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Thursday, September 8, 2011
Offense on display in Alamo Bowl rematch

By Sharon Katz

Thursday’s rematch of the 2010 Valero Alamo Bowl between Arizona Wildcats and ninth-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys (ESPN, 8 ET) features two teams with prolific quarterback-wide receiver combinations.

Arizona’s Nick Foles led the nation in the first week of action with 412 passing yards and five touchdowns in a 41-10 blowout win over Northern Arizona. That is the fourth 400-yard passing game of Foles’ career. Only Case Keenum has more 400-yard games since the start of 2009.

Foles’ favorite receiver is Juron Criner, who caught six of the nine passes thrown to him for 151 yards and a touchdown in the season opener.

While Foles led the nation in individual passing yards in college football's initial week, Oklahoma State led the nation with 666 total yards when it won 61-34 over Louisiana-Lafayette.

Quarterback Brandon Weeden’s favorite target is Justin Blackmon, who has 13 straight 100-yard receiving games. Blackmon beat Arizona deep in the Alamo Bowl with a 72-yard touchdown reception, and he has the ability to break long plays more frequently than any other receiver in the country.

Since the start of 2010, no other receiver has more 20-yard touchdown receptions than Blackmon’s 12 of this distance. Weeden knows that he can just throw the ball deep and Blackmon will likely come down with it.

In order for the Wildcats to pull off the upset, they must fix several mistakes made in the Alamo Bowl, when they lost 36-10. Foles struggled to throw the ball downfield, completing 7-of-18 attempts thrown 10-or-more yards downfield with all three of his interceptions coming on throws of that distance.

When targeting Criner on downfield passes in the bowl game, Foles was 1-for-4 with one interception. Foles showed improvement on throws of 10+ yards in his first game of 2011 as he completed 8-of-12 passes for three touchdowns and no interceptions.

Weeden and Blackmon face different challenges as they prepare for Thursday. Weeden tied his career high with three interceptions versus Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday.

The offense did not look particularly sharp after the departure of offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen, and for the first time in 13 games Justin Blackmon did not catch a touchdown.