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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Football aims to avoid Alamo Bowl repeat

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.

Arizona mopped the field with NAU on Saturday, but it’s going to take a near-perfect game for the Wildcats to stand toe-to-toe with No. 9 Oklahoma State this Thursday in Stillwater, Okla.

“This is a legitimate team in all areas,” said head coach Mike Stoops Monday. “They’re a very good football team from top to bottom. No apparent weakness on this team. They’re very athletic up front, great speed out on the perimeter, great quarterback and great running back. We’ve definitely got our work cut out for us Thursday night.”

The Cowboys feature the nation’s top receiver in Justin Blackmon, a first-team All-Big-12 quarterback in Brandon Weeden, a rising star in sophomore running back Joseph Randle and a defense that ranked second in the Big 12 Conference in rush defense last season.

Aside from a sometimes shaky pass defense, there are virtually no holes in this Oklahoma State team, which the Wildcats found out the hard way at the 2010 Valero Alamo Bowl.

The Cowboys manhandled Arizona, 36-10, taking advantage of four costly UA turnovers to break open a game that statistically favored the Wildcats — the Wildcats gained more yards through the air and on the ground, while possessing the ball for 15:02 longer.

“I thought we moved the ball well throughout the course of that game,” Stoops said, “I thought our defensive position was good most of the night. You just can’t give them 21 points.

“We dropped a punt, we gave them an interception for a touchdown and we let their best player go 70 yards uncovered,” he added. “That’s 21 points. You do that against that team you’re not going to win many games.”

Although quarterback Nick Foles threw three interceptions against the Cowboys last season, he, wide receiver Juron Criner and the rest of Arizona’s offense are expected to put up solid numbers.
After Foles torched the Lumberjacks for 412 yards passing on Saturday, the Wildcats feature the fourth-best passing attack in the NCAA. The Cowboys, however, hold the No. 1 spot, which puts the Arizona defense — namely the secondary — on watch this Thursday on ESPN against one of the top quarterback-receiver combinations in the nation.

“Everybody’s going to have to play well in the secondary. This quarterback is a big time player and a big time thrower of the football so you’re precision needs to be better than it was a week ago,” Stoops said. “It’s going to be important that we compete out there on the perimeter.”

The secondary is an area of strength for the Wildcats, as seen by the 179 yards they allowed against NAU. But NAU doesn’t have Weeden or Blackmon, meaning senior Trevin Wade — who is second on the active interception list after his 11th career pick Saturday — sophomore Shaquille Richardson and the rest of the secondary will have to elevate their play into one of the biggest games on Arizona’s 2011 schedule.

Carey lobbying for more touches

Senior Keola Antolin’s is still Arizona’s No. 1 back with his 97 total yards on Saturday, and the Wildcats are still committed to throwing the ball 40-plus times a game.

But Ka’Deem Carey is forcing Stoops to get him the ball any way possible.

The freshman running back, albeit in mop-up duty, ran for 59 yards on nine carries against NAU and is lobbying for a bigger role moving forward.

“He’s got that unique ability to make people miss and not allow people to get a clean shot on him,” Stoops said. “There wasn’t a whole lot of blocking. He did a lot on his own and that’s what his great back does. For his first game, I thought he played exceptionally well.”

Although No. 2 running back Daniel Jenkins missed Saturday’s game with an ankle injury, Carey is making a case for himself as Antolin’s backup. If he can continue to block and catch the ball out of the backfield, Carey’s role should continue to increase as the season progresses.

“He’s used to running it so he’s going to be good at running it right now,” Stoops said. “I don’t think they asked him to block a whole lot in high school and catch many balls but he’s very complete. He’s a very aware player. He’s got good football instincts, it’s just learning the dynamics and the complexities of everything that happens during a game.”

Salazar still starting

Although junior kicker Jaime Salazar missed a 46-yard field goal and an extra point on Saturday, he’ll remain the starter against Oklahoma State.

Or, as Stoops said with a laugh, “We’ll start with the same order.”

Junior Alex Zendejas made an appearance later in the game to drill an extra point, but Salazar will get the nod against the Cowboys. Stoops attributed Salazar’s misses to mechanics rather than nerves.

“He missed two in pregame. That wasn’t a good start,” he said. “I think it’s just mechanical. He could have been jittery, but I think his mechanics got a little bit out of whack.”

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