One of the UA's strengths in its offensive line is experience. For instance, Adam Grant, right, is a second-year starter and a sixth-year senior. CHRIS CODUTO FOR THE ARIZONA DAILY STAR

Colin Baxter is the Arizona Wildcats' fiercest competitor, a hard-nosed center with an innate ability to find motivation in even the most perceived of slights.

So while many UA fans viewed Friday's 41-2 rout of Toledo as a near-perfect performance, Baxter - and the rest of the UA offensive line - saw an opportunity lost.


"We went three-and-out three times in the first half. A lot of times, even though the quarterback didn't get hit, there wasn't great protection," he said. "We got the job done, but we could have done a lot better."

Right tackle Phil Garcia just sighed when asked about the opener.

"I don't know where to start," he said with a frown. "We didn't play, in the run game or any aspect, as well as we did during the summer."

Maybe the Wildcats' linemen had reason to be mad.

Arizona rushed for 105 yards on 25 carries in its season opener, struggling to establish drives throughout the first half. Quarterback Nick Foles was sacked only once but hurried a half-dozen times. The Cats' line was responsible for Toledo's only points, a safety that came when guard Conan Amituanai was called for holding in the end zone.

Although the Wildcats' linemen are angry, they're not panicking. Here are three reasons to believe there are better days ahead:

1. The Wildcats are experienced. It's hard to find a position group with more game experience. Arizona's first-stringers - tackles Adam Grant and Garcia, guards Amituanai and Jovon Hayes, and Baxter at center - have 71 combined college starts over the last three years.

Baxter hasn't missed a game in three-plus seasons. Grant, a sixth-year senior, is entering his second full year as a starter. Amituanai and Garcia would have played the entire 2009 season if not for injuries. If nothing else, the group knows what it's capable of.

"We're all older guys," Baxter said. "I've been here with these guys since the day I got here."

2. They're just getting healthy. Amituanai sprained his knee early in training camp but returned in time to start against Toledo. Guard Vaughn Dotsy figures to be ready in time for next week's game against Iowa; he's been out since undergoing back surgery last winter.

Even Garcia is feeling good - and that's saying something. The 6-foot-7-inch, 330-pound senior has been battling knee problems throughout his college career. He, too, is almost fully recovered from a tweak suffered in camp.

"I'm feeling pretty good," he said.

3. They're motivated. Baxter's leadership means the Wildcats will continue to play with a chip on their shoulders. It could serve them well in future weeks; while Arizona is heavily favored to defeat The Citadel on Saturday, its next three games come against Iowa, Cal and Oregon State. The Wildcats will need to be tough - and self-critical - if they hope to make it through the early-season gauntlet.

Baxter said he'll continue to hold the line to a high standard - perceived slights and all.

"I think you've got to do that every week," he said. "As soon as you're satisfied, that's when your (butt) is going to get really disappointed."

On StarNet: Read more on reporter Ryan Finley's blog at

Up next

• What: The Citadel at Arizona

• When: 7 p.m. Saturday

• TV: Channel 58

• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Spanish)