Juron Criner missed his second straight practice Tuesday because of an undisclosed illness, calling into question his availability for the Arizona Wildcats' game against No. 9 Oklahoma State.
Still, coach Mike Stoops is hopeful that his star wide receiver will be able to suit up Thursday. Criner will fly with the team to Oklahoma City today and will spend the night there before busing to Stillwater.
"We hope he's ready to come back," Stoops said. "He's fine. If he's ready to go, he'll play."
Stoops offered few details about Criner's illness, which is neither football-related nor connected to the personal and family issues that forced him to cancel a scheduled trip to ESPN's Bristol, Conn., studios in June.
Criner is coming off one of the best games of his career, a six-catch, 151-yard showing against Northern Arizona in Week 1. He caught a touchdown pass on the third play of the game, pacing quarterback Nick Foles' 412-yard passing performance. He missed Monday night's practice, and UA spokesmen would not comment when asked where he was.
Stoops confirmed Tuesday that Criner was sick.
The UA will turn to either junior Dan Buckner or redshirt freshman Austin Hill to take Criner's spot if he is unable to play Thursday. Buckner, a transfer from the University of Texas, caught four passes for 38 yards against NAU. Hill caught one pass, a touchdown, for 24 yards.
Arizona's game plan would remain the same whether or not Criner plays Thursday, Stoops said. Different players will just have to step up.
"If somebody is called upon, we expect them to do the same stuff that Juron has done," he said. "As you saw last week, it's not just one player. Certainly Juron has a big-play knack, but we have other players that can make plays, too, if they're called upon."
Gino Crump was eating breakfast with his family Sunday when conversation turned to his past. Then, and only for a minute, did the Wildcats' senior receiver think about just how far he's come.
Crump enrolled at the UA in 2009 after spending his previous four years at four different schools. He graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, D.C., in 2006, then spent time at Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy, Glendale Community College and the University of West Virginia. He joined the Wildcats as a walk-on, and has since made steady progress on and off the field.
Saturday, Crump eclipsed more than double his career totals in catches (five) and yards (43), made his first career start and caught his first touchdown pass.
"It hasn't soaked in fully yet," Crump said. "I'll probably think back about it once the season is over, once everything's blown over and I evaluate my total season. Then, I'll probably have a better feel for it."
Crump said his role "becomes a little more important" Thursday if Criner is unable to go.
"Juron's a big part of our offense, and we expect him to be there," Crump said. "But if he isn't, you know, I'm going to go out there and be the best player I can be. Hopefully, that's good enough to get us a 'W.'"
The trip to Oklahoma will be a homecoming for a pair of UA coaches - at least until they get to the Oklahoma State campus.
Offensive coordinator Seth Littrell grew up in Muskogee, 100 miles southeast of Stillwater, as a University of Oklahoma fan.
He played at OU from 1996 to 2000, manning the same position - fullback - that his father, Jimmy, had played on the Sooners' national championship teams of 1974 and 1975.
Littrell, 33, said the OU-OSU showdown known as "Bedlam" "is a great rivalry."
"In my town, there was a big split," he said. "You're either one or the other. You're not both."
Littrell said he isn't as emotionally invested in the rivalry now, though OSU fans may not buy it on Thursday.
Cowboys fans rained boos on Stoops in last year's Alamo Bowl, remembering both his time as OU's defensive coordinator and his family ties to the program. Mike Stoops' brother, Bob, is the Sooners' longtime head coach.
Stoops said Wednesday that he "can't wait" to see his old rivals in Stillwater.
"I'm sure I'll get a big welcome," he said with a laugh. "There'll be a welcoming committee there for me."
On StarNet: Follow the Cats on Ryan Finley's blog at azstarnet.com/finley
• What: Arizona at Oklahoma State
• When: 5 p.m. Thursday
• TV; radio: ESPN; 1290-AM, 107.5-FM