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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    ‘Cats familiar with bowl opponent BYU

    UA placekicker Jason Bondzio celebrates with Wildcat fans after the 31-10 win against ASU at Arizona Stadium on Saturday night. The Wildcats will play No. 17 BYU on Dec. 20 in the Las Vegas Bowl.
    UA placekicker Jason Bondzio celebrates with Wildcat fans after the 31-10 win against ASU at Arizona Stadium on Saturday night. The Wildcats will play No. 17 BYU on Dec. 20 in the Las Vegas Bowl.

    With much excitement surrounding the Arizona football team’s first bowl berth since 1998, it turns out the Wildcats will have two weeks to prepare for an opponent they played twice in the last three seasons.

    On Sunday, the Las Vegas Bowl selected BYU to participate in the game on Dec. 20 at Sam Boyd Stadium.

    With the matchup between the Wildcats and the Cougars, Arizona head coach Mike Stoops knows exactly what

    to expect.

    “”We have a lot of respect for them and understand that we can play a lot better than we did in Provo last year and we’ll need to,”” Stoops said. “”We have had two really close games (with BYU). We matched up relatively well with them. I haven’t watched too much of them, but I would imagine they are fairly similar.””

    Both times the Wildcats played BYU in the past two seasons, the matchups were fairly close. In 2006, Arizona topped the Cougars in the Wildcats’ season-opener after former kicker Nick Folk nailed a game-winning field goal in the last second.

    Last season didn’t go as well for Arizona in Provo in offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes’ debut with the team. Arizona lost 20-7 to BYU and fell far short of the offensive expectations in terms of Dykes’ spread offense brought over from Texas Tech.

    What is ironic is that Arizona will be able to see how far along its offense has come since it played a Cougar team that all but shut it down at the beginning of last season. BYU held Arizona to 255 total yards and a touchdown that came with less than a minute remaining in the game.

    “”It has been a funny evolution to get to where we are at for a lot of different reasons,”” Stoops said, “”but I think finding an identity has been a problem. We had to find out how we could manipulate the games a little bit better, and I think we have done that with the personnel we have and playing to our strengths, and that is tricky for everybody early on.””

    While Arizona has certainly found its offensive stride this season – the Wildcats average 37 points per game and more than 400 yards of total offense – BYU has also made strides since last season.

    The Cougars finished this season with a 10-2 clip and are currently ranked No. 17 in the country behind quarterback Max Hall, running back Harvey Unga and receiver Austin

    Collie.

    BYU began the season 6-0 and many thought it would have a solid chance at crashing the BCS, but lost to Texas Christian and Utah – two very good squads given Utah is still undefeated and the Horned Frogs have only lost twice.

    Stoops is certainly aware of what is at stake.

    “”Our kids will be very excited. It will be like the national championship for us,”” Stoops said. “”We have lost to the Mountain West three times in a row, and we have a lot to prove.””

    Pac-10 recognizes

    5 Wildcats

    When the All-Pacific 10 Conference teams were announced Monday, five Wildcats found their names on the list. Three Wildcats were named to the leagues’ first-team All-American list, which is decided upon by head coaches in the conference.

    Senior wide receiver Mike Thomas, who is just three receptions away from Derek Hangan’s all-time receptions mark in the Pac-10 at 258, was named to the first-team for the second consecutive year. With the record in short grasp for Thomas, the receiver’s stats from this season’s Las Vegas Bowl will indeed count for that record.

    Also named to the All-Pac-10 first team for the first time were offensive tackle Eben Britton and tight end Rob Gronkowski.

    Gronkowski, a starter, was one of three players who were unanimously selected as a first teamer, and it was well deserved. Gronkowski had 43 receptions for 645 yards and 10 touchdown receptions this season.

    Britton doesn’t have any impressive stats, given offensive linemen don’t earn any, but the offensive tackle is atop many draft boards due to his dominant play in the trenches.

    Quarterback Willie Tuitama and cornerback Devin Ross were named to the second team.

    The Wildcats also had a bevy of players on the honorable mention list, including Colin Baxter, Nic Grigsby, Earl Mitchell, Cam Nelson, Ronnie Palmer, Brooks Reed, Keenyn Crier and Jason Bondzio.

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