The Arizona football team begins its 2013 season against Northern Arizona at Arizona Stadium on Aug. 30, which is 22 days away. From now until then, this Web site will count down the days with facts about the Wildcats, their players, coaching staff and opponents. This is not a ranking, only a list of 100 facts and observances related to the 2013 Arizona football team and coach Rich Rodriguez.
Arizona’s quarterbacks, the only position without a first-team All-Pac-10/12 selection since the UA joined the conference in 1978, have historically been more gritty with their play than gaudy with their numbers.
Nick Foles combined both in his UA career from 2009-2011, throwing for a school-record 10,011 yards while feeling the heat, playing mostly in a one-dimensional offense without a high-powered running game. In 2011, after being sacked five times by Oregon — the second consecutive week Foles was sacked five times –coach Chip Kelly said he was “in awe” of the UA quarterback.
“I catch myself watching him in awe sometimes,” Kelly said after Oregon beat Arizona 56-31 despite Foles’ 398 yards passing at Arizona Stadium. “Nick is a hell of a football player. That kid’s a warrior. He’s as good as anyone in the country.”
Is it any wonder why Kelly, now the Philadelphia Eagles’ head coach, has Foles sharing time with veteran Michael Vick with the first-team offense?
Incredibly, Foles (this site’s choice as Arizona’s top quarterback in the Pac-10/12 years), was never a first- or second-team all-conference selection. He was a three-time honorable mention selection. When Foles was a senior in 2011, the quarterbacks chosen ahead of him were juniors — Andrew Luck of Stanford as the first-team choice and Matt Barkley of USC as the second-team selection.
Barkley is now the likely the No. 3 quarterback with the Eagles, behind Foles and Vick.
The Wildcats have four players who have been chosen as the conference’s second-team quarterback — Tom Tunnicliffe (1983), Keith Smith (1998), Willie Tuitama (2008) and Matt Scott (last season). Tunnicliffe and Smith were gamers who led by their toughness more so than their arm, although Tunnicliffe showed the ability to convert a clutch pass. Smith was a nightmare for defenses because of his ability to mix the run with the pass.
With the increased use of spread offenses with only one running back and four to five receivers in the late 1990s, Tuitama put up numbers unbecoming of an Arizona quarterback in his UA career from 2005-08. He topped Tunnicliffe’s previous school record of 7,618 career yards with 9,211. Tuitama completed 212 more passes than Tunnicliffe in his career. Foles completed 147 more passes than Tuitama.
Arizona’s offenses were conservative mostly during the Larry Smith and Dick Tomey eras. Tomey liked quarterbacks who could win by limiting mistakes, which meant controlling the number of passing attempts.
Tomey’s primary quarterbacks Dan White, Ron Veal, Smith, Ortege Jenkins and George Malauulu averaged only 175.7 pass attempts a season. They averaged 6.2 interceptions a season.
By comparison, Tuitama and Foles — playing in a pass-happy offense under Mike Stoops — averaged 381.7 attempts and 9.1 interceptions per season. To their credit, Tuitama and Foles were mostly efficient making quick-read, high-percentage passes.
Scott, in his one year as the starter last season, attempted 301 passes with 14 interceptions. He was not as efficient as Foles and Tuitama as a passer, but he opened the UA’s offense further with his running ability (506 yards on 113 carries last season). He also did not have to throw the ball as much as Tuitama and Foles with Ka’Deem Carey in the backfield.
With Rich Rodriguez coaching his no-huddle spread offense, Arizona fans got a taste from Scott’s performance what kind of numbers will be produced in the future. Scott’s 27 touchdown passes last season rank one behind Foles and Tuitama on the UA record charts. His 3,620 passing yards a year ago rank third behind Foles (4,334 in 2011) and Tuitama (3,683 in 2007).
If Rodriguez can find quarterbacks with the toughness, efficiency and production of Foles, Arizona is in store for something special.
NOTES: This site’s All-Time All-Pac-10/12 Defense for Arizona is shown on the adjacent photo. Much discussion was made when it was published two weeks ago about Darryll Lewis vs. Antoine Cason as the cornerback opposite Chris McAlister. … Dennis Northcutt was included on the offense as a return specialist and Chuck Levy was kept as an all-purpose player. Mike Thomas and Bobby Wade were chosen as the top two receivers. In a one-back offense or one without a tight end, Northcutt would certainly be included among the top receivers. The Wade vs. Northcutt and Cason vs. Lewis debates make putting these teams together more enjoyable.
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The best Arizona player to wear No. 22, according to TucsonCitizen.com’s Anthony Gimino, is running back Art Luppino (1953-56). UA’s most legendary player, the Cactus Comet led the nation in scoring, rushing, kickoff returns and all-purpose yards in 1954. He again led the country in rushing in 1955. A knee injury cost Luppino a professional career.
Last year, this site and TucsonCitizen.com ran a Top 50 Games in the history of Arizona football series. I will relive that list here with less than 50 days to kickoff and add one game to it: Arizona’s improbable 49-48 win over Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl last December, which landed as No. 38 on the list. Note, after clicking on the link, you will notice last year’s ranking. The list on this page is the current ranking.
No. 22: Arizona wins its first bowl behind “Heat-seeking Missile” Chuck Cecil
No. 23: Collapse vs. Utah after leading 27-0 in fourth quarter changed the face of UA football
No. 24: UA shuts out ASU, Kush during dominating run for Sun Devils coach
No. 25: Arizona’s defense and Doug Pfaff’s last-second FG enough to upset sixth-ranked Oklahoma
No. 26: UA upsets ASU from Fiesta Bowl consideration in program’s best stretch
No. 27: Trung Canidate rushes for record 288 yards and three long TDs in ’98 shootout against ASU
No. 28: UA dominates No. 3 SMU, highest ranked non-conference foe to lose to Cats
No. 29: Arizona stuns second-ranked Oregon in most significant victory in Mike Stoops era
No. 30: Arizona’s win on last-second FG over ASU ends Frank Kush’s dominance in the series
No. 31: Arizona reaches its zenith under Mike Stoops with victory over Brigham Young in Las Vegas Bowl
No. 32: Arizona owed Cal a couple, knock Bears out of BCS title, Rose Bowl run
No. 33: Arizona’s 10-9 loss at Oregon in 1994, derailing its Rose Bowl hopes, still hurts
No. 34: ASU ripe for picking in banana uniforms for “The Streak” to reach eight
No. 35: Arizona tries risky fake PAT to beat California but loses in epic 4 overtime game
No. 36: Veal to Hill “Hail Mary” pass highlights “The Streak” reaching seven games against ASU
No. 37: USC outlasts Arizona 48-41 in one of most wild games played in Tucson
No. 38: Arizona Wildcats’ comeback against Nevada No. 38 in Top 50 games list
No. 39: Arizona shows signs of life under Mike Stoops with rout over No. 7 UCLA
No. 40: Art Luppino “The Cactus Comet” rockets toward 38 yards per carry and five touchdowns
No. 41: Fumblerooski enables Arizona to sweep USC, UCLA in L.A. for first time
No. 42: Sun Devil nemesis Dan White quarterbacks Arizona into Fiesta Bowl with win over ASU
No. 43: Struggling UA gets improbable win against ’83 Pac-10 champ UCLA
No. 44: Closing chapter of “The Streak” includes Arizona’s dramatic fourth-quarter heroics
No. 45: Arizona overcomes rival Texas Tech with unfathomable late-game rally
No. 46: Dick Tomey, the Desert Fox, does a number on UCLA by changing offense in midseason
No. 47: “The Streak” reaches three games, UA achieves best Pac-10 finish
No. 48: Arizona’s first game at Arizona Stadium in 1929, a 35-0 win over Cal Tech
No. 49: Underdog Arizona’s 2011 thriller over arch-rival Arizona State
No. 50: Arizona’s first win over arch-rival Arizona State, then known as Territorial Normal
Dropped out: Arizona’s first win in program’s history: 22-5 over Tucson Indians
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WILDABOUTAZCATS.net publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes blogs for Lindy’s College Sports, TucsonCitizen.com and Sports Illustrated-sponsored site ZonaZealots.com.