The first time NAU quarterback Cary Grossart dropped back to pass Saturday night he was thrown to the ground by Arizona's C.J. Parish and his helmet nearly flew off.
On the next play, he threw an incomplete pass.
It wasn't the best beginning for the NAU junior, who was making his first career start.
But, the 6-foot-1-inch, 180-pounder then did something none of the 51,761 fans at Arizona Stadium expected: He completed his next 16 passes. Grossart finished the first half 16 for 17 for 145 yards and a touchdown. His 16 straight completions were two shy of a school record and a big reason NAU was down just 14-10 at halftime.
"It felt great," Grossart said. "We wanted to come out and throw a little bit, and we felt like we could.
"There's a lot to take in those first couple of drives. The hit (by Parish) rung my bell a little bit, but I came back and was able to shake it off and started making some plays in the second drive."
The junior came back to earth a bit in the second half and finished the game 20 for 26 for 179 yards with a touchdown and an interception. His completion streak ended on his first pass of the second half when he was intercepted by Trevin Wade.
Grossart waited three years to earn his first start. After redshirting his first season in Flagstaff, Grossart served as the third-string quarterback the past two seasons, but beat out Arizona State transfer Chasen Stangel for the starting job in fall practice.
"The offensive line blocked for him as best we could, and he did a phenomenal job in his first start," said sophomore offensive lineman and Sabino graduate Kyle Walker. "He's come so far. He's taken all the coaching that's come his way. He showed everything he can do tonight."
Zendejas gets a chance
Senior kicker Alex Zendejas, who lost the starting job to junior Jaime Salazar before the season, was called on to kick the extra point after Arizona's sixth touchdown and made it.
Salazar missed a field goal attempt and an extra point attempt earlier in the game.
The Wildcats also botched a field goal try when long snapper Brian Chacon's snap went over holder Kyle Dugandzic's head.
Junior Trace Biskin missed Saturday's win with a minor knee injury and was in street clothes on Arizona's sideline.
The Westlake Village, Calif., resident was slated to start at right guard.
Instead, converted tackle Shane Zink started in place of Biskin.
The Wildcats had another brief scare on the line when junior center Kyle Quinn was shaken up on a block and missed a few plays. He returned on the next possession.
The UA unveiled its 2011 team captains before Saturday's game, and the list wasn't all that surprising. Quarterback Nick Foles, running back Keola Antolin, cornerback Trevin Wade and safety Robert Golden handled the midfield coin toss.
The UA won, and opted to defer.
Ten true freshmen made their debut in Saturday's win headlined by former Canyon del Oro star Ka'Deem Carey, who entered in the fourth quarter and had 59 yards on nine carries.
Linebacker Rob Hankins was the only true freshman to start, playing next to linebackers Paul Vassallo and Derek Earls.
Star reporter Ryan Finley contributed to this report.