Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Two aces: Arizona’s Foles, Criner start with a dream game

Through Saturday night's games, nobody in the country had thrown for more yards in the first week than Nick Foles. Photo by Chris Morrison, US-PRESSWIRE

Arizona’s first offensive play of the season was fitting: Nick Foles to Juron Criner deep down the sideline.

Seth Littrell, in his first year as the full-time offensive coordinator, had settled on that opening salvo in meetings the night before Saturday night’s game against NAU, deciding to immediately lead with his two aces.

“That’s what he wanted to do and I was like, ‘OK, I’m down,’” Foles said after Arizona’s 41-10 victory in front of 51,761 in Arizona Stadium.

So Foles ran that one play over and over in the stadium of his mind for about the next 24 hours, visualizing it, executing it over and over.

“I was dreaming of that play all night,” he said.

Dreaming of beating double coverage. Reality was even better.

NAU played Criner one-on-one on the first play — thank you, very much — and Foles, after a play fake, lofted a deep pass down the left sideline. Criner made the catch for a 42-yard gain despite pass interference on cornerback Randy Hale Jr.

Two plays later, Foles again went to Criner, again alone against poor Mr. Hall. This time, the play went for a 10-yard touchdown in the left corner of the end zone.

And the Wildcats’ passing game was off and running.

“Those are our go-to guys,” coach Mike Stoops said.

“Juron and Nick are two very established players on a national level. That’s what we expect of those guys every time they step on the field.”

Arizona’s quick-paced spread offense was the best part of the Wildcats’ victory, as Foles completed 34 of 42 passes for 412 yards and a personal-record five touchdowns — all to different receivers.

Criner had six catches for 151 yards and one touchdown. He made a stunning 44-yard catch on a jump ball late in the first half to set up an unsuccessful field goal try, and he later took a screen pass and weaved through traffic across the field for a 28-yard gain.

“Who wouldn’t pass the ball to Criner,” said NAU coach Jerome Souers. “You would be crazy not to. In order to defend against him, you have to have perfect technique, and tonight we didn’t. We have him a lot of space and a lot of opportunities to make plays.”

Arizona had to punt only three times, and if it seemed as if the offense bogged down in the second quarter that was because it rarely had the ball. NAU trimmed a 14-0 deficit to 14-10 with two drives that took 11:20 off the clock.

The Wildcats scored touchdowns on four of its six full possessions of the second half, getting rolling early in the third quarter when cornerback Trevin Wade presented the offense a gift with an interception at the NAU 18.

Foles hit a short pass to Keola Antolin on the next play, and Antolin broke a tackle, hugged the sideline and dove into the end zone.

“The key is always the offensive line,” said Foles, who was sacked once. “I thought they did a great job tonight. I was just reading the defense … just delivering the ball.”

Only one of Arizona’s six scoring drives lasted more than 2 minutes, 16 seconds. Part of that was due to short fields, and part due to a faster tempo to the no-huddle spread attack.

“We kept it simple with our formations, and we played at a faster speed,” Foles said. “The strength of the offense is keeping in rhythm.”

Search site | Terms of service