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Arizona-NAU game blog: Foles sharp, but about that kicking game …

Gino Crump

Gino Crump (right) celebrates with Austin Hill after his 18-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. Photo by Chris Morrison-US PRESSWIRE

Arizona beat NAU, 41-10, which is about what you would have expected for a final score, but a couple of problems from last season resurfaced: poor coverage in the secondary and a comedy of errors in the kicking game.

The good news was that the Wildcats, fueled by Trevin Wade’s interception early in the third quarter, grabbed momentum after leading only 14-10 at halftime.

“I thought it was a much better second half,” coach Mike Stoops said.

“Our guys played pretty clean most of the second half. The second quarter was disappointing. They controlled the ball almost the whole second quarter. Our coverage just wasn’t what it needed to be.”

At one point, NAU completed 16 consecutive passes, often targeting CB Shaquille Richardson.

“Shaquille can play better,” Stoops said. “He knows it. I wasn’t pleased with the way he played, and neither was he.”

Stoops said he doesn’t know what he will do at place-kicker for Thursday’s Oklahoma State game. Jaime Salazar missed badly wide right from 46 yards, and pushed a PAT wide right — not what Arizona wanted after Alex Zendejas’ misadventures late last season. Zendejas came in to kick the final PAT.

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Arizona has this one in hand. I’ll be back after the game with quotes, notes and observations. In the meantime, have your say in the comments section; what did you think?

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Nick Foles has his fifth TD pass of the game, this one going to WR Gino Crump in the back right corner of the end zone for an 18-yard score. Take note: Alex Zendejas — not Jaime Salazar — comes in to convert the extra point. Arizona leads 41-10 with 9:26 to go.

Foles is 34 of 42 for 412 yards. Nice start.

* * *

Ka’Deem Carey gets his first college carry early in the fourth quarter. The true freshman from CDO gains 5 yard on his first attempt … and then runs the ball on the next play for 10 yards.

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Austin Hill’s first career catch is memorable. The redshirt freshman hauls in a 24-yard touchdown pass from Nick Foles with 35 seconds left in the third quarter as the Wildcats have pulled away nicely after halftime. The Cats now lead 34-10.

Yes, 34 — not 35 — because Jaime Salazar was wide right on the extra point attempt.

Paging Alex Zendejas?

* * *

Back to the blowout, as expected. Arizona drives 85 yards in five plays, fueled by a 28-yard pass to Juron Criner, who danced across the field to avoid several tackles, to take a 28-10 lead with 3:10 to go in the third quarter.

Nick Foles capped the drive with a 29-yard touchdown pass over the middle to a wide-open Richard Morrison.

* * *

Arizona’s defense makes a play and helps give the Cats breathing room early in the second half. After a three-and-out by the UA offense, cornerback Trevin Wade jumps on a quick out, stepping in front of the receiver to pick off Cary Grossart at the 18-yard-line.

One play later, Nick Foles swung a pass to RB Keola Antolin to the left side. Antolin cut up field, broke out of an attempted leg tackle, headed down the left sideline and dived into the end zone, sticking the ball out inside the pylon.

Arizona leads 21-10 with 13:07 to go in the third quarter.

Until the interception, Grossart had completed 16 consecutive passes.

* * *

Bad first-half sign, Part 1: NAU QB Cary Grossart has completed 16 of 17 passes for 145 yards and a touchdown. Just think what Oklahoma State QB Brandon Weeden and WR Justin Blackmon can do next week.

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Bad first-half sign, Part II: Arizona, with the memories of last year’s last-season kicking disaster still fresh, has botched field goals of 44 and 46 yards. A bad snap was the culprit on the 44-yarder, and then Jaime Salazar, who beat out incumbent Alex Zendejas this fall, missed badly from 46 yards.

* * *

NAU, continually picking on cornerback Shaquille Richardson, drives 91 yards in nine plays to score a touchdown with 25 seconds left in the half. That makes it 14-10, Arizona.

The big play on the drive was a 36-yard pass from Cary Grossart to a wide-open Ify Umodo, as two UA defensive backs, including Richardson, had a mix-up and were covering the same receiver. NAU kept driving and scored on a 12-yard pass to Khalil Paden, who beat Richardson to the inside.

* * *

A successful debut as a punter for Kyle Dugandzic. From midfield, he hits a 41-yarder that NAU has to fair catch at the 9. It’s these kind of pin-them-deep scenarios in which Keenyn Crier struggled last season.

* * *

NAU puts together a nice drive, resulting in a 28-yard field goal with 7:39 to play before half to make the score 14-3. The Lumberjacks drove 64 yards in 13 plays, taking 7:23 off the clock, which is a long time for the UA offense to be without the ball. That will cut into Nick Foles 60-pass pace.

* * *

Nick Foles attempted 15 passes in the first quarter … a 60-per-game pace, just like Mike Stoops said.

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Note: Each of Arizona’s redshirt freshman tackles — Mickey Baucus and Fabbians Ebbele — had a false start penalty in the first quarter.

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Arizona scores with 2 seconds left in the first quarter to take a 14-0 lead. Taimi Tutogi carries the ball into the end zone on a 5-yard play to cap a 52-yard drive.

* * *

Kicking game misadventures. I know. Hard to believe, right? This one didn’t involve a kick, because there was no kick. The snap on a 44-yard field goal attempt was high on the right side, and it zoomed through the hand of holder Kyle Dugandzic. Kicker Jaime Salazar tracked down the ball and fell on it after a 26-yard loss.

* * *

Tweets Scott Terrell of the TucsonCitizen.com Sports Network: “The new kicker has GRONK!’s number? Doesn’t seem right. But if it gives him the power to kick it over the linemen…”

Yep… Jaime Salazar is No. 48 and he DID make the first PAT attempt of his UA career.

* * *

News flash: Juron Criner is really good. What does it say about Arizona’s intentions this season that its first play was a deep sideline throw from Nick Foles to Criner? Criner made the catch along the left sideline, despite defensive pass interference, for a 42-yard gain. One play later, Foles went back to Criner in the left corner of the end zone for a 10-yard score.

Throw, baby, throw.

Arizona leads 7-0 with 12:35 to go in the first quarter.

* * *

True freshman linebacker Rob Hankins is a starter. Arizona was ready to come out in its nickel package, but then ran Hankins onto the field as the third linebacker instead for the first play.

* * *

It hadn’t been reported previously, but starting right guard Trace Biskin has been bothered by a right knee injury of late, and he was not dressed out in warmups. Junior Shane Zink — who, like Biskin, has never started a game — should move in with the first team.

* * *

The Arizona Wildcats football season is here, with big change in the air — and we don’t just mean the new video board.

The Daily Oklahoman is reporting that Oklahoma’s “sole focus” right now is on joining the Pac-12, in the rapidly changing world of conference realignment. The Pac-12 would be interested in becoming 16 — adding Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

As for the football tonight, this will be the spot for our updating game coverage. Keep checking back for in-game analysis and opinion.

Here are “Five things to watch” that I wrote this morning for CBSSports.com Rapid Reports (another fine way to keep up to date on the Cats, during the week and on game day):

No. 5 — The new 5,356-square foot video board at Arizona Stadium is the second-largest on-campus board in college football. AD Greg Byrne calls it a “game-changer” in terms of the atmosphere. Coach Mike Stoops said: “I think it’s awesome.”

No. 4 — The youth movement begins. Thirteen true or redshirt freshmen are on the two-deep, and that doesn’t count RB Ka’Deem Carey. The four-star recruit is officially fourth-string but is expected to get plenty of touches in the opener and perhaps make the biggest impact of the freshman class.

No. 3 — QB Nick Foles, in charge of a fast-paced spread offense, passed for 3,191 yards last season, missing about 2 1/2 games because of injury. He takes aim at the school season passing record (3,683, Willie Tuitama, 2007), which would net him the career record, too (9,211, Tuitama).

No. 2 — The pass rush has been re-tooled around new starting DEs Mohammed Usman and C.J. Parish. Look for Parish, a former OLB, to play as a stand-up end in pass-rushing situations. Arizona, built more on speed than brawn, likely will blitz more this season.

No. 1 — The OL, with a total of one career start and no seniors on the two-deep, is the least experienced unit in the country. The line, led by junior C Kyle Quinn, needs to run block better than it did in camp and gather confidence before playing Oklahoma State on Sept. 8.

Here are other key links:

The season prediction

Three Arizona players to watch

Lumberjacks set for a statement game

Five reasons to be excited (including one really big one)

And here is the link to the whole series of the 24 Hours of Football Blogging.

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