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The Daily Wildcat

 

Secondary vs. Blackmon

Mike+Christy+%2F+Arizona+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0AThe+Arizona+Wildcats+and+No.+14+Oklahoma+State+go+head+to+head+in+the+Valero+Alamo+Bowl+Wednesday%2C+Dec.+29%2C+2010%2C+at+the+Alamodome+in+San+Antonio%2C+Texas.+The+Cowboys+rolled+to+a+36-10+victory.
Mike Christy
Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat The Arizona Wildcats and No. 14 Oklahoma State go head to head in the Valero Alamo Bowl Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010, at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. The Cowboys rolled to a 36-10 victory.

With Oklahoma State leading 7-0 and 8:58 left in the first quarter, Biletnikoff Award winner Justin Blackmon broke free.

The nation’s top receiver blew past then-cornerback Robert Golden, who was supposed to receive help from safety Anthony Wilcox, and caught the ball at Arizona’s 30-yard line with no player in the same area code.

Instead of sprinting down the right sideline for the quick score, Blackmon turned left at the 10 yard-line and ran parallel to the goal line until reaching the left corner of the endzone.

He showboated his way past the Wildcats, finished the game with nine catches for 117 yards and two scores, and sparked a dominant, 36-10, Alamo Bowl victory.

“(The taunting) is motivation for some people,” said cornerback Trevin Wade, “for me it’s just, next time, try not to give him the 70-yard catch so he doesn’t have to do that. We weren’t mentally tuned in. We were busting assignments left and right.

“We just weren’t focused,” Wade added. “That’s their go-to-guy so we just have to stop him.”

Wade and the rest of his secondary will get their chance for revenge against Blackmon and the No. 9 Cowboys tonight at 5 on ESPN. But stopping last year’s Alamo Bowl Offensive MVP and arguably the top receiver in the nation is far easier said than done.

“He catches everything,” said Arizona linebacker Paul Vassallo. “He’s got really good hands. If it’s close to him he’ll catch it.”

There isn’t much the 6-foot-1, 215-pound wide receiver can’t do.
“He can adjust to the ball. He has great hands,” Golden said. “He catches anything that’s in his vicinity.”

Arizona head coach Mike Stoops compared Blackmon to Arizona’s top wideout, Juron Criner, who didn’t travel with teh team due to an undisclosed illness, according to the Wildcat Sports Report. Although Criner, who finished 2010 with 1,233 yards and 11 touchdowns, has three inches on Blackmon, their physicality and ability to go up for the ball is what separates them from average receivers.

“I think they’re similar in a lot of ways,” Stoops said. “Big, strong, physical guys. Great ball skills. They’re very complete players.”

While it’s hard to deny Blackmon’s skill, Golden wasn’t ready to crown the Cowboys’ top receiver. He called Criner a “more explosive receiver, better route-runner” and said “as far as route-running ability and everything he has nothing special that we haven’t seen being in practice every day.”

While talented and tested, the Wildcats are still young in the secondary with sophomores Shaquille Richardson and Marquis Flowers starting and redshirt freshman Jourdon Grandon playing nickelback.

In order to limit one of the top passing attacks in the nation, everyone from youngsters like Richardson to veterans Golden and Wade will have to play without the mistakes that doomed them in the Alamo Bowl in 2010.

“It’s going to be important that we compete out there on the perimeter,” Stoops said. “Everybody’s going to have to play well in the secondary.”

But Golden said the secondary is out to “prove to the nation that we’re capable and we’re the best secondary out there.”

Meanwhile, Vassallo made it clear the Wildcats are out to avenge last season’s embarrassing loss.

“I think we’re all a little bitter over the way it happened, and we’d like to come out and change the result this time,” Vassallo said. “We’re definitely excited. We’ve got an extra shot of redemption after the bowl game.

“Here it is, and we’ve got to take advantage of the opportunity.”

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