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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Offensive line shows promise in opener

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Kevin Brost
Kevin Brost / Arizon Daily Wildcat

The Arizona football team’s victory over NAU on Saturday created some much needed momentum, none more important than for the team’s youngest unit: the offensive line.

The unit featured five new starters, and with center Kyle Quinn having the only starting experience, critics were skeptical that the offense would be effective.

Junior Shane Zink filled in for the injured guard Trace Biskin, and redshirt freshman Fabbians Ebbele and sophomore Jack Baucus split time at right tackle, but the Wildcats still managed to hold strong at the point of attack.

“It’s a group that will get better as they move forward,” head coach Mike Stoops said. “I was impressed with their ability to pick as many things up as they did. They came with some different stuff, but that’s stuff we work on every day — picking up the blitz.”

The biggest preseason question pressing the Arizona offense was about the line. Could it open up running lanes for running back Keola Antolin all while giving quarterback Nick Foles enough time to throw the football?

On Saturday, Foles threw for 412 yards and five touchdowns to five different receivers. He had ample time in the pocket and part of that came because the of the line’s ability to pick up the blitz.

“Like I say, we want people to blitz when we throw the football.” Stoops said. “We feel like it opens up space on the field and green grass on the field. So that doesn’t bother us too much if we can pick it up and give Nick a chance to make some plays.”

While the running game wasn’t the marquee part of the Arizona offense, the line was able to create enough room to set up plays out of the backfield the few times the Wildcats did run the ball.

The Wildcats managed to pick up 75 yards and a touchdown on the ground from the combined effort from Antolin, fullback Taimi Tutogi and freshman running back Ka’Deem Carey.

And overall, the line kept up with the fast tempo of the offensive attack.

“I think that’s the strength of any offense; keeping a rhythm,” Foles said. “Some guys have slower rhythms, some guys have faster rhythms. That’s the rhythm I want to keep. Coaches love it, players love it.

“I thought they did a great job,” Foles added. “The guys I was most proud of (Saturday) were the O-linemen.”

While the line proved their merit against NAU, the real test will come Thursday when they take on No. 9 Oklahoma State, in Stillwater, Okla.

“I thought they improved as the game went on,” Stoops said. “(NAU) came at us with a lot of different stuff, and our guys handled most of it. Being able to pick up that many blitzes was good, so our structure was good.”

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