Saturday is the first big road-test of the season for Arizona. The Cats travel to Iowa City to take on the Hawkeyes at famed Kinnick Stadium. There are plenty of story-lines surrounding this game: Mike and Mark Stoops return to their alma mater (where they played and coached); Matt Scott's first road game; Super-Tight-End Rob Gronkowski is out; both teams first game against a quality opponent; and Pac-10 vs. Big Ten bragging rights.
Matt Scott and the Wildcats should expect a loud, rowdy house Saturday afternoon. Kinnick holds over 70,000 people, and will be filled to the gills. The crowd may be a factor for Scott, who has not started a road game before.
How they got here:
Arizona is 2-0 (0-0), with victories over Central MIchigan (19-6) and Northern Arizona (34-17). The victory opening night over CMU has proven to be bigger than previously thought. The Chippewas went on the road last weekend and upset Michigan State.
Iowa is 2-0 (0-0), with victories over Northern Iowa (17-16) and Iowa State (35-3). The Hawkeyes escaped with the victory week one over UNI by blocking field goals on two consecutive plays! If you are an Iowa fan, I am sure you look at that as clear evidence of superior skill. If you are everyone else, you probably see it as a lucky win. Then, the Hawkeyes went to Iowa State and mopped the floor with the Cyclones. Okay.
When Arizona has the ball:
Iowa's defense has given up 137 rushing yards per game this season, including 56 yards last week to Iowa State's quarterback Austen Aurnad. There is a reason you have not heard of Aurnad. That 137 yards per game is not lost in a flurry of carries either. The Hawkeyes defense gives up a hefty 4.2 yards per carry. Arizona's offense is averaging 305 yards per game on 6.6 yards per carry. Nic Grigsby and the offensive line will be a huge factor in Saturday's game. Grigsby has rushed for 329 yards and three TDs this season. Matt Scott has chipped in 137 yards, and Keola Antolin has added 98 yards and one score.
Cornerback Tyler Sash leads the Hawkeyes in both tackles (20) and interceptions (3). Brett Greenwood, also a cornerback, is second on the team in tackles with 18, and two interceptions. Iowa is not effectively pressuring the quarterback. The Hawkeyes have only registered two sacks on the season. Granted, the pass defense picked off Iowa State five times last week. Iowa's defense gives up only 191 passing yards per game.
Matt Scott and Nick Foles will lead the Wildcats passing offense this week without tight end Rob Gronkowski and a banged up Delashaun Dean. Dean has had hamstring problems, and a concussion this season. He came back to practice this week and should contribute this Saturday. The Cats are only averaging 198 yards per game through the air, but up to this point have maintained a pretty vanilla offensive scheme. Look for Arizona to open up the playbook Saturday. Terrell Turner leads the team in receptions with 11, for only 101 yards. Next is David Douglas with seven catches for 65 yards. Where is Bug? The super-soph has only two catches this season to-date.
Arizona has dominated time of possession thus far. The Cats have held the ball 60% of the time. The Hawkeyes have had a slight time of possession advantage, averaging 30:45 a game.
When Iowa has the ball:
Iowa is the very definition of balanced attack. The Hawkeyes have run the ball 66 times this season, versus 71 passing attempts. This is not the old three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust Big Ten offense, but it is not exactly Run-n-Shoot either.
Arizona has given up a paltry 70.5 yards per game on the ground. Wildcat opponents average 3.6 yards per carry and have found the endzone on the ground only once so far this season. Middle linebacker Vuna Tuihalamaka leads the Cats with 12 total tackles, and also has added an interception. Cornerback Devin Ross is second on the team in tackles (11), and will look to shut down Hawkeye reciever Trey Stross. Iowa averages 139 yards per game rushing, with a respectable 4.2 yards per carry. The Hawkeye's leading rusher is Adam Robinson, who has 132 yards on 27 carries and one touchdown. Iowa is without injured starting running back Jewel Hampton.
Arizona's pass defense has held opponents to 133.5 yards per game. Impressive when you consider that includes holding star quarterback Dan LeFevour under 200 yards. Trevin Wade has picked up where he left off last year. Wade has picked off two passes this season. The Arizona pass defense has only sacked the quarterback three times this season. Iowa's quarterback Ricki Stanzi is averaging 219.5 yards per game passing, and has five touchdowns versus only two interceptions. The Hawkeyes passing attack has spread the ball around the field. 12 different players have caught a pass this season. That number is misleading however, as only three players have caught more than five balls, and tight end Tony Moeaki has caught 11 passes for 26% of all passes completed. Clearly Moeaki is Stanzi's favorite target and will need to be shadowed down the field.
Arizona's kicker Alex Zendejas has made 4-6 field goals this season. Zendejas' long is 37 yards. Punter Keenyn Crier has three punts that average 41 yards, and a long of 55 yards. On kickoffs, Zendejas has already recorded three touchbacks on the season.
Iowa kicker Daniel Murray is 1-2 this year on field goal attempts. His lone field goal was a 39 yarder. Punter Ryan Donahue has punted nine times, for a 41.1 average, and long punt of 57 yards.
Arizona has a decisive advantage in kick returns. As a team, the Wildcats average 29.6 yards per return. The Hawkeyes average a mere 18.2. Iowa's kick coverage has been excellent thus far, however, limiting opponents to 17.5 yards per return. Something has to give here.
The numbers indicate that neither team has excelled so far this season passing the ball, and Iowa has not exactly been a prolific rushing attack either. Neither team has faced an opponent this season that matches each others caliber. This game should be a turning point for both programs. Can Arizona stop a balanced attack? Can Iowa keep a legitimate rushing attack in check? The peripheral numbers seem to edge towards Arizona, but Iowa has one huge advantage. Kinnick. If Matt Scott, or Nick Foles, turn the ball over, Kinnick will be in a frenzy. Arizona's best (and only) shot at winning this game will be to control the clock, keep the crowd out of the game, and keep turnovers to a minimum. The first quarter will probably be an emotional, fast-paced 15 minutes. After that, the Cats should look to settle down, and keep that crowd off its feet.