- Ted Miller, ESPN Staff Writer
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Here are two images from last year's Alamo Bowl, in which Oklahoma State trounced Arizona 36-10.
Image No. 1: Cowboys All-American receiver Justin Blackmon deciding not just to score a 71-yard touchdown against blown coverage but taking a really, really long route to the end zone in order to get some good showboating time.
What it communicates: A bush-league play, not a great moment for a great player.
Image No. 2: Wildcats 220-pound safety Adam Hall blowing up Blackmon away from the ball a few plays later.
What it communicates: A cheap shot, but one taken for an obvious reason.
What does it all mean for Arizona's visit to No. 9 Oklahoma State on Thursday night? Maybe nothing. The Cowboys are a top-10 team, while the Wildcats are rebuilding and injury riddled, the latest being the doubtful status of All-Pac-10 receiver Juron Criner.
But it does hint that both teams might have some extra salt for this one. Don't be surprised if things get a bit chippy out there.
Yes, the Wildcats remember the Alamo.
"He disrespected us," safety Robert Golden said of Blackmon. "[Hall] got payback a little bit. But it's really going to be payback when we step on the field Thursday and compete."
While the final score suggests Cowboys dominance, it was more about Wildcats horribleness. The last of five consecutive defeats to end the season, Arizona lost the turnover battle 4-0 and made major gaffes on offense, defense and special teams. The Wildcats had six possessions in Cowboys territory in the first half but scored only one touchdown. They outgained Oklahoma State 370-312 and had 25 first downs to 17 but couldn't score. Quarterback Nick Foles, who tossed three interceptions, including one returned 62 yards for a touchdown, turned in perhaps the worst performance of his career.
"We made some horrific mistakes against a top-10 team that you can't make and win, no matter how motivated and ready you are," Arizona coach Mike Stoops said.
Stoops mentioned top-10 teams, which leads into an unhappy factoid for the Wildcats, courtesy of the Tucson Citizen: In his tenure at Arizona, Stoops is 0-7 on the road against top-10 teams, and none of those defeats came by fewer than 18 points. The Wildcats have been outscored 291-119 in those games. Not good.
Further, the odds don't look great this time. While Oklahoma State lost former offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen to West Virginia, and free safety Johnny Thomas was declared ineligible this week, the Cowboys welcome back a lot of talent and are among the favorites in a top-heavy Big 12. Meanwhile, the Wildcats are missing a lot of key pieces, and not just due to graduation. Hall, for one, is out with a knee injury, as are two other defensive starters, LB Jake Fischer and CB Jonathan McKnight.
And Criner's apparent absence is a big blow for the passing game. Last week, he caught six passes for 151 yards.
The Wildcats have five new starters on their offensive line, but the defense will be particularly tested on the road against a skilled, veteran offense led by Blackmon and QB Brandon Weeden. Being down two starters in the secondary isn't a good thing against an offense with nine starters back. Last week, Northern Arizona was fairly successful throwing the ball against the Wildcats, most particularly picking on McKnight's replacement, Shaquille Richardson.
"Shaquille didn't have one of his better days, but I know what he can do," Stoops said.
While the conventional wisdom is stacked against the Wildcats -- a team with a lot of questions on the road against a ranked team -- they should be plenty motivated. An upset victory would get the season off to a good start, particularly important during a brutal early schedule that includes three top-10 teams, and it would help remove the bad aftertaste of last year's terrible finish.
And, of course, there's just a little bit of bad feelings from the Alamo Bowl, which the Wildcats certainly remember.
Said Golden, "We usually say we're going on business trips. But we're taking this trip as a street fight."