The No. 24-ranked Arizona football team (5-3, 2-3 Pac-12) heads to The Rose Bowl to take on No. 25 UCLA (6-2, 3-2 Pac-12) on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. on the Pac-12 Networks.
Oct. 29, 2012
No. 24 Arizona (5-3, 2-3 Pac-12) at No. 25 UCLA (6-2, 3-2 Pac-12)
Arizona Weekly Game Notes (PDF)
Date: Nov. 3 Time: 7:30 p.m. (PDT)
Location: Pasadena, Calif. (The Rose Bowl -- 91,136)
Television Broadcast: Pac-12 Networks
TV Broadcasters: Ted Robinson (pxp), Glenn Parker (analyst), Ryan Nece (sideline)
UA Radio: Arizona Radio Network, 1290 AM Tucson (see page 4 of this release for complete list of affiliates)
UA Radio Broadcasters: Brian Jeffries (pxp), Lamont Lovett (color analyst), Dana Cooper (sideline analyst)
Satellite Radio: SIRIUS 139, XM 196 (UCLA radio call)
Arizona-UCLA Series History
All-Time Series: UCLA leads 19-15-2
First Meeting: Nov. 19, 1927 (Arizona 16, UCLA 13 at Tucson, Ariz.)
Last Meeting: Oct. 20, 2011 (Arizona 48, UCLA 12 at Tucson, Ariz.)
Some Game Themes: The calendar turns for two programs with first-year head coaches looking to play - and win - some games to remember in November ... A pair of Pac-12 rivals carry two-game conference win streaks into a top-25 matchup that will shape the South Division race heading into the final weeks of the season ... An under-the-radar game sure to be overlooked by outsiders given the matchup at the Coliseum downtown ... A head-to-head matchup of the Pac-12's leaders in total offense that pits experience (fifth-year senior Matt Scott) against youth (redshirt freshman Brett Hundley). The latter is the son of former Wildcat defensive back Brett Hundley Sr., who played in Tucson from 1982-86 ... Arguably the league's two best all-around running backs - UA's Ka'Deem Carey and UCLA's Johnathan Franklin - feast their eyes on defenses that each give up near 160 yards on the ground ... Can the resilient, if not opportunistic, Wildcat defense, which has forced eight turnovers over the last two games, continue to capitalize and get key stops to complement one of the nation's most explosive offenses? Will UCLA's defensive front, which ranks sixth nationally in sacks, find similar success against a patchwork Wildcat offensive line that has not allowed a sack in the last two outings? ... Conversely, can a quietly improving Wildcat pass rush get its paws on Hundley going against a Bruin o-line that ranks near the bottom of the national rankings in sacks allowed? ... UA coach Rich Rodriguez seeks his first road victory, one that could be both symbolic and significant if it comes at The Rose Bowl while he continues to lay a foundation for the future ... The Bruins hope their new leadership under Jim Mora snaps a string of five-straight straight Wildcat victories in the series ... The first of two-straight homecoming games for Arizona, which hosts its own next weekend.
The Coaches: Arizona - Rich Rodriguez (West Virginia '86), first year at Arizona (5-3) and 18th as a head coach overall (125-87-2). Rodriguez was introduced as the 30th head coach of the UA football program on Nov. 22, 2011. He carries Division I records of 5-3 at Arizona, 60-26 at West Virginia (2001-2007) and 15-22 at Michigan (2008-10). He began his head coaching career at Salem (W.Va.) University 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. UCLA -- Jim Mora (Washington '84), first year at UCLA (6-2) and first year overall as a college head coach (6-2). The former Atlanta Falcons (2005-06) and Seattle Seahawks (2009) head coach was named UCLA's 17th head coach in school history in December of 2011, bringing a defensive background to the program after a long string of offensive-minded coaches including Dick Vermeil, Terry Donahue, Bob Toledo and most recently Rick Neuheisal. Mora has an extensive history as an NFL defensive coordinator with limited time in the college game. Broke into coaching at Washington as a defensive assistant under Don James following his four-year playing career as a defensive back for the Huskies.
UA-UCLA 2011 Rewind: Arizona went out and played some ball from the onset, scoring six touchdowns on its first six possessions to put the game out of reach before halftime in a 48-12 victory over UCLA on Oct. 20, 2011, at Arizona Stadium. The Cats won the toss, took the ball and didn't look back. UA picked up a pair of turnover TDs with 60-yard drives in that mix, plus put together four drives of around 80 yards. Early keys besides UA's offensive persistence were answering the Bruins first-quarter touchdown drive (which cut it to 14-7) with a long UA scoring drive, and otherwise holding UCLA to 19 plays and 114 yards total on its other first-half possessions. At the break the Cats had 416 yards in offense to 177 by UCLA. In the end, Arizona scored six touchdowns on six red zone forays, converted 10 of 16 third downs and one fourth down, and rushed for a season-high 254 yards. Nick Foles backed it up with 291 throwing yards and three touchdowns -- all to Juron Criner -- while the Cats featured five different running backs in shotgun, spread, pistol, twin and other formations. Defensively the best news was the scoreboard, holding UCLA to as few points as it did against Northern Arizona. The Bruins picked up two of their markers on a safety with six minutes left in the game and UA's second unit on the field. The win snapped a five-game losing streak and snapped a string of 10 consecutive losses to FBS schools. All the numbers aside, the game's outcome and process proved that college football's an emotional game: you have to have some and if you do, good things can happen. Ten days after their head coach was dismissed, the Wildcats played without caution to give interim coach Tim Kish his first head coaching win.
Last Week: Arizona jumped out to an early 10-point lead before it fell behind by 15 in the second half, but the Wildcats rallied with 26 unanswered points to hold on and upset No. 10 USC, 39-36, at Arizona Stadium in a record-setting game for two Trojans. Indeed, Matt Barkley passed for a USC record 493 yards, while top target Marqise Lee shattered the Pac-12 receiving record with 345 yards and two scores as part of a 469-yard all-purpose day that ranks as the third-best ever in FBS history. However, the more balanced offense and hungrier defense prevailed in the end. The Wildcats rushed for 219 yards with a pair of 100-yard days from Matt Scott and Ka'Deem Carey, while the defense forced five turnovers - most in five seasons. Marquis Flowers was the defensive star for the Wildcats, intercepting a pair of Barkley passes and forcing a fumble to keep the game in check in the first half. In the second half, Flowers' defensive mates stopped the Trojans on their final five third down tries and one critical fourth down early in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Scott and the offense scored touchdowns on four straight possessions over 13:20 from the late third quarter into the middle of the fourth quarter. Austin Hill's 259 receiving yards - second-most in school history - were highlighted by third-down conversion grabs of 42 and 60-yards respectively to set up two of the scores. Once the Wildcats had a lead in tow, they turned the ball over to Carey to kill some clock and he did just that by gaining a pair of first downs on UA's final drive and leaving USC with only 55 seconds and a long field to try and tie or win. In the end, Barkley's heave at the buzzer dropped to the ground in the endzone, though Lee got a hand on it but couldn't pull it away from Shaquille Richardson and a host of Wildcat defenders. It was UA's second win against an AP Top-25 team at Arizona Stadium this season, the first such occurrence since 1992. It was also the Wildcats' first win in the desert against USC since 1999.
Good To Be Back: Arizona returns to the national rankings after a brief two-week stint in September. This week, the Wildcats check in at No. 24 in the Associate Press Top-25 and debut in the BCS Standings at No. 22, while receiving votes in the USA Today Coaches' Poll. Earlier this year, the Wildcats peaked at No. 21 in the Coaches' Poll and No. 22 in the AP Top-25 before losing at Oregon (Sept. 22). Arizona was last ranked in the BCS Standings heading into the final week of the regular season in 2010 (No. 23 before losing to Arizona State).
Here We Go Again: For the sixth time this season and the fifth time in the last six games, Arizona will play a team ranked in the Associated Press Top-25 at the time of the game. The last time the Wildcats played such a daunting six-game stretch was in 1997 when UA also played five ranked opponents over the course of a half-dozen games. That season, UA lost to No. 9 Ohio State (26-20 at Tucson), lost to No. 24 UCLA (40-27 at Pasadena), defeated No. 16 Stanford (28-22 at Tucson), lost to No. 10 Washington (58-28 at Tucson) and lost to No. 10 Washington State (35-34 in overtime at Pullman).
Against The Top 25: With a 59-38 victory over then-No. 18 Oklahoma State on Sept. 8 and a 39-36 upset of No. 10 USC on Oct. 27, Arizona has defeated a ranked team in the AP Top-25 poll in eight of the last nine seasons. The highest-ranked foe to go down in the last nine seasons was then-No. 2 Oregon, 34-24, in Tucson on Nov. 15, 2007. Historically, Arizona is 41-100-1 against teams ranked in the Associated Press poll. Rich Rodriguez is 2-3 such game in his first season. It's the first time since 2008 that the Wildcats defeated two ranked teams in the same season (No. 25 California and vs. No. 17 BYU). The victory over the Cougars was in the Las Vegas Bowl, leaving the 2006 season as the last time UA knocked off a pair of ranked foes in the same regular season (at No. 25 Washington State and No. 8 California). Arizona has now defeated two AP Top 25 teams in the same season at home for the first time since 1992 (23-3 victory over No. 11 UCLA and 16-3 upset of No. 1-ranked Washington).
Players of the Week: Matt Scott passed for 369 yards and three touchdowns and added a career-high 100 rushing yards and another score as part of a 469-yard, four-touchdown total offense day. The efforts earned him the Walter Camp Offensive Player of the Week as well as recognition as one of eight Manning Award Stars of the Week. The UA coaching staff named Scott and receiver Austin Hill co-offensive players of the week for the team ... Marquis Flowers the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week on Monday after he collected a career-high two interceptions and forced a fumble to go with seven tackles. The stellar effort earned him National Linebacker of the Week honors by the College Football Performance Awards.
Strength of Schedule: Jeff Sagarin ranks Arizona's schedules as the sixth-toughest in the nation to date, with five of the Wildcats eight games to date being against teams in his top-30 (2-3 record). The combined record of UA's seven FBS opponents this season is 43-12, including 40-8 in the games excluding Arizona. The Wildcats check in No. 19 in Sagarin's ratings, while the Bruins come in at No. 27 to give UA another tilt against top-30 foe. The Pac-12 is rated as the third-toughest conference behind the Big 12 and the SEC.
Matt's The Man: Quarterback Matt Scott, who redshirted in 2011, is putting together a stellar senior season, if statistics are any indication. The Corona, Calif., native entered 2012 with five previous career starts and is now a 13-game starter (9-4 record) as a Wildcat. He possesses a complete repertoire of skills at the quarterback position, including ability to make all the throws on the field and hurt defenses with his legs.
Tracking Matt: Senior quarterback Matt Scott has emerged as one of the most prolific passers in the country in his first full season as a starter. Scott's 2,724 passing yards lead all Pac-12 passers and rank No. 3 in the nation. Added with nearly 50 rushing yards per game, Scott is averaging 386.1 yards in total offense per game, which also leads the Pac-12 and ranks No. 2 nationally. Scott, who is averaging 12.0 yards per completion, has the fourth-most passing plays of 10-plus yards (110) of any quarterback in the country. He also has 39 passes of 20 or more yards, which ranks third-most among FBS quarterbacks. It's all amounts to Scott challenging some single season and career top-10 offensive charts. Here's a look at a few:
- Scott has four of Arizona's top-10 all-time single-game total offense performances (485 at Stanford, 469 vs. USC, 461 vs. Toledo, and 432 vs. Oregon State)
- 3,089 total offense yards in 2012 already rank No. 3 in single-season history.
- Scott has moved into a tie for fourth-place in single-season history with 20 passing touchdowns. Four more will push him into the No. 2 spot. He needs eight more to tie the record.
- Scott (2,724 yards) ranks No. 6 on the school's single-season passing yardage list. He is 365 yards away from moving up to No. 5. - Scott's 227 pass completions rank No. 6 in single-season history. - Scott's 26 career passing touchdowns rank No. 10 in program history.
- Scott's 62.9 percent completion percentage would rank No. 6 in single-season history if it were to hold up through season's end.
Carey The Load: Sophomore running back Ka'Deem Carey, a local product out of Canyon del Oro High School, has emerged as UA's featured back and one of the most underrated players in the Pac-12 through the first eight games of the season. On the Maxwell Award Watch List, Carey ranks third in the Pac-12 with 120.1 rushing yards per game and checks in third in all-purpose yardage (150.9ypg). The 5-foot-11, 195-pounder has 13 total scores (12 rushing, one receiving) to rank second among all Pac-12 players and rank tied for 18th-most nationally in scoring. Carey has topped 100 yards rushing six times this season alone, just a year after the Wildcats broke 100 yards as a team only five times in 12 contests in 2011.
More Ka'Deem: While Carey doesn't have the look of a power back, he's a tough, physical inside runner that picks up extra yards after contact. He has a 5.3 yards per carry average, boosted by 26 totes of 10 or more yards, tied for 11th-most nationally. Carey also is an explosive threat in the passing game, where he averages 9.6 yards per reception and ranks third on the club with 24 catches for 230 yards. His 1,191 yards from scrimmage are 9th-most individually among all FBS players.
Ka'Deem In Perspective: How good of a season is Ka'Deem Carey putting together? Well, a look at the Pac-12 stats won't do him justice. Carey currently ranks third in the conference with 961 rushing yards, narrowly trailing some well-known talents like UCLA's Jonathan Franklin (1,042) and Oregon's Kenjon Barner (974). However, Carey's rushing total would lead all rushers in four other BCS conferences, including the ACC, Big East, Big 12 and SEC.
Big Play Austin: Sophomore receiver Austin Hill is turning in a breakout campaign, highlighted by a career day against No. 10 USC last weekend in which he racked up a career-best 259, the second-highest total in UA single-game history. On 10 grabs, he set a UA single-game mark for yards per reception (25.9) knocking to improve his season per-catch tally to 17.4. He had five receptions of 20-plus yards against USC, including a career-long 60-yarder to continue a trend of making big plays all season long. In fact, Hill ranks tied for No. 2 in the nation in both receptions of 20-plus yards (17) and 30-plus yards (10). He averages 117.1 yards per game, good enough for the No. 2 spot in the Pac-12 and No. 5 nationally.
Hill Climbing: Sophomore Austin Hill has already cracked the school's single-season receiving yardage chart with 937 yards. That ranks as the ninth-most and he is within 33 yards of moving past both Juron Criner (956 in 2011) and Richard Dice (1994) for a couple more spots. In fact, 101 yards would tie him with Mike Thomas (1,038 in 2007) for the No. 5 spot. Hill is also inching closer to the single-season receptions top-10, currently nine shy of Dennis Northcutt's 63 in 1998 that holds the position. In the touchdowns category, Hill is just one shy of matching five former Cats who share the No. 10 position.
Dan's The Man: In the receiving jamboree, senior Dan Buckner has been overshadowed by youngster Austin Hill, but the upperclassman has turned in a strong campaign. Buckner is second on the team in several receiving categories, including receptions (51), yards (656) and touchdowns (3). He also averages 12.9 yards per grab - also second-best on the squad. With a pair of 100-yard receiving games, Buckner joins Hill (four 100-yard games) as one of three Pac-12 duos with multiple 100-yard games. Buckner is tied for No. 10 nationally with 32 receptions of 10-plus yards. He has 10 over 20 yards.
Don't Forget the Big Guys: Arizona has been without stalwarts Kyle Quinn and Trace Biskin on the offensive line for most the last three games, but a patchwork group has done an admirable job in their place. Junior Chris Putton can play any position on the line and has regularly played both guard and tackle in games this season. He's started alongside backup center Addison Bachman and fill-in starter Shane Zink at the other guard spot, with true freshman Cayman Bundage seeing regular rotation reps in each game. Tackles Mickey Baucus and Fabbians Ebbele have started each game this season to provide some stability at those key spots. But consider these numbers: without fifth-year graduate students Quinn and Biskin (did play limited snaps as a backup last week), the Wildcats have averaged 207.3 rushing yards per game over the last three contests. Just as impressive, the group has surrendered just three sacks, including none in the last two games. That's yeoman's work for coach Robert Anae's charges.
200-Yard Rushing Day: Matt Scott (15-100, TD) and Ka'Deem Carey (28-119, TD) became the first pair of Wildcats to each rush for 100 yards in a game since tailback Mike Bell (16-153, TD) and fullback Gilbert Harris (16-113, TD) achieved the feat against UCLA on Nov. 5, 2005, at Arizona Stadium. The 219 rushing yards for the Wildcats were their most against a USC team since gaining 307 yards in 1999, which was conveniently the last time Arizona defeated the Trojans in Tucson. On the season, Arizona has four 200-plus yard games matching the total it had in the 2010 and 2011 seasons combined.
A Hill of a Day: Sophomore receiver Austin Hill, one of the top performers on the Biletnikoff Award Watch List, hauled in 10 passes for a career-best 259 receiving yards (second-most in UA single-game history) last week against USC. Half of those catches went for 20 or more yards, including a 56-yarder in the first half, and plays of 60 and 42 yards in the second half. The second half plays both came on key third downs to set up scoring plays. The 60-yarder in the fourth quarter was the longest pass play of the season for Arizona and it dug the Wildcats out of a third-and-22 hole at their own 16-yardline. The go-ahead touchdown was punched in four plays later. Hill's 25.9 yards per reception set a new single-game record with a minimum of 10 catches, surpassing Dennis Northcutt's 25.7 clip set on his 10-catch, 257-yard day against TCU on Sept. 5, 1999, in Fort Worth, Texas. It was UA's ninth 200-yard game for a player, and the first since Bobby Wade had 222 at California in 2002.
Third-and-What? The momentum shifted last week on one big third down conversion in the third quarter. The Wildcats were just 1-for-11 on third downs in the game and were down 15 points as they faced a third-and-six at their own 48-yardline. That was when Matt Scott hit Austin Hill for a 42-yard gain before Scott punched in a 10-yard touchdown run on the next play. Two drives later, after UA cut the deficit to just two points, the Cats were facing a third-and-22 from their own 16-yardline. Scott again found Hill open, this time for a season-long 60-yard pickup. Four plays later, the Wildcats had the lead. The two big-gainers highlighted a key stat in the game: USC was just 1-for-5 on third downs in the second half, including 0-for-2 in the fourth quarter. Meantime, the Wildcats were 4-of-5 on third downs in the fourth quarter alone.
Turnover Turnaround: Arizona has forced eight turnovers over the last four games, giving the Wildcats 19 takeaways on the season against 15 turnovers of their own. That plus-four margin on the season currently ranks fifth in the conference, and will be interesting to watch in the coming games. Two of Arizona's biggest wins - vs. Oklahoma State and USC - have seen the Wildcats benefit form a nine opponent turnovers, while UA has given it away just once in those games. The five takeaways against the Trojans last week were the most in a single game since Aug. 31, 2008, against Idaho.
Spurtability: A term coined by Clark Kellogg usually reserved for action on the hardwood, the Wildcats have defined it a couple times on the gridiron to upset nationally-ranked foes this season. In a Sept. 8 game against then-No. 18 Oklahoma State, the Wildcats trailed 14-0 early in the game before surging for 30 unanswered points to claim a 16-point lead by halftime. Arizona went on to win 59-38.The Cats were at it again last Saturday, trailing then-No. 10 USC by 15 points in the third quarter before exploding for 26 unanswered points over 13 minutes and 20 second en route to the 39-36 win. Each scoring run has been a combination of explosive offense and stingy, opportunistic defense. Against the Cowboys, Arizona's defense registered stops on six straight possessions to end the first half. Against the Trojans, the defense recorded stops on five consecutive second half possessions while the offense scored four touchdowns.
Flag Days: Keep an eye on the yellow beanbags this week; UCLA (79.9) ranks second-to-last in penalty yardage per game, while Arizona leads the conference in opponent penalty yardage per game (96.9). The Wildcats saw plenty of yellow last week against USC, as the teams combined for 27 penalties for 246 yards. Those figures came up short of single-game records for both Arizona and its opponents. It was also short in the combined category, with UA-California combining for records of 29 penalties and 307 penalty yards in Berkeley in 1998. The 775 yards of penalties marked off against UA opponents this season is already nearing the school record of 822 in a 12-game 1998 season.
Four-Straight For Ka'Deem: Sophomore running back Ka'Deem Carey has topped 100-yards rushing in four-consecutive games and in six contests this season. He has 538 yards on the ground and seven scores in the four games against some pretty tough competition. Entering the Sept. 29 game against Oregon State, the Beavers had allowed an average of 53.2 rushing yards per game and Carey totaled 115 by himself (UA rushed for 142). A week later at Stanford, the Caridnal defense was surrendering 65.0 yards per game, and Carey netted 132 and three scores (UA rushed for 126). After a bye week, Carey shredded a Washington defense for 172 yards (UA had 277) that was yielding 182.5 per game. And then last week, Carey picked up 119 (UA had 219) against a USC defense that had allowed 109.6 per game entering the contest. Not bad.
Oh So Close: They say you are what your record says you are. In that sense, the Wildcats are in fact 5-3. But with one more play here (vs. Oregon State) and one more play there (at Stanford), Arizona instead could be boasting at a 7-1 record (or maybe the Cats lose close tilts against Toledo and USC?). The fact is UA was close to two more wins. The Wildcats held a 35-31 lead over the Beavers at Arizona Stadium on Sept. 29, but OSU put together a 10-play, 75-yard drive over the next 4:25 for the game-winning touchdown in a 38-35 come-from-behind victory. Arizona twice had the Beavers facing third downs on the decisive drive, but couldn't muster one final stop. A week later at Stanford on Oct. 6, the Cats clawed their way to a 48-34 lead midway through the fourth quarter. However, the Cardinal rallied to get within one score, before converting on a pair of fourth down plays on its final drive to tie the game 48-48 and force overtime. Stanford prevailed 54-48.
Nifty Fifty: Arizona has topped the 50-point mark in three of its eight games to date, something that hasn't been done in a single season at the school since 1954. It's an impressive feat considering how few 50-point games have been for the Wildcats in that span. Including the 59, 56 and 52 points scored in games this year, Arizona has reached the half-century number only 20 times since the 1954 season, boasting a record of 19-1 in such contests (defeat was a 56-55, 3OT loss at California in 1996). Only the 2008, 1998 and 1983 squads put up 50 or more points in a game on two occasions. The 1954 gridiron club defeated New Mexico State (58-0), Utah (54-20) and Arizona State (54-14).
Halftime Adjustments: Arizona's defense has proven stingy in the second half of two recent games. The Wildcats shutout Washington in the second half of the 52-17 victory on Oct. 20. A week later against USC, Arizona held the Trojans to just 15 points in the second half to set the stage for 26 unanswered points in a 39-36 come-from-behind victory. On the season, the Wildcats are outscoring foes 103-66 in the third quarter of games and 181-133 in second halves.
Sack Attack: Arizona defenders are beginning to find ways to get the quarterback. After collecting just three sacks in the first four games of the season, the Wildcats now have nine sacks in their last four games, including two against USC and a season-high four against Washington. Sophomore defensive lineman Reggie Gilbert leads the club with 2.5 sacks in the recent stretch, while junior linebacker Marquis Flowers boasts the season-lead with 3.5.
Youth Movement: Arizona has played 40 freshmen or sophomores this season, comprising more than half of the nearly 75 Wildcats to see the field. The Wildcats have played 10 true freshmen, the fourth-most of any Pac-12 school and among the top-20 nationally (research courtesy of David Plati at Colorado). With redshirts mixed in, UA has played more than 20 freshmen, most on defense. In fact, the youth movement is most prominent on the defensive side of the ball, where 14 of the 22 players listed on the regular two-deep are freshmen or sophomores. From that group, six of UA's top eight tacklers are freshmen or sophomores, led by safeties Jourdon Grandon (50), Jared Tevis (45) and Tra'Mayne Bondurant (50). Bondurant leads the team with 10.5 tackles for loss.
Big Play Bondurant: Perhaps one of the most underrated defenders in the Pac-12 is "Spur" safety Tra'Mayne Bondurant. The true sophomore has a nose for the football and has proven to be a pest for opposing teams. The Vallejo, Calif., native is fifth on the team with 50 total tackles, but he leads all players and ranks tied for ninth in the Pac-12 with 10.5 tackles for loss. The 10.5 stops behind the line surpass UA's season leader from a year ago, since-departed linebacker Derek Earls, who had 7.0 TFLs. Bondurant, who has four passes broken up and a forced fumble this season, intercepted his first pass of the season two weeks ago against Washington, returning it 43 yards to help set up Arizona's second touchdown.
A Budding Star: Converted safety Marquis Flowers continues to develop as a linebacker, a position he was switched to about a week before the start of the season. At 6-foot-3, 221 pounds, Flowers is Arizona's biggest linebacker and ranks as team's leader with 3.5 sacks. Flowers is also second on the squad with 7.5 tackles for loss and second with 55 total tackles. He has added two interceptions, a pair of pass breakups and has forced two fumbles. He has accounted for four takeaways in the last two games (forced fumble vs. Washington and two INTs and forced fumble vs. USC).
Man In The Middle: Junior Jake Fischer has been a stalwart middle linebacker in Arizona's new 3-3-5 defensive scheme implemented this season by defense coordinator Jeff Casteel. Fischer, who missed the 2011 season with an ACL injury, ranks No. 2 among Pac-12 players and No. 48 nationally with 9.0 tackles per game (72 total). That's just a couple tackles shy of 10 per game for the slightly undersized 6-foot, 215-pounder. Don't tell that to Fischer, though, who has shown a nose for the ball early in the season. Fischer has 4.5 tackles for loss, two pass breakups, two forced fumbles and a pair of fumble recoveries. He was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week following a career-high 13-tackle season debut against Toledo on Sept. 1.
Glad To Have Him Back: Former walk-on and starting "Bandit" safety Jared Tevis returned to the starting lineup last week after missing two games with an ankle injury sustained on Sept. 29 vs. Oregon State. Tevis was second on the team in tackles before he went down, and still ranks fifth with 45 stops on the season. He also has a pair of interceptions and five pass breakups. His football IQ puts him in position to make plays and his return could solidify a defensive group in the final weeks of the season.
Kickin' Kyle: Senior punter Kyle Dugandzic is putting together a strong season, even if he is averaging less than four punts per game. Dugandzic's overall average is a hefty 43.9 yards per boot, with five 50-plus yarders. He ranks No. 4 in the Pac-12 in punting average (43.9), while UA ranks No. 3 in the conference and No. 16 nationally in net punting (40.4). He was named the Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week (Oct. 1) in a losing cause after a sensational performance against Oregon State that included a career-long 70-yard boomer and four of five total punts landing inside the 20-yard line. He again placed four punts inside the 20-yardline against USC last week. In that respect, Dugandzic has placed 14 of his 31 punts inside the 20-yard line and has just one touchback.
Seeing Red: The Wildcats hope to continue their run of success in the red zone. After an 0-for-5 effort in the red zone in a loss at Oregon on Sept. 22, Arizona has scored on 22 of its last 25 (88 percent) forays into the scoring zone. Of those, 18 (72-percent) have resulted in touchdowns. Both numbers are improvements over the team's season average of 74.5 percent overall and 58.8 percent touchdowns in the red zone.
In A Rush: Arizona has rushed for 100 yards in seven of its first eight games in 2012, just a season removed when it did so in just five games last fall. The Wildcats have 1,594 yards on the ground, an average of 199.2 yards per game (No. 3 in Pac-12). That's a significant improvement over last season's 94.5 per-game tally, which finished ranked second-to-last in the Pac-12 and No. 114 nationally. In fact, this year's rushing total (1,594) has surpassed last year's 12-game total of 1,134 yards and is approaching the 2010 total of 1,712. Running back Ka'Deem Carey leads the club with 961 yards, while quarterback Matt Scott ranks second with 365 yards. UA's leading rusher a year ago was senior Keola Antolin, who finished his final season at the school with 568 yards.
1,000-Yard Seasons: Ka'Deem Carey is nearing a 1,000-yard season running the ball (961 yards). He's also could approach (183) a 250-carry season, last accomplished by UA school-record holder Trung Canidate, who toted the ball 253 times in 1999 for the 1,602 yards that stand atop UA's single-season rushing chart. Clarence Farmer had 209 carries in a 1,229 season in 2001, the most since. Nic Grigsby had 214 totes for 1,196 yards in UA's 2008 season, the last 1,000-yard rusher. From the yardage standpoint, Carey could become Rich Rodriguez's first 1,000-yard rusher from the running back position since Steve Slaton had 1,051 in 2007 at West Virginia. Rodriguez's only 1,000-yard rusher at Michigan was quarterback Dennard Robinson (2010).
Chain Gang: Arizona, which leads all FBS teams with 31.0 first downs per game, already has 248 this season which comes in as the fifth-most in single-season history. Tough to think a squad could average 31 per game, but that clip over the next two games would actually break the single-season school record of 309 first downs set last season. UA has four regular season games left, plus a potential bowl. There's a good chance that record goes down.
1000-Yard Career: Quarterback Matt Scott sits at 997 career rushing yards, putting him near a career benchmark not often achieved at the position. In fact, UA's all-time leader for quarterback rushing is Ronnie Veal, who collected 1,419 yards and 27 touchdowns from 1987-90. Scott recently moved past Jim Krohn's 987 yards from 1976-79.
Up Next: Arizona returns home for its annual homecoming game against Colorado on Saturday, Nov. 10. Kickoff time and television information is expected to be announced later today.