More than five years after leaving the UA for an NFL career, Earl Mitchell returns to campus...
Arizona, Oklahoma State to Battle in Arizona Stadium
Arizona (1-0) will welcome No. 19 Oklahoma State (1-0) in an early-season non-conference clash at Arizona Stadium on Sept. 8 at 7:30 p.m. MST. The game will be shown on the Pac-12 Networks.
This week's game between the University of Arizona and Oklahoma State will be an early-season litmus test for two programs going through contrasting stages.
Rich Rodriguez and his UA squad will get their first chance at a ranked opponent, an opportunity to make a claim for instant relevancy on the national landscape. Meanwhile, Mike Gundy and the Cowboys have an established program, one coming off a BCS bowl victory, but are still anxious to know if they are in re-load or re-build mode after the departure of some decorated players.
The Wildcats will needed every snap, including overtime, to win their opener, while the Cowboys had things wrapped up after a 35-point first quarter in an 84-point romp last week. Despite a 60-point difference in scoring, both offenses churned out more than 600 yards of offense.
The two schools will meet for the third time in as many years after recent Cowboy victories in Stillwater (2011) and at the 2010 Alamo Bowl. Cowboy signal caller Wes Lunt, a true freshman, will make his first start against an FBS opponent. The UA will counter with a fifth-year senior in Matt Scott, but it will be only his sixth career start and just second in a new offensive system.
Defensively, the UA's 3-3-5 had a steady debut, in fact rather convincing after halftime, but it will face its first big-time challenge against one of the nation's most prolific offense programs in recent years.
Surely the Wildcats will need to capitalize when they finds themselves in the red zone after a 1-for-4 effort against Toledo. It would also behoove the home side to stop the Cowboys, who were proficient in a 9-for-9 success rate. Vital, too, will be turnovers, something the UA will look to cleanup after losing the battle 3-1 against the Rockets.
This game, on Sept. 8, the Wildcats will debut on the newly launched Pac-12 Networks.
Last week, Arizona opened the Rodriguez era with a 24-17 overtime victory against Toledo. The end result was positive, and despite the nail-biting finish, there was plenty of reason for optimism for the Wildcat faithful.
At the forefront of the optimism is surely 624 yards of total offense, a consistent and at times explosive performance that ranks statistically as the second-best single game output in school history. But yards aren't points, and from that perspective the Cats mustered only 17 of them in regulation.
Turnovers, ill-timed penalties and missed field goals cost the Cats drives and left them just 1-for-4 in the redzone in the initial game. Fortunately, the newly unveiled 3-3-5 defense surprised some critics with a solid debut, especially in the second half.
After yielding 226 first-half yards and 14 points, the UA stifled the Rockets in the second half, surrendering just a field goal and holding UT to a lowly 0-for-7 on third down attempts.
Three Wildcats finished with double-digit tackles, led by the return of Jake Fischer (missed 2011 with an ACL injury) who had 13 tackles, and former walk-on Jared Tevis, who collected 12 stops in his first career start.
Switching back to the offensive side, quarterback Scott was brilliant, though not flawless, in his start under center. He finished with a 387-yard passing night and the third-highest total offense output by a Wildcat, and the numbers could have been more outstanding if not for a couple missed opportunities and one poor throw that was intercepted. Even so, he had a career-day, as did running back Ka'Deem Carey, whose 83-yard scoot in the third quarter gave the Cats a lead they failed to relinquish. It was Carey's first career 100-yard day on the ground, and he was joined by receivers Dan Buckner and Austin Hill, who topped the century mark in receiving yards.
The kicking game gave the Cats a couple hang-your-head moments, including John Bonano's missed game-winning attempt at the end of regulation, but the resourceful bunch quickly regrouped for a convincing overtime period and well-earned victory.
On Sept. 3, linebacker Fischer was named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week. After missing the 2011 season with an ACL injury, Fischer collected a career and game-high 13 tackles to help lead Arizona to a 24-17 overtime victory against Toledo in his first game since injury. Fischer registered a career-high 2.5 tackles for loss and forced a fumble as the Wildcat defense limited an explosive Toledo offense to just 17 points.
Fischer's performance highlighted a dominant second half of defense for the Wildcats. The UA defense held the Rockets to just three points and 132 yards of offense after halftime. Included was a stifling 0-for-7 third down conversion rate.
In the overtime, Fischer and the Wildcat defense closed the game by stopping the Rockets on downs. The overtime win was the UA's first since 2000. Fischer, who made his ninth career start, previously had career-highs of seven tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss. His forced fumble on Saturday was the first in his career.
Up Next: Arizona will wrap-up its stretch of three consecutive home games to kick off the season when it hosts South Carolina State on Sept. 15. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. MST at Arizona Stadium. The game will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks.