2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 1 - NAU at Arizona
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Sept. 3 at Arizona 41 … Northern Arizona 10
CFN Analysis: Nick Foles went wild. He had time to throw and he lit up Northern Arizona like a Christmas tree with a near-perfect 34-of-42 game for 412 yards and five touchdowns. Juron Criner did his thing with six catches for 151 yards and a score, but Foles spread the ball around with five different players catching five passes or more, and Texas transfer Dan Buckner making four grabs for 38 yards. The special teams were solid with Kyle Dugandzic coming up with a tremendous day punting the ball averaging 50.7 yards per kick with all three of his boots going inside the 20. The secondary allowed NAU QB Cary Grossart to connect on 20-of-26 passes, but the throws didn’t go anywhere. The overall performance was great, but the secondary needs even more help from the pass rush against Oklahoma State on Thursday.
(AP) TUCSON, Ariz. -- Nick Foles threw for 412 yards and had three of his five touchdown passes in third quarter, helping Arizona shake off a first-half funk to open the season with a 41-10 win over Northern Arizona Saturday night.
The Wildcats flew around the field while building a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, then went stagnant in the second, allowing the FCS Lumberjacks to get within four points.
Triggered by Trevin Wade's interception, Arizona pulled away in the third quarter on touchdown passes from Foles to Keola Antolin, Richard Morrison and Austin Hill.
Juron Criner also caught a TD pass, finishing with six catches for 151 yards. Foles was 34 for 42 passing.
Northern Arizona's Cary Grossart threw for 179 yards on 20 of 26 passing. Zach Bauman ran for 99 yards on 27 carries.
The Wildcats were hoping Northern Arizona would serve as a warmup for a schedule that's about to get real tough.
After the Lumberjacks, Arizona has a short turnaround for a road game against No. 9 Oklahoma State on Thursday. Two home dates follow: against No. 7 Stanford and Heisman Trophy favorite Andrew Luck on Sept. 17, then third-ranked Oregon on Sept. 24.
With plenty of new players, including the entire offensive line, the Wildcats needed this game to build some confidence -- for the inexperienced guys and the ones who suffered through the season-ending five-game losing streak in 2010.
Everyone looked good early against Northern Arizona.
Foles opened by hitting Criner on a 42-yard play-action pass, then floated in a 10-yard touchdown pass to him in the corner of the end zone two plays later.
Arizona kept rolling, Taimi Tutogi making it 14-0 in the closing seconds of the first quarter on a 5-yard TD run through a huge hole off right tackle.
Arizona's defense was good, too, swarming the Lumberjacks while holding them to 14 yards on 12 plays.
Rout on the way, right? Not quite.
Once the second quarter started, the offense sputtered, with the running game nonexistent -- five yards on six carries in the first half -- and Foles unable to find his receivers as readily.
Grossart started to find some seams going the other way, picking the Wildcats apart to go 16 of 17 for 145 yards in the first half.
Matt Myers hit a 28-yard field goal midway through the second quarter, and Grossart found Khalil Paden on a 12-yard touchdown pass in the closing seconds of the half, getting NAU within 14-10.
Arizona quickly moved into position for a field-goal attempt, thanks to a 42-yard up-for-grabs catch by Criner, but Jaime Salazar's 36-yard attempt was way right.
It wasn't too much of a surprise that Northern Arizona kept it close; the Lumberjacks were within a touchdown in the fourth quarter against Arizona State last season and had the Wildcats still in their sights at halftime the year before.
Arizona was still in a fog to open the second half, going three-and-out.
Wade's interception jolted the Wildcats back.
Stepping front of a receiver on NAU's second play, Wade made the pick at the 12-yard line, and Antolin scored on a swing pass the next play, bowling over a defender, tightroping the sideline then diving the final few yards to the pylon.
Morrison followed with a 24-yard touchdown reception from Foles across the middle, and Hill all but sealed it with his first career catch, a 24-yard TD that Arizona up 34-10.
Arizona's defense was just as dominant, holding Northern Arizona to 25 yards in the third quarter and no points in the second half.
Northern Arizona (0-0) at Arizona (0-0) Sept. 3,
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Here’s the Deal...
Mike Stoops is entering his eighth year as the Arizona head coach, and even though his teams have made it to a bowl game in each of the last three years, they haven’t had much successes and ended last season on a five-game losing streak. On the hot seat going into this year, he has a good, strong team with enough talent to win the Pac-12 South, it’ll have a chance to get off to a hot start trying to avenge four of its losses from last year within its first five games. The Cats might be stacked at the skill positions, but there’s a big concern with the run blocking and quarterback protection making this warm-up all the more important. Former BYU offensive coordinator Robert Anae was brought in to coach an offensive line that only has one career start across the board and needs time. Northern Arizona returns 11 starters from last year, and head coach Jerome Souers is looking for an equally balanced attack on offense, and was in no hurry this offseason to name a starting quarterback. The Lumberjacks have had no fewer than five losses every year since 2003, and a good showing against the Cats would go a long way to changing that.
Why Arizona Might Win:
Quarterback Nick Foles is back for his senior year to lead a passing attack that finished ninth in the nation last year and has the potential to light up the NAU secondary if, and it’s a big if, he gets time to work. Foles threw for over 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns despite missing two games. Foles, after throwing for over 3,000 yards and for 20 scores, should put up similar numbers with his two favorite targets, Juron Criner and David Douglas, back after combining for over 1,700 yards and 16 scores, to go along with Texas transfer, Dan Buckner. The Lumberjacks don’t have the talent in the defensive backfield to handle all the receiving talents. Senior RB Keola Antolin and highly-touted freshman Ka’Deem Carey are good enough to provide the balance to keep things moving, and NAU doesn’t have the D to stop everything.
Why Northern Arizona Might Win:
The Wildcats haven’t tasted victory since October of last year, and while they have more talent than NAU, they also have all the pressure in the world on their shoulders. Last year, with a much more experienced offensive line, the Wildcats struggled to get the running game going and were awful in pass protection. If the Lumberjacks can get any sort of pressure into the backfield, the Arizona passing game could sputter and Foles might be mistake-prone. On the other side, the Wildcat defense has some holes at defensive end and is really thin at linebacker, and will be attacked by NAU on short, quick passes. It’s all about ball control for the Lumberjacks, and the more they can keep Foles off the field, the closer this should be.
What To Watch Out For:
Foles has said he has confidence in his linemen, even though two of them are true freshman, but they’re talented. Antolin rushed for 668 yards and seven touchdowns last year as the backup, and he needs to have room to move. If he gets it from the young line, he should put up some huge numbers. In Arizona’s five losses to close out last season, the only game the rushed for over 100 yards was its double-overtime loss to Arizona State, and he shouldn’t have a problem hitting the century mark. For Northern Arizona, sophomore running back Zach Bauman, who became the first freshman in school history to rush for over 1,000 yards, has to take control to help ease in the new quarterback.
What Will Happen:
The Wildcats have never lost to the Lumberjacks under Stoops and haven’t won in the series since 1932, and they aren’t going to start now. While NAU has a three-headed rushing monster that’ll be tough for the Cats’ front seven to stop, but it’ll happen, and then the rout will kick in. Arizona has too much skill on the offensive side of the ball to be stopped; even an inexperienced offensive line isn’t going to hamper them. It’ll be a game for the first three quarters before building a comfortable lead to finish the game off.
CFN Prediction: Arizona 34 - Northern Arizona 17
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