With teams that like to throw first and run second in Wednesday’s Alamo Bowl, expect a long game at the Alamodome.
If Oklahoma State balances the run with the pass expect a longer day for Arizona. Chances are, given the performance of both teams this season, the Cowboys have a much better chance to establish a running game.
That can spell trouble because Arizona was cruising to a 7-1 record before Stanford, USC and Oregon ran for a combined 811 rushing yards against the Wildcats. The UA’s other nine opponents ran for only 829, an average of 92.1 rushing yards per game.
Oklahoma State, led by senior running back Kendall Hunter, has rushed for 2,195 yards overall with 25 rushing touchdowns. Hunter accounts for 1,516 of those yards on 216 carries and he has scored 16 touchdowns. By contrast, Arizona has rushed for only 1,622 yards with 20 touchdowns.
Keola Antolin leads the Wildcats with 667 yards on 142 carries. Hunter had 700 yards rushing by the fifth game of the season.
The bottom line: Oklahoma State will likely get its rushing yardage. The key will be limiting big plays (for example, third-down conversions or a demoralizing long touchdown run).
Arizona could have been more of a threat to No. 1 Oregon in Eugene had it not been for Josh Huff‘s 85-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
Stanford wore down the Cats by converting 9 of 14 third-down plays. The Cardinal’s offensive line shoved aside Arizona’s defensive front as Stepfan Taylor rushed for four touchdowns. The UA allowed only two rushing touchdowns — both against Oregon State in another loss — in its six games before facing Stanford.
USC’s Marc Tyler and his offensive line is arguably the most physically gift and imposing unit the UA faced this year. The Trojans’ line was too much for Arizona to handle. That was exposed especially in the second half. Tyler had 10 of his 31 carries in the fourth quarter when USC went for the knockout punch.
ASU beat Arizona because the Wildcats self-destructed with two blocked extra-point tries by Alex Zendejas, and at least five dropped potential interceptions. ASU’s defense also limited the Cats to five successful third-down conversions in 17 attempts.
The Sun Devils were also afforded 92 offensive plays in the double-overtime game. Any team given 92 tries to advance the ball has a good chance of winning.