A group of 19 Wildcat seniors will play their last game at Arizona Stadium in the Louisiana finale. Kick off is set for 2 p.m. (MST) on Saturday.
Nov. 21, 2011
Arizona Weekly Release (PDF)
Weekly Press Conference (Video)
Louisiana (8-3, 6-2 Sun Belt) @ Arizona (3-8, 2-7 Pac-12)
Date: Nov. 26 Time: 2 p.m. (MST)
Location: Tucson, Ariz. (Arizona Stadium -- 56,100)
Television Broadcast: None
UA Radio: Arizona Radio Network, 1290 AM Tucson
UA Radio Broadcasters: Brian Jeffries (pxp), Lamont Lovett (color analyst), Dana Cooper (sideline analyst)
UA Spanish Radio: 990 AM -- Francisco Romero (pxp), Marcon Rincon (analyst)
Satellite Radio: SIRIUS 139
Arizona -Louisiana Series History
All-Time Series: First meeting
First Meeting: Nov. 26, 2011
Last Meeting: None
Some Game Themes
Arizona caps off its 2011 roller-coaster season with a chance at another exclamation point... The Wildcats come off an emotional high of note after their victory in the Territorial Cup game at Tempe, and face a squad from the Southeast hungry for a best-ever season record... Louisiana comes in rested after a bye week to face a team following a physical workout of some dimension... The Cajuns pit one of the FBS' best games-improved mark (5.5) against a club working to close the year -- and an era -- with some momentum... UA, staying home for the holidays, meets a team going to a bowl for the first time in four decades... Arizona's pass defense takes on the challenge of Ladarius Green, a tight end in the Mackey Award discussion... Senior QB Nick Foles' availability after an apparent rib injury at ASU could be in question, and that's nearly 10,000 career passing yards to talk about... Louisiana meets a Pac-12 team for the first time since 2001 (at ASU)... Arizona's seniors go out before the home crowd... Arizona Coach Tim Kish works to close his interim tenure with a .500 record, a remarkable potential accomplishment considering the factors involved...
Arizona played like its hair was on fire down the stretch and came away with a rewarding come-from-behind victory over ASU in Tempe, 31-27, to regain possession of the Territorial Cup. The Cats scored 14 points in the final 10 minutes and played defense with some swarming tenacity to secure the win. The final play -- a 14th pass broken up at the goal line as time expired. Nick Foles earned the T-Cup's Bob Moran Most Valuable Player award with 370 passing yards and a pair of scores, but stood on the sidelines in physical discomfort as backup Bryson Beirne pitched the final inning including the game-winning TD catch-and-run by senior wideout Juron Criner with five minutes left. The Cats' resilience on defense, weathering a 487-yard passing night by ASU's Brock Osweiler, proved critical. Seven players knocked down half his incompletions (26-for-65) led by freshman linebacker Tra'Mayne Bondurant with four and three by freshman nickel back Jourdon Grandon. Grandon's interception and 41-yard return late in the fourth period helped UA maintain the lead for a final defensive effort. ASU outgained the Cats, 548 to 494, but suffered two other turnovers including a pick by Shaq Richardson that led to the Cats' second score. UA took a 14-0 lead half way through the first period with an 80-yard drive and that 49-yard turnover drive, but then struggled as ASU went on a 17-3 run until the 10-minute mark. Foles engineered a 94-yard drive in seven plays capped by a remarkable TD catch-run by Gino Crump to pull UA to within three at 27-24. On defense, Arizona seemed to sense that yards would be had -- as they had been all year by opposing offenses -- so just go out and fly around and hit people. On offense, the Cats continued their No. 4-rated passing game and added 100 yards on the ground, 92 of those from freshman Ka'Deem Carey. UA eschewed its typical front and played some 3-4 stack defense to disguise gaps and help keep ASU's running game in check at 61 net yards, the second-lowest total of the year.
Arizona - Tim Kish (Otterbein '76), interim head coach (2-3). This is Kish's first assignment as a head coach. The 36-year veteran of the college ranks has coached at Pac-12, Big Ten (Illinois, Northwestern), the Ohio prep ranks, Mid-American Conference schools (Ball State, Bowling Green State, Ohio) and a service academy (Army). He has been on Mike Stoops' Arizona staff as linebackers coach each of the latter's eight years in Tucson, the last two as co- or defensive coordinator. Kish played college ball as a DB at Otterbein, and later earned a master's degree from Bowling Green. He began his coaching career as an assistant coach at Mariemont High School in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1976. He has been on the defensive side of the ball all but one year in his college career, the 1982 season as QBs coach at Ball State. He and his wife, Angela, have two daughters and a son. His eldest, Megan, is a student at Ohio State. Louisiana--Mark Hudspeth (Delta State '92), first season at Louisiana (8-3), eighth year overall as a head coach (74-24). Hudpseth moved from passing game coordinator/WR coach at Mississippi State (2 years) to become the Cajuns' leader last December. Hudspeth was head coach for seven years at North Alabama (2002-08) and for two seasons on the prep level at Winston Academy (1996-97). He also has stints at Navy, Delta State, Nicholls State and began his career as a G.A. at Central Arkansas in 1992-93. Much of his background in on offense.
ASU Game Notes...
Sun Devil Brock Osweiler threw 63 times (and two spikes to stop clock push team mark to 65 tosses) breaking an Arizona opponent record (58) set in 1984 by Utah State and matched a few years back in 2007 by Washington State. As might be expected Arizona won all three of those contests... UA does not have a listed record for PBUs, but the 14 (plus two picks), was half the total of 29 through the previous 10 games this year. It was the most PBUs in a game since 1999 at UCLA in a 33-7 victory... UA's 14 fourth-quarter points matched its season high of 14 against USC in Los Angeles... The Cats won on the road for the first time in more than a year, since the UCLA game in Pasadena on oct. 30, 2010... Shaq Richardson and Jourdon Grandon each had 41-yard interceptions returns in the game (although post-game stats originally miscalculated the latter's return... Arizona quarterback Bryson Beirne had a phenomenal 623.20 pass efficiency rating for his one pass of 23 yards for a TD against the Devils. It boosted his season rating to 151.63... Nick Foles' 370 passing yards gave him four consecutive above 300 and all but two (Stanford/UCLA) games above 300 yards for the year. It was only his seventh-highest total passing yards of the year. He also had 50 or more attempts and no picks for the third game this year... The Cats' six tackles for loss were their most in the last four games... UA's zero turnovers was its fourth TO-free game of the year and fewest in the last seven games, and best margin this year since a +1 season opener (0-1) and a +1 game (1-2) against UCLA... Modest, yes, but Ka'Deem Carey's 92 rushing yards at Tempe was UA's best single-game total of the season, eclipsing Keola Antolin's 87 markers against USC on Oct. 1. His 7.1 yards per tote improved his season average to 4.7 and pulled him to within 74 yards of Antolin's team-best 499 net yards.
Saying Goodbye to Seniors
A group of 19 Wildcat seniors will play their last game at Arizona Stadium in the Louisiana finale. Fifth-year seniors include QB Bryson Beirne of Honolulu, WR David Roberts of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.; CB Trevin Wade of Round Rock, Texas; kicker Alex Zendejas of Glendale, Ariz.; QB Nick Foles of Austin, Texas; WR Gino Crump of Washington, D.C.; and DE C.J. Parish of College Station, Texas. Other seniors include RB Keola Antolin of Las Vegas; CB Lyle Brown of Castle Rock, Colo.; WR Juron Criner of Las Vegas; WR David Douglas of McKinney, Texas; LB Derek Earls of Waconia, Minn.; S Robert Golden of Fresno, Calif.; S Adam Gottschalk of Encino, Calif; FB David Hill of Las Vegas; LB Bilal Muhammad of Harbor City, Calif.; DE Mohammed Usman of Arlington, Texas; LB Paul Vassallo of Reno. Nev.; and LS David Highberger of Northbrook, Ill. Among the group, 13 of those players started games in their careers led by Golden's 37 starts. Additionally, the Louisiana game will mark the final game for four student managers -- Michael Banett, David Bodzin, Jordan Gobel and Billy Worthington.
Nick Foles will wrap up his career as the most accomplished quarterback in school history. He has established new career marks for passing yards (9,659), total offense (9,367), completions (900) and attempts (1,352). His 64 passing touchdowns are three shy of the school record, held by Willie Tuitama. In single-season perspective, Foles' 2011 campaign also goes down as the most prolific. His 3,982 yards a school record and just shy of the 4,000-yard mark. He has a school record 354 completions, and is three passing touchdowns shy of Tuitama's top mark of 29 set in 2007. Foles' 68,5 completion percentage for a career bests Tuitama's 61.6% mark, and his 2011 percentage (68.5) is tied with Keith Smith for highest in program history. Foles' career passing yardage is 11th-most in Pac-12 Conference history, while his 64 passing touchdowns are tied for No. 14. There is room to move up on both lists - and others - if able to play an perform this week.
Simply put, Arizona's seniors refused to lose last week at Arizona State. Trailing 27-17 with 12:25 left in the game, senior Nick Foles led the offense out on the field. Following a penalty on the kickoff return, the Wildcats took over 1st-and-10 on their own 6-yard line. On the first play, Foles looked to fellow senior Gino Crump, who drew a personal foul on ASU for unnecessary roughness on the incompletion. It gave the Cats some breathing room and led to an improbable finish. Foles connected with senior Juron Criner for completion on the seven-play drive that was eventually capped by Crump's remarkable tackle-breaking 33-yard touchdown reception - only the second of his career. On UA's ensuing defensive possession, it was all seniors. With the Sun Devils in UA territory at the 46-yard line, senior LB Derek Earls made three straight tackles to force a 4th-and-3. Senior CB Trevin Wade stepped in front of a Brock Osweiler pass and knocked it down to turn the ball back to the Cats' offense. From there, Foles rushed for seven yards and handed off three straight times, including twice to senior Keola Antolin. Foles left with an injury and turned the game over to senior reserve QB Bryson Beirne, who calmly handed the ball off one time to Antolin before distributing a screen pass to Criner, who used some athleticism and balance to break a tackle and score the game-winning touchdown. Some young guys proved critical, too. Freshman running back Ka'Deem Carey was critical as a run and pass threat, redshirt frosh Jourdon Grandon had an interception and PBU on the final two ASU drives, and sophomore Shaquille Richardson broke up Osweiler's last-second pass attempt at the goal line to preserve the victory.
Thank You, Seniors
Here's a quick look at what Arizona's senior class has accomplished over the last four years: The group enters its final collegiate game with a record of 26-24 since the start of 2008, which means it will leave with a winning career record. The four-year span before these seniors stepped on campus (2004-07) produced a 17-29 record ... The class matched a school record with three straight bowl appearances, including the school's first since 1998 (Holiday) when the Wildcats topped BYU in Las Vegas Bowl in 2008 ... The senior class defeated its rival Arizona State and captured the Territorial Cup in three of the four seasons, losing only once and by one point in 2010. The last time UA defeated its rival in three of four seasons was from 1995-98 ... While all hoped and expected for more wins in their senior seasons, this group of seniors leaves the program in much better shape than when they stepped on campus. They all should be proud, and Wildcats fans should be even more proud of them.
Juron Criner's game-winning touchdown reception to capture the Territorial Cup will go down as one of the top plays in the legendary rivalry. It also helped sum up Criner's play-making career. The scoring catch was the 30th of his career, which ties him with Theopolis "T" Bell for the most in school history. It was also the 200th reception of his storied career. The receptions rank fourth in program history, while his 2,730 receiving yards are also fourth most. In 49 games played (30 starts), Criner has seen 16 of his 30 touchdown receptions come on plays of 20 yards or more. Over 60-percent (121-of-200) of his receptions have resulted in a first down or a touchdown. He has a streak of 27 straight games played with a catch, and has 10 100-yard receiving games in his career. The 200 receptions are tied for No. 16 in Pac-12 Conference history, while the 2,730 yards are 24th-most. There is some room to move up in both categories this week.
One Look Ahead
Arizona's 2011 season involved one thing for sure, thanks to various injuries and other immediacy needs -- use of depth. Excluding any new (and unexpected) starters in the season finale against Louisiana, Arizona's roster shows that it would return 17 players who started games on offense, 17 players who started games on defense, and its top kicker and punter along with some other special teams regulars. Notable among these would be fifth-year quarterback Matt Scott, the full offensive line (and two backup starters), safeties Adam Hall and Marquis Flowers, linebackers Tra'Mayne Bondurant and Jake Fischer, and the current starting defensive line. Running back Ka'Deem Carey has not started during his true freshman year but is clearly a No. 1 type guy. As well, Arizona stands to bring back 58 lettermen. The new head coach will have some tools for an immediate successful season.
No. 7 Burns Them
Quarterback Bryson Beirne, a fifth-year senior, has been a team guy throughout, helping coaches and his mates (like Willie Tuitama and Nick Foles) study the opposition... while helping himself to a college education and the experience of FBS football. His moment came in the fourth quarter of the Territorial Cup game, with little more than three minutes remaining and Arizona trailing, 27-24. Foles went down with an apparent rib/back injury and after taking a handful of practice snaps while Foles was being attended to, Beirne entered. Handed off to Keola Antolin for a five-yard gain, then connected with Juron Criner for a catch-and-run touchdown pass to push Arizona ahead -- the winning score. Not a bad little piece of work for a guy who's completed seven passes (12 attempts) this year. He overcame a knee injury earlier in the year to regain the physical ability to play, and always had the right mental approach. Hats off to Bryson Beirne.
Quite The Comeback
Arizona's 14 unanswered points to overcome a 10-point fourth quarter deficit at ASU marked the Wildcat's largest fourth quarter comeback in quite some time. In fact, the last time UA overcame a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter was on Oct. 27, 2007, at Washington. Trailing 41-26 with 12:52 remaining in the game, the Wildcats - led by Willie Tuitama's school-record 510 yards passing - stormed back with 22 straight points to escape with a 48-41 victory over the Huskies. Another recent two-possession comeback of note was on Oct. 17, 2009, against Stanford. The Cardinal led by nine points, 38-29, early in the fourth quarter. A 43-yard touchdown run by Greg Nwoko and a 57-yarder by Nic Grigsbywith 2:57 remaining in the game gave the Wildcats a 43-38 victory.
Plenty of PBUs
Give up 487 passing yards in a game and one would figure it was a rough day for the UA defense, particularly the secondary. Not so fast. The Arizona defense did not surrender a touchdown in the second half, setting the stage for a dramatic fourth quarter comeback to win the Territorial Cup. The key was relentless competitive approach by the UA defense that didn't care if it conceded yards; rather, the focus was on the next play and keeping the Sun Devils out of the endzone. The Cats' defenders broke up 14 passes in the game and intercepted two others. That accounted for 16 of Brock Osweiler's 27 incompletions, including two on the final two plays of the game as Osweiler looked for the game-winning score. It was not to be. What was to be was Arizona collected the most pass breakups in a single game since also collecting 14 PBUs against UCLA on Oct. 30, 1999, in a 33-7 Wildcat win in Pasadena.
98 Common Points
Arizona and Louisiana have one thing in common -- they both were clobbered at Stillwater, Okla., early in the season. UL opened the year with a 61-34 loss to Oklahoma State, allowing Brandon Weeden and Co. to chart up an ominous 666 yards in total offense. OSU threw for 458 and rushed for 208 yards. The good news -- the 34 points scored by the Cajuns, including two pick-sixes. The No. 9 Cowboys went out the next week and beat Arizona 37-14 behind a 594-yard effort marked by a defense that held UA to 41 yards rushing to neutralize Nick Foles'398 passing yards.
Cats and Cajuns Codified ...
Louisiana punt returner Darryl Surgent (9.2) is the Sun Belt Conference leader and pits his skills against an Arizona unit that rates 104th in net punting. UA punter Kyle Dugandzic has a 45.8 individual average but the Cats have a 33.8 net figure... The Cajuns average 2.3 sacks per game and look for pressure against an Arizona offensive line that has given up 1.9 per game. In fact, Arizona's 21 sacks allowed would be its second-lowest total in the last six years behind the nationally-rated (10th) 13 permitted in 2009... By Pac-12 standards UL is stingy in allowing only 237 passing yards per game, what would be a top-half figure in the Pac-12. Whether Arizona can untrack its fourth-rated (nationally) 370-yard attach remains to be seen... UL QB Blaine Gautier has a top 25 pass efficiency rating (150.46) in contrast to Nick Foles' 144.10 mark, so the guys are making good decisions...
The Cajuns have scored 29 times in 31 red zone forays (94%), tied for fifth in the FBS, behind only Stanford, LSU, Wisconsin and Western Michigan. One reason -- place kicker Brett Baer, who's hit 15 of 17 field goals including nine on RZ trips. That effectiveness reduces the redzone touchdown percentage some (.65%, 20-for-31, almost a mirror to UA's rating on RZTDs (66A%, 27-for-41... UL has gone for it on fourth down (8-11) half as many times as Arizona (11-23) and achieved a new set of chains at a 73% rate. No doubt playing from ahead on the scoreboard has helped minimize the need. Arizona's games have not involved a lot of punts -- 42 by the Cats and 40 by the opponents, as opposed to 71 by Louisiana and 68 by ULL opponents. (UA punter Kyle Dugandzicis five punts from having enough to qualify for the NCAA ratings, with 39. He needs 44 kicks to be listed.)
Have You a Handerchief?
Oops. Arizona is dead last in the FBS ratings this week in penalties per game, 8.36, thanks to an assortment of 11 flags against ASU. The Cajuns (7.27) have been slightly better, ranking 99th. Arizona is penalized an average of 69.6 yards per game, also down there at 117th, while UL has been nicked for 61.6 yards per contest in penalty yardage. Arizona's total of 92 penalties for 766 yards are the same total as last year (92-682) but well under the Pac-12 years' high with a penalty glut by the 1999 club (114-925).
Burlsworth Trophy Nominee
Arizona kicker John Bonano, who's been listed as a senior this season but will return for his final year of playing eligibility in 2012, has been named one of 50 national nominees for the Burlsworth Trophy, awarded to the outstanding player who began his career as a walk-on. Bonano, who has been kickoff specialist since the middle of 2009, also took over place kicking duties after several games this year. He's a national leader in kickoffs, earning Kickoff Specialist of the Week once and honorable mention four times from the College Football Performance Awards, and is 7-10 on field goals, and 18-18 on PAT kicks since taking over the job in the Oregon State game. He is tied for 10th nationally with 21 touchbacks on kickoffs. He was awarded a scholarship entering this year.
Who is Bilal?
Arizona walk-on senior linebacker Bilal Muhammad (No. 52 in your program), earned the the biggest appearance of his career last week at Arizona State and put the TV folks in a quandary when they, basically, didn't know who he was. He's played in five games this year, and lettered a year ago with duty on special teams in 10 games. In the ASU game he got torched in pass coverage on one of ASU's first scoring drives but kept fighting like his teammates and recorded two solo hits and an assist, with a tackle for loss that put the Devils in a 2nd-and-14 situation on a drive that later ended abruptly with a UA pick in the fourth quarter. He earned himself a piece of the post-game interview room action. Like many a college football player, his career will go by without fanfare, but not without some lasting memories. For the record, his name is pronounced Bee-LAHL Moo-HAH-mahd.
A Nose For The Ball
It is rare to find a true freshman that plays as fearlessly and instinctively as Tra'Mayne Bondurant. A defensive back who played mostly special teams the first half of the season, Bondurant has started the last five games at a roving linebacker position for the Wildcats. All he has one is become perhaps the defensive MVP of the unit. In the last five games, Bondurant has collected a team-high 36 tackles, including three for loss, one sack, one interception returned 27 yards for a touchdown, six pass breakups and one forced fumble. He is a joy to watch on the field and is a centerpiece for UA's defense in the future. He'll join some talented players, including Adam Hall, Jake Fischer and Johnathan McKnight, who all were forced to redshirt following ACL injuries this season. Combined with Marquis Flowers, Shaquille Richardson, Jourdon Grandon and several true freshmen who played and started this year, the UA defense looks to be in good shape for dramatic improvement down the road.
Trio of Targets
Arizona, Western Michigan, Houston and San Jose State are the four FBS teams to have three players with 50 or more receptions in 2011 (stat courtesy SJSU media relations). UA's trio is Juron Criner (66), Gino Crump's (62) and David Douglas (56). It's an historical first for Arizona. The individual leader in the trio schools is Jordan White of WMU with 108 catches.
Career Tracker Here's a quick look at where some notable Wildcats rank nationally among active career leaders in respective statistical categories.
- Juron Criner's 200 career receptions are 13th-most for active players.
- Juron Criner's 2,730 career receiving yards are 17th-most for active players.
- Juron Criner's 30 career receiving touchdowns are 5th-most for active players
- Nick Foles' 865 career pass completions are 5th-most for active players
- Nick Foles' 9,659 passing yards are 8th-most for active players
- Nick Foles' 64 passing touchdowns are 14th-most for active players
- Nick Foles' 66.57% career completion percentage is 9th-best for active players
- Nick Foles' 284.1 career passing yards per game is 6th-best for active players
- Nick Foles' 26.5 career completions per game is 3rd-best for active players
- Nick Foles' 1,352 career pass attempts are 7th-most for active players
- Nick Foles' 900 pass completions are 4th-most for active players
- Nick Foles 39.8 pass attempts per game is 4th-most for active players
- Nick Foles' 9.367 total offense yards are 12th-most for active players
- Trevin Wade's 12 career interceptions are tied for fourth nationally for active players.
- Trevin Wade's203 interception return yards are fifth-most for active players.
Arizona opened the season with just one offensive lineman that had started a game: Kyle Quinn, whose only start was in the 2010 Alamo Bowl. The Wildcats were one of six school's nationally that began the season without a senior on its starting offensive line. Now 11 games into the season, the Wildcats' offensive line has matured and helped pave the way for one of the league's top offensive units. Now the unit has 55 collective starts on the season, headlined by redshirt freshmen tackles Mickey Baucus and Fabbians Ebbele, and Quinn, a junior center, who have each started all 11 games this season. Junior guards Trace Biskin (nine starts) and Shane Zink (three starts), sophomore guard Chris Putton (eightstarts), and redshirt freshman guard Carter Lees (two starts) have combined for the other 22 starts, with redshirt freshman tackle Trent Spurgeon getting plenty of meaningful work as a backup all season long. That's eight talented players that will return next season, and it goes without saying that line coach Robert Anae has been instrumental in the development of this group. Sure, the running game hasn't been as consistent as desired, but UA has spent much of the season playing from behind and needing to pass the ball in order to play catch-up.
Arizona, which is not eligible for a bowl after three straight bowl appearances, will see its season come to a close following the Louisiana game. The three straight bowl appearances (2008 Las Vegas, 2009 Holiday and 2010 Alamo) matched a school record for consecutive trips, initially set by the 1992-94 squads. Athletics Director Greg Byrne will announce the next head football coach in the coming days or weeks, opening a new era of Wildcat Football.