Wildcats open season Saturday with home game against No. 20 Trojans

Wildcats open season Saturday with home game against No. 20 Trojans
Arizona head coach Kevin Sumlin. (Source: Young Kwak, File/Associated Press)

TUCSON, Ariz. - Arizona opens its season Saturday, Nov. 14, with a home game against No. 20 Southern Cal.

Kick off is set for 1:30 p.m. and the game will be on Fox.

Last week, the Wildcat’s game at Utah was cancelled due to a coronavirus outbreak for the Utes. The Trojans (1-0) rallied to past Arizona State last week in their opener. Southern Cal scored two touchdowns in the final three minutes of the game to down the Sun Devils (0-1).

Arizona is led on offense by sophomore quarterback Grant Gunnell, who takes over QB1 duties after splitting time behind center in 2019. Gunnell is surrounded by a host of skill position talent on offense, including running backs Gary Brightwell and Michael Wiley, and wide receivers Jamarye Joiner and Brian Casteel, among many others.

The Wildcats defense, led by first-year defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads, features experienced leaders at all levels.

Jalen Harris anchors the defensive line in front of a linebacker corps headed by Anthony Pandy, with the Cats final line of defense, the secondary, helmed by Lorenzo Burns. A complete game preview is below.

Arizona Notes

  • The Arizona Wildcats host USC to open the 2020 season after last week’s schedule opener at Utah was canceled. This is the first of six games for Arizona in their COVID-19-shortened, conference-only schedule.
  • The Wildcats are 83-28-5 all-time in the first game of the season, and 48-62-4 all-time in road openers. Head coach Kevin Sumlin is 8-4 in his career in season openers.
  • USC leads the all-time series against Arizona 35-8 and holds a 14-4 edge over the Wildcats in Tucson. Arizona’s last home win in the series was 39-36 victory over the Trojans in 2012.
  • The Wildcats opener versus USC is the latest known start to a season in program history. Arizona last met USC in their conference opener in 2006, a 20-3 loss to the No. 3 ranked Trojans. The last time the Wildcats opened the year against USC was 1924, a 20-0 shutout loss in Los Angeles.
  • QB Grant Gunnell enters his sophomore season following a 2019 season that saw him complete 65 percent of his passes for 1,239 yards with nine touchdowns and one interception in eight appearances. Gunnell’s completion percentage of 65.2 ranked fourth all-time in single-season history at Arizona with at least 100 attempts and set an Arizona freshman record.
  • Arizona added four new defensive coaches for the 2020 season who have combined for over a century of Division I coaching experience, including 17 seasons spent coaching in the Pac-12 Conference.
  • Redshirt senior DB Lorenzo Burns begins 2020 with nine career interceptions, putting him three shy of breaking into the programs all-time top 10 leaderboard. Burns is also just three pass breakups short of breaking into the Arizona top 10.

GAME THEMES

  • Sophomore Grant Gunnell enters his team’s season opener with an active streak of 92 consecutive pass attempts without an interception. By comparison, Nevada’s Carson Strong enters the week with the NCAA’s longest streak at 282 pass attempts. Gunnell trails only ASU’s Jayden Daniels at 180 pass attempts among Pac-12 quarterbacks in this category.
  • Defensive back Lorenzo Burns leads the Wildcats in experience with 35 career starts. The senior trails only Oregon’s Jordon Scott’s 37 career starts as the most experienced defensive returner in the Pac-12 Conference. Burns was tied with ASU’s Chase Lucas, who also has had 35 career starts, for second place. Both Scott and Lucas started in their teams' season openers on Saturday.
  • Arizona’s 2020 and 2019 recruiting classes have helped bolster the program’s roster. Part of a conference-wide youth movement, The Wildcats' underclassmen make up 61.6 percent of its total roster, which ranks as the 23rd youngest roster nationally and 6th in the Pac-12.
  • The Wildcats have won both of their Pac-12 openers under head coach Kevin Sumlin. Arizona downed Oregon State, 35-14, in Corvallis in 2018 before defeating UCLA, 20-17, in Tucson in 2019.
  • Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. (MST) kick-off marks the fifth time in the last 11 Pac-12 games that Arizona has kicked off at 3 p.m. or earlier local time.
  • Coach Kevin Sumlin holds a career mark of 8-4 in season openers in his head coaching career at Arizona, Texas A&M, and Houston.

VERSUS USC

  • Arizona holds an 8-35 record all-time against USC in a series that goes back to 1916. The Cats' winning percentage of 18.6 is the lowest among all conference opponents. Arizona has faced USC to open a season only twice before in the 1917 and 1924 seasons.
  • Arizona enters its 2020 match-up with USC looking to snap its longest active conference losing streak. The Wildcats have dropped seven consecutive games to the Trojans since winning 39-36 at Arizona Stadium on Oct. 27, 2012. The seven-game slide is one game longer than the Wildcats' six consecutive losses to Stanford going back to the 2009 season.
  • In those seven consecutive losses to the Trojans are four one-possession games, including a 24-20 decision the last time the two teams met in Tucson in the 2018 season.