Criner Ready For A Breakout?by Clair Wyant on Oct. 22, 2011, under Football, University of Arizona
After a 2-5 start, there is a sign of hope for the 2011 University of Arizona football team. There was a scene of optimism beginning of the season. There were a lot of injuries with linemen, and 3 of the 4 first games were against top 25 teams. If there was one silver lining, it was the QB Nick Foles to WR Junor Criner combination.
Last year, Criner had a stellar stat line; 82 catches for 1,233 yards, 11 touchdowns, averaging 15 yards a catch for 94.8 yards per game. He also entered the season as a Maxwell and Biletnikoff Award candidate, an award given to the best college football player.
There was a gray cloud over the sky regarding if he would play this season as he spent the summer taking care of family and personal issues. He put on a solid performance in the first game of the season against Northern Arizona (151 yards, 1 touchdown), but did not play the next game against Oklahoma St. from recovering from an appendectomy.
Then, things fell off like a cliff the next four games. He combined for 20 catches for 187 yards and 2 touchdowns, all resulting in losses for the Cats’. He was down. Per press reports, he would not say a word to the media, and his body language showed he was not happy with the way things were going.
Was his personal & family issues still lingering?
Was his injury still lingering?
Was he simply going through a slump?
Was it former head coach Mike Stoops?
Looks like it was Stoops. The whole team was down after the first 6 games, including a devastating loss to the projected last team in the Pac-12, Oregon St. Excluding the NAU victory, Arizona had not won a football game since October 30 last year, 10 straight losses. Special teams could not make a field goal to save their life, and the defense just let the opposing offense looks like they were playing against a Pop Warner team (ranked last in defense in the Pac-12).
Arizona Athletic Director, Greg Byrne, released Stoops as head football coach, and named defensive coordinator, Tim Kish, as interim coach. There was a feeling it was Stoops, and his relentless attitude that did not make the game fun for these college kids. They did not feel motivated, and some of his antics Stoops was known to do on the sidelines actually hurt, not help, the team.
Criner broke out for 10 catches, 101 yards for 3 touchdowns, the type of numbers he was expected to produce every game this season, leading Arizona to a 48-12 win over a struggling UCLA team.
With the new enlightened atmosphere in the Arizona Wildcat football program under interim coach Kish, so far, appears Criner got what he needed to get a breakout. Kish did what he needed to do with Xs and Os to have the star become a star for a game. He also did what he had to do in the locker room to regroup, and get a “fresh start” to the season.