Game 1: Northern Arizona University Lumberjacks (0-0, 0-0 Big Sky) at Arizona Wildcats (0-0, 0-0 Pac-12)
Date/Time/Location: Friday, Aug. 30 at 7 p.m. (MST) at Arizona Stadium (56,037 capacity) in Tucson, Ariz.
Television: Pac-12 Networks (or online at Pac-12.com, with subscription)
Radio: Arizona Radio Network, 1290 AM and 107.5 FM in Tucson.
Game Notes: Arizona, NAU
Meet the Coaches
Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez enters his second season with the Wildcats after stints at Salem, Glenville State, West Virginia and Michigan. Over the course of his 19 seasons as a head coach, the 50-year-old Rodriguez possesses a 134-93-2 career record. In his debut season with the Wildcats, Arizona went 8-5 including a dramatic win over Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl. It was Rodriguez’s first debut winning season and first bowl appearance in a debut season. He also tied Jim Young for most wins in a coach’s first season at Arizona. At the three schools he coached for more than one year, Rodriguez increased his win total from the first to the second season, averaging a 3.67 win increase from year one to year two.
NAU’s Jerome Souers is entering his 16th season as the Lumberjacks coach, possessing a 84-85 career record, including a Big Sky Championship in 2003. The longest-tenured coach in NAU history has taken the program to the playoffs three times, with the most recent postseason appearance coming in 2003. He led the Lumberjacks to an 8-3 record last season, including a win against FBS-level UNLV, before narrowly missing the postseason.
The Wildcats offense is full of question marks as they enter their second season running the spread offense.
The first question is at quarterback as head coach Rich Rodriguez listed three players – B.J. Denker, Jesse Scroggins and Javelle Allen – as starters at the position. Denker will likely get the start, but all three players (and possibly Nick Isham) are expected to play. It’s very possible that the quarterback battle continues until the Wildcats’ conference opener on Sept. 28 at Washington.
Another question mark is at running back. Junior Ka’deem Carey led the nation in rushing yards last season with 1,929 rushing yards, adding 23 rushing touchdowns and 303 receiving yards. However, off-the-field issues in the offseason have raised the possibility that the consensus All-American might be suspended for at least part of the season opener. If he doesn’t play, the Wildcats will give Daniel Jenkins and Jared Baker the bulk of the carries.
Wide receiver, another position of strength last season, has been depleted by injuries, departures and graduation. Austin Hill and David Richards are injured, Dan Buckner graduated and Tyler Slavin and Jarrell Bennett left the team in the offseason. The Wildcats will attempt to plug this hole using a group of underclassmen – Johnny Jackson, Nate Phillips, Samajie Grant, Clive Georges and Trey Griffey. Upperclassmen Terrence Miller, Garic Wharton and Richard Morrison are also back and will be looked to as leaders at the position.
Surprisingly, the Wildcats are in the best shape on the defensive side of the ball heading into the season. The Arizona defense returns 18 players with starting experience from a team that yielded 499 yards per game a year ago. Key players on defense are linebackers Marquis Flowers and Jake Fischer, safeties Tra’mayne Bondurant and Jared Tevis and cornerbacks Shaquille Richardson and Jonathan McKnight.
The success of the defense will depend on the defensive line putting pressure on the quarterback. The Wildcats only recorded 16.0 sacks a year ago, which ranked 106th out of 120 teams in terms of sacks per game. Who steps up on the defensive line might be the most important defensive question mark heading into the season.
The player to watch on defense is true freshman Phillip “Scooby” Wright who will make his Wildcats debut at the strongside linebacker position. The former two-star recruit from Santa Rosa, Calif. has impressed coaches in practice with his instincts and high-motor.
Drew Riggleman will replace Kyle Dugandzic as the punter, while either Casey Skowron or Jake Smith will replace John Bonano as the kicker. Wide receivers Nate Phillips and Johnny Jackson will handle kick and punt returns.
Expectations are high for the Lumberjacks as they enter the season ranked No. 18 in the FCS.
The Lumberjacks return 18 starters from last season, including running back Zach Bauman, who has rushed for more than 1,000 yards three straight seasons. With 3,676 career rushing yards, he is just 119 yards shy of breaking the NAU career rushing record.
Starting at quarterback will be sophomore Kyren Poe, not Chase Cartwright, who missed spring practice with a knee injury after starting two games last season. Poe, who will be making his first collegiate start, played in six games as a wide receiver last season. According to the azdailysun.com, Poe has “uncanny mobility,” without sacrificing any of his drop-back skills.
On defense, the Lumberjacks have two players who were named preseason All-Americans – cornerback Anders Battle and safety Lucky Dozier. Defensive lineman Tim Wilkinson anchors a defense that starts four seniors in the front seven. Last season, the Lumberjacks gave up 23.6 points per game, good for second in the Big Sky and 43rd out of 121 in the FBS.
On special teams, punter and kicker Andy Wilder is one of the best kickers at the FBS-level, as last year he led the nation with 46.3 yards per punt. He also made 38-of-39 PATs.
The Lumberjacks had six players named to the 2013 All-Big Sky Preseason Team – Bauman, Wilkinson, Battle, Dozier, Wilder and tight end R.J. Rickert. Bauman, Battle and Dozier were First Team All-Conference in 2012.
Arizona Injury Report
Out – wide receiver David Richards (foot), wide receiver Austin Hill (knee), offensive lineman Beau Boyster (knee, season-ending), linebacker Cody Ippolito (knee, season-ending)
Defensive lineman Dan Pettinato, who was not listed on the two-deep, was not included on the week one injury report. According to Tracy McDonald of GOAZCATS.com, Pettinato, who missed all of spring due to a knee injury, is ahead of schedule on his rehab.
Arizona vs. NAU Series History
The Wildcats lead the all-time series 11-1 and won the most recent matchup 41-10 on Sept. 3, 2011. The teams first played in 1931 in Flagstaff, Ariz. with Arizona winning 19-12. NAU’s lone win against the Wildcats came in Phoenix in 1932 by a final score of 7-6. Arizona has won the last 10 meetings between the two teams.
Tickets for the game are still available and can be purchased here.
Topics: 2013 Football Game Previews, Anders Battle, Andy Wilder, Arizona Wildcats, Austin Hill, B.J. Denker, Beau Boyster, Casey Skowron, Chase Cartwright, Clive Georges, Cody Ippolito, Dan Buckner, Dan Pettinato, Daniel Jenkins, David Richards, Drew Riggleman, Follow, Garic Wharton, Index, Jake Fischer, Jake Smith, Jared Baker, Jared Tevis, Jarrell Bennett, Javelle Allen, Jerome Souers, Jesse Scroggins, John Bonano, Johnny Jackson, Jonathan McKnight, Ka'deem Carey, Kyle Dugandzic, Kyren Poe, Lucky Dozier, Marquis Flowers, Nate Phillips, NAU Lumberjacks, Nick Isham, R.J. Rickert, Rich Rodriguez, Richard Morrison, Samajie Grant, Scooby Wright, Shaquille Richardson, Terrence Miller, Tim Wilkinson, Tra'mayne Bondurant, Trey Griffey, Tyler Slavin, Zach Bauman