Seen and heard at Arizona Stadium

2011-10-21T00:00:00Z Seen and heard at Arizona Stadium Arizona Daily Star
October 21, 2011 12:00 am

Missing more than a few

During the national anthem on Thursday night, we looked around and guessed that Arizona Stadium was about half full. Maybe 25,000 fans were in their seats - even ZonaZoo, typically raucous, was empty on either side of the 10-yard line.

It wasn't a surprise.

"We knew early in the year, well before we had started our challenging record, that this was a game we had a lot of inventory for because of a 6 o'clock kick on a Thursday night," UA athletic director Greg Byrne said. "Even at 7 o'clock people were coming in.

"We knew this was a tough one. So we're certainly pleased with the way the team's been playing, and we hope and know the Arizona fans will be there to support the team the rest of the way. "

Attendance was announced as 46,565 - though we'll guarantee there were not that many people in the seats.

As it was, the attendance figure was the lowest since Oct. 2, 2004, when the Wildcats played Washington State before 43,579 at Arizona Stadium.

D-Will

With no NBA season to take up his time, former Arizona Wildcats basketball star Derrick Williams returned to campus Thursday.

He spent part of the afternoon at the UA Bookstore to promote a good cause: Willpower clothing.

On Thursday, the store stocked Willpower shirts for the first time. Sam Zarifi, a UA senior whose brother died of brain cancer in 2008, started the company. Proceeds from the shirt sales were donated to the UA Steele Children's Research Center, which looks to cure cancer.

Will Zarifi - the inspiration for the company name - graduated from Salpointe Catholic High School in 2005 and attended USC, where he served as a manager for the men's basketball team. He died at 21.

Willpower is allowed to use UA licensing on its shirts.

Uni watch

The Arizona Wildcats busted out an old-school look Thursday, donning white helmets, a navy jersey and white pants.

It marked the second time since the program reintroduced white helmets at the 2009 Holiday Bowl that the team wore the combination. The only other occasion: the 2010 home opener victory against The Citadel.

Quotable

"Coach Kish told me he was going to give me the opportunity going forward to stick with the field goals. I started preparing from that point on, and I was ready." - UA place-kicker John Bonano, who made six extra points and two field goals in only his second game doing more than simply kicking off.

Gronk

How popular is Rob Gronkowski inside Arizona Stadium?

On two separate occasions Thursday, he was shown standing beyond the north end zone with former teammate Orlando Vargas. Both times, the crowd went bananas.

Gronkowski, who was drafted in the second round last year by the New England Patriots, spent his bye week watching his former team. Through six games this year, the tight end has 401 receiving yards and five TDs.

Wearing a UA golf shirt, Gronkowski waved to the crowd when he was shown on the screen.

Sleepy

With 8:52 to play, a camera operator for the UA's in-house "CatVision" caught a UCLA fan in the stands asleep.

The camera zoomed in on a man in a No. 1 Bruins jersey lying back onto his girlfriend's lap, eyes closed.

The crowd roared. On the UA sideline, Wildcats players, including receiver Dan Buckner, howled with laughter.

The big number

4

Teams the UA has played twice in its last 10 conference games - UCLA, USC, Oregon and Stanford

Another quotable

"We had a blast. It was the best thing I've experienced so far." - UA running back Ka'Deem Carey, on the game

Ban lifted

On Oct. 10, minutes after announcing that he had fired Mike Stoops, Arizona Wildcats athletic director Greg Byrne made a firm statement - after that day, he would not talk about the team's coaching search until it made a decision.

Also, any coaches who spoke publicly about the process would disqualify themselves for the position.

That silence was a trademark of Byrne's pursuit of Dan Mullen when Mississippi State had a job opening. Byrne didn't even tell his wife where he was flying, and he earned the nickname "The Ninja" from fans.

So it was a bit odd to see Byrne in the ESPN booth during the third quarter Saturday.

Afterward, Byrne said that he couldn't pass up a chance on the network, even if it meant breaking his own rule.

He spoke generally about the opening and about the UA.

"What the reality was, was, it was an opportunity on ESPN to talk about what our strengths were as a university, as a program, going forward," he said.

ESPN did ask Byrne about the first-half brawl but moved on from it quickly.

Asked about the coaching search following the ESPN interview, Byrne - who was spotted this week at the Denver airport - clammed up.

"Not commenting," he said with a smile.

Fuuuuumble!

When C.J. Parish fell on a Johnathan Franklin fumble in the second quarter, the Arizona Wildcats became the last team in America to recover a fumble.

It's true: Entering the Thursday game, the UA was the only team in the country without a recovery. Only four teams - Arkansas, Minnesota, Oregon and Texas A&M - had one.

By comparison, Michigan led the nation with 12 fumbles recovered.

Eight teams had 10 or more; the Pac-12 leader, Arizona State, could boast nine.

The Wildcats had forced only five turnovers entering Thursday's game.

Only two teams in the country - Minnesota and Texas A&M - claimed worse.

PAT is good

During a commercial break in the second quarter, a woman in an Allstate jersey made a 25-yard field goal to win $1,000 from the insurance company.

We're sure the whole stadium made the joke we did: "Sign her up!"

Minutes later, when John Bonano made his fifth extra point of the first half, we wondered, with snark, if the UA had made five straight all season.

We looked it up.

Turns out they hadn't.

The Wildcats twice made four in a row this season. The only time they'd made four straight in the same game came in the opener, when Jaime Salazar booted four before missing his fifth.

That gave the starting job back to Alex Zendejas, who made only 6 of 10 PATs. Bonano, who made his only career extra-point attempt against Oregon State, is the UA's third kicker this season.

He made a sixth straight extra point with 1:09 left in the first half. By halftime, Bonano's season total (7) matched that of Salazar, and was one more than Zendejas'.

Cross hatch

Fans at Arizona Stadium - all 73 of them, apparently - looked down at the field and saw something they haven't seen in a generation: rye grass.

The UA decided to over-seed its grass for the first time in "decades," said Suzy Mason, the associate athletic director in charge of facilities.

In doing so, the UA's facilities management team - led by Bo Vanture and his grounds crew - produced a cross-hatch pattern in the turf.

Whatever the result, we like it more than the green paint touchups the field has needed in recent November and December games.

The big number

79

The UA had 79 rushing yards, combined, on its first two drives against UCLA. The team averaged 71.8 per game before Thursday, the second-lowest number in the nation.

- Patrick Finley

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