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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Bouncing back

Alan Walsh / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Alan Walsh
Alan Walsh / Arizona Daily Wildcat

It’s amazing what a difference a week makes.

After beating NAU with relative ease, Arizona was riding a 2-0 record with a heavy amount of momentum. Just seven days later, a team once booming with confidence was left battered and defeated at the hands of the University of Iowa.

So here are the Wildcats, a team on the brink, traveling to play in Corvallis, Ore., Saturday at 5:30 p.m. to take on Oregon State in a game that will likely determine just what kind of football team this is.

“”I think we all realize the importance of the game,”” defensive coordinator Mark Stoops said this week. “”A lot of games in this league could go either way. It’s very, very competitive. It’s almost like an NFL mentality, you’ve got to get every win you can get, and they’re not easy to come by. Not for us.””

A win on the road this week would go a long way for Arizona. Winning any Pacific 10 Conference game is difficult, but doing so would be a huge emotional lift for the Wildcats. A win would also likely entail solid play from an Arizona quarterback — something that has been missing so far this season.

Sophomore quarterback Matt Scott started for the first three weeks, but the burden now falls on fellow sophomore Nick Foles. Fortunately for Arizona, the 6-foot-5 former Michigan State Spartan said he has the shoulders to support the weight.

“”It’s exciting to get the chance to be the starter at a great school,”” Foles said Monday after it was announced he would start. “”I’m really excited. I know we can do great things here, and I’m looking forward to practicing this week and getting ready for Oregon State.””

It’s been a crazy week of practice for the Wildcats as they try to stay composed amidst the unavoidable sense of urgency in Tucson. The offense is changing a bit this week, favoring a more traditional, downfield style offense with Foles under center. With his arm strength, Arizona expects to utilize more of its passing playbook.

Scott, who Stoops insists is still very much a part of the quarterback conversation, will see time on Saturday to give the Beavers different looks.

What has raised some eyebrows, though, is the lack of intensity on defense. A call to arms this week was certainly in order, as the unit, that at one time this season screamed confidence, has the difficult task ahead of stopping the Rodgers brothers — James, a receiver, and younger Jacquizz, the team’s starting running back.

“”They’re really good, they’re both really physical,”” cornerback Trevin Wade said of Jacquizz and James. “”You know they’re small, but they run with a lot of power so we’re going to have to wrap up and tackle well.””

Both James and Jacquizz burst onto the national scene early last season in Oregon State’s shocking upset of USC, and since then have proven that their stardom is no fluke.

Jacquizz is second in the Pac-10 with five rushing touchdowns, and both he and James have hauled in 19 receptions apiece.

Stopping the Rodgers brothers and winning a game on the road is a challenge that no team looks forward to. But this is more than a chance to win a difficult game, this is a chance for Arizona to take the sour taste of last week’s loss out of their mouths.

“”This is going to be a good test for us,”” defensive tackle Earl Mitchell said. “”Oregon State is going to be tough, and we just have to be prepared for it. We’re just going to go out there and play as hard as we can and we’re going to expect a ‘W.'””

 

Keys to the game: Arizona

Find success through the air and find it early. Arizona can’t afford to fall behind and rely on its rushing attack to bail them out. With an arm like Foles’ under center, Arizona should take shots down field early and often, softening OSU’s defense and building Foles’ confidence.

Defense needs to be physical. It sounds brutal, but the Wildcats need to hit Jacquizz Rodgers in the mouth as much as possible. Take away OSU’s confidence and take the raucous Corvallis crowd out of the game early by outworking the Beavers and being more physical.

Stay composed. This is a tough setting to win a game, young quaterback or not. If the Wildcats do fall behind, they need to stay positive and resist the urge to force things. Let the game come to them, and make plays when they need to.

Players to watch: Arizona

Nick Foles. This is obvious. If Foles can take advantage of his opportunity and assert himself as a leader, Arizona has a real shot at winning not only this week but for the rest of the season. Foles needs to trust his arm and take chances downfield to stretch the defense.

Offensive line. Protect the new quarterback so that he has time to make his reads and battle the loud crowd. They also need to be more physical than the Beaver’s front-seven to open holes for UA’s running backs.

Any WR. Arizona needs a playmaker in the passing game. Without tight end Rob Gronkowski, the Wildcats currently have no go-to guy, and that needs to change. The talent is there, and this is a golden opportunity for guys like Delashaun Dean, Terrell Turner and Juron Criner to step up.

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