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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Criner makes big statement

Mike Christy
The University of Arizona football team takes part in morning practice Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2010, at the Rincon Vista Sports Complex in Tucson, Ariz. The Wildcats look to reach a bowl game for the third season in a row with quarterback Nick Foles at the helm. (Photograph by Mike Christy)

If college football fans across the country hadn’t heard the name Juron Criner prior to Arizona’s Friday-night win over Toledo, 11 catches, 187 yards, a touchdown and two SportsCenter Top 10 plays should do the trick.

The 6-foot-4, 210-pound wideout hauled in a deep ball late in the third quarter that hit his right hand and bounced off of his thigh pad into his left hand for a 45-yard completion and every athlete’s dream — SportsCenter’s top play.

Criner also grabbed a 32-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter that landed him No. 5 on the top plays, but it was the 45-yard circus catch that had his cell phone blowing up to the tune of “”90-something text messages,”” according to Criner.

“”It amazed me because I didn’t even see how I caught it,”” Criner said of the catch. “”I actually didn’t even know I had the ball in my left hand, so I was just as shocked myself.””

Although the nation finally saw Criner’s ability, the big plays are nothing new to his Arizona teammates.

“”He does it all the time. It’s nothing new for him,”” said senior safety Joe Perkins.

“”It was funny because when he was making those catches in the game, (freshman cornerback) Shaquille Richardson said, ‘Coach Mike gets mad at me for trying to guard him. Look what he’s doing to (Toledo).'””

Criner carried the rapport he built with quarterback Nick Foles last season into the Toledo game, as Foles completed 86.5 percent of his passes (32-for-37) for 360 yards and three touchdowns (one rushing), connecting with his favorite target 11 times.

“”I feel like we built that bond and I showed that if he throws it, I’m going to go get it,”” Criner said of he and Foles.

Both Foles and Criner burst onto the scene in 2009, but the receiver’s beastly performance Friday proved that he has the tools to be one of the top receivers in not only the Pacific 10 Conference but also the nation.

“”He’s got a whole bunch of talent, and I think he started to see it and realized he could be special,”” head coach Mike Stoops said of Criner.

For the first time in his career, Criner came into training camp knowing he would be the team’s No. 1 target and said last Tuesday, “”I have no room to slack off — ever.””

After 11 grabs, nearly 200 receiving yards and a few SportsCenter cameos, so far so good for Criner.

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