Heading into the game on Friday, there was a lot of talk. It was many people echoing the same statements. "The offense is very good." "The LBs will be a weakness." One comment that did not get a lot of repetition, "We need to play someone other than ourselves". Along with his criticism of his defense, coach Stoops stated that they really needed to play someone other than the Arizona offense to see how good or bad they really are.
Boy, was he right. The defense looked great. Will they be one of the top defenses in the Pac-10 this season? That remains to be seen. I am inclined to say they will be a top 5 defense overall, and top 3 defense with regard to the secondary. They played the kind of defense that would have won them the Pac-10 last season. No ‘blow-by’ tackles. My pet peeve. Want to see me blow my top at an Arizona Wildcats game? Take a look at me right after one of our defenders dives at an offensive player, missing him entirely. I can’t stand it. Let the offense have 5 yards. Just don’t turn that into a 10 - 15 yard gain because you decided to jump early and leave him an open running lane. The defense was very disciplined in this regard. Time and again in the Toledo game, they played it smart, and waited for the offensive player to commit to a direction before going for the tackle. Good. Bend and don’t break.
Special mention here for the LBs. Did they dominate? No. Did they make constant mistakes? No. The LBs played very well considering the lack of starting experience. And Derek Earls! In position! No major mistakes! And an interception! I have been high on this guy since he committed to transfer to Arizona, and I expect great things to come.
The secondary as a whole looked very good. I can’t wait to see them against the Iowa offense. Lots of speed, oppressive coverage, with little to no pass interference-worthy stuff. All signs point to this unit being something special in the Pac-10 this season.
Nick Foles. What can I say? QB Rating of 180.65; 32 of 37 for 360 yds; 86.5 cmp%; 2 passing TDs; 1 rushing TD. The passes were amazingly accurate. He had a great drop on the passes in the end zone. He played smart, only suffering one sack all night. I like this guy more with every snap he takes. I see him as the best pocket QB in the Pac-10 right now, bar none. Andrew Luck? Sorry, I saw the Stanford/ Arizona game last season. The only reason that Stanford was even in that game was Toby Gerhart. Luck is special, and will more than likely go first overall in the draft at the end of the season. But Foles is just better. He did more with less run support last season, and I predict that he will out perform Luck this year.
Matt Scott was greatly improved from last season. I was impressed with most of his passes. It was very interesting how little he scrambled. I like it. Keep the defense guessing. Use those legs as a last resort. I will say, however, that it was totally unfair to put him in with his back to the goal line. No one on that Toledo defense thought for a second that Scott would pass the ball. The RBs and Scott were getting swarmed on every snap. At least with Foles in, the defense would have had to respect the pass, and leave a bit more running room for the RBs.
Nic Grigsby, great job. It was a pleasure to see that he is clearly 100%. His cuts looked as sharp as ever, and overall he looks better than he did before suffering injury last season.
Keola Antolin ran tough, ran gritty. I like it. He looks to have a great season, especially as he didn’t really have many opportunities to use that insane top-speed of his.
Bug Wright continues to impress. How he remains under the radar is a mystery to me. He will be a major factor in close games this season. If he isn’t, call me out. His ability to catch the ball in traffic is going to be extremely valuable in those tough Pac-10 games.
Juron Criner was amazing. He is clearly one of the top receivers in the country. I would like to see the ball spread out a bit more in the conference games, but you can’t argue with results. Criner exhibited every ability you want from a WR. Speed, hands, adjustment to the throw, positioning himself between the ball and the defender. He even threw in a circus catch for good measure. If he isn’t a finalist for the Biletnikoff award, it will be a sin.
Give due credit to Toledo P John Vincent Penza. He did a great job, much to my dismay.
One negative comment for an Arizona player. #50 LS Chase Gorham. Gorham was specifically recruited to be a LS. That bad snap was unacceptable. He is a freshman, and will certainly improve. But that was definitely an eyebrow raising mistake.
Overall, I feel that the Wildcats made a national statement. Some sloppy stuff early, but constant improvement throughout the game. I feel confident with my pick for Arizona to be the Pac-10 champion this season. As I have said before, the defense doesn’t need to be dominant. Just good enough to win. With the offense projecting to be as good as it is, I feel that the Wildcats have more than enough to win the Pac-10.
Disagree? Tell me. I even accept the hate mail. Bring it.
Some links to bask in the glory of victory.