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Arizona-Arizona State: Five Wildcats to watch

Nick Foles

Arizona quarterback Nick Foles will be trying to solve an ASU defense that has mostly held him in check in the past two seasons. Photo by Chris Morrison-US PRESSWIRE

Five Sun Devils to watch

It only takes one play to be a rivalry hero for a lifetime.

Some in the Arizona-ASU duels have been stars who only added to their legend — Chuck Cecil, John Jefferson, Max Zendejas, Byron Evans.

Others had shining moments impossible to forget: James Debow’s goal-line stuff of ASU running back Channing Williams in 1986, Kevin Galbreath’s 51-yard touchdown run for a 7-6 ASU win in 1992, Brian Holland’s 92-yard touchdown reception in 1982.

Who is it going to be this season?


Here’s a look at five Arizona players who can make a difference Saturday night at Sun Devil Stadium.

Quarterback Nick Foles

Arizona can’t win without an inspired effort from Foles, who has largely been contained by the Sun Devils in the past two seasons. ASU has an aggressive defense but — last week’s game against Washington State notwithstanding — usually does a nice job of keeping everything in front of it.

Foles has thrown for only 410 yards in two games against ASU, completing 46 of 79 passes (58.2 percent). The yardage total and the accuracy is well below career averages.

Still, he likely would be remembered as a rivalry hero if not for a blocked PAT in the final minute of regulation last season. That robbed Foles of a having a third game-winning touchdown drive last season.

Foles was once committed to Arizona State, but he signed with Michigan State after coach Dirk Koetter was fired and Dennis Erickson was hired.

Now, Foles says of the Sun Devils: “I’ve never liked them. I hate them. That’s all I need to go play against them.”

Cornerback Trevin Wade

Is this right attitude or the wrong one? The senior said earlier this week that the Arizona-Arizona State rivalry hasn’t grown on him over the years.

“Not really,” he said.

“I feel where everybody is coming from with it being a big game and stuff like that, but every game is a rivalry to me. I try to take every game seriously and take it all the same. I believe in getting fired up every game. That’s my deal.”

Wade has had a nice bounce-back season from a subpar junior year, breaking up a team-high 10 passes. He will have his hands full with Gerell Robinson and Mike Willie, both 6-4, on the outside.

Juron Criner (right) and David Roberts celebrate after Criner's touchdown catch against Arizona State last season. Photo by Rob Schumacher/The Arizona Republic

Receiver Juron Criner

He has rarely been healthy since the opener, sidelined by an appendectomy and then a hand issue and more recently, a knee injury.

He’s had a few standout games, but this has been well short of the 100-catch season former coach Mike Stoops thought possible for Criner, and there is a sense (even within the program) that he hasn’t pushed himself lately.

Criner has 57 catches for 693 yards and has managed eight touchdowns. He can still be a playmaker — Arizona’s best on the outside by far.

Can he summon one more excellent effort?

If so, he could leave Sun Devil Stadium as Arizona’s career leader in touchdown receptions. He has 29, one behind Theopolis Bell.

Kicker John Bonano

Could the Wildcats actually have the edge at kicker?

Bonano, since taking over at midseason, has made 6 of 7 field goals, missing only from 57 yards last week after a bad snap messed up the timing of the kick.

Bonano has made all 14 of his PATs — and the height of his kicks is reason for Arizona to feel reasonably good — fingers crossed — that he won’t get one blocked.

Meanwhile, ASU coach Dennis Erickson has been shaking his head at his kicker — redshirt freshman Alex Garoutte.

He’s had a tough couple of weeks, going 0 for 3 on field goals in a one-point loss at UCLA, including a 46-yarder on the final play of the game. Garoutte, last week at Washington State, missed a 21-yarder that would have tied the game with 5:45 to play. The Devils ended up losing by 10.

Running back Ka’Deem Carey

It will be the first rivalry game for the freshman, who took a late recruiting visit to Arizona State right before Signing Day before sticking with the Wildcats. That was a huge recruiting win for UA.

Carey has 78 rushes for 333 yards and six touchdowns, and he has 11 receptions for 156 yards and another score. He has received the majority of the team’s chances on kick returns.

He is the future of the position for Arizona.

“If he keeps on the right path, he could be the best back to ever play here,” said Arizona strength and conditioning coach Corey Edmond.

“He’s a phenomenal talent. I’ve enjoyed working with him. I have been looking forward to helping him develop that breakaway speed. I think that’s the only thing that keeps him right now from being in that elite status … because he’s strong, tremendous balance, tremendous agility.

“I mean, he’s got the whole package.”

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