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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona runs through NAU 34-17

Sophomore running back Keola Antolin slips through the NAU defense Saturday night for a touchdown as quarterback Matt Scott celebrates in the background.
Sophomore running back Keola Antolin slips through the NAU defense Saturday night for a touchdown as quarterback Matt Scott celebrates in the background.

Despite coming into Saturday night as big favorites over Northern Arizona, the Arizona football team struggled early.

But that wouldn’t last long as the Wildcats (2-0) found their rhythm in the second half and used a strong effort by junior running back Nic Grigsby to roll by the pesky Lumberjacks in a 34-17 UA win at Arizona Stadium.

“”I thought we did a lot of good things through the course of the game,”” said head coach Mike Stoops. “”I don’t think we were as consistent defensively as we were a week ago, but offensively we continually controlled the ball and that proved very important tonight.””

The Wildcats’ first two drives gave the game an immediate feel of a blowout. On the first, sophomore quarterback Matt Scott led Arizona on an efficient 8-play, 80-yard scoring drive to open the game, which was topped off by a 25-yard scamper by Grigsby for a score.

After an NAU field goal, the Wildcats were on the move again as Scott continued to move the ball down the field on a series of short passes. Grigsby was once again the workhorse on the drive with three more rushes, including a drive-capping 30-yard scoring run.

After the first two drives, it was apparent Arizona’s main attack would be on the ground as the team had more than 100 yards of rushing offense with Grigsby accounting for 80 of those yards on just six carries.

Grigsby would finish the night with his 10th career game with at least 100 yards rushing after tallying 207 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries.

“”The coaches just give me the ball and sometimes I make a play and other times I don’t,”” said running back Nic Grigsby. “”But every time I get the ball, I’m trying to make a big play and maybe break one open.””

While Grigsby and the Wildcats would continue running hard throughout the game, NAU did not let Arizona’s ground attack shake its spirit.

Down 14-3, the Lumberjacks – led by quarterback Michael Herrick – picked apart the stingy Arizona defense and entered the second quarter with a 1st-and-goal on the Wildcats’ 4-yard line. One play later, Herrick connected with receiver Ed Berry in the endzone to close the gap to just four points.

The momentum carried over to the NAU defense as the Lumberjacks blocked Arizona kicker Alex Zendejas’ 27-yard field goal attempt on the next Wildcat series. While the ensuing drive did not result in any points for NAU, the pesky Lumberjacks kept the game within reach and – although allowing Arizona one more score before halftime – were still fully in contention at the break.

“”We probably just weren’t really focused as a team or as a defense and we just needed to get back in rhythm,”” said senior nickel back Corey Hall. “”We came out and were kind of laid back because we had the mind set that we were probably just going to go through them, but we need to have that attitude where we don’t need to think big-headed.””

Despite NAU’s strong effort in the first half, the Lumberjacks couldn’t match Arizona’s intensity in the second and stumbled as the Wildcats took control of the game.

Grigsby broke a 94-yard run, setting up Arizona’s fourth score of the game. It was the junior’s last play of the night.

While Scott played more of a supporting role throughout the night, the sophomore’s consistent attack of short passes and running dug into the NAU defense. Scott finished the game 14-for-20 for 150 yards, a touchdown and one interception.

Backup quarterback Nick Foles saw his first game action of the season when he entered with just more than 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Foles played just two series but was impressive, finishing the night 6-for-8 for 44 yards and a touchdown pass to receiver Juron Criner, which gave Arizona its final score of the game.

“”I thought (Foles) played pretty well,”” said offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes. “”I thought he did some good things, missed a couple balls that he could have thrown a little higher. But he’s a guy who knows what to do with the ball and he continues to impress me with his decision making.””

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