Expect Foles to say, 'Go deep' a lot this fall

2011-08-22T00:00:00Z 2012-11-30T16:19:34Z Expect Foles to say, 'Go deep' a lot this fallRyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 22, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Seth Littrell was breaking down the Arizona Wildcats' offensive stats following Saturday's scrimmage when, as if on cue, a boisterous fan interrupted with unsolicited advice.

"More power-run plays," he screamed at the UA offensive coordinator from an Arizona Stadium railing. "You need somebody like Moose Johnston!"

Littrell smirked.

"Not happening," he said after the reference to former Dallas Cowboys fullback Daryl Johnston.

The Arizona Wildcats will live and die with their passing attack this season, traditions - and traditionalists - be damned. Coach Mike Stoops said he's prepared to call 50 passing plays a game if need be; even the team's rushing game will include more screen passes and pitches than up-the-middle runs.

The key to it all, however, will be the deep pass.

"I think we have to stretch the field," quarterback Nick Foles said.

Consider:

• Arizona's offense posted 22 plays of 30 yards or more in 2010. Of those, 14 were passes.

• Foles threw seven touchdown passes of 30 yards or more a year ago, accounting for 35 percent of his season scoring totals.

• Five of Juron Criner's 11 touchdown receptions last fall came on deep passes. The lanky receiver caught a 32-yarder at Toledo, a 45-yarder against Oregon State, a 41-yarder at UCLA, an 85-yarder versus Oregon and a 52-yarder against rival Arizona State.

Arizona will continue to test opponents with deep plays starting with its Sept. 3 opener against Northern Arizona.

The approach is, most of all, practical: Criner leads a deep, athletic receiving corps that includes three-year starter David Douglas, senior David Roberts, junior Terrence Miller and Texas transfer Dan Buckner. Every receiver is capable of making a deep strike, so the Cats will try to improve on last year's 11.2-yards-per-catch average.

Add in Foles, who "can throw the ball vertically as well as anyone in the country," Stoops said, and Arizona should be dangerous.

Foles' 39-yard touchdown strike in Saturday's meet-the-team scrimmage came on a fade pass to Criner. Foles completed 10 of 16 passes for 136 yards, but he was intercepted twice - both on short pass attempts.

A well-timed fade route can gash teams for big yards and, possibly, touchdowns. But the quarterback and receiver don't have to connect for a play to be successful. Defenses will typically back off of short routes once a team tries to throw deep, opening up short routes and screens.

They're not power runs, but they're just as effective.

Said Stoops: "You have to do that sometimes to get the people off you."

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