Oct. 17, 2009 should have been the beginning of a rivalry on par with Ali-Frazier, McEnroe-Connors, Indiana Jones-Rene Belloq. So maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but Arizona’s 43-38 defeat of Stanford was the first meeting of quarterbacks Nick Foles and Andrew Luck. And it was an epic encounter.
Both threw for over 400 yards. Both scored three touchdowns. It was Foles who got the good end of it though, as UA used 14 fourth quarter points to steal the win and set a lofty benchmark in what has been a series of close games. But the sequel fell flat.
Stanford Stadium was indeed the Temple of Doom for the Wildcats in a 42-17 loss that began their season-ending skid.
Foles didn’t have a bad game per se, but his 248 yards and one touchdown were far below the standard set in that first SU affair. Sequels are almost guaranteed to disappoint, and this one did.
Yet if there’s one thing to glean from a trilogy, it’s that the tribulations of the middle installment are necessary for climatic redemption.
Luck leads a Cardinal team suddenly at the forefront of championship buzz. SU has been on a steady upward progression ever since its loss at Oregon last year, culminating in its domination of Virginia Tech at the Orange Bowl.
Despite a new coach and young offensive line, SU had no trouble dispatching San Jose State and Duke in Weeks 1 and 2. Luck’s seemingly effortless accumulation of 461 yards on 68 percent passing and six touchdowns have him right back in the Heisman conversation.
Foles isn’t considered for introduction to the revered bronze man, but he and Luck aren’t much different from when they first met nearly two years ago. UA’s senior is boasting statistics among the very best in college football: six touchdowns with no interceptions, 810 yards with over 76 percent of his attempts completed.
But no hero goes it alone in a trilogy’s final chapter, and his supporting cast must support Foles’s efforts. The Wildcats’ Week 2 loss at Oklahoma State was a startling retread of plot lines surely all Wildcat fans have tired of: big yardage, plenty of red zone opportunities, yet nothing to show for it.
Indiana Jones needed Sallah and his father Henry Jones to unearth the Holy Grail in Last Crusade. Foles needs a running game and a better defensive effort to reach his treasure. And what could be more fitting than his right hand man, Juron Criner, making an unexpected return to complete the journey?
Criner is questionable as of Thursday night, and his presence is vital to the Wildcat offense. The senior receiver was the most effective weapon in Foles’ arsenal in the 2010 sequel [98 yards, 1 touchdown] and the 2009 original [152 yards].
Saturday is Foles’ final shot at luck. Barring a Pac-12 title game showdown, there won’t be a fourth installment, so this is the quarterback’s opportunity to ride off the hero.