Arizona Football: Top 10 Storylines in 2012 (10/3)

This Web site will offer something unique the entire season, Rich Rodriguez’s first in Tucson — a weekly update of the Top 10 storylines of the 2012 season. Think of it as the AP Top 25 poll that updates every week, or an ongoing Top 10 storyline theme done throughout the season instead of waiting for one at the end of the year, when the media usually likes to recap the season’s developments.

What will be the No. 1 development in the end? Enjoy the ride while we find out. In the meantime, use this Top 10 tracker for reference.

From Reporting Date, Aug. 1 to Oct. 2

Rob Hankins Jr.

Greg Nwoko

1. Oct. 1 — At least three football players suffer career-ending injuries. Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez announces that former fullback turned linebacker Greg Nwoko, a fifth-year senior, has likely played his last football game. This follows announcements earlier in the season that offensive lineman Jack Baucus (knees) and sophomore linebacker Rob Hankins Jr. (concussion) have also suffered career-ending injuries. Last ranking: NR.

2. Sept. 9 –- Arizona claims its first AP Top 25 ranking since Nov. 22, 2010, with a No. 24 ranking following its 59-38 victory over No. 18 Oklahoma State on Sept. 8. The Wildcats’ ranking is a significant step toward coach Rich Rodriguez’s goal for Arizona’s program to become relevant again. “To what degree are we relevant, I don’t know,” Rodriguez said. “But this is the first step in that way. We’ve got to follow it up. Now, if you don’t follow it up with another good win next week, then you wasted the effort.” Last ranking: No. 3.

3. Sept. 30 — Costly injuries with athletes missing significant time, some the whole season. Arizona’s starting safety Jared Tevis (ankle) and center Kyle Quinn (knee) suffer injuries against Oregon State that kept them out of most of the second half in the Wildcats’ 38-35 loss to the Beavers. This follows season-ending injuries to freshman right tackles Lene Maiva and Jacob Arzouman (both ACL tears). Last ranking: NR.

4. Sept. 8 — The Wildcats upset No. 18 Oklahoma State 59-38 in front of 45,602 at Arizona Stadium. Instead of producing more than 80 points on its own, Oklahoma State allows Arizona to join in the scoring barrage. The penalty-prone Cowboys, coming off an 84-0 victory over Savannah State in Stillwater, Okla., compile 636 total yards against Arizona, but it’s not enough. The Wildcats (2-0) do not commit a turnover, and they score on all eight drives inside the red zone (five touchdowns and three field goals) in new coach Rich Rodriguez’s second game. “Where does this win rank?” Rodriguez said with a grin in response to a postgame press conference question. “It’s the best one I’ve had at Arizona.” Oklahoma State (1-1) commits 15 penalties for 167 yards, with many contributing to Arizona scoring drives after the Wildcats trail 14-0 early in the first quarter. Arizona fifth-year senior quarterback Matt Scott often makes the Cowboys pay for the miscues, passing for two touchdowns and running for another. He completes 28 of 41 passes for 320 yards without an interception. He also gains 55 yards on 19 carries. Last ranking: No. 3.

Jared Tevis

5. Sept. 8 — The emergence of former walk-on Jared Tevis at safety. Tevis, a Canyon del Oro High School grad undersized at 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds, intercepts two passes thrown by Oklahoma State freshman quarterback Wes Lunt to preserve the Wildcats’ lead in their 59-38 win over the No. 18 Cowboys. Tevis bringing down Tutogi, a punishing 260-pound fullback, caught Rodriguez’s eye during the spring. Rodriguez subsequently awarded Tevis a scholarship. Last ranking: No. 6.

6. Sept. 22 — No. 3 Oregon blanks No. 22 Arizona 49-0 on ESPN in Eugene as the Wildcats fail to convert on six trips to the red zone and they commit five costly turnovers. Anthony Gimino of summed up the game in one telling paragraph: The win over Oklahoma State on Sept. 8 begat stories of (Rich) Rodriguez’s quick resurrection of the program, but this is a team with the same issues we knew it had in the preseason — notably, a lack of defensive depth, an imperative that (Matt) Scott stay healthy, and an inability to beat almost anybody in the Pac-12 without playing a clean game. Last ranking: No. 1.

7. Aug. 21 — Senior defensive tackle Justin Washington (6-2 and 268 pounds) get indefinite suspension for an unspecified violation of team rules. Washington has rejoined the team and is practicing on the scout team, as was reported by The Arizona Daily Star’s Ryan Finley. Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez is quoted as saying by Finley: “He’s got to do some things to get back with the team. Right now, he’s not practicing and he’s got to do some other things before we allow him to join the Wildcats.” Washington has missed almost two weeks of practice. He was listed as a co-starter at defensive end with sophomore Kirifi Taula entering fall camp. Sophomore defensive end Dan Pettinato, a co-starter at the other end spot, suffered a leg injury in the team’s first scrimmage and could be out for the Sept. 1 opener vs. Toledo. Last ranking: No. 8.

8. Sept. 24 — Arizona wear copper helmets for the first time — in honor of the state’s copper-mining industry — when the Wildcats lost to Oregon State 38-35 on Sept. 29. Last ranking: 7.

Jake Fischer

9. Aug. 24 — Rodriguez moves Marquis Flowers from “Spur” safety to outside linebacker, shoring up the team’s thinnest position and allowing outside linebacker Jake Fischer to slide inside in the team’s base 3-3-5 defense. Rodriguez tells’s Anthony Gimino: “We’ve gotten faster moving Marquis there. He was willing to do that. Marquis is a team guy. He knows football. I’m excited to watch him. We need to get a lot of things on defense — we need to get faster and bigger, and he certainly makes us faster.” At middle linebacker, Fischer, a junior, fills what has been a troublesome spot for the Cats after senior transfer Brian Wagner left the team in the offseason. Sophomore Rob Hankins, a possible heir apparent, has missed almost all of preseason practice because of concussion problems. Last ranking: No. 9.

10. Aug. 11 — Offensive players playing on the defensive side of the ball in fall camp. That development was prevalent during the first scrimmage. From the start of camp, Rodriguez has used tight end Keoni Bush-Loo and fullback Taimi Tutogi at defensive end, and running back Greg Nwoko at linebacker. Patrick Onwuasor moved from wide receiver to safety permanently. He was a safety in high school. The moves signal the concern Rodriguez has about the depth on the defense. Nwoko suffered an undisclosed injury while playing linebacker on Aug. 9 and his availability will depend on how much pain he can handle according to Rodriguez. Anthony Gimino of also reported on UA defensive lineman Jowyn Ward moving to offensive guard. Last ranking: No. 10.

Previous rankings:
>> September 25
>> September 17
>> September 10
>> September 3
>> August 27
>> August 20
>> August 14

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