Arizona has plenty to clean up before OSU

BY foxsports • September 7, 2011

Arizona's passing game, as expected, looked sharp in its season opener.

Nick Foles threw for five touchdowns and 412 yards, while Juron Criner caught six passes for 151 yards in the 41-10 win over Northern Arizona.

That was fine against an FCS school, but there are plenty of areas for the Wildcats to get better as they enter a brutal stretch in the schedule that starts with Thursday's road game against No. 9 Oklahoma State.

Arizona's running game was almost nonexistent, netting just 75 yards and a touchdown against the Lumberjacks. Its young offensive line needs work on run blocking and allowed a sack.

The kicking game continued to be inconsistent. The secondary will be challenged by Cowboys quarterback Brandon Weeden and receiver Justin Blackmon.

Criner is fighting an illness that kept him out of practice Monday and Tuesday, but coach Mike Stoops said he expects him to play.

On top of all that, Arizona lost lopsidedly to Oklahoma State in last season's Alamo Bowl.

''They're very complete in all areas,'' Stoops said. ''Defensively, they're very sound in what they do, they put a lot of pressure on you across the board, special teams as well, so we definitely got our work cut out for us Thursday night.''

The kicking game might be the most glaring issue.

Jaime Salazar, a junior-college transfer, won the starting job in camp, but he was replaced by last season's kicker, Alex Zendejas, for the final extra-point attempt Saturday after missing a 46-yard field goal and a PAT.

Stoops said Salazar also missed two kicks during pregame, but he'll stick with him for now.

''I think it's just mechanical,'' Stoops said. ''He could have been jittery, too.''

Another concern heading into the season was the young offensive line.

Only one starter, Kyle Quinn, had started a game last season. Stoops said he was pleased with the pass protection, but the run blocking can be better - and will need to be against the Cowboys.

''I know what it's like being a young player, so I've just got to keep them calm and let them do their thing because it's going to be a different game this week,'' Foles said.

As for the running game, freshman Ka'Deem Carey led Arizona with 59 yards on nine carries, though he didn't come in until the fourth quarter.

First-string running back Keola Antolin rushed for 41 yards on six carries. No one else ran for double-digit yards. Second-string back Daniel Jenkins was out with a sprained ankle and is questionable for Thursday's game.

Though the Wildcats pass first, Stoops said he expects a better running game.

''We came out kind of flat. Other than that, we're just looking forward to this Thursday to redeem ourselves a little bit,'' Antolin said.

All the Wildcats will be looking to redeem themselves from a 36-10 loss to Oklahoma State last year in the Alamo Bowl. The Wildcats' secondary in particular will be challenged by Blackmon, who caught a 71-yard touchdown pass against Arizona's blown coverage and finished with 117 yards and two touchdowns last year. He was the Biletnikoff Award winner as the nation's top receiver.

Last week, Arizona gave up a 12-yard touchdown pass that allowed Northern Arizona to cut the lead to 14-10 by halftime. At one point, Lumberjacks quarterback Cary Grossart completed 16 consecutive passes in his first career start. He went 20 for 26 for 179 yards and a touchdown with an interception.

''As a defense, some of the guys out there, we didn't compete as hard as we could have, but we regrouped and came out there and did what we had to do,'' safety Robert Golden said.

Golden said the Wildcats have to be physical with Blackmon.

''He's a great receiver, but we gotta go out there and compete with him and give everything we've got,'' Golden said.


share story