Stoops aware of Thursday's challenge

Arizona is set to face Oklahoma State on Thursday and Mike Stoops knows the challenge. Read on to see what he says about the opponent, his offensive line, injuries, and more.

Arizona's challenge this week is much different than the challenge Northern Arizona presented Saturday, as the Wildcats travel to Stillwater to take on Oklahoma State Thursday.

Arizona head coach Mike Stoops believes that there is plenty to be happy about from Saturday's game.

"I thought there were a lot of positives and it was a good starting point for us in a lot of different ways on Saturday night," Stoops said. "Obviously playing so many new guys I thought we were a little jittery, but overall I thought the players settled down as the game went on, especially the offensive line."

Speaking of the offense line, Stoops believed that it brought mixed results, as he would like to see the UA run the ball better.

"I thought our pass protection was very good most of the night," Stoops said. "We have to improve our ability to run the football, but overall I thought they improved as the game went on. We have to run the ball better as a team. I think our perimeter blocking needs to improve."

On the defensive side of the ball, Stoops was happy with Arizona's performance besides one big series NAU had.

"Defensively I thought we played well outside of maybe one series," he said. "There was only really one big play that got behind us on a double move. Overall it was a pretty decent night defensively."

Now, however, the challenge will increase dramatically and Stoops has plenty of respect for what the Cowboys will bring Thursday.

"This is a legitimate team in all areas," Stoops said of Oklahoma State. "They are very good football team from top to bottom, no apparent weakness on this team. They are very good and very athletic up front, great speed out on the perimeter, great quarterback and great running back, so they are very complete in all areas.

"Defensively they are very sound in what they do. They put a lot of pressure on you across the board. We definitely have our work cut out for us Thursday night."

Stoops knows full well what that work will entail, as Arizona's season ended last year with a large loss to Oklahoma State.

"I think the turnovers are what really jump out at you," Stoops says of the Alamo Bowl loss. "I thought we moved the ball well throughout the course of that game. I thought our defensive positioning was decent most of the night. You can't give them 21 points. We gave them an interception for a touchdown and let their best player for 71 yards uncovered.

In addition, the Arizona defense knows it will have a major test when it attempts to contain one of the best players in the country in Justin Blackmon.

"I thought our guys competed very well a year ago," Stoops said. "You take away the 70-yard touchdown pass that is a busted coverage and we hold him (Justin Blackmon) to probably his least amount of the year. You have to challenge him and you have to challenge your corners and they have to accept that and go out and compete."

While Stoops is confident in his squad, he knows that the defensive secondary will have to step up in a big way if Arizona is going to move to 2-0 this season.

"Everybody is going to have to play well in the secondary," he said. "This quarterback is a big time player and big time thrower of the football. Your precision needs to be better than it was a week ago. Their skill guys can really run, so it is going to be important that we compete out there on the perimeter. We are going to have to have some single coverage out there and you just have to make plays."

For the offense to succeed, the line is going to have to play well. Arizona does not see a ton of blitzes, but Stoops says he wouldn't mind seeing more.

"I think it is a group that will get better as they move forward, but I was impressed just with their ability to pick as many things up as they did," Stoops says of the offensive line. "NAU really came with a lot of different stuff, but that is what we work on every day.

"We want people to blitz when we throw the football, because it opens up space on the field and green grass on the field, so that does not bother us too much if we can blitz pick up and give Nick a chance to make some plays."

One of the immediate worries about having to play in a hostile road environment is the current freshmen. Stoops believes that is where the rest of the team will step up and hope make those players a bit more comfortable.

"I think a lot of that will come from the players," he said. "You have to try to block it all out and really concentrate on each play at a time and not get caught up in all that. It does you no good.

"You worry about playing within the sidelines and the end line. Just concentrate on what you have to do to give yourself a chance to play well and to win and that is what we are going to concentrate on."


  • Arizona's schedule this week will be light due to the fact that it is a Thursday night game and the team will be traveling Wednesday.

    "Today (Monday) will really be our only full length practice of the week with most of our periods that we have," Stoops said. "We can't go too hard; I think it is better just to be fresh and ready for the game. You are going to have to do a lot more mentally than you do physically and have them fresh and ready to play I think is critical."

  • Stoops was asked about the possibility of the Pac-12 expanding and seemed to have mixed feelings about it.

    "We just signed a great package this past year," he said. "I just look at it from our perspective and what it does for us. It is going to be interesting. It does not really affect anything this year for us, so that will work its way out. I trust Larry Scott. He has done some awfully good things for this conference in a very short period of time.

    "This conference is tough enough and if we add four teams like Oklahoma State, Texas, Oklahoma…I don't know if anything will be able to compare to it. Obviously the Southeastern Conference (SEC) will have their say, but this is getting pretty crazy.

    "When you look at the amount of quality teams we have in one conference, it is kind of scary, especially when you don't have a long-term contract," Stoops added with a laugh.

  • Stoops announced that Jaime Salazar will retain kicking duties for the week, while Daniel Jenkins remains questionable, as does Trace Biskin.

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