"A BEAST:" Oregon State head coach Mike Riley called 6-foot-6, 260-pound sophomore TE Rob Gronkowski "a beast" in this week's press conference - and rightly so. Last week against the Ducks he used his big frame to tally career highs in receptions (12) and yards (143). His 14.7 yards per catch is second on the team, behind his brother, Chris, while eight of his 12 catches against Oregon resulted in a first down. For his career he has 62 catches for 1,025 yards and 14 touchdowns - all UA career marks for a tight end. Gronkowski did have have a catch at OSU last season.
THIRD AND SHORT: The Arizona defense has shown marked improvement in third down situations compared to a year ago. UA allowed opponents to convert 43 percent (86-199) on third down plays. This season, the Wildcats have held the opposition to a 33-percent success rate (45-137) - fourth in the Pac-10 - while in third and short situations (four yards or less), UA is limiting teams to a 34-percent success rate (16-47).
GETTING BETTER: Arizona opened the season with a freak two-yard punt against Idaho by P Keenyn Crier in his first boot in live action after missing much of fall camp after off-season back problems. Since, Crier’s been climbing back kick after kick and the squad now boasts an average of 43.5 yards per punt - good for 14th nationally - while the team’s net punting figure of 36.65 is rated 32nd in the FBS. Senior K Jason Bondzio has connected on seven of his last eight field goal tries spanning four games and is 11-for13 overall, with 45 PATs. For his career he is 31 of 37, a sparkling 83 percent.
30 EQUALS A WIN, BUT 40 IS EVEN BETTER: For Arizona, 30 points is usually enough to get the "W." Since joining the Pac-10 in 1978, the Wildcats have played 103 games in which they have scored 30 or more points. Their record in those games? 93-9-1. That record includes a streak of 18 consecutive victories when scoring at least 30 points, including a 14-1 mark under Mike Stoops. In UA's entire history of football, Arizona is 108-4 when scoring 40 or more points in a game, something it has done in four of five home games this season.
MONEY MIKE: Senior receiver Mike Thomas has caught a pass in 34 consecutive games - the longest such current streak in the Pac-10 - while his four 100-yard receiving games this season is a conference high. He leads the conference in receptions averaging 5.6 per game while his 68.0 yards per game average is good for second in the Pac-10 behind Sammie Stroughter. Of his 55 receptions in 2008, 32 of them have resulted in a first down (56 percent) and four have gone for touchdowns. In addition, Thomas has five first down carries and one touchdown on the ground.
A BALANCED OFFENSE: Although known for putting up big numbers in the passing game since switching to the spread offense UA has been balanced this year averaging 172 rushing yards and 240 passing yards per game. The 412.9 yards per game would rate as the fourth best in school history. In fact, Arizona has rushed the ball 395 times compared to only 318 pass attempts. They have also scored more touchdowns by run than by pass (29 to 19).
A THREE HEADED MONSTER: Sophomore RB Nic Grigsby has started 10 games this year averaging a team best 94.1 yards per game, third in the conference, with 11 touchdowns, but may not receive his 11th start this week. Grigsby, who needs just 59 yards to give him 1,000 for the season, has been pulled twice after struggling to secure the pigskin. As a result true freshman Keola Antolin, who has 398 yards and nine touchdowns on 83 carries may get the nod. He tied a school record last week by rushing for four touchdown at UO. But don't forget about junior Xavier Smith who has 40 carries for 153 yards and five touchdowns. The three have combined for 289 rushes for 1,517 yards and 25 touchdowns.
RED HOT IN THE REDZONE: The Wildcats have a 94-percent success rate (46-49), a mark that ranks fifth in the nation, in the redzone this season. UA failed to score in the redzone twice in blowout wins at the end of the game when they had the ball while the other failure came on a turnover by the second string offense. UA has scored 38 touchdowns inside the redzone (27 rushing, 11 passing) and added eight field goals. The only game UA has failed to score a redzone touchdown in came at Stanford - they settled for field goals each time.
A HEALTHY O-LINE: Oregon State fans know the value of having a healthy offensive line and so do Wildcat fans. Arizona has played the season with basically two offensive line substitutions. Continuity on the offensive line has allowed the Wildcat offense to convert 44-percent of its third down opportunities - good for second in the Pac-10 - while helping the running game to a 1.5 ypc improvement over last year's average.
FINISHING STRONG: With a 4-1 home record and a win against the Beavers Arizona can post its best home record since the 1998 team posted a 5-1 mark at Arizona Stadium. From 1999 to 2006 Arizona was no better than 3-3 in home games. If UA wins their final two games they will finish 6-3 in conference play making it just the third time in the program's history that they have won at least six Pac-10 games. Head coach Mike Stoops has a 9-5 record in November since taking over at Arizona.
TOP 3: Knowing who the top three tackles on each team is a good indication of who some of the better players are on a squad. Here are Arizona's top three: senior S Nate Ness leads the team with 64 tackles, (37 solo) to go with two tackles for loss, two interceptions and five pass breakups, senior LB Ronnie Palmer, who has played in just eight games, is second with 58 stops (30 solo), including a team best 8.5 for loss, to go along with one interception, and junior LB Sterling Lewis rounds out the top three with 58 tackles (a team high 39 solo) with five tackles for loss and two pass breakups.
QUICK STRIKE: Arizona has developed a reputation as a quick-strike offense, scoring on 19 touchdown drives in under two minutes throughout the season which ranks in the top 10 nationally.
MR. BROOKS: Sophomore DE Brooks Reed has made a big impact on the UA defensive line in his first season as a starter. Through eight games, Reed has recorded 24 tackles, but leads the team with five sacks. Perhaps most impressive about his sack total is the fact that four of them have come in UA's last three games - against No. 24 California and No. 6 USC, and at Washington State. His crushing hit on Mark Sanchez forced a fumble at the USC 15-yard line, which set up UA's lone touchdown in the game. In addition, Reed has broken up a pair of passes on the season and has forced two fumbles.