ARIZONA FOOTBALL

Arizona football: Stillwater could be rough

2011-09-08T00:01:00Z 2012-11-30T16:19:21Z Arizona football: Stillwater could be roughRyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
September 08, 2011 12:01 am  • 

STILLWATER, Okla. - Boone Pickens Stadium boasts 4,000 club-level seats and exactly 94 luxury suites. Its 146,000 square foot, $185 million West End Zone building is among the newest, nicest college football facilities in the nation.

Just about the only thing Oklahoma State's "billionaire bowl" lacks is sideline space. Especially for visitors.

"Their fans are unmerciful. They're close to you," UA coach Mike Stoops said. "They've done a lot of great things there, but they didn't move the wall back."

"They're right on top of you," offensive coordinator Seth Littrell added, "and they'll let you know about it, too."

If the Arizona Wildcats feel cornered in tonight's nationally televised game against Oklahoma State - well, it's because they are.

Consider:

• Starting wide receiver Juron Criner did not practice this week because of an undisclosed illness, and is not expected to play. Stoops offered few details about Criner's health, and UA spokesmen have declined comment on what's wrong or how much time he could miss.

• Oklahoma State (1-0) is ranked No. 9 nationally. The Cowboys are coming off a 61-34 shellacking of Louisiana-Lafayette, and enter tonight's game ranked first nationally in passing and total offense.

• The Wildcats have lost seven of their last eight nonconference road games, including seven in a row between 2002 and 2009. Add in Arizona's bowl games, which were essentially nonconference games played at neutral sites, and the Wildcats have lost nine of 11 - including a 36-10 defeat to OSU in December's Alamo Bowl.

Arizona has no choice but to embrace the underdog role.

Tonight's game marks the start of hellacious three-game stretch in which the Cats will certainly be underdogs; they'll face Stanford at home on Sept. 17 and host Oregon a week later before going to USC.

"It's a Thursday night, a national game - we already know that," quarterback Nick Foles said. "We know it's going to be an amazing atmosphere. I'm looking forward to the challenge."

Foles is coming off a 412-yard, five-touchdown performance in last weekend's 41-10 win over Northern Arizona. The season opening victory was a mixed bag: While the Wildcats moved the ball at will through the air, they struggled on defense and with special teams play. The Lumberjacks held the ball for 13 minutes in the second quarter alone, dinking and dunking the Wildcats' defense with short passes.

Expect Oklahoma State to go deeper. Justin Blackmon is widely viewed as the nation's top wide receiver; the reigning Biletnikoff Award winner has put together 13 consecutive games with at least 100 receiving yards, an NCAA record He'll face a UA secondary that played passively against NAU. They'll be more aggressive tonight.

"It'll be a great thing for us if we play a lot of press coverage, a lot more man and go out there and cover him," safety Robert Golden said.

Blackmon, quarterback Brandon Weeden and safety Markelle Martin make Oklahoma State one of the toughest teams the Wildcats will face all season. Stoops called the Cowboys "very complete in all areas. There's no apparent weakness on this team."

There's no room for error. Heck, there's hardly room to breathe.

"You've got to try to block it all out, concentrate on one play at a time and not get caught up in all that," Stoops said. "It does you no good, first of all. You've got to concentrate on what you have to do to give yourself a chance to win."

TODAY

• Who: Arizona at No. 9 Oklahoma St.

• When: 5 p.m.

• TV: ESPN

• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM

 

 

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