The Arizona football team begins its 2013 season against Northern Arizona at Arizona Stadium on Aug. 30, which is 59 days away. From now until then, this Web site will count down the days with facts about the Wildcats, their players, coaching staff and opponents. This is not a ranking, only a list of 100 facts and observances related to the 2013 Arizona football team and coach Rich Rodriguez.
Arizona freshman quarterback Anu Solomon can make history this year for the Wildcats if he becomes the leading passer and guides them to a winning Pac-12 record.
Since the UA joined the Pac-10 in 1978, the Wildcats have featured six freshmen quarterbacks — all true freshmen like Solomon — who led them in passing. Not one of them quarterbacked the UA to a record above .500 in the conference. The closest was Ortege Jenkins in 1997 when the Wildcats finished 4-4 in the league and 7-5 overall, but he split time with sophomore Keith Smith that season.
Tom Tunnicliffe, Ron Veal, Smith (a freshman in 1996), Kris Heavner and Richard Kovalcheck did not win more than three conference games as freshmen starters who led the Wildcats in passing. The combined conference record of these freshmen, including Jenkins, is 15-29-3 (a winning percentage of only 35.1).
They were a combined 5-18-2 on the road.
Tunnicliffe (2-1) had the only winning record on the road. Veal was 1-3-2 on the road as a freshman in 1987. The UA played six conference road games and only two home games in 1987, Dick Tomey’s first season, but the Wildcats had six home games and two road games the following year.
The rest of the UA freshmen were 2-14 on the road: Smith (0-4), Jenkins (1-3), Heavner (0-4) and Kovalcheck (1-3).
Willie Tuitama started as a freshman eight games into the 2005 season, unseating Kovalcheck, but Kovalcheck finished as the leading passer. The Wildcats were 3-8 overall and 2-6 in the Pac-10 that season. The following season, when Tuitama became the leading passer, the UA finished 6-6 and 4-5.
The Wildcats have featured four first-year quarterbacks who enjoyed winning conference records as the leading passer.
Alfred Jenkins led the UA to a 5-2 conference record as a sophomore in 1984 after Tunnicliffe exhausted his eligibility. George Malauulu led the UA in passing and to a 5-4 Pac-10 record as a sophomore in 1990 while sharing the quarterback role with Veal, a senior that season.
After Malauulu moved on, Dan White quarterbacked the UA to 6-2 record in the Pac-10 (with the help of the Desert Swarm defense) as a sophomore transfer from Penn State in 1993.
And Nick Foles, as a sophomore transfer from Michigan State, led the UA to an 8-5 overall and 6-3 Pac-10 mark in 2009 after Tuitama used his eligibility.
Notice that these four quarterbacks were sophomores. White and Foles were academic juniors because they sat out a year per NCAA transfer rules. That means (eligibility-wise) a freshman, junior or senior who led the UA in passing as a first-year starter has never quarterbacked the Wildcats to a winning Pac-10/12 record.
Therefore, if Solomon, junior Jesse Scroggins (a transfer from USC) or senior B.J. Denker lead the UA to a winning Pac-12 record this season, they will make history.
The only junior starters who became the UA’s new passing leaders were Jim Krohn in 1978 (3-4 conference record) and Jason Johnson in 2001 (2-6). The lone senior who led the UA in passing as the new top quarterback was Matt Scott last year. The UA finished 4-5 in the Pac-12 but was 8-5 overall.
A look at the 2013 conference schedule suggests Solomon, Scroggins or Denker will be hard-pressed to become a winning quarterback in the Pac-12 as a first-year starter. But don’t count them out.
The Wildcats play four of their first five Pac-12 games on the road against Washington, USC, Colorado and Cal. The Buffaloes and Bears are beatable with first-year coaches trying to reestablish struggling programs. But it will be difficult for Arizona to win in Seattle or in Los Angeles in its first two conference games.
The key is for Arizona to be at least 3-2 after it plays at Cal on Nov. 2. The Wildcats host Utah in between those four road games.
They end the regular season with four games in the state of Arizona in November, three consecutive at Arizona Stadium against UCLA, Washington State and Oregon and the regular-season finale at ASU.
ARIZONA QBS WHO LED WILDCATS IN PASSING AS NEW STARTER
The best No. 59 to wear the Arizona jersey, according to TucsonCitizen.com’s Anthony Gimino is linebacker Ransom Terrell (1971-73). He was an Amphi High School graduate in 1970 who twice earned All-WAC honors. Terrell passed away at age 60 last October in Las Vegas, where he worked for the Clark County School District as a purchasing/warehouse coordinator.
WILDABOUTAZCATS.net publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes blogs for Lindy’s College Sports, TucsonCitizen.com and Sports Illustrated-sponsored site ZonaZealots.com.