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With the possible exception of a brief span in the third quarter, the Arizona Wildcats were dominated for the entire game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Here are a few final thoughts about the game and the team going forward:
The Offensive Line Is A Disaster:
Coming into the season, not too many had the offensive line pegged as an area of strength for this team. Matter of fact, most fans would have been happy with a somewhat-decent unit that would keep Nick Foles away from big hits and occasionally open up a hole or two for Keola Antolin to rush through. That has not happened it 2011, and if changes aren't made quickly, it is going to be a long season for the 'Cats.
There were at least three times Thursday night when Oklahoma State rushed three and did not blitz anyone. Foles had about two seconds to make a read and throw the football before running for his life from a defensive lineman that broke through. For an o-line that is as young and inexperienced as UA's is, a blown blocking scheme or two is expected; but when the pressure is continually getting to Foles and having him scrambling to avoid a big hit? That's unacceptable.
The Ka'Deem Carey Era Is Getting Closer:
After two games against Northern Arizona and Oklahoma State, Antolin has 19 carries for 63 yards. That comes out to a decent yards-per-carry of 3.3, which isn't a terrible number. Of those yards, 20 of them came on one play last week against the Lumberjacks. When you take away that one rushing attempt against a D1-AA opponent, his YPC comes down to 2.4.
While part of this comes from an ineffective offensive line, the fact is that Antolin has not performed when called upon this season. If the season gets out of hand early, coach Stoops would be tempted to play his star freshman running back, Ka'Deem Carey. What would he and the team have to lose?
The Secondary Is Bad, But We Knew That:
If Arizona would have gotten torched for 397 yards against the Cowboys with Adam Hall and Jonathan McKnight healthy, the levels of embarrassment would be at an all-time high surrounding the program. And while it certainly wasn't pretty to watch, fans must remember that half of the starting secondary is out with knee injuries, and even Robert Golden missed a quarter of play as well with an apparent knee injury.
Be frustrated about the performance, but it's not exactly like UA had their front-line starters healthy for the game.
One top-25 foe down, three more to go. The Wildcats will now return home and prepare for Andrew Luck and the Stanford Cardinal. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN and is scheduled for a 7:45 MST kickoff.
The last time the Arizona Wildcats and Oklahoma State Cowboys met, the Pokes took the 2010 Alamo Bowl 36-10. The outcome on Thursday evening was more of the same for the 'Cats, this time with UA falling 37-14 in front of the entire country.
Arizona was outmatched in nearly ever facet of the game. The loss of Juron Criner just days before the game was blatantly obvious as the offense struggled to move the ball in the first half, and the defense did not have much of a chance against the high-flying attack from Brandon Weeden, Joseph Randle and Justin Blackmon. If a team loses their starting cornerback, middle linebacker, and both safeties, it's tough to stop any offense, let alone one of the best in the country. The Wildcats learned this in a hurry on Thursday night.
The first three drives for Oklahoma State all resulted in touchdowns. With nearly 13 minutes remaining in the second quarter and UA down 21-0, it appeared the game was about to get ugly in a hurry. Despite not putting any points on the board the rest of the way, the offense and defense at least showed signs of life. Give coach Stoops and his team credit; in previous years, the 'Cats are down 40 points at halftime in this scenario. That did not happen this time around.
Arizona actually tried to make a game of it in the third quarter. After a long, poised drive from Nick Foles -- who completed 37 of 51 passes for 398 yards and one touchdown -- Keola Antolin rushed up the middle to make the score 21-7. After the Cowboys worked the ball down the field, UA came up with an interception at the five-yard line to keep the game in-reach. Unfortunately, two penalties killed any chance Foles had of moving the ball down the field once again and the drive resulted in a punt.
That essentially ended the game right there.
Oklahoma State's offense regained their momentum on the following drive and Weeden hit Blackmon in the corner of the end zone to make the score 27-7. A touchdown rush from Jeremy Smith increased the lead to 34-7 with 12 minutes to play.
Foles hit Dan Bucker for a pretty 54-yard touchdown pass with ten minutes remaining, though it did come against most of the backups for OK. State. It was a nice conclusion to Buckner's night, who led the team with 10 catches, 142 yards and a touchdown reception. Progress, 'Cats fans. Progress.
For a team that seemingly had everything stacked against them, Arizona at least kept the game close through three quarters. No one expected a victory tonight; what they did expect was for the team to battle back in a time of adversity, and they did that. A closer outcome would have been nice, but on this night, the Cowboys were simply the better team.
Stay tuned to SB Nation Arizona for continued coverage and analysis of Arizona football and basketball. For more news, check out Arizona Desert Swarm.
For a team that could have let this game get out of hand early, the Arizona Wildcats have shown a ton of heart to keep the score respectable. After an early deficit of 21-0, Nick Foles has led the team on multiple drives, one of which was capped off with a two-yard touchdown rush up the middle.
It appeared Arizona was going to make a game of it midway through the third quarter; with the Cowboys inside the red zone, Brandon Weeden threw an interception to keep the score at 21-7. After a solid gain on the ground, the Wildcats had a penalty for an illegal substitution, holding, and then a false start on the punt. Oklahoma State then worked the ball down the field and hit Justin Blackmon in the corner of the end zone for his second touchdown of the game.
With 13 minutes left to play, the game is essentially over with Arizona trailing 27-7. Give credit to Mike Stoops' team for not quitting after getting hit in the mouth early; this is a young team that has better days ahead of it. As for tonight, the opponents were simply the better team.
Wow... that's... Wow. RT @ryan_finley: #ArizonaWildcats safety Robert Golden out with a right knee injury. Mark Watley in.less than a minute ago via TweetDeck Favorite Retweet ReplyESPN_Pac12blog
"Wow", indeed. If the injury proves to be a serious one, it would just compile on the ridiculous number of injuries UA has suffered in the last three months. If Golden is out, the team could potentially be without both of their starting safeties (Golden and Hall), No. 1 wide receiver (Criner), No. 1 cornerback (McKnight) and top-linebacker (Fischer).
As for the game itself, the Cowboys have dominated all game. Joseph Randle has nine carries for 71 yards and two touchdowns. Brandon Weeden, the 27-year old quarterback for Oklahoma State, is 22-for-23 for 177 yards and a touchdown. Mike Stoops Boiling Level is at an eight, and it is rising quickly.
For more UA coverage, check out Arizona Desert Swarm.
The mysterious status of top-flight Arizona Wildcats wide receiver Juron Criner had long been speculated over, and now we finally have an official reason as to why he's out for tonight's game. Head coach Mike Stoops told ESPN's Jenn Brown that Criner had an appendectomy on Monday, which is the reason he's out for this week's game.
It begs the question. Why exactly did Mike Stoops not disclose that information at the media conference call? It could even be suggested that he covered it up, because Stoops said Criner did not have an appendectomy and was just sick (those were his apparent exact words, according to CBS's Bryan Fischer).
It's hard to figure out what agenda Stoops would have. I'd guess that Stoops would want to make Oklahoma State gameplan more for Criner, and then force them to scrap their original gameplan as close as possible to kickoff and make them come up with a new defensive strategy. Hard to see if any of this obfuscation will work, but in college football you'll take any advantage you can get.
Anyway, no Criner means Arizona will have to rely on their remaining recievers like Dan Buckner, David Douglas, David Roberts, and Richard Morrison to produce, which could cause Nick Foles all sorts of trouble.
For more Wildcats coverage, check out Arizona Desert Swarm.
The Arizona Wildcats play their first road game of the 2011 football season on Thursday evening against the Oklahoma St. Cowboys of the Big XII. Oklahoma State is 4-3 all-time against the Wildcats, with the first contest being played in 1931. Here is the relevant information regarding the game:
Teams: Arizona Wildcats, Oklahoma State Cowboys
Time: 5:00 p.m.
Location: Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater, OK
TV: ESPN, ESPN3.com
Radio: Arizona Radio Network, 1290 AM Tucson
Rankings: Oklahoma State is ranked #9 in the Associated Press poll and #7 in the USA Today Coaches poll; the Cowboys are ranked No. 18 in the week one Sagarin ratings, while the Wildcats are No. 26.
Favorite: OSU is favored by 14.5 points, according to Bodog.
Last Meeting: Oklahoma State defeated Arizona handily in the 2010 Alamo Bowl, 36-10.
Streaks: Arizona is 1-5 in its last six games, while Oklahoma State is 6-1 in their last seven contests.
The Arizona Wildcats and Oklahoma St. Cowboys will be meeting for the second time in less than a year. Arizona got curbstomped in San Antonio in the Alamo Bowl the last time the two teams faced, and the Wildcats will be heavy underdogs again on Thursday night.
Probably of greater interest in the long-term outlook--could these two teams be facing each other every year?
If conference realignment does occur, it's looking like a potential possibility. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have been making overtures to the Pac-12 for sometime now; with Texas A&M departing to the SEC, the Big 12 seems like it's on the point of disintegration. And if Oklahoma and Oklahoma State do decide to leave, the Pac-12 is the likeliest destination for them.
If the Pac-12 expands, the divisons will have to be divided up. Say it does go to a Pac-16. The divisions would then look something like
Two other teams yet to be decided
That way you'd have the original Pac-8 teams back together in the same division and the other eight teams bandied together with mainly Big 12 remnants holding down the fort. And Arizona and Oklahoma State would almost certainly be playing each other every year. As much discomfort as it might cause Mike Stoops to play his brother in Norman every year, he may just have to swallow it up and learn to deal.
The big question is what will happen if only the Oklahoma schools join. Will it just be a Pac-14? If so, Arizona is almost certainly ending up with Oklahoma State. The Pacific Division would probably be a little smaller or stay the same, but Arizona would regardless be staying in the Eastern division, and would be readying matchups in Tucson or Stillwater on a yearly basis.
So basically, if Pac-12 expansion happens, Arizona and Oklahoma State will be meeting a lot more. Brace yourselves, in case there is bracing that needs to be done.
The clash between the Arizona Wildcats and Oklahoma State Cowboys that will take place Thursday evening is big for both teams. The odds may be against the Wildcats, but this is a team and program known to pull off an unexpected win or two when seemingly everyone doubted them. It will be tough, but anything can happen when Nick Foles is making plays happen down the field.
For the Cowboys, they're a team ranked in the top-10 looking to make a statement to the nation. A statement showing the team is for real and is capable of competing for a BCS bowl game. They have all the momentum after dismantling Arizona in last year's Alamo Bowl and they're looking to add a solid win to their resumé.
What To Watch For:
Arizona's Wide Receivers vs. Oklahoma State's Secondary:
Juron Criner is not playing, nor did he even make the trip to Stillwater because of an undisclosed medical condition. Jonny Thomas, the Cowboys' starting safety, is ineligible for the game (and the rest of the season). What does that mean?
For the Cats, it will be interesting to see if anyone can step up with a big game in Criner's absence. Dan Buckner had a solid debut for UA last week, but a majority of his routes were for no more than a few yards. Gino Crump, a relatively unknown senior, has not played in many big games, but he impressed in week one and has drawn praise from his entire coaching staff. Austin Hill, a redshirt freshman, could step up, though his ability to block is pretty questionable at this point. Fan-favorite David Douglas could also fill in, though the senior has seen more time in the slot-position.
As for the Pokes, the unit did allow 212 passing yards to LA-Lafayette in the first game of the season, though a large amount of those yards came in garbage time. Still, though, allowing 34 points is a cause for concern and UA will present much more of a challenge.
The Arizona Secondary vs. Justin Blackmon:
If I'm coach Stoops, I double-cover Justin Blackmon on every day. We all saw first-hand what the nation's best receiver can do in the Alamo Bowl last season and it probably wasn't a good idea to try single-coverage on him. If Arizona hopes to win, they must at least slow down the wide receiver. Trevin Wade will start on him and he should receive a ton of help from Robert Golden and the other safeties. He is the ultimate priority for the defense.
If the other playmakers for the Cowboys come away with big yardage, so be it. The 'Cats will live with that. What they won't live for is another torching from the best receiver in the country.
How Do The Wildcats React?
60,000 screaming fans are expected at Boone Pickens Stadium for the primetime matchup. How does this Wildcats team -- a team with a ton of inexperience and youth defense, along with an offensive line that struggled in a home game last week -- react to the sellout crowd? It is essential for Foles, Wade, and the other seniors on the roster to do their very best to keep their teammates calm and collected before, during, and after the game.
Final Thoughts And Predictions:
This is going to be a tough game for Arizona. The odds are stacked against them and the Cowboys are looking to establish themselves on national television as one of the powers of college football this season. Nick Foles makes a few plays early on to keep the game close and interesting, but in the end, Oklahoma State's dynamic offense takes over and the Wildcats fall 45-21.
Arizona Wildcat Juron Criner will not play in Thursday's game against the No. 9 Oklahoma State Cowboys, according to Anthony Gimino. Criner has been dealing with an undisclosed illness all week and was questionable for Thursday's game.
The loss of Criner, Arizona's best receiver, is a big one for the Wildcats. He made several big plays for the team last season, amassing 1,233 yards and 11 touchdowns on 82 receptions last year. He was quarterback Nick Foles' favorite target last season and the two wrecked havoc on other teams all season through the air.
Criner spent the night at a local Tucson hospital earlier this week, according to Fox 11 Sports. He was initially expected to travel with the team to Oklahoma after missing practice on Monday and Tuesday, but this news indicates that his unknown illness could be more serious than initially perceived. He did not travel with the Wildcats on Wednesday.
Hopefully Criner's ailment gets healed in the near future and he's able to get back on track. It would be a shame to see a good athlete get derailed during his senior campaign in this way.
Arizona Desert Swarm explains how the team might cover for this loss:
Ill Juron Criner won't play at Oklahoma State, reports say -
For the short term, this means guys like Dan Buckner will need to step up. Other receivers will have the opportunity to shine, and though it's Buckner with the most potential to do so, that doesn't mean someone else won't take advantage. Sliding into the rotations could be Gino Crump and Austin Hill, who could compliment David Roberts, David Douglas, Richard Morrison and Buckner.
While no one was expecting greatness from junior college transfer Jaime Salazar this season, Wildcat fans at least hoped to see some improvement out of the kicking game in 2011. After one game, it was more of the same: botched snaps, missed field goals, and botched extra points.
Surely it has to end sometime, right?
Despite being replaced late in the Northern Arizona game for senior Alex Zendejas, who lost his job in camp after struggling the last two seasons, Salazar will be the starting place-kicker for the Wildcats on Thursday night as they battle the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
According to Salazar, it's just about staying calm and collected on the big stage. This is a player who has gone from playing in front of 500 fans to 50,000 fans in the span of about eight months, after all. And while it certainly isn't an excuse, it is time for the kicker to step up or become the backup one again.
"I can't let the environment, can't the stadium, get in my way," he said. "Can't let those 50,000 people get in my way. Can't let nothing get to me."
It will only get worse Thursday in front of 60,000 hostile fans at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Okla.
"I just can't let it get in the way," he said talking about the charged atmosphere on Thursday. "If I do, it's going to mess up my kick. I just have to go in, knowing I am going to make it no matter what. It's not going to go left or right, it's just going to go in."
Sounds like a plan to me. Being a place-kicker at the high levels of football is just as every bit mentally demanding as it is physically demanding, and it is essential to block everything out while kicking in a big game. Zendejas was never able to do that, and he lost his job because of it. Will Salazar be able to? His first test comes Thursday night in front of the entire nation.
For more Wildcats coverage, check out Arizona Desert Swarm.
The Arizona Wildcats take on the Oklahoma State Cowboys this Thursday at 5:00 Pacific Time in a nationally televised game that could have huge repercussions for the two teams. Days before the match-up takes place, though, both squads are dealing with player issues. Wildcats receiver Juron Criner missed his second day of practice due to an illness, according to Arizona Daily Star. Meanwhile, Cowboys starting safety Johnny Thomas tweets he is ineligible for the season.
Criner is Arizona's best receiver and has developed quite a bit of chemistry with quarterback Nick Foles. He will travel with the team and could play if he gets better ahead of the game, but there is no guarantee. The Wildcats will certainly need their top receiver if they want to make some noise and pull off the upset.
Meanwhile, Thomas dropped the bombshell that he is ineligible for the season on Twitter earlier Tuesday. Questions surfaced when he was held out of last Saturday's season opener with eligibility issues, but no answers came to light until Thomas' statement. The exact reason for his ineligibility still remains unclear at this point.
The Wildcats face a tough opponent on national television this week. Does Arizona have a chance to pull the upset against Oklahoma State?
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