Adrenaline, focus Criner's tools

Junior receiver shuts out all noise to 'get it done'
2010-09-26T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T16:11:59Z Adrenaline, focus Criner's toolsPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
September 26, 2010 12:00 am  • 

When life's most important moments strike, some see their world speed up, on the edges of a record player going too fast. Others watch it slow down, preparation having made decisions and actions rote.

Juron Criner goes deaf.

Before he caught a 51-yard pass that set up his own 3-yard touchdown catch in Saturday's 10-9 win against Cal, the Arizona Wildcats' wide receiver couldn't hear.

"It was complete silence," he said. "I didn't hear any of the crowd. I didn't hear any of them telling me on the sideline.

"You gotta concentrate and get it done."

Criner fought his nagging turf toe in his left foot - for which he sat all but parts of Thursday's practice this week - during the course of the game.

Adrenaline and focus, however, eased the pain.

"When you're focused like that and execute, big things happen," he said.

The Golden Bears had tested Criner all night, playing man-to-man coverage on the Wildcats' deep threat.

After missing a field goal with 2:37 left that would have put the game out of reach with a nine-point differential, the Golden Bears grew impatient.

Criner caught a 5-yard pass on the first play of the drive. After an incompletion to Roberts, Nick Foles handed to Nicolas Grigsby for nine more.

Cal's safeties were creeping up, the UA saw. They were getting more aggressive, suspecting shorter plays.

So Foles dropped back and lofted a pass down the left sideline. Criner and Cal cornerback Darian Hagan jumped.

"If I'm between the defender and the ball," Criner said, "I'm definitely coming down with it."

He and Hagan wrestled all the way to the ground.

"I knew once I came down with it, I wasn't letting it go," Criner said.

The Cats, one minute removed from a loss, had the ball at Cal's 12-yard line.

"They won a lot of those matchups," head coach Mike Stoops said. "Juron finally got 'em."

Foles was surprised by the coverage, too.

"Juron's a big-time playmaker," he said. "For some reason they just left one guy on him."

Stoops, a defensive coordinator at heart, had seen it before. He's lectured his own players during practice for failing to keep Criner from catching the jump ball.

"He does that to our guys all the time," Stoops said.

In last year's season finale, Criner watched as Foles audibled a pass call and threw a 36-yard fade route to him to defeat USC and earn the Wildcats a Holiday Bowl berth.

Saturday's touchdown came during a "totally different atmosphere," with "totally different stakes," Criner said.

At 4-0, that's stunning news - a midseason win, more important than a perceived program-changer against the conference's most storied team.

While Cal coach Jeff Tedford was terse afterward, defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast seemed clairvoyant.

"I told the guys all week that this game would come down to the last drive," he said. "And Arizona made the plays in the end."

Three plays after his big catch, on third-and-1 from the 3, Foles found Criner again, this time for the game's winning score.

"When things come down to the end, you got to put your best guys out there," UA co-offensive coordinator Seth Littrell said. "Someone has to step up and eventually make a play.

"That's what we talked about all camp, since basically last spring."

The man who couldn't hear answered the call.

"A classic catch," Stoops said.

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Pac-12 South football standings

  Conference Overall
Arizona 7 2 0 0.778 10 4 0 0.714
USC 6 3 0 0.667 9 4 0 0.692
UCLA 6 3 0 0.667 10 3 0 0.769
Arizona State 6 3 0 0.667 10 3 0 0.769
Utah 5 4 0 0.556 9 4 0 0.692
Colorado 0 9 0 0.000 2 10 0 0.167

Pac-12 North football standings

  Conference Overall
Oregon 8 1 0 0.889 13 2 0 0.867
Stanford 5 4 0 0.556 8 5 0 0.615
Washington 4 5 0 0.444 8 6 0 0.571
Cal 3 6 0 0.333 5 7 0 0.417
Washington State 2 7 0 0.222 3 9 0 0.250
Oregon State 2 7 0 0.222 5 7 0 0.417
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