Arizona Football: 5 Startling Statistics from Wildcats' 2013 Campaign
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Arizona's season is one-third of the way complete, and most things have gone as expected. A 3-1 record at this point was a common prediction, considering the Wildcats' soft nonconference schedule followed by a tough Pac-12 opener at Washington, and those results went straight chalk.
Statistically, though, Arizona has put up some surprising numbers, both in the good and bad category. With a key game coming up Thursday night at USC, it will be interesting to see if these numbers continue to hold true, and what that means for the Wildcats' season as a whole.
Rushing yards per game: 291.5
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Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey led the FBS in rushing yards in 2012 as a sophomore, and with his eyes set on a likely departure to the NFL after this season, it's no surprise he has such a featured role in the offense.
But the 291.5 yards per game (10th-best in FBS) the Wildcats are averaging to this point goes way beyond just Carey, who didn't play in Arizona's first game because of a suspension and didn't touch the ball until the second quarter of the following contest.
While Carey is doing his fair share, quarterback B.J. Denker is averaging 70 rushing yards a game and has scored at least one touchdown in each of Arizona's four games.
Though the per-game team average has dropped following the last two games, if Arizona can keep its rushing numbers at their current level, it would break the school record of 276.5 per game set in 1954.
Team passing efficiency: 92.37
Arizona has had a 3,000-yard passer five of the last six seasons, following the trend across the Pac-12 of wide-open offenses that through it all over the place. But what the Wildcats have done with the passing game this year rivals some of the inept air attacks from the late 1980s and early 1990s.
The team passing efficiency rating of 92.37 ranks 121st out of 123 FBS teams tracked by the NCAA for this statistic, ahead of only South Florida (1-4) and Western Michigan (0-6) and behind winless teams Massachusetts, Miami (Ohio), Southern Mississippi and Temple.
The reasons for the poor numbers—along with only 111.3 passing yards per game—can be attributed to a number of factors, but the most glaring culprits are an inaccurate quarterback in B.J. Denker and an inexperienced receiving corps that hasn't helped their QB out very much when it comes to hauling in tough throws.
Most receptions by one receiver: 9
That's not a one-game total; that's the number of catches Arizona's leading receiver has for the entire season.
True freshman Samajie Grant has nine receptions for 82 yards and one touchdown, while Garic Wharton has eight catches for 117 yards. Yes, Arizona's anemic pass attack is well-chronicled, but oftentimes a poor-passing team is in such a predicament because of one good receiver who is always double covered.
Not the case with the Wildcats, where to this point no one has stepped up to be the go-to guy for throws. And because of this, media outlets like ESPN do features on receivers who are rehabbing ACL injuries rather than profile the guys actually on the field this season.
Passed intercepted: 7
The high point in Arizona's history, defensively, came in the early- to mid-1990s when it had its so-called Desert Swarm defense that produced players like Tedy Bruschi who terrorized opposing teams and (most of the time) made up for an otherwise pedestrian offense.
But those teams had much more of a presence on the defensive line, stuffing the run and forcing teams to throw to get any yardage. The 2013 Wildcats' defense isn't nearly as stout against the run, but it's been a bitch to throw effectively on the back end of Arizona's 3-3-5 alignment.
All told, the Wildcats have seven interceptions, just five fewer than in 13 games last season. Three of those have been returned for touchdowns, including two by junior defensive back Tra'Mayne Bondurant.
Considering how prolific the passing offenses are in the Pac-12, the early season results bode well for Arizona being able to at least slow down some of the league's big-name quarterbacks. Washington's Keith Price had his worst game of the season against the Wildcats two weeks ago, then rebounded to light up Stanford the following game.
Yards allowed per punt return: 0.0
It hasn't been the smoothest transition at punter for Arizona, which lost a good one in Kyle Dugandzic.
But while sophomore Drew Riggleman has struggled with his distance (36.5 yards per kick, for a 35.2 net punting average, tied for 97th in FBS) and, as the picture above shows, an unfortunate high snap on a wet day that led to a safety against Washington, the combination of short kicks and solid punt return defense has prevented opponents from gaining any yards.
That's right, zero yards. Riggleman has punted 15 times, and only once has a return been attempted. It went for zero yards.