Arizona defeated NAU on Saturday and there were numerous observations to make. Read on to see observations and notes from Arizona's season-opening win.
won its first contest of the year Saturday night as the Wildcats defeated Northern Arizona 41-10 at Arizona Stadium. The victory moved UA to 1-0 on the season entering a huge early season matchup this coming Thursday against Oklahoma State
Despite winning by 31 points, it wasn't pretty at times and Arizona looked like a team still learning to play together. The Lumberjacks made the game relatively close in the first half until the Wildcats pulled away in the second. In a game where it was expected to run away from its opponent, Arizona received a little bit tougher of a fight than originally anticipated.
Senior quarterback Nick Foles was solid in the first game of his final collegiate season. The Wildcats' signal caller completed 34 out of 42 passes for 412 yards and five touchdowns. Foles really put the pedal to the floor in the third quarter, when he tossed three of his five scoring passes. It was a typical game for UA's field general as he was able to get eight different targets involved while throwing touchdowns to five of them.
Wide receiver Juron Criner had his way with the Lumberjacks' defense. The senior wideout caught six passes for 151 yards and a touchdown. Criner was an impossible matchup for the NAU secondary and beat them over the top as well as underneath. It was obvious the Wildcats wanted to get Criner involved early as he caught two long passes down the sideline; the second being his lone touchdown reception of the game.
Arizona showed off its receiving talent and depth throughout the contest. Second to Criner in receiving yards was senior David Roberts, who concluded the evening with seven receptions for 58 yards. Keola Antolin, Gino Crump and Richard Morrison each finished with five catches, over 40 yards and a touchdown.
The Wildcats struggled on the ground, gaining only 75 yards rushing. Antolin carried the ball a mere six times and gained 41 yards. Fullback Taimi Tutogi added a touchdown on the ground. The Wildcats would have broken the 100-yard mark as a team had there not been a botched snap on a field goal attempt that went for a negative 26 yards in the rushing department.
There was something positive to take away from the running game in true freshman running back and local Tucson product Ka'Deem Carey. The former Canyon Del Oro running back ran for 59 yards on nine carries. Carey didn't see the field until the second half, but made a big impact right off the bat.
The offensive line had a decent first showing. The unit only allowed one sack and paved the way for roughly four yards per rush.
The Wildcats defense played a relatively conservative brand of football on Saturday night. Arizona collected nine tackles behind the line of scrimmage – two of which were sacks – and picked off one pass. Northern Arizona only totaled 259 yards of total offense all night and a good portion of that offense came in the fourth quarter when the contest was all but decided.
A lot of eyes are on UA's two new defensive ends – C.J.Parish and Mohammed Usman. Both players played well in the winning effort. Parish collected a sack on the first drive of the game and concluded his evening with eight total tackles. Usman earned the only other sack from a Wildcat player on the evening and had four total tackles and also forced a fumble.
Trevin Wade may have re-instilled some confidence among the fan-base in regards to his game when he came up with his first interception of the season. The senior cornerback picked off a pass from NAU quarterback Cary Grossart on a play that seemed to take the life of the Lumberjacks' offense.
Jourdon Grandon assumed the nickel responsibilities and was rather impressive in that role. The redshirt freshman finished the evening with four tackles and a forced fumble. Grandon's presence helped the UA defense in the speed department and should be an important cog for the unit all season long.
Arizona definitely has some things to work on in order to be prepared for the huge game against Oklahoma State this upcoming Thursday. The Cowboys are leaps and bounds better than the Lumberjacks and Stillwater isn't an easy place to win a football game at if you're the road team.
If the Wildcats want to give OSU a little payback for the Alamo Bowl debacle, there are going to have to be adjustments made and quickly. The Wildcats have a chance in the contest, but everything must fall into place.