The Arizona football team begins its 2013 season against Northern Arizona at Arizona Stadium on Aug. 30, which is seven 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.
— Anthony Gimino of TucsonCitizen.com writes that all signs point to senior B.J. Denker emerging as the UA starter when the Wildcats face NAU in the season opener next Friday.
— Steve Rivera of FoxSportsArizona.com writes the Denker is the leader but coach Rich Rodriguez is not saying whether Denker is the starter against the Lumberjacks.
— Daniel Berk of The Arizona Daily Star writes that redshirt freshman quarterback Javelle Allen has impressed Rodriguez as fall camp has progressed.
Normally a major-college football program has a two-year or three-year starter who leads the team in passing, which exhibits continuity. Unproven upperclassmen, such as Matt Scott was as a senior last year, usually do not stick around to lead a team for only one season.
They transfer by then. Or they hold the clipboard on the sideline, serving as a mentor to the younger starting quarterback, until the end of their careers.
Since 1958, Tom Tunnicliffe (1980-83) is the only quarterback to lead the Wildcats in passing all four years of his career. Arizona has featured nine quarterbacks who have led the Wildcats in passing in three different years, the most recent being Nick Foles from 2009-11. Seven have led the UA in passing twice, with Richard Kovalcheck the last in 2004 and 2005.
Ten have emerged as the top passer only one year with Scott becoming the first senior with that distinction since Bill Brechler in 1963.
If B.J. Denker — a senior who transferred last year from Cerritos (Calif.) Junior College — leads the UA in passing this season, history will be made. It would be the first time two seniors have consecutively led the UA in passing since quarterback records have been tabulated by Arizona in 1958.
Why is it such a big deal?
First of all, it’s a rarity.
Second, it demonstrates how much the Arizona is in a state of flux with Rodriguez installing his read-option spread offense.
Third, Rodriguez, on record saying he wants a roster loaded with quarterbacks, can go with anybody at any time. That increases the possibility of a different senior starting in consecutive years now and in the future (as long as the QB does not get forced out or transfers before his senior year).
“I like having a lot of quarterbacks and I like to have competition at that position and having at least two, preferably three, we can win with,” Rodriguez was quoted as saying by Gimino of TucsonCitizen.com in February when he signed junior college transfer Jesse Scroggins and freshman Anu Solomon.
Rodriguez is not afraid of changes at quarterback. He does not subscribe to the theory that a coach, especially one new to a program, should ride his fortunes on a young quarterback through thick and thin. Otherwise, freshman Anu Solomon’s name would be mentioned much more.
After starting Tate Forcier all 12 games when Forcier was a freshman at Michigan in 2009, Rodriguez went with sophomore Denard Robinson as his quarterback the following season. Forcier was relegated to third-team status as a sophomore.
One last major reason why a one-season starter is significant: The winning percentages are drastic of three-year starters compared to those who led the UA in passing for one or two years.
The 10 quarterbacks who led the UA in passing at least three different years have a combined record of 73-40-3 (winning percentage of .642) in their final season.
The 16 quarterbacks who led the Wildcats in one or two seasons have a combined record of only 74-98-2 (.431) in their only or final year. Just four of these quarterbacks had a winning record on their way out, including Scott last year with an 8-5 record.
Tunnicliffe and the three-year leaders at quarterback posted winning records in their last season, except Foles, who was part of the UA’s 4-8 team in 2011 that endured a coaching change in midseason.
Why is a one-year leader at quarterback — the most important position on the field — such a big deal? Isn’t it obvious?
ARIZONA QUARTERBACKS SINCE 1958
Years listed is number of seasons the QBs led the Wildcats in passing yardage
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ARIZONA ONE-YEAR LEADING QUARTERBACKS SINCE 1958
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The best Arizona player to wear No. 8, according to TucsonCitizen.com’s Anthony Gimino, is quarterback Nick Foles (2009-11): The Michigan State transfer took the starting job four games into his sophomore season, becoming the only Arizona player to reach five digits in passing yardage (10,011). He set the school record for passing yards in a season (4,334 in 2011) before the Philadelphia Eagles selected him in the third round of the NFL Draft.
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. 7: “Leap by the Lake” most amazing individual play in UA history gives Cats win over Huskies
No. 8: UA loses heartbreaker to ASU wondering: “The Catch” really a catch?
No. 9: Arizona (12-1) achieves best record, highest ranking to end season with 1998 win over Nebraska
No. 10: UA wins 1926 game after McKale delivers Salmon’s “Bear Down” line
No. 11: The Desert Swarm is born in 1992 near-upset of top-ranked Miami at the Orange Bowl
No. 12: Zendejas’ 57-yard FG ties UA record, keeps ASU out of Rose Bowl again
No. 13: Arizona blows 20-point lead and shot at the Rose Bowl with 1993 collapse at California
No. 14: UA upsets No. 2 UCLA in 1980 when Bruins appeared ready to be No. 1
No. 15: L.A. Times reporter: Arizona shows “fight of wildcats” in 1914 game vs. Occidental
No. 16: UA leads UCLA late in third quarter but loses big in 12-1 season
No. 17: Unranked Arizona upsets Ohio State, Woody Hayes in Buckeyes’ 1967 opener in Columbus
No. 18: Arizona and hasty coach Mudra lose Ultimatum Bowl to ASU in 1968
No. 19: Arizona keeps “The Streak” without loss to ASU alive in ’87 with bizarre finish that ends in tie
No. 20: Arizona fit to be tied with Cal despite leading 26-3 in third quarter
No. 21: Zendejas’ last-second 45-yard FG vs. ASU generates momentum for “The Streak” to endure
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
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.