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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Bruins Bullied

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Sophomore receiver Juron Criner keeps his eyes on the ball during Arizona?s 27-13 victory over the UCLA Bruins Saturday. Criner hauled in two touchdown passes from quarterback Nick Foles as the offense did enough to get a win and the defense dominated.

The No. 23 Arizona football team did just enough to earn a 27-13 win against UCLA Saturday night at Arizona Stadium, but the squad on the field might have looked unfamiliar to UA fans.

The Wildcats (5-2, 3-1 Pacific 10 Conference) appeared to be an entirely different team than the group that won 43-38 a week ago against Stanford. That Arizona team had trouble slowing down the Cardinal offense, while Saturday’s unit had no such problems against UCLA. A Wildcat offense that ran up and down the field last week, seemingly at will, stalled more than once against the Bruins (3-4, 0-4 Pac-10).

But when the final whistle blew, the end result was the same: an Arizona victory.

“”We’re all in this together, and the bottom line is getting wins, but you certainly want to hold up your end of the bargain,”” said UA defensive coordinator Mark Stoops. “”We challenged our guys this week to just play with a little tougher mindset, and work a little harder and put a little extra into it.

“”I was very proud of our coaches and our players. They did a nice job all week,”” he added. “”We came out (Saturday night) and we had a really strong mindset and we played really hard.””

The theme of the game was the stellar play of the Wildcat defense, one Stoops called the most complete effort of the season. After allowing Stanford to gain nearly 600 yards of offense last week, Arizona put the clamps on UCLA and allowed just 211 yards on the night.

Led by senior safety Cam Nelson’s two sacks and two forced fumbles, Arizona sacked UCLA quarterbacks four times in all, caused two turnovers and never allowed the Bruins to find their comfort zone.

In fact, all 13 of UCLA’s points came as a direct result of UA turnovers — two field-goal drives of two and 27 yards, respectively, and a fumble return for a score.

“”As a defense, we didn’t give up much of anything. I mean, we shut them out the whole time and that was a good thing,”” said senior linebacker Xavier Kelley, who led the Wildcats with 10 tackles in the game. “”UCLA is a good team and to go out there and put up a defensive display like that says something pretty good about your defense.””

Last week Arizona’s offense bailed out the defense; this week it was the opposite. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Nick Foles had the first off night of his career as he tossed three interceptions and fumbled twice. Foles was also battling flu-like symptoms and was unavailable to comment to the media after Saturday’s game.

“”I think at some point (Foles) was going to have to come back to earth and I think that was the deal. Tonight he did and it was humbling,”” said UA offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes. “”The good thing is he was able to overcome it and make enough plays for us to have a chance to win.””

The two biggest plays were made with the help of wide receiver Juron Criner. The sophomore hauled in four passes for 85 yards and two scores and added another 39 rushing yards on three carries.

“”It feels real nice to put up stats like that (as an offense),”” Criner said. “”We got into a little bit of a slump and we picked each other up and took care of business.””

Thanks to Criner’s big game — and a big assist from the Wildcats’ defense — Arizona heads into its second bye week of the season in good shape. With a 5-2 record and two weeks to get healthy before the Nov. 7 homecoming game against Washington State, head coach Mike Stoops likes the spot his team has put itself in.

“”I have no problem with where we’re at,”” Mike Stoops said. “”We’ve played a very difficult schedule and our kids have come through in a very positive position. I couldn’t be more pleased with where we’re at.””

Injury Updates

The Wildcats are banged up at the running back position. Starter Nic Grigsby went down after re-aggravating his right shoulder injury. After taking a big hit, Grigsby writhed on the ground for a few minutes before gingerly leaving the playing field. Third-string tailback Greg Nwoko entered the game but injured his left shoulder. Mike Stoops said both players sprained their AC joints and will be re-evaluated this week.

Defensive end Brooks Reed didn’t play against UCLA as he continues to struggle with an ankle injury.

“”The bye week comes at a very good time, I think, for us,”” Stoops said.

Quick Hits

After the win against the Bruins, the Wildcats cracked the rankings in the both the Associated Press Poll (No. 23) and the USA Today coaches’ poll (No. 24). This marks the first time Arizona has been ranked in either poll since Oct. 17, 2000. The Wildcats are also ranked No. 20 in the Bowl Championship Series Poll. … Arizona committed five turnovers in the game, the most since a 36-28 loss to New Mexico last season. … With the win, Arizona owns a 5-2 record. This marks the first time the team has started the season 5-2 in back-to-back years since 1999-2000. … Two representatives from the Orange Bowl were in attendance at Saturday night’s game. Don’t get your hopes up, Wildcat fans; it was more of a token appearance than a scouting trip. Mike Stoops shook each orange-blazer-clad man’s hand after his press conference as he said, “”Orange Bowl?”” with a slight chuckle.

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