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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Buckner set to debut against NAU

It’s been 19 months since Arizona receiver Dan Buckner has taken a snap in a game, but he’ll make his return to the field at 7 p.m. tomorrow when the Wildcats host NAU to open the season.

After transferring from Texas following the 2009 season, Buckner was forced to sit out the 2010 season due to NCAA transfer rules. He’s been practicing with the team since he arrived in August 2010, but head coach Mike Stoops is looking forward to seeing what he’s capable of in game action.

“I’m excited to see what Dan will do on Saturday,” Stoops said. “He has to show up and we’re waiting for him to really exert himself in this offense.”

Buckner had an inconsistent fall camp but finds himself as Arizona’s No. 2 receiver, lining up opposite of senior Juron Criner after coming on strong in the final week and a half leading up to the NAU game.

For some, nerves might be an issue after such a long layoff between games. That might eventually be the case for Buckner, but it hasn’t happened yet.

“You can’t get the butterflies too early,” Buckner said. “It’s still the same game … I’ve been patiently waiting and hopefully it pays off.”

Arizona’s schedule kicks off the season with two games in less than a week — Saturday against NAU and Thursday against Oklahoma State — not giving the Wildcats much time to gather themselves.

But Buckner said Arizona can’t look past NAU, even with a showdown with a top-10 foe less than a week away.

“We play two games in 10 days, but we can’t overlook Saturday,” Buckner said. “We’ve got a quick turnaround and head back south, so we’re just looking to get off to a good start.”

Still, history is on Arizona’s side. The Wildcats are 10-1 all-time against NAU, with the only loss coming in a 7-6 game in 1932. Arizona has also won nine straight against the Lumberjacks.

Stoops said that games against lower levels of competition all boil down to one thing: preparation.

“There’s three or four games every year where you play at an extremely volatile level of excitement,” Stoops said. “The others, you’ve got to prepare well and grind it out and play hard.”

That holds especially true when playing an in-state school with many players who may feel slighted because they weren’t given a chance to play at one of Arizona’s larger two state schools.

“This is their biggest game of the year,” Stoops said. “They’re not going to give you anything. You’ve got to go out and earn it, and that’s OK.”

Arizona’s senior-laden passing attack is built to do just that. And if the Wildcats take care of everything on their end, the rest will fall into place Saturday — regardless of how prepared or excited the Lumberjacks are.

“If your preparation is consistent … you’ll play well,” Stoops said. “We have good enough players. There are three or four details you need to emphasize to play well. If you do those things, you’ll win. If you don’t, you’re not going to beat anybody.”

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