Posted on: October 18, 2010 2:47 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
When Arizona quarterback Nick Foles went down with a knee injury on Saturday against Washington State, fear immediately spread throughout Tuscon that his season was done, and that Arizona's chances of going to Pasadena were done with him. A feeling that is understandable considering that Foles is one of the biggest reasons the Wildcats have been a force this season.
The good news for the Wildcats is that Foles is only expected to miss two to three weeks with his dislocated kneecap. The bad news is that this injury coincides with the part of Arizona's schedule that provides the biggest test of the season, and that they'll have to depend on the much-maligned Matt Scott during the stretch.
When Scott first came to Arizona three years ago, he was pegged as the future. Scott was a dual-threat quarterback that was going to beat opponents with his arm and his legs, but the problem was that Scott spent most of his time on the field forgetting he had an arm, instead choosing to take off at will.
He was beaten out for the job by Foles last season, and now the junior finds himself thrown into the fire, trying to find the promise he had against teams like Washington, Cal and Stanford. And that's if Foles only misses three weeks. After a trip to Stanford the Wildcats have to face USC before heading north to take on Oregon.
Scott played pretty well against Washington State after Foles went down, throwing for 139 yards and completing 70% of his passes while showing a willingness to stay in the pocket he hadn't shown before.
Still, that was against Washington State, the worst team in the Pac-10, and Scott still made some bad decisions in that game and threw an interception without throwing a touchdown.
Maybe there's a chance that Scott will continue to grow and play well in Foles' absence, finally figuring out how to balance his arm and his legs -- something Arizona coaches should help him with by making adjustments to this week's game plan -- and Arizona won't miss a beat.
Still, something tells me that Scott might play better, but won't be good enough to keep Arizona in contention for the Pac-10. By the time Foles is healthy enough to return to the field, I fear it will be too late.
Posted on: October 17, 2010 3:14 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
1. Oh, right, USC. That team with an embarrassment of riches. Them. It's easy (and not altogether unwise) to forget sometimes based on their on-field "exploits," but the USC Trojans still have a ton of talent. They don't have a ton of experience and they're with a brand-new coach, but still: these guys have some innate physical advantages. Take Matt Barkley, for example. The 5-star recruit had a rough freshman campaign last season with 15 touchdowns and 14 picks, but, y'know, he's still a former 5-star recruit. And he flashed that talent in a big way today with a 25-37, 352 yard, five-touchdown, zero-interception performance against Cal in a 48-14 whipping. Even with the reserves seeing plenty of garbage time, the Trojans still racked up 32 first downs, 602 total yards, and 5.9 yards per rush. And this is against a Cal defense that held UCLA to seven points and Arizona to 10 in their two prior games (yes, 52 to Nevada prior to that, but hey). USC isn't allowed to go to a bowl, and its scholarship restrictions are going to sting for years, but every now and then these Trojans are going to lay waste to mediocre opponents. This was one of those weeks.
2. Jake Locker is here, and not a moment too soon. Washington QB Jake Locker, the much-ballyhooed freshman of three years ago, is a senior now, and whether through lousy luck with injuries, insufficient surrounding talent, or poor play of his own, he hasn't really lived up to his high expectations for any sustained amount of time. Again, not completely his fault, but it's true. To Locker's credit, he's kept his head down and stayed at the task of improving this whole time, and he was rewarded today with a five-touchdown performance in Washington's 35-34 overtime win over Oregon State. Locker made some gorgeous throws today, and the memories of his ghastly 4-20 performance against Nebraska just four weeks ago seemed much further away today. Locker wasn't perfect, and his fourth-quarter fumble in Beaver territory killed the Huskies' most promising shot at a game-winning score in regulation, but still: five touchdowns.
3. Meanwhile, bravery and stupidity are not mutually exclusive. After seeing his team match Washington's touchdown in the second overtime, Oregon State coach Mike Riley made the commendable decision to go for the win right then and there, to tell his team that victory was only three yards away. Curiously, though, Riley declined to dial the number of Jacquizz Rodgers, who had played like a man possessed up to that point with 189 total yards and four touchdowns up to that point -- including three rushing scores from within six yards. No, Riley called on his sophomore quarterback Ryan Katz, who tried to connect with tight end Joe Halahuni on the conversion. The ball slipped through Halahuni's hands before falling harmlessly incomplete, and that was that. Now, going for two was a bold, mansome decision, but not giving the ball to Rodgers even if the defense was expecting it (much as they had for the entire game thus far) doesn't put Oregon State in the best position to succeed, and for that Oregon State now has a loss instead of a win.
4. Is Matt Scott better than last season? We're about to find out. There wasn't a whole lot to take away from each team's performance in Arizona's 24-7 win over Washington State; the Huskies are improving but still not very good, but we already knew that. The real news is that Arizona's star QB Nick Foles injured his knee after getting rolled into early in the second quarter. Early indications are that it's a dislocated kneecap, which sounds far worse than it is; Matt Barkley suffered the same injury last season, and he was practicing after a week or two. Mike Stoops told reporters he expected Foles to miss two to three weeks. If true, that's rough news for the Wildcats, who will face Washington, UCLA, and Stanford in their next three games. Backup Matt Scott came in for Foles, but he's the guy who was benched for Foles after three games last season for ineffective play. He sure didn't do much for Arizona against Washington State, and there's no guarantee he can put up points against some of the Pac-10's better defenses. For the sake of everybody on the Wildcats, let's hope Scott can put together some good games in Foles's absence, because it's incredibly disheartening to see a team's shot at a conference crown go south on account of one key injury.
Posted on: October 15, 2010 3:18 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Oregon State defeated Arizona 29-27 last week, and the final margin doesn't accurately reflect how well the Beavers outpaced the Wildcats over the course of the evening. Sure, Nick Foles' 440 yards of passing were massive (that's literally a quarter of a mile, in one game), but Arizona never led, nor did they show much defensive acuity -- even after James Rodgers went down with that horrific knee injury.
So how did the Wildcats hang close, exactly? Some of it was obviously their own considerable skill, but the Portland Tribune has alleged that another reason is that the Wildcats had a thumb on the scale -- namely, with a partisan in the replay booth.
It's also my recollection that the play preceding the touchdown that put Oregon State up 23-13 was itself a legitimate score, but that replay officials ruled Jacquizz Rodgers out of bounds at the 1-yard line when he had actually scored. I'd like to be able to prove that, and I freely admit that I may be wrong -- I watched 13 hours of football that day, after all -- but there are no legal ways (and no trustworthy illegal ways) for me to re-watch that portion of the game to double-check. That seems incredible in this day and age of information sharing, but this is what happens when media access guidelines are excessively restrictive. Anyway, it's a moot point since Oregon State scored on the very next play.
Of the four calls mentioned, the Criner "touchdown" was easily the most egregiously bad decision; Criner was clearly down while the ball was feet (not inches) away from crossing the plane. Granted, the odds of scoring a touchdown on first-and-goal from the 1 are pretty awesome -- there's literally no better position for scoring other than "standing in the end zone and holding the football while the referee signals a touchdown" -- but it's not an absolute certainty, and Oregon State at least deserved the right to make Arizona earn that last yard, right?
And really, this would all be a non-story if it weren't for the fact that the replay official is -- and there's really no other way to put it -- an Arizona man. He lives in Tucson, he's a UA grad, and he's apparently a donor. Do we know that these facts swayed his ability to call the game impartially? No, of course not. They probably didn't affect it at all. Probably. And we can't know for sure, because those confounding factors exist, and the mere appearance of a conflict of interest is enough to compromise the integrity of the officiating in the eyes of many. That mistake's on the Pac-10, not Fogltance, who never should have been put in such a position to begin with. His work affects the game, after all, and it would make a lot of Pac-10 fans happier if the replay official didn't have any incentive -- acted upon or not -- to swing any calls one way or another.
Posted on: October 15, 2010 3:10 am
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Posted on: September 20, 2010 2:38 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
The Davey O'Brien Foundation named their quarterback of the week today; it's Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett, and deservedly so:
Junior Ryan Mallett has been named the Davey O'Brien Quarterback of the Week after leading his team to a dramatic 31-24 road victory over the Georgia Bulldogs.
After getting off to an early start, Mallett found himself under pressure late in the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs rallied from a 24-10 deficit to tie the game with 3:55 left to play. He remained calm and collected, marching his team down the field with a three-play, 73-yard scoring drive that ended with a 40-yard touchdown pass to Greg Childs with 15 seconds remaining. The signal caller from Texarkana, Texas finished the game with 380 yards and three touchdowns on 21 completions.
"This is a really surreal feeling," Mallett said after the game. "This is something I've never experienced before. This has got to be one of the greatest moments I've felt since I've played the game of football. It so rarely comes down to the wire like this. It's sometimes gone the other way for us, but now I know how it feels to get the win."
Mallett beats out 11 other notable peformers, such as Nevada's Colin Kaepernick, Arizona's Nick Foles, and Michigan's Denard Robinson.
Mallett's selection is merited simply because of the game-winning drive, which essentially came out of nowhere. The writeup above doesn't do Mallett's performance justice; Arkansas and Georgia traded punts after the Bulldogs tied the game, so Mallett's game-winning drive didn't start until there was about a minute left on the clock. Most teams, given the ball at their own 27 with 47 seconds left and a tie game, would simply kneel and take the game to overtime. Not Arkansas, and not Mallett, and they've got a win to show for it.
It should be noted, of course, that Mallett wasn't the only quarterback that led a game-winning drive in such a scenario; Foles drove his Wildcats for the win with under four minutes to play after the Iowa Hawkeyes scored 20 straight points to tie their score at 27-27. The difference, of course, is that Iowa tied the game when defensive lineman Broderick Binns picked off a Foles pass and took it 20 yards for a touchdown. Giving up a game-tying 20-yard fat guy touchdown is an automatic disqualifier for O'Brien POTW status. Sorry, but it's science.
Posted on: September 19, 2010 12:42 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
It's been an uncharacteristically sloppy first half for the No. 9 Iowa Hawkeyes, who came into today's road trip at No. 24 Arizona with a reputation for sound play and senior leadership. The Hawkeyes have seen little of either thus far, and Arizona leads, 27-7.
Arizona didn't have to work especially hard on offense for any of their three touchdowns. A blocked punt gave Arizona 1st and goal right out of the blocks, and the Wildcats scored their other two touchdowns on an interception return by Trevin Wade and a kickoff return by Travis Cobb.
That's not to say that Arizona hasn't done anything on offense; Nick Foles guided two long, clock-eating drives that both resulted in field goals, and Adrian Clayborn and the rest of the vaunted Iowa defensive line have looked largely impotent thus far.
But the story of the day so far must be Iowa's mistakes; Arizona's pick-six came on a pass that went through Marvin McNutt's hands, and twice, Ricky Stanzi had sure touchdown passes barely miss open receivers and fall harmlessly incomplete.