Nine's the Magic Number

I was having a conversation the other day with a college football junkie who remarked that if Arizona could somehow become a top 50 offense this season they could easily be a top 10 team. That got me thinking. What if Arizona had the 50th best offense in 2006? What then would their record have been? Accurate or not, this is what I came up with.

Using Northern Illinois' 50th ranked 2006 scoring offense of 25.5 PPG and then applying it to last season's final scores, Arizona's 6-6 overall record suddenly turns into a glamorous 9-3 mark with upsets over USC, Cal, WSU, OSU and Oregon. I don't know about you, but that surely sounds like a highly ranked team to me.

Game 1 – Real Score: UA 16 BYU 13 Recap: BYU fumbled the ball away on their first play, resulting in a field goal for the Wildcats. The Cougars did not panic, scoring a touchdown on their next drive to take a 7-3 lead. Arizona added another field goal to trail by one at halftime. Down 10-6, Arizona scored their only touchdown of the game to go up 13-10. With 5:23 to play BYU tied the game with a 31-yard field goal. The Wildcats would not be outdone, however. They mounted a 13 play, 44 yard clock killing drive that ended with a 48 yard game winning FG by Nick Folk as time expired.

Fictitious Score: Arizona was victorious in the real game scenario, rendering the virtual game irrelevant.

Game 2 – Real Score: UA 3 LSU 45 On the first play from scrimmage, Tuitama completed a first down pass and drew a roughing the passer penalty which moved the ball near midfield. The penalty had more of an adverse affect on Arizona than it did on LSU, however, as Tuitama was concussed on the late hit. It was all downhill from there as Arizona could only muster a total of 54 yards through three quarters. LSU had no problems with the Wildcats, taking a 38-0 lead into the fourth quarter. Arizona managed to avoid the shutout by driving 75 yards and kicking a 22 yard FG with less than a minute to play.

Fictitious Score: UA 25 LSU 45 Arizona stumbled early, falling behind 17-0 before rallying for 10 points to keep things interesting. Following a Tuitama interception with 2:43 to go in the second quarter, LSU drove 54 yards for a touchdown and a 24-10 halftime lead. During the break, it was determined that Arizona's QB had been concussed (most likely on the first play of the game). Without their starting QB, Arizona did manage to score two more time but it wasn't enough as LSU's ground game exploded for three scores of their own.

Game 3 – Real Score: UA 28 SF Austin 10 Recap: Walk-on tailback Chris Jennings replaced suspended starter Chris Henry and took full advantage of the opportunity, rushing for 201 yards. Leading 14-10 early in the fourth quarter, Arizona inserted Tuitama into the line up and the sophomore quarterback sparked the team to two late touchdowns.

Fictitious Score: Irrelevant.

Game 4 – Real Score: UA 3 USC 20 Recap: Although Arizona only had 52 total yards at halftime, the Trojans did not fair much better in taking a slim 3-0 lead into the break. USC opened the third quarter with a 10 play, 80 yard drive that ended in a touchdown. Arizona kicked a 43 yard FG with 13:59 left in the game, bringing themselves within a touchdown of the Trojans. After a USC field goal and a muffed punt by Arizona that resulted in another USC touchdown drive, the Trojans escaped the desert with a hard fought, physical victory.

Fictitious Score: UA 25 USC 20 Arizona stunned USC with a 13 play, 88 yard drive midway through the final quarter to take a 21-20 lead with 7:45 on the clock. The Wildcats went for two and converted, making the score 23-20. After both defenses took turns forcing the offenses off the field, the Wildcats punted the ball away with 2:10 remaining. Folk's 61 yard punt was perfectly placed, rolling out of bounds at the USC 7. The frenetic crowd then forced USC into a false start penalty, moving the ball back to the 4. On the next play, John David Booty was met by a blitzing Spencer Larsen at the goal line. Officials on the field ruled the play a safety and after a booth review, the call stood. Arizona successfully fielded the free kick and was able to run out the clock.

Game 5 – Real Score: UA 10 Washington 21 Recap: Stoops called the Washington game the biggest game of his young career but apparently his team didn't get the memo. Both defenses dominated early. Trailing 3-0 with nine minutes to play in the half, the Huskies exploded for 21 unanswered points to take a 21-3 lead. The stunned Wildcats never quite recovered and although they held the Huskies scoreless after the break the damage had already been done.

Fictitious Score: UA 25 Washington 21 Trailing 21-3 at halftime, the Wildcats did not panic in mounting their second straight fourth quarter comeback. Arizona wasted no time as Tuitama hooked up with Syndric Steptoe twice and Mike Thomas and Anthony Johnson once each in leading the ‘Cats on a 75-yard touchdown drive. After an Antoine Cason interception, Henry took a hand off and rushed up the right sideline for 27 yards. Tuitama then connected with Thomas for a 17 yard TD. The Wildcats failed on the two point conversion and trailed 21-16 heading into the fourth. The stingy Arizona defense held the Huskies scoreless in the second half, surrendering only 27 yards of total offense in the final frame. Arizona had favorable field position throughout the second half and Tuitama and company took full advantage. The sophomore QB hit fullback Earl Mitchell on a swing pass and watched as the freshman broke two tackles on his way into the end zone. The Wildcats again missed the two point conversion, clinging to a 22-21 point lead. With :47 remaining, Folk booted a 22-yard chip shot that produced the game's final score.

Game 6 – Real Score: UA 7 UCLA 27 Recap: UCLA's defense held Arizona to minus 13 yards rushing, forcing Arizona's back up QB, Adam Austin, to throw the ball much more than Stoops would have preferred. Replacing the injured Tuitama, Austin was 15-30 for 192 yards and a touchdown. UCLA took advantage of field position all night and capped off the game when Austin threw an 89 yard interception for a touchdown with 3:57 remaining.

Fictitious Score: UA 25 UCLA 27 Seeking their fourth straight victory, the upset minded Wildcats led the Bruins 25-24 with 3:37 to play. After UCLA's 5 play, 38 yard drive stalled at the Arizona 32, Justin Medlock kicked a 49 yard FG that gave the Bruins a 27-25 edge with 1:19 to play. Austin completed his first two passes to push the Wildcats to their own 42. After an incomplete pass to Johnson that would've put Arizona at the UCLA 29, Austin took a costly sack that burned 23 seconds off the clock. On the game's final play, Austin's desperation heave was batted down at the 10, giving the Bruins a well deserved win.

Game 7 – Real Score: UA 20 Stanford 7 Recap: Arizona's defense held the Cardinal to 52 yards of total offense. Playing without the injured Tuitama, Arizona was forced to use third string QB Kris Heavner after back up Austin was injured in the second quarter. Arizona used a ball control offense and a stifling defense to control the clock and the game.

Fictitious Score: Irrelevant.

Game 8 – Real Score: UA 10 Oregon State 17 Recap: Arizona picked up where they left off, playing conservatively on offense as third string QB Heavner got the start because of injuries to Tuitama and Austin. Arizona would fumble once and throw two interceptions, one coming at the OSU 2, in the loss. Arizona's anemic offense was also stopped on downs at the OSU 1.

Fictitious Score: UA 25 OSU 17 Arizona's third string QB completed 17-25 for 217 yards and 2 touchdowns in his first start since the 2004 season. He led the Wildcats to touchdown drives of 37 and 81 yards. Place kicker Folk converted on all three field goal attempts and the Arizona defense recorded their second safety of the season. The turning point in the game came with 1:55 to play in the first half when the Wildcats' fullback Mitchell bulled his way into the end zone on 4&G from the 1. Although Arizona still trailed 14-10 at the break, the momentum from the score carried over into the second half as Heavner connected with Steptoe on a 13 yard TD reception that capped off an 8 play, 77 yard drive that gave the ‘Cats the lead for good.

Game 9 – Real Score: UA 27 Washington State 17 Recap: Tuitama returned to the starting lineup and took little time in making his presence felt, connecting on a 78 yard TD pass on the game's third play. After spending most of the season in Stoops' doghouse, Henry got the bulk of the carries in rushing for 94 yards and two touchdowns. Arizona's defense was disruptive, causing five fumbles and recovering two. They also recorded four sacks while limiting the Cougars to only 45 rushing yards.

Fictitious Score: Irrelevant.

Game 10 – Real Score: UA 24 California 20 Recap: Cal had a Marshawn Lynch 79 yard TD run called back because of a penalty in the first half and then had what looked like a game winning 63 yard TD pass to DeSean Jackson called back when an official review determined that Jackson stepped out of bounds soon after catching the pass. Tuitama threw for 202 yards and Henry rushed for two scores in leading the Wildcats to their second straight Homecoming win over a highly-ranked opponent.

Fictitious Score: Irrelevant.

Game 11 – Real Score: UA 37 Oregon 10 Tuitama needed only nine passes to throw for two scores in the first half before leaving the game because of injury. Henry took over from there, carrying the ball 29 times for 191 yards and two touchdowns of his own. Oregon amassed 346 yards of offense but struggled to find the end zone thanks to four drive halting interceptions. The Ducks also fumbled away two punt returns.

Fictitious Score: Irrelevant.

Game 12 – Real Score: UA 14 Arizona State 28 Recap: The Sun Devils opened the game with a 7 play, 80 yard drive to take a 7-0 lead. They then converted a fourth and 8 on a 38 yard TD pass that silenced the Wildcat faithful. Later in the first quarter, UA's punter had an illegal kick penalty, which gave the ball back to ASU at the Arizona 7. The Sun Devils scored on the very next play, closing out the quarter 21-0. Tuitama led the Wildcats on a 51 yard TD drive to draw within two scores. The Wildcats then held the Sun Devils on downs as a momentum shift seemed apparent. Tuitama was injured on the ensuing drive, though, and would be replaced by Austin who would go on to complete just 11 of 30 pass attempts for 99 yards. The Sun Devils easily pulled away for their second straight victory in this heated rivalry.

Fictitious Score: UA 25 Arizona State 28 Leading 7-0 midway through the first quarter ASU went for it on 4&8. The gamble backfired though as Ronnie Palmer intercepted a Rudy Carpenter pass, returning it all the way to the Sun Devils 18. On 2&5, Tuitama's play action pass to Steptoe in the left flank put Arizona inside the ASU 5. They would later score on a Henry 2 yard rushing TD. The teams would trade a pair of field goals each, entering halftime knotted at 13-13. Tuitama, injured on a sack late in the first half, would not return to the lineup in the final 30 minutes and that would prove to be the difference as the Sun Devils raced to a 28-13 advantage. Arizona would score 12 points in the fourth quarter but it would be too little too late.

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