Bowl Season



Big 12 vs. Pac-10 San Antonio
Dec. 29
9:15 p.m.

Patrick Evans was nice enough to give his insight the Arizona Wildcats. He is the editor at a blog about Arizona sports.

BS: Arizona started 7-1 and lost their last 4 games. What was the difference the final third of the season?

Patrick Evans:
I'll get some heat on this one, but the difference was the return of QB Nick Foles.  Yes, Stanford and Oregon being two of the very best teams in the nation had something to do with it.  Anybody that has to face one of those two in a bowl is going to lose, period.  But Foles has been a different player since he returned.  I see him, more often than not, either intentionally grounding the ball on third down, or passing it to someone that has no chance of reaching the first down line.  I've become an adamant supporter of QB Matt Scott, and I hope he's the starter next season.  The entire offense performed better with him under center.  The running game that never gets going with Foles in, flourished with Scott leading the offense.
I am grateful to Foles for what he has done for the program, particularly last season, but I'm hoping he moves on to the NFL following Arizona's bowl game.  He'd certainly go in the first three rounds, and is a much better fit for the pro game than the college game.
BS:QB Nick Foles had a very good season, but the running game never really got going. Please comment on the offense including Foles and some other personnel.

Patrick Evans:
The main reason, in my opinion, that the running game hasn't become the weapon that it should with Foles at QB has been the frustrating play calling.  Not enough deep passes, so the defense is more than ready for any running plays.  And with a pocket QB like Foles, the defenses don't have to watch for the scramble.
I already commented on Foles a bit, but I'll expand.  He has everything that an NFL coach would want.  Great size, arm strength, and accuracy.  Not very mobile, but should make up for that at the next level with a pro-caliber line and runningbacks.  Get him working in a pass happy system, perhaps the Arizona Cardinals, and he'd be lethal.
RB Keola Antolin is a small back, but has incredible speed and toughness.  No scat back, he'll run right through you if he needs to.  Trait to watch out for, even though he is a primary target the defense can lose him behind the large offensive line.
WR Juron Criner is easily the best wide receiver in the Pac-10, and perhaps the nation.  If any team is foolish enough to leave him open, it's likely going to cost them six points.  Freakish ability to catch the ball while contorting his body and being hit.

BS:The defense was pretty impressive this year. Please comment on some standouts and the defense in general.

Patrick Evans
:The defensive line as a whole was impressive.  The best in the Pac-10, and top-10 nationally.  Standouts are DEs Brooks Reed, Ricky Elmore, and D'Aundre Reed.  Also, DT Justin Washington was a happy surprise this year.  Watch out for him to be a major factor in whatever bowl game Arizona plays in.
The secondary was a bit of a disappointment this season, particularly CB Trevin Wade.  This was expected to be a strong point, but they've been giving up big plays over the second half of the season.  Watch out for CB Shaquille Richardson, there are many calling for the freshman to be the starter, and he should be a factor in the bowl game.
The LBs were expected to be a major weakness heading into the season, but they've played better than expected.  Some improved play calling, and I'd see this as a solid unit.  For now, I'll say that they won't make major mistakes and will occasionally make a big play.  The clear standouts this season for the LBs would have to be Paul Vassallo and Derek Earls.  If for no other reason than that they were expected to struggle, and they have been stabilizing forces for the Arizona defense.

BS:If you had to choose one player to have a breakout performance in the bowl game, who would it be?

Patrick Evans:
That's a tough one.  If you're asking who will have the best game, and receive the most hype for it, that's easy.  WR Juron Criner.  QB Nick Foles is sure to get plenty of attention, but Criner's size and amazing ability will have every pro scout and coach drooling.
If you're asking which player will surprise with a great game, that's a bit tougher.  I'd have to go with DT Justin Washington.  As good as the defensive line has been, most of the credit goes to DEs Ricky Elmore and Brooks Reed.  But Washington will be a major weapon for Arizona for years to come.
Thanks a lot to Patrick Evans of .

Bill Haisten, of the Tulsa World  was nice enough to answer some questions about Oklahoma State.

BS: The Cowboys went 10-2 after returning only 5 total starters. How
much of a surprise was this and how were they able to do it?

Bill Haisten: : A combination of factors. In 2009, running back Kendall
Hunter and middle linebacker Orie Lemon were injured. As seniors this
season, they were tremendous. An offensive line with four new starters
allowed only 10 sacks in 12 games. Dan Bailey and Quinn Sharp might be
the best kicker-punter duo in college football. Brandon Weeden was
extremely effective in his first season as the starting QB. Justin
Blackmon came out of nowhere to become, statistically, the nation’s best
wide receiver.

BS: The offense was terrific, averaging 45 points a game. How much of an
influence has new OC Dana Holgorsen had? Also, please comment on the
weapons including QB Brandon Weeden and All-American WR Justin Blackmon.

Bill Haisten: Holgorsen installed a relatively simple offense that was far
more balanced than expected. OSU got 34 percent of its yardage on run
plays. Kendall Hunter led the Big 12 in rushing with 1,516 yards.
Holgorsen also is an excellent teacher of quarterback fundamentals, and
Weeden benefited tremendously. Weeden already had a great arm, but he
developed better footwork, release technique and field vision because of
Holgorsen. Blackmon is an NFL-ready receiver. In each of the 11 games in
which he played this season, he had at least 100 receiving yards and at
least one TD catch.

BS: The defense played well at times, but in big games, against Oklahoma
and Nebraska, it failed. What went wrong and what are the keys to
success against Arizona?

Bill Haisten: In several games this season, OSU’s third-down defense was
dismal. Against the Cowboys, Nebraska and OU had a combined total of 24
third-down conversions. OSU has been plagued by an inability to pressure
opposing QBs. That’s a huge key against Arizona: Pressuring Nick Foles
and getting third-down stops.

BS: If you could choose one player to have a breakout performance in the
bowl game, who would it be?

Bill Haisten
: Everyone knows that Weeden, Hunter and Blackmon are elite
playmakers. If there’s a surprise breakout guy in the Alamo Bowl, that
guy might be Cowboy freshman running back Joseph Randle. As Hunter’s
backup, Randle averages 5.6 yards per rush attempt and has been a very
effective receiver out of the backfield.

Thanks a lot to Bill Haisten, of the Tulsa World.

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