will be interested in throwing the ball to its running backs this year. Those two and Greg Nwoko combined for 48 catches a year ago, with the latter the RB leader at 18 grabs for 186 yards. Whether it's an increased emphasis this year or just quarterbacks finding the open man is a matter for the offensive coaching staff.
True sophomore running back Greg Nwoko (nuh-WOE-coe) has averaged 7.4 yards on 17 rushes, for 126 yards in three games, more of a glimpse at his breakaway potential than his 3.6 mark on 76 totes as a true freshman. He has more balance and better footwork this year and it's been evident. The efficiency has pushed his career average to 4.47 yards per tote. He's scored five career TDs after two against The Citadel in Week 2. As a third option in the running game, he's as good as it gets.
Special Special Teams
It was noted here before the Iowa game that the Wildcats had some game-breakers on special teams. That turned out to be the case, and two names omitted from consideration - David Roberts and Justin Washington - find themselves noteworthy this week, too. Roberts blocked his second career punt (Cal 2008) to set up the opening score for the Cats, while Washington deflected a potential go-ahead PAT kick that fluttered wide left in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Travis Cobb, scored his second career kickoff return touchdown, tying the UA record with a 100-yard spring into the endzone in the second quarter. Meanwhile, place kicker Alex Zendejas tied his career-long with a 47-yard field goal and was 2-for-2 on the day against Iowa. He is 16-for-16 on PATs this season and 3-for-3 on field goals. His kicking mate, kickoff specialist John Bonano, placed four kickoffs in the endzone for touchbacks against the Hawkeyes, giving him eight touchbacks for the season.
Knocking It Down
The Wildcat defense has 15passes messed up -- one interception and 14 PBUs - through three games. Pretty nice total against 70 passes attempted, and just 35complete passes allowed. Mid-year juco transfer linebacker Derek Earls had the interception and three passes defensed in the opener. The three PBUs were the most for a Wildcat since cornerback Trevin Wade had three (plus an interception) at Iowa last year. Senior safety Anthony Wilcox matched that total with a career-high three PBUs against Iowa.
Four Squared Snapped
Arizona did not score in the third quarter against Iowa, marking the first and only period to date the Wildcats have failed to post points. Interestingly, UA has scored at least 27 combined points in all four frames through the season, while outscoring opponents 127-35 so far.Arizona scored in all four quarters at Toledo for the first time in its last six games. UA followed that up by repeating the feat against The Citadel. Previously, the last time was against WSU in Tucson last Nov. 7, one of six times UA scored in each stanza last season. Needless to say, the Cats were pretty successful at 5-1 in the contests, averaging around 43 points per game.
Colin the Shots
UA center Colin Baxter returns for his final season in a Wildcat uniform and will undoubtedly be calling the shots on the offensive line. He has started 40-consecutive games along UA's line, providing stability at a position of need. In 2008, he was slid from guard to center mid-year after center Blake Kerley went down with a season-ending injury. Since, Baxter hasn't look back. He's a featured spokesman for the team, offering unique perspective acquired from his time in the trenches and his tireless work with the program on and off the field. He was named a team captain prior to the season for the second straight year and will make a final push for national honors at his position. An All-Pac-10 selection a year ago, Baxter is on the Outland Trophy and Rimington Award watch lists entering the season.
Old Man on the Block
Arizona graduate offensive tackle Adam Grant, who moves to the left side this year after a couple of years on the right, is an NCAA-approved sixth-year player thanks to some earlier medical problems that caused him to miss nine games as a sophomore (knee) and his redshirt freshman year in 2006 (knee). He also missed six games with a hand injury in 2008. Grant's tenacity and physical situation are at all-time highs. The 24-year-old religious studies student earned his degree two Mays ago. He's a 21-game starter in 23 overall appearances and one of the team's spokesmen on a variety of topics, notably perseverance. He initially was recruited as a tight end (redshirted 2005 in that role) but his big frame (now 6-foot-8, 325) was evident, and his future was a few feet closer to the ball from the onset of his career. His showcase game was likely against then-No. 9 Iowa on Sept. 18, when he went head-to-head with Adrian Clayborn, an All-American defensive end. Clayborn finished with just three tackles and was never a threat in the backfield on pass plays.
Fifth-year seniors Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore form one of the best defensive end tandems in the nation. The two have combined for 29 career sacks, with Elmore winning the individual competition 16.0 to 13.0. Reed, however, leads on the season with 2.5 to Elmore's 1.5. Both were forces against then-No. 9 Iowa on Sept. 18, a game when the Wildcats racked up six sacks against the ballyhooed big boys from the Big 10. Reed, who was named a team co-captain this year, led UA's defensive line with six tackles and 1.5 sacks against Iowa.
Program: The Last Four+ Years
When one thinks of Arizona football under Mike Stoops, they likely point to the early struggles in the first four years as he worked feverishly to rebuild the program followed by promising eight-win seasons the last two years. One thing that goes overlooked is the fact that, despite injuries to record-setting QB Willie Tuitama, the Wildcats posted a 6-6 mark in 2006 to achieve bowl eligibility on the heels of a pair of 3-8 seasons. While they didn't go bowling, the Cats had broken a stretch of six straight losing seasons for the program. The following year, Stoops brought in Sonny Dykes to overhaul the offense. While Arizona posted just a 5-7 mark in 2007, the offensive makeover was well underway and set the stage for breakout years in 2008 and 2009, as the Cats went bowling for the first time since 1998 in each season. Now, UA has winning overall and Pac-10 records the last four seasons. Surely, having his systems firmly established and his recruits in place has benefitted Stoops' teams over the long haul. Here's a look at the last four seasons - three of which have been bowl-eligible campaigns - for Stoops' Wildcats as it relates to the previous four and seven year stretches of UA football:
• UA is 22-11 in its last 33 games (0.667), including a 14-8 mark in the Pac-10
• UA is 14-3 at home over the last 17 games at Arizona Stadium
• UA has averaged 6.75 wins per seasons the last four years
• UA averaged just 4.0 wins per season over the previous seven seasons
• UA is 9-9 on the road in the Pac-10 the last four years
• UA never won more than one road game in a season from 2002-05
Rushing Attack Intact
Arizona's running back trio of Nic Grigsby, Keola Antolin and Greg Nwoko has combined for over 4,000 career rushing yards. Through three games this season, the current tally is 4,144 rushing yards, paced by Nic Grigsby's 2,611 yards, which places him No. 10 amongst active players in the NCAA for career rushing yards. Throw in Matt Scott's 489 career markers as a dual-threat quarterback, and you tally 4,642 career rushing yards ready to see the field at any time.
Rushing to Success
The spread offense has taken over college football in recent seasons and the Wildcats jumped on the bandwagon with Sonny Dykes and his staff in 2007. With it came a record-setting passing season for Arizona in 2007 and back-to-back eight-win seasons in 2008 and 2009. But the Wildcats have found their success most consistent in running the football, not tossing is around for 300-plus yards per game. Not coincidentally, a more consistent ground game the last few seasons has helped the Wildcats win more games. Consider this rush of facts:
• Arizona is just 7-7 in games when it passes for 300+ yards since the start of 2006
• Arizona is 6-1 in games when its opponent throws for 300+ yards in a game since '06
• Arizona is 23-6 in games when it rushes for 100+ yards in a game since `06
• Arizona is just 12-19 in games when its opponent rushes for 100+ yards in a game since `06
• Only four teams have beat UA when rushing for less than 100 yards since the start of `06
• UA has not lost a game since 2007 when opponent rushes for less than 100 yards (12-0 record)
Leading the Way
The Arizona Wildcats voted on their team captains 10 days prior to the season opener, with four veterans drawing the respect of their teammates. Senior defensive linemen Brooks Reed and Mana Mikaele will represent the defense as captains, while senior center Colin Baxter and junior quarterback Nick Foles will carry the honors for the offense. Two other players, wide receiver David Roberts and linebacker Jake Fischer, will represent the football team in UA's Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), which works with athletic administrators to provide feedback on improving the Arizona experience for student-athletes.
Zendejas on Point
Somewhat quietly, 2010 Lou Groza Award watch list member Alex Zendejas turned in an impressive year for a place kicker in his first year of a full duty a season ago. Zendejas connected on 17-of-22 field goals, including a career-long 47-yarder at the end of the first half against Oregon and a game-winning 32-yarder as time expired against ASU (named Pac-10 Special teams Player of the Week for the game-winner). He's missed three PATs, but still hit 38-of-41, giving him 89 points on the year. He tied with uncle Max's 89 points in the 1985 season, which is the No. 10 mark for a single season for scoring (all players). In 2007, Jason Bondzio became the first UA kicker to reach 100. Alex's four field goals in four tries at Washington tied the school record for which he already grabbed a share. He hit on relative chip shots of 18, 23, 29 and 24 yards against the Huskies. For his effort, Zendejas was named one of three "Stars of the Week" by the Lou Groza Collegiate Place Kicker Award. He opened the season 4-for-5 against Central Michigan to join four other former Wildcats with four in a game. His UW performance also gave him a piece of the 4-for-4 single-game high-percentage mark held by the same four kickers (Doug Pfaff vs. Stanford 1989, Max Zendejas at LSU 1984, Charlie Gorham vs. Indiana 1973 and Steve Jurley vs. UTEP 1968). In 2010, Zendejas is a perfect 3-for-3 in field goals, including a career-high tying 47-yarder, and 16-for-16 on PAT tries.
Arizona's success on the gridiron hinges greatly on its fortunes in the turnover battle, particularly on the road. Since the start of the 2006 season (52 total games), the Wildcats are an impressive 14-3 when they win the turnover battle in a game. Conversely, they struggle to a 5-12 mark in games when they lose the critical battle. The Cats linger just over .500 in games they split the turnover margin with an 11-8 mark. In multiple miscue games, Arizona is just 12-15 when it turns the ball over two or more times, but has benefitted with a 10-3 clip when opponents turn it over twice or more in a game. But perhaps the most notable statistical trend as it relates to turnovers is the fact that the Cats are 0-9 in the last 52 games when they lose the turnover battle on the road. At the same time, UA is 10-4 away from the home when it wins or splits the turnover battle.
Moving the Chains
The Wildcats' offensive attack the last several years has been very good at moving the chains and keeping drives alive. A good game in this category includes accumulating 20 or more first downs in a game. When the Cats reach that mark, they are 14-4 over the last 28 games and 19-6 since the start of the 2006 season. At the same time, keeping opponents under that mark is critical, too. UA has captured 22 of its 29 victories over the last four years by keeping opponents under 20 first downs in a game. If UA gets 20 and keeps its opponents below that number in the same game, the Cats win better than 80-percent of the time (14-3 record). Against Iowa, both teams tallied 19 first downs.
Game of Possession
While not always the case, maintaining possession of the football is a sign that one's offense is moving the ball and its defense is doing a sound job controlling the opposing offense That has usually been the case for the Wildcats, although some quirky games (such as a 23:32 edge in possession at Oregon in 2008) skew TOP from being a perfect stat. Even so, Arizona is 22-7 since the start of 2006 when it has a positive margin in time of possession and struggles to just a 8-16 mark when its opponents keeps the ball longer. For games in which the opponent controls the ball four or more minutes longer than the Cats yields a 3-13 record for the Cardinal and Navy. When the tables are turned and UA has the four-plus minutes of possession, the Cats are 16-6.
Since the start of the 2008 season, the Wildcats have developed a knack for fast starts to games and halves. In 2009, the Wildcats outscored their opponents 105-58 in the first quarter of games and 77-56 in the third quarter. Combined with the 2008 season and the first games of 2010, those numbers are even more impressive. UA has outscored opponents 225-120 in the first quarter of its last 30 games, and 233-120 in the third quarter of those games. What does it mean? Either the Wildcats thrive playing fully rested or perhaps game plans and coaching adjustments are spot-on and the players are executing those plans.
Notes on Sacks
Arizona registered 34 sacks in 2009, led by DE Ricky Elmore who notched a Pac-10-leading 10.5 sacks during the regular season. The defense ranked No. 22 in the NCAA and No. 3 in the Pac-10 on the year with a 2.62 sacks per game. UA's season total was its most in nearly a decade, falling just short of the 36 posted by the 2001 club. Of note, the Wildcats turned in at least three sacks in a game seven times last season (5-2 record), the most three-sack games for a UA squad since 2000 when it had eight. In its last 53 games, Arizona has recorded three or more sacks in a game 21 times with a 15-6 record.
30 Is (Usually) The Magic Number
The Cats' loss to Oregon in double overtime and their 36-33 loss to Washington on Oct. 10 was a rare one. Since joining the Pac-10 in 1978, the Wildcats have played 113 games in which they have scored 30 or more points. Their record in those games? An astounding 102-11-1. That record included a streak of 18 consecutive victories prior to the Oregon game in 2008 (55-45 loss), and UA is now 23-3 under Mike Stoops. Arizona is 3-0 in such games this season.
If Not 30, Try 40
If Arizona's winning percentage since 1978 when scoring 30 or more points isn't enough, then try out a 40+ point stat. In its entire history of football, Arizona is 112-5 when scoring 40 or more points in a game. Arizona was 4-0 in such games - all at home - in an eight-win 2008 season. Previously, the last time UA reached the mark four times in one season was in 1954, when it did so six times. In 2009, the Wildcats reached 40 points three times with a 2-1 record in those games. The loss? A 44-41 double overtime victory by Oregon. Amazingly, the Ducks also dropped the Cats the year prior, 55-45, in Eugene, accounting for two of the five all-time losses. UA is 2-0 in 2010 when scoring 40 points.Mike Stoops'
Youth in Charge
Arizona co-offensive coordinators Bill Bedenbaugh and Seth Littrell hit the chart of "youngest coordinators" compiled by East Carolina SID Tom McClellan. Littrell, 32, is the eight-youngest coordinator in the country and seventh-youngest OC, while Bedenbaugh, 38, is 32nd on the overall list. Twenty-seven-year-old Lincoln Riley (offensive) of ECU is the youngest coordinator in the land.
Experience in Charge
Arizona co-defensive coordinators Tim Kish and Greg Brown hit the chart of "most-experienced" coordinators compiled by ECU SID Tom McClellan. Kish and Brown have a combined 66 years of college and pro coaching experience, which together checks in as the fifth-most by a coordinator duo in the nation. Most of schools on the list combine their OC and their DC, but Arizona and Iowa are the two schools in the top-5 of the chart that sport co-defensive coordinators.
The Arizona defense limited Toledo to 183 total offense yards in the season opener and followed that up by shutting down the triple-option attack of The Citadel (171 total yards), marking the sixth and seventh times in the last 29 games the Wildcats have kept an opponent below 200 yards of offense. Under Mike Stoops, The Cats have turned in a sub-200 yard defensive effort on 10 occasions, including in each of the last three season openers. Here's a look at the nine efforts under the Stoops-led defenses:
• The Citadel (2010) - 171 yards on 64 total plays.
• Toledo (2010) - 183 yards on 51 total plays.
• Central Michigan (2009) - 182 yards on 51 total plays.
• Washington St. (2009) - 185 yards on 42 total plays.
• Idaho (2008) - 112 yards on 52 total plays.
• UCLA (2008) - 196 yards on 59 total plays.
• Arizona St. (2008) - 162 yards on 54 total plays.
• Stanford (2006) - 52 yards on 32 total plays, the Cats' Pac-10 -game record.
• Stephen F. Austin (2006) - 196 yards on 50 total plays.
• Stanford (2005) - 195 yards on 58 plays.
Arizona played a lot of Cats in its first two games, employing 60 players on the road at Toledo and putting 67 in action against Citadel, In the opener those included true freshman defensive backs Marquis Flowers, Johnathan McKnight and Shaquille Richardson, and snapper Chase Gorham. Other first timers were redshirt freshman DT Sione Tuihalamaka, redshirt freshman LB Trevor Erno, redshirt freshman DT Justin Washington, redshirt freshman TE Jack Baucus, transfer junior WR Gino Crump, juco transfer LBs Paul Vassallo and Derek Earls, juco transfer LB Bilal Muhammed and sophomore DE Brett Thompson. Tuihalamaka, Vassallo, Earls and Baucus earned their first starts in the opener, while Washington had a sack on his first career scrimmage play to earn a start against The Citadel. The three true freshmen DBs (Flowers, McKnight, Richardson), Thompson and Gorham start on special teams. Against the 'Dogs, redshirt freshman RB Kylan Butler got his debuit, rushing three times for 15 yards... First-time players in the second game included redshirt freshman safety Derrick Rainey, walk-on DB Khyri Knowles, walk-on receiver Sean Lieb and walk-on RB Oliver Padre. Stoops' staff has recruited well and developed talent quickly based on these appearances.
Arizona will receive a much-needed bye week after a four-week stretch to kick off the 2010 season. The Wildcats will next be in action on Saturday, Oct. 9, when they host Oregon State for Family Weekend. Kickoff time has yet to be announced and will be determined after Pac-10 TV partners make picks on Monday, Sept. 27, for the 12-day selections for the weekend of Oct. 9.