No. 18 Arizona, USC look to rebound from losses
Humbled in a blowout loss at Stanford, the 18th-ranked Arizona
Wildcats are trying to stay relevant in a Pac-10 race that seems to
be leaving them behind.
Their opponent on Saturday night, Southern California, has lost
three of five and barely escaped with a 34-33 victory over Arizona
State last weekend.
An Arizona loss to the Trojans, with a game at No. 1 Oregon
looming in the near future, would be a second painful blow to a
season that held such promise.
Coach Mike Stoops expressed confidence that Arizona (7-2, 4-2
Pac-10) could shake off any hangover from last weekend’s 42-17
”We’ve moved past big wins, we’ve moved past tough losses,” he
said. ”It’s part of the season. There is still a lot to play for.
We just need to bounce back. We have before. This is another big
game to kind of redeem ourselves.”
The Trojans (6-3, 3-3) don’t have the option of looking to earn
a bowl invitation. For them, the regular season is all there is
because of NCAA sanctions. They end their season with three
straight Pac-10 road games, beginning with Arizona. Their only
remaining home game is the annual nonconference matchup with Notre
The Wildcats are in the toughest stretch of their season. After
facing USC, they play at Oregon on Nov. 26, then finish against
archrival Arizona State on Dec. 2.
After a significant blow to Arizona’s hopes for a first Rose
Bowl appearance, it’s good the Wildcats are playing a team with a
big reputation, Stoops said.
”We’re still a good football team. We’re still a top 20 team,”
Stoops said. ”There are a lot of possibilities out there. One game
is not going to make or break us either way. We play a great
program, a great traditional team this week, and I think that’s
good. I think that motivates our players. We know what USC has to
offer and what a game like this means.”
The Trojans have been competitive or better in every game but
one. Of their three losses, only the game at Oregon was one-sided,
and USC led that one in the third quarter. The others were by one
point to Washington and two points to Stanford.
Arizona will send the Pac-10’s No. 1 passing offense, averaging
just under 295 yards per game, against a Trojans defense that ranks
dead last in the conference, surrendering 276 yards per game, 22
yards more than any of the other nine teams.
USC coach Lane Kiffin calls Arizona’s Juron Criner ”a great
receiver, someone that’s very hard to handle.”
”He’s just special with the ball in his hands,” Kiffin said.
”He’s just one of those unique guys, NFL-type guys that when he
gets the ball in his hands is so dangerous with it and he can make
so many plays on the ball when it’s in the air.”
Criner leads the Pac-10 in receptions with 58. Last year, he
caught the winning touchdown pass in the fourth quarter as Arizona
rallied to beat USC 21-17, ending the Trojans’ seven-game winning
streak in the series. USC still has a four-game winning streak in
Arizona quarterback Nick Foles, who threw that pass, had his
worst game of the season at Stanford in his first start after
missing two games with a knee injury. Foles said he feels ”100
”I’m moving around a lot better,” he said. ”My knee feels
great. Every day your body heals up, so I’m feeling really
Matt Scott, so effective in relief of Foles, won’t be available
because of a wrist injury.
The Wildcats’ defense slipped to second in the conference after
surrendering 510 yards last weekend.
Still, USC quarterback Matt Barkley calls the Arizona pass rush
”probably the best we’ll see this year.”
Barkley drew some criticism this week from his coach, who said
his sophomore quarterback needs to work on staying calm on the
field in emotional situations and not try to force things.
”I really want to see him make really good decisions when those
critical times come and not play on his emotions,” Kiffin said.
”Look at those two interceptions, those really bad interceptions
against Washington State and last week. Both came after emotional
plays, blocked punts.”
It’s not a matter of experience, Kiffin said.
”You can learn it 20 games ago, whenever he threw his first
interception, or you can never learn it, like some guys in their
career,” the coach said. ”That’s a mental preparation, telling
yourself `I can’t take chances right here. Second and 10 is not a