KVOA Previews tonight's UofA game vs. Utah live at "Bear Down Fr - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

KVOA Previews tonight's UofA game vs. Utah live at "Bear Down Fridays"

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News 4 Tucson did it's sportscast live at the "Bear Down Friday's event on a "BEAR DOWN THURSDAY" (since the game vs. Utah will be on Friday night).  It was a "throwback Thursday" as well, as News 4 Tucson went live with the "reincarnation of John Button".  (John Button is the former player that coined the phrase "Bear Down" back in 1925.  Tucson native and Pueblo High School grad Santiago Murillo, a proud graduate of the U of A Law School, walks around campus on game days wearing his "John Button, old school 1920's Arizona football Uniform).   Here's a preview of the game alongside the die hard fan-turned-John Button:

More with John Button (AKA Santiago Murillo, die-hard U of A fan and Arizona Law School Grad)

More with "John Button" (throwback Thursday at Bear Down Friday celebration):

Here's a preview of the big Title Fights in Tucson featuring Nogales-born, Tucson raised boxer Oscar Valdez defending his WBO title in his hometown on ESPN: 

Here's more on the U of A game vs. Utah compliments of ArizonaAthletics.com

Fresh off a 63-16 win at UTEP, the Arizona Wildcats will open Pac-12 play Friday night at Arizona Stadium when they welcome in No. 23 Utah for a nationally televised game on Fox Sports 1. 

Below is a full preview: 

Some Game Themes: The Friday night lights shine a key early-season Pac-12 South showdown when No. 23 Utah brings its undefeated mark into Arizona Stadium against host Arizona … This is the conference opener for both sides, which have faced similarly balanced slates to this point. The notable difference being the Utes pulled out a hard-fought win against rival BYU, while the Wildcats couldn't make the one game-changing play needed in a home loss to Houston two weeks ago … Arizona seeks to avenge a road loss to the Utes from last October, a game that saw the Cats lose more than a halftime lead as their spirit was seemingly sapped for the remainder of the conference season … Otherwise, UA had enjoyed a four-game winning streak in this series, a run that included an overtime upset of No. 10 Utah in November of 2015. That remains the Cats' most recent victory over a nationally ranked team … Arizona plays its second straight Friday night game after a road win on a short week. Utah, which won at home Saturday night, now looks to do the same with one less day to prepare … On paper, the matchup is clearly Arizona's rushing offense against Utah's traditionally stout rushing defense.  The Cats are sixth nationally in rushing (328 yards per game, yet the Utes are second nationally defending the run (49 yards per game). Obviously something will have to give … Schematically, Utah's offense has a different look than in recent seasons. The Utes have gone to more spread formations with some up-tempo influence, and instead of leaning on a sturdy run game to wear down opponents, they've utilized the pass attack more often with first-year starter Tyler Huntley … Huntley has very similar talents to Arizona starter Brandon Dawkins. Both lead their teams in rushing in addition to their passing skills. Because of that, expect both defensive coordinators to take similar approaches: take away the run game and force the other quarterback to make plays down field. Perhaps the offenses will counter by taking some deep shots down field … Special teams could play a decisive role here, as well. The Wildcats have found spark in their punt return game with Shun Brown's two touchdowns in three games, but the Utes have one of the best in the nation in Mitch Wishnowsky. A year ago, Wishnowsky may have been the most important player on the field pinning the Cats deep inside their own territory and dominating the field position … This is Arizona's final September contest as its lone bye week follows. Opening October with a 3-1, 1-0 record will have a lot different sound to it than a 2-2, 0-1 mark … Utah, which is also on a bye to end September, will have the same motivation as its October slate includes battles with USC, Stanford and Oregon … So while it's too early to call this a "must-win" for either team, it will have the urgency that comes with a big game … Indeed, Pac-12 football returns in earnest at 7:30 p.m. this Friday night. See you there.

Last Week: After a sluggish start, the Wildcats crushed the Miners, 63-16, in what became Arizona's highest point total in a road game in program history … It was tied 0-0 after one quarter of play, but the Wildcats opened the second stanza by scoring on the first play – a fourth and goal – with a two-yard pass from Brandon Dawkins to JJ Taylor … It was the first of a six-touchdown day for Dawkins, who found a run-pass balance that saw him score three times on the ground and add three through the air as part of his 288-yard total effort … Dawkins' 36-yard touchdown pass to Shun Brown put the Cats ahead by two scores, and if there was going to be any doubt the rest of the way, a 63-yard punt return later by Brown put an end to that with a 28-0 lead … The final dagger came when Colin Schooler, who earlier forced a fumble, intercepted a pass and returned it 53 yards to set up a touchdown for a 35-6 lead … The Miners kicked a last-second field goal and added a touchdown on their first drive of the second half, but it was all Arizona after that … The young Arizona defense produced nine drives of three-and-out (or sooner) stands on the night, including the final five drives of the game … In the end, UTEP mustered 17 net rushing yards, which was the lowest total for an Arizona opponent since Stanford in 2006 … Meanwhile, six Wildcats rushed for at least 29 yards, led by Dawkins' 133 markers for his fourth-career 100-yard game … Youngsters factored into Arizona's offensive performance, too. Nathan Tilford ran for two scores, and Bryce Wolma, who led the squad with six receptions, hauled in his first career touchdown pass. Rookie quarterbacks Rhett Rodriguez and Donavan Tate finished out the game, Tate's appearance marking his first collegiate appearance at the ripe age of 26 years old … The meeting was the first between the two former WAC and Border Conference rivals since 2003 … Arizona has now won the last 13 meetings, only six of which have come since Arizona joined the Pac-10/12 for the 1978 season. 

Sixty. Three. Points. Arizona cruised to a 63-16 victory to improve to 2-1 last Friday night at UTEP. The 63 points set a new school record for single-game scoring in a road contest, surpassing the previous high tally of 59 set twice – both times at Washington State (2014 and 2008). Last week's total is also the fifth-highest output in all games and one more than the 62 points scored in a season-opening victory over NAU a few weeks ago. The Wildcats have now scored 58 or more points seven times in six seasons under Rich Rodriguez, including totals of 58 (twice), 59 (twice), 62, 63 and a school-record 77.

Bear Down on Fourth Down: In only three games, the Wildcats have successfully converted seven fourth downs in eight total attempts. The 87.5 percent success rate is No. 14 nationally, but only one team (Kansas) has converted more (eight) and only six teams have more attempts. Last season, Arizona ranked No. 123 in the FBS for fourth down conversions with a percentage of 27.9 (5-of-18).

Fourth Quarter Shutouts: Arizona's defense has not allowed a point in the fourth quarter of either of its last two games. Prior to the fourth-quarter shutout against Houston on Sept. 9, the Wildcats had allowed fourth quarter points to 11 consecutive foes dating to last Sept. 10 against Grambling State. Incidentally, the last FBS opponent that the Cats had shutout in the fourth quarter was Utah in a 37-30 double-overtime victory on Nov. 10, 2015 (zero in fourth quarter, one FG in overtime allowed). The last time UA held opponents without fourth quarter points in consecutive games dates back to the 2014 campaign when the Wildcats had a string of four such games in a row against UCLA, Colorado, Washington and Utah.  So far in 2017, UA has outscored its opponents 31-10 in the fourth quarter, which compares to a 110-102 deficit in 12 contests a year ago.

Second Half Surge: Through three games, Arizona has been strong on both sides of the ball in the second half. The Wildcats have outscored foes 62-19 after intermission this season, something drastically different than in 2016 when opponents had a 224-156 advantage in the second half. A big key has been UA's defense locking in and shutting down what the opposing offense has presented. Opponents are averaging 224.0 yards and 12.3 first downs in the first two quarters of games this season, but only 163.7 yards and 7.3 first downs after halftime. Those numbers are even better the last two weeks when UA has allowed a total of 202 yards and 12 first downs in the second half against Houston and UTEP. The key? Third down defense. In those last two contests, the Cougars and Miners have combined to convert only 2-of-12 third downs in the second half.

Getting off the Field: The Arizona defense forced nine three-and-outs Friday night against UTEP. That's the team's highest total since also forcing nine against Nevada in 2015. The Arizona defense has been much better about getting off the field before allowing a first down this year. Through three games, Arizona has posted 16 three-and-outs (defined as a stop with no points allowed before a first down is gained). Through three games last year, Arizona had just five three-and-outs total and didn't reach nine total three-and-outs until the fifth game of the season against UCLA. For the season last year, Arizona had 30 total three-and-outs. Through a quarter of the 2017 regular season schedule, Arizona is already more than halfway to that total. The Wildcats also forced seven punts against the Miners Friday night, which is the team's highest total since forcing Colorado to punt eight times in 2015. The Wildcats forced six punts three separate times last year.

Defensive Three-and-Outs Last 10 Games

Game                    Total     
UTEP                     9
Houston                 3
NAU                       4
Arizona State         3
Oregon State         1
Colorado                5
Wazzu                    0
Stanford                 2
USC                       3
Utah                       4

Young Bucks Rack Up Tackles: Through three games, Arizona's top three tacklers are freshmen. True freshman linebacker Tony Fields II leads the way with 17 tackles, including a sack. He's followed by redshirt freshman cornerback Lorenzo Burns' 15 stops and true freshman free safety Scottie Young Jr.'s 14 tackles. Totaling up all the first-year contributors finds that 46-percent (78 of 170) of Arizona's tackles so far have been registered by freshmen. True freshman "Stud" player Kylan Wilborn tops the team with 3.0 tackles for loss, helping freshmen account for 8.0 of UA's 14.0 total tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

Demetrius the Thief: Through three games this season, junior safety Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles is one of just two players in the country with three interceptions. Flannigan-Fowles is tied with Central Michigan's Josh Cox for the national lead in interceptions with three. Flannigan-Fowles had two interceptions in the season opener versus NAU and then picked off another pass versus Houston. He entered the season with three career interceptions in 25 games. Twice in his career, Flannigan-Fowles has picked off at least one pass in back-to-back games. Last season, he notched an interception in Week 2 versus Grambling State, and then had another one a week later against Hawai'i. Before he picked off passes in back-to-back games this season, he was the last Wildcat to do it last year. Flannigan-Fowles also already has more interceptions than any individual Wildcat had last season. Against UTEP, Flannigan-Fowles didn't have an interception, but did recover a fumble forced by linebacker Colin Schooler. No Arizona player last year had multiple interceptions and a fumble recovery. Additionally, Flannigan-Fowles had two tackles against the Miners and now has exactly 100 stops for his career. 
A Dane-dy Start: Prior to the season, senior Dane Cruikshank moved positions, switching from the boundary cornerback spot to the "Spur" safety spot for the Wildcats. The senior from Chino Hills, California embraced the move and was named a captain for Arizona's season opener versus NAU. The position change seems to have agreed with Cruikshank, who started all 12 games for the Wildcats a year ago. Cruikshank had six solo tackles, one tackle-for-loss and a forced fumble versus Houston. It was the second solo tackle-for-loss of his career and first forced fumble. Cruikshank then had two tackles, and another half tackle-for-loss against UTEP in another strong showing. Cruikshank didn't have any tackles-for-loss in his first 11 games as a Wildcat, but has 2 1/2 over his last four games after notching one in last year's season finale against Arizona State. Cruikshank has 10 tackles in three games for the Wildcats this season.

Wow, Wolma: True freshman Bryce Wolma has made quite an impression so far this season for the Wildcats at the tight end position. Wolma has played in all three games, but didn't notch his first reception until Week 2 versus Houston. Against the Cougars, Wolma had five catches for 38 yards, providing an active target for quarterback Brandon Dawkins. He upped his production Friday against UTEP, grabbing six balls for 41 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown catch from Dawkins. Through three games, Wolma's 11 receptions lead the team, and he's third in yards with 79. Wolma has helped fill the void left by Trevor Wood the past two weeks. Wood, Arizona's starting tight end in Week 1, is currently out with an injury.
Dartin' Dawkins: Redshirt junior quarterback Brandon Dawkins has picked up where he left off last season with his ground production. In the season opener versus NAU, Dawkins rushed for 92 yards on just seven carries. He ripped off a 66-yard touchdown sprint and also scored on a 10-yard run. Dawkins was stymied a bit in the second game versus Houston, being held to just 26 rushing yards on 13 carries, but bounced back against UTEP. The junior notched his fourth career 100-yard rushing game, going for 133 yards on 14 carries. He also tied his career high with three rushing touchdowns. Dawkins now has 1,374 rushing yards in his career, which is the second-most by an Arizona quarterback since at least 1958. The only quarterback to have more rushing yards than Dawkins is Ronald Veal, who rushed for 1,419 career yards. Dawkins also has 15 career rushing touchdowns. For his career, Dawkins is averaging 7.0 yards per carry, which is the highest YPC ever by an Arizona quarterback with at least 100 carries. Dawkins rushed for 944 yards in 2016, five shy of the school single-season record for a QB held by current offensive analyst B.J. Denker who had 949 in 2013.

About the Arm: Dawkins has shown he can make plays through the air as well. Dawkins set a new career high with three touchdown passes Friday against UTEP. He combined that with three rushing scores for six total touchdowns against UTEP. It's the first time an Arizona player has accounted for six touchdowns in a game since quarterback Willie Tuitama in 2007. Tuitama threw for five touchdowns and rushed for one in a win over Washington State. Dawkins' previous career best for touchdown passes was two against Arizona State in 2015. Against the Miners, Dawkins was 18 of 21 for 155 yards, the three touchdowns and no turnovers. He tossed touchdown passes to Shun BrownJ.J. Taylor and Bryce Wolma. The 86 percent completion percentage against UTEP was the highest of Dawkins' career. His previous best was 76 percent, set last year against Hawaii when he completed 16 of 21 passes. Dawkins has at least one touchdown pass in 10 of his last 13 games and has at least one in four of his last five contests. Dawkins also has just one interception over his last six games. Against Houston, Dawkins completed 17 of 29 passes for 178 yards. The 17 completions were the second most of his career, before he completed 18 against the Miners.
Wilson Climbing the Charts: Senior running back Nick Wilson entered his senior season having already cemented himself as one of Arizona's all-time leading rushers. The senior from Fresno, California is currently ninth all-time at Arizona with 2,550 rushing yards on 446 carries. With 21 more yards, he'll pass David Adams for eighth all-time at Arizona. With his 39 yards against UTEP, Wilson passed Clarence Farmer on the all-time list. With a 1,000-yard season, Wilson could climb to as high as fourth all-time at Arizona. Wilson has 28 career rushing touchdowns to his credit, which is tied with Nic Grigsby for third all-time in school history. Wilson rushed for a freshman-record 1,375 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2014 and has battled injuries the past two seasons, being held to 189 carries over two years. His ability certainly hasn't dipped, however, as he still has averaged 5.6 yards per carry. For his career, Wilson is averaging 5.7 yards per carry. He's also proven to be a capable pass catcher with 18 catches for 153 yards and a touchdown in his career.

Going Streaking: With 326 rushing yards against UTEP on Friday, Arizona has now rushed for at least 150 yards in nine straight games dating back to last season. This is the longest streak by the Wildcats since rushing for more than 150 in 11 straight over the final eight games of 2013 and the first three games of 2014. Over its last nine games, Arizona has rushed for 2,443 yards on 409 carries, averaging 5.97 yards per carry. The Wildcats also have 25 rushing touchdowns during the nine-game span and have gone over 200 yards in five of the nine games.

Wilborn in Rare Territory: In the season opener, defensive end Kylan Wilborn became the first true freshman defensive lineman at Arizona to start a season opener since at least 1992. Interestingly, Tedy Bruschi, a defensive end at Arizona before a standout career as a linebacker in the NFL, was slated to start the 1991 season opener as a true freshman. However, a training camp injury prevented that from happening and he didn't start until later in the season. He then sustained another injury and redshirted the season. Wilborn, however, has been productive from the start and has had an impressive three-game stretch to open his career. Wilborn was a standout in his debut against the Lumberjacks and had two tackles, including a sack where he forced a fumble that was recovered by fellow lineman Finton Connolly. Wilborn, from Northridge, California, quickly impressed coaches in training camp after a standout career at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks. Wilborn followed up his debut with another solid performance against Houston. He once again had two tackles and had another tackle for loss to his credit.  Then against UTEP, Wilborn had another tackle-for-loss and finished with three total stops. He leads the team with his three TFLs. So far this season, true freshmen Wilborn, Scottie Young Jr.Tony Fields II, and Kurtis Brown have combined for 6 1/2 tackles-for-loss in three games. Last season, Arizona true freshmen had just 4 ½ tackles-for-loss in 12 regular season games.

Big Play Shun: Junior Shun Brown turned into a big-play threat last year as a sophomore for the Wildcats, and that has certainly carried over to this season. Brown had a 63-yard punt return for a touchdown against UTEP, marking his second punt return touchdown of the season in just three games. Brown became the first Wildcat since Mike Thomas in 2008 to have multiple punt return touchdowns in the same season. The punt return touchdown against UTEP featured a spin move once he got into UTEP territory that was featured on SportsCenter's Top 10 Plays. Currently, Brown is third in the country, averaging 27 yards per punt return. He trails Dante Pettis from Washington (38.8) and Blaise Taylor from Arkansas State (33.0). Brown, who had a 36-yard touchdown catch Friday against the Miners as well, leads Arizona with 126 receiving yards in three games. All six of his career touchdowns have been for 30 or more yards, showcasing his big-play ability. Last season, Brown had 12 plays of 20 or more yards, which was second on the team to quarterback Brandon Dawkins.

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