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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Salazar struggles, Zendejas could start vs. Oregon

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Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat

New kicker, same old results.

Junior place kicker Jaime Salazar missed two crucial field goals in Saturday’s loss to Stanford, prolonging Arizona’s notorious kicking woes that crippled the Wildcats last season.

“Those are points,” quarterback Nick Foles said. “Those are points we need. It’s like you’re missing a wide-open layup. You’ve got to get those points. We’ve got to figure that out. For us to be successful, we’ve got to be successful on all sides of the ball.”

Arizona gave Salazar a chance to cut Stanford’s 16-10 lead to three right before the first half with a 45-yard attempt. Salazar pushed it right, leaving the Wildcats empty-handed after driving 51 yards in 1:17.

The junior college product had a shot at redemption to start the second half, however.

Arizona received the ball and freshman Ka’Deem Carey gave the Wildcats great field position after a 34-yard return that brought them to their own 36. The Wildcats’ running game finally came alive as Keola Antolin ripped off a 31-yard burst to the Stanford 33. Antolin then picked up 18 yards on back-to-back run plays and brought UA to the Cardinal 19-yard line.

On Arizona’s fourth consecutive run play, Antolin was stuffed at the line and Nick Foles followed that up with back-to-back incompletions, leaving it up to Salazar to give the Wildcats three points and the momentum.

But Salazar missed yet again, negating an impressive opening drive and Arizona’s first resemblance of a rushing attack in the last two games.

“That deflates your football team,” said head coach Mike Stoops of the missed field goals. “I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to get points when you play a team like Stanford.

“You go back to back drives and get no points, I thought that was a little bit discouraging,” Stoops added. “You’re going to have score points against Stanford. Letting those opportunities without any points makes it difficult.”

Salazar missed his only kick against NAU (46 yards) and didn’t attempt a field goal against Oklahoma State, making him 1-for-4 on the season. Due to Salazar’s ineffectiveness, Stoops says last year’s scapegoat, Alex Zendejas, who made 14-of-19 attempts last season, will get his chance to earn back his starting spot.

“We’ll see if Alex gives us a better chance,” Stoops said. “We’ll figure that out. We’ve got to give him a chance to get back in there.”

Criner solid in return

After a one-game hiatus, Arizona wide receiver Juron Criner returned from a Sept. 5 appendectomy to make six grabs for 48 yards and a touchdown on Saturday.

“I thought Juron made some nice plays,” said head coach Mike Stoops. “It was good to get him back out there. But there were some plays that I think if he had been working he would have made. He’ll get better. I thought he reacted well and moved around pretty well.”

Criner, who has 12 catches for 199 yards and two scores through two games, connected with quarterback Nick Foles on a 6-yard touchdown in the second quarter, Arizona’s only touchdown of the game.

“It is nice to have him back out there,” Foles said. “He’s such a big target.”

The senior receiver did, however, drop a pair of balls and fail to come down with a couple of catches that he usually does. If it weren’t for a pass interference penalty on the last play of the first, Criner would have added a 43-yard touchdown catch to his stat-line, but cornerback Johnson Bademosi pulled down Criner’s right arm to avoid the touchdown.

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