2016 Arizona Wildcats football season countdown: No. 72 individual record




Only 72 days separate us from the start of Rich Rodriguez’s fifth season, when the Arizona Wildcats football team plays Brigham Young on Sept. 3 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.

As is customary on this Web site, we will count down the days with an interesting element associated with each day. This year the topic is the top 100 individual records in Arizona’s storied football past.

Compiling the list was no easy task, but it was feasible to do with the information provided in the record books by the Arizona media relations department, and we appreciate that.

Dennis Northcutt’s 18.9 yards per punt return in his senior season of 1999 stands as an Arizona record.

In past years, we have counted down the top games and highlighted players and some of the top plays in Arizona Wildcats football history. A couple of years ago in our top 100 countdown, we showcased the 1914 team that was responsible for Arizona becoming the “Wildcats”.

Back to this year’s countdown of the top 100 individual records in the 117 years of Arizona football:

No. 72

Highest Average Per Return, (Min. 10): 18.9, Dennis Northcutt, 1999 (23-436)

NCAA Record: 28.5, Maurice Drew, UCLA, 2005 (15-427)

Dennis Northcutt had punt returns of 81 yards against Arizona State and 80 against Middle Tennessee State in 1999.

Dennis Northcutt is synonymous for long gains be it receiving or returning, or even running (on end-arounds) in Arizona football history. His name is spread throughout the Arizona record book and will be mentioned prominently in this countdown.

His punt-return average of 18.9 yards in 1999 will be tough to match. He had 23 returns that year which enabled him plenty of opportunities to show off his elusiveness. The number of punt returns for Arizona as a team last season? Only nine combined for Nate Phillips (seven), DeVonte’ Neal (one) and Trey Griffey (one), mostly because of Arizona’s porous, injury-riddled defense did not force many punts. Phillips averaged 17.3 yards with his punt returns.

Bolstering Northcutt’s record average in 1999 were two returns of at least 80 yards — 81 against ASU and 80 against Middle Tennessee State, both for touchdowns. He went untouched in his return against the Sun Devils, who were also burned by Northcutt on an 80-yard touchdown pass from Keith Smith, but ASU still prevailed in that game, 42-27.

The Arizona Republic’s Norm Frauenheim described Northcutt’s 80-yard return against Middle Tennessee State this way: “Northcutt looked like one of the Great Wallendas as he danced along one sideline and into the end zone. Along the high wire, Northcutt put two would-be tacklers into a tumbling free fall.”

ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.

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