NCF Nation: Northern Arizona Lumberjacks
Taking advantage of a couple of big plays on offense and three interceptions from the defense, the Wildcats downed the Lumberjacks 35-0 Friday night in Tucscon.
Playing without All-American running back Ka'Deem Carey, the nation's leading rusher from last season who was serving a one-game suspension stemming from his offseason issues, the Wildcats offense was hit-and-miss with B.J. Denker taking over for Matt Scott. At times, Denker looked sharp on his reads. Other times, the entire offense looked like a work in progress.
After marching 75 yards on 10 plays on its opening drive, capping it with a beautifully designed 11-yard touchdown pass from Denker to Daniel Jenkins, the Arizona offense stalled for the majority of the first half. A string of three straight punts, including back-to-back three-and-outs, was snapped when Jenkins broke loose on a 91-yard touchdown run -- the third-longest run from scrimmage in Arizona history. He finished with 139 yards and a score on 12 carries.
Denker added a 30-yard touchdown run in the third quarter and safety Tra'Mayne Bondurant returned the first of his two interceptions 23 yards for a touchdown early in the second half.
The Wildcats, who were second in the Pac-12 last year in total offense with 526.2 yards per game, totaled 393 yards, with 306 of them coming on the ground. Denker was an efficient 9 of 13 for 87 yards and a touchdown, but missed on a few deep opportunities. It's worth noting that the Arizona offense turned in a turnover-free performance.
Javelle Allen spelled Denker late in the game and rushed for a 61-yard touchdown on his third play.
Defensively, the Wildcats pitched the shutout by intercepting NAU’s Kyren Poe three times -- two by Bondurant and another from freshman Devin Holiday. NAU’s Andy Wilder also missed a pair of field goals.
“I thought defensively we played pretty well for the most part,” Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez told the Pac-12 Network after the game. “We missed a few tackles. They did a good job of shortening the game. We’ve got a lot of things to fix, certainly some execution issues on offense ... From the first game, you can learn a lot. We’re going to learn a lot from this game.”
As a great man once said: "D'oh."
Must have forgotten to take my vitamins. Or maybe my screwy gloating about my 2009 record infused my karma with stupid.
Well, here goes nothing.
Arizona 45, The Citadel 10: The key for the Wildcats: Assert yourself, get the starters to the bench. Start thinking about Iowa.
Arizona State 38, Northern Arizona 9: The key for the Sun Devils: Assert yourself, get the starters to the bench. Start thinking about Wisconsin.
California 30, Colorado 21: Colorado looks like a much improved team from 2009, but the Bears should be able to prevail at home. Wonder how Act II of Cal wide receiver Keenan Allen's freshman year will go?
Oregon 35, Tennessee 20: The Volunteers won't make things easy. The crowd at Neyland Stadium will be juiced. But the Ducks' myriad offensive weapons will break through with difference-making big plays. Interested to see how quarterback Darron Thomas looks in the early going.
Stanford 33, UCLA 24: Andrew Luck will make a couple of plays downfield, and then the Cardinal offensive line will take over. The big questions are Bruins quarterback Kevin Prince and Stanford's new 3-4 defense. Which looks good?
USC 45, Virginia 17: Here's a guess that Matt Barkley and the offense again roll, but the defense also will join the fun in front of a home Coliseum crowd hungry to talk about football and, if for just three hours, forget about a horrible offseason.
Washington 31, Syracuse 22: Jake Locker and the Huskies offense will be much better at home after a poor-to-middling outing at BYU. The Orange won't be a pushover, though.
Washington State 35, Montana State 21: An absolute must-win for coach Paul Wulff and the Cougars. If they lose to an FCS foe and start 0-2, it's not hard to imagine a winless season. On the other hand, if they play well, a bit of confidence might seep into the locker room.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
A good way to make a young quarterback's life easy is to rush for 318 yards per game.
That success on the ground, however, makes it difficult to reach any conclusions about Arizona quarterback Matt Scott. He's made some good plays with his feet -- his 65.5 yards rushing per game ranks ninth in the conference. And bad plays with his arm -- see two picks and just one touchdown.
While his coaches seem generally satisfied, a visit to Iowa should provide a better measure than home games vs. Central Michigan and Northern Arizona. There's no direction attached to the Hawkeyes.
|Chris Morrison/US Presswire|
|Matt Scott (4) has made plays with his feet, but Arizona needs its QB to improve his passing.|
"I don't think we'll be able to rush for 300 yards," Wildcats offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes said. "So our passing game is going to get tested this week."
Scott has completed 66 percent of his throws, but has rarely looked downfield. Part of that isn't his fault. His two best receivers, Delashaun Dean and tight end Rob Gronkowski, have battled injuries. Gronkowski, who led the Wildcats with 10 touchdowns last year, will miss the Iowa game because his back is still bothering him.
"I've been really impressed with his poise and his leadership skills," coach Mike Stoops said. "He's managed the team very well. I think he's made good decisions for the most part. He can make a lot of big throws. We just missed on a couple of them. He throws the ball well and he's been very accurate for the most part. I don't see anything I don't like in Matt at this point. Obviously, the competition will get much stiffer as we move through the season."
What Scott hasn't been able to do is cement his status as the starter. Backup Nick Foles is still in the picture. Foles looked sharp completing 6 of 8 passes for 44 yards and a touchdown against Northern Arizona, and he may see spot action at Iowa, particularly if the Wildcats offense stalls against a rugged Hawkeyes defense that welcomes back eight starters from a crew that ranked ninth in the nation last year against the run (94 yards per game).
It's worth noting, however, that Iowa State rushed for 190 yards against the Hawkeyes last weekend, with five interceptions doing in the Cyclones in during a 35-3 defeat.
It's unlikely the Wildcats will be able to go into rowdy Kinnick Stadium, run Nic Grigsby 40 times and win the game. They will need to throw. Scott, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound sophomore, believes that won't be a problem. He said his offense has a few more tricks up its sleeve and a lot more plays in the playbook.
"We haven't really opened much stuff up yet," he said. "We've been relying on the run game. We're really close on a lot of passes. We're going to get it done."
This will be Scott's first road start, and Kinnick isn't the most hospitable environment. It will be a challenge to communicate with his team, and the Wildcats offense requires a fair amount of communication due to a variety of checks the quarterback is responsible for at the line of scrimmage.
Scott said he's not worried about crowd noise.
"I'm good at blocking that stuff out," he said. "I don't worry about fans or stuff around me. I just worry about stuff on the field."
Scott also said he's fine if he has to share time with Foles.
"Whatever works for the team, that's alright for me," he said. "As long as we get that W, it doesn't matter to me who goes in or how long they go in."
One of the big stories of the week has been the return of Stoops and his brother Mark, Arizona's defensive coordinator, to their alma mater. Both played defensive back for the Hawkeyes and then-coach Hayden Fry.
Stoops has waved away the sentimental angle for the most part. "I'm not real nostalgic about it," he said.
That's because the Wildcats could make a big leap forward as a program with a win.
While they won eight games last year and won their first bowl game since 1998, Pac-10 media picked the Wildcats eighth in the conference's preseason poll.
Some apparently still have doubts about the trajectory of the program.
Winning at Iowa would earn the Wildcats national attention -- perhaps a national ranking? -- and would build up confidence as they head into the conference schedule.
Said Scott: "If we can pull this out, we can send a message to everybody that we can do a lot more than what we have in the past. I think we have the team to do it."
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
For entertainment purposes only. And if I'm wrong, I'm guessing you'll be entertained.
Oregon State 24, Stanford 20: This smelled like a potential Stanford upset, but then the Cardinal got hit with a couple of injuries on the OL and at WR, so the Beavers get the nod in a game that figures to be low scoring. Oregon State's biggest edge is at the skill positions, and here's a guess that QB Lyle Moevao will be much smoother this season distributing the ball.
Oklahoma State 38, Washington State 24: The Cougars were hit hard by bad news this week with DT Andy Roof being kicked out of school and OT Dan Rowlands retiring due to recurring shoulder problems. The Cougars are thin on both lines. Meanwhile, the Cowboys' offensive line boasts 89 career starts, which makes this a mismatch up front.
USC 42, Virginia 10: The biggest point of interest here is how well USC QB Mark Sanchez plays after his rapid recovery from a dislocated knee. It's also worth watching to see how Pete Carroll distributes the ball among his six tailbacks. And you might want to catch the nation's best defense. Virginia is rebuilding, with just 11 starters back, and the Trojans don't do that.
California 28, Michigan State 24: This might be the best matchup of the weekend. Kevin Riley surged late to win the Bears QB job over Nate Longshore, but Longshore is expected to see some action. Will TB Jahvid Best put on a show? Speaking of shows, Spartans tailback Javon Ringer and a huge OL will test the Bears' new 3-4 look.
Oregon 35, Washington 24: Justin Roper takes over Oregon's spread-option offense after Nate Costa went down with a knee injury, and his strong performance in the Sun Bowl suggests he is fully capable. He'll get a lot of help from Jeremiah Johnson and LeGarrette Blount in the backfield and an offensive line that should have its way with the young Huskies front. A Washington upset will require a spectacular performance from QB Jake Locker, which is not beyond the realm of possibility.
Arizona 44, Idaho 20: Arizona needs a fast start and it will get it here. The veteran Wildcats offense should look good out of the gate, even without outstanding TE Rob Gronkowski. Moreover, the young defense probably will build up its confidence against an overmatched Idaho offense.
Arizona State 48, Northern Arizona 17: The Sun Devils get a preseason game. They might want to recall Appalachian State at Michigan a year ago and remember to show up.
Tennessee 27, UCLA 17: New UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel's debut is a tough one, with an SEC power coming to town. The UCLA defense and special teams could keep this one close, but the offense -- even with guru Norm Chow calling the shots -- figures to struggle mightily against a tough Vols DL.