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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Wide Receiver Rising

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Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Texas transfer plays up to preseason billing in Wildcats’ 37-14 loss to Cowboys

STILLWATER, Okla. — Receiver Dan Buckner was one of the few Arizona players to take advantage of the national stage the Wildcats were on against No. 9 Oklahoma State. With Juron Criner sitting out after undergoing an appendectomy, Buckner had a chance to show why there was so much hype following him to Arizona after a transfer from Texas. Buckner made the most of that chance, grabbing 10 balls for 142 yards — both team-highs — in the nationally televised Thursday-night game.

“Somebody needed to step up,” said Buckner, citing Criner’s absence from the team.

Buckner’s performance was one of the few bright spots for Arizona in the 37-14 loss. Another was Arizona’s group of receivers as a whole. When all was said and done, Wildcat receivers may have had the best performance of any non-quarterback in the game. Redshirt freshman Austin Hill also received for over 100 yards, and six other players caught a pass. Plus, with Oklahoma State expecting 24 NFL talent scouts to be at the game — without a doubt there to watch electric OSU receiver Justin Blackmon — the stage for personal performances doesn’t get much bigger. But while Buckner was pleased with how he played, personal numbers aren’t as important to him when the team isn’t winning.

“I thought I played well, but numbers don’t mean anything without wins,” Buckner said.

Although a team win wasn’t there to back up Buckner’s personal numbers, quarterback Nick Foles said Buckner is doing what he needs to do each week.

“(Buckner) did well. He did what he’s supposed to do; he’s got to play better every week,” Foles said. “He’s got to play aggressive, he’s got to play confident. If he does that, he’s gonna be a really good player.”

But at the end of the day, Buckner was lamenting what happened to the team, not celebrating his debut.

“They held us to 14 points,” Buckner said. “We’re an offense that wants to put up a lot of points, and we feel like we’re gonna do that throughout the season. So their defense must have played pretty well to hold us to 14.”

-Alex Williams

Rangy receiver makes a name on the national stage in Stillwater

STILLWATER, Okla. — Redshirt freshman Austin Hill arrived at training camp talented enough to contribute right away, but with the Wildcats’ depth at receiver, his coming-out party seemed uncertain.

Hill entered the season behind outside receivers Juron Criner, Gino Crump and Dan Buckner on the UA depth chart, meaning his breakout year would most likely have to wait until 2012.

But with Criner’s appendectomy sidelining him against Oklahoma State on Thursday, the Wildcats took off the training wheels and gave Hill his first career start and the opportunity to prove himself.

Against a top-10 team in a raucous Boone Pickens Stadium, he delivered.

The 6-foot-3, 205-pound long and athletic wideout took the reins as another deadly receiving threat, catching eight passes for 128 yards, all through the first three quarters.

“It felt really good,” Hill said, adding he wished it had been under different circumstances. “I didn’t think I was going to get a chance like this. So I was just happy. Thank God for letting me perform so well.”

On Arizona’s first play from scrimmage, quarterback Nick Foles found Hill for a six-yard completion and from that point on, the Corona, Calif., native didn’t look back.

Hill caught two balls for a combined 35 yards on the Wildcats’ first scoring drive and blew past the Cowboys’ secondary to haul in a 47-yard bomb late in the third quarter.

Along with Buckner (10 catches, 142 yards and a score), Hill more than filled in the cracks for Criner, while earning himself a bigger role moving forward.

“Austin’s a guy that I feel really confident in and I’ve told him that. Tonight he grew up a lot. I know he fumbled the ball, but he came back and made a play,” Foles said, referencing Hill’s costly fumble at the Cowboys’ 32-yard-line just before halftime.

After catching a 24-yard touchdown against NAU in week one, Hill now has nine grabs for 152 yards and a score in a season where he was supposed to see limited action.

“I thought Austin played well,” added head coach Mike Stoops. “He fumbled the ball around a couple times that could have kept some drives alive, but for a redshirt freshman, he’s playing well.”

If Criner is unable to go against Stanford on Saturday, expect Hill to start once again and continue to produce while learning on the job. He may not be Criner, but if he remains a contributor in his first season on the field, that comparison may not be a reach.

“He’s just a guy that shows what he’s going to be capable of doing in the future, fumbling a ball and then doing big things,” Foles said. “He’s going to be a talented receiver. He’s a guy that I really look to and a guy that I’m going to look to the rest of the season.”

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