Arizona football: Unlikely stars, crucial breaks help Cats win

Caption unavailable


The nation's leading passer will square off against the presumptive No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft tonight at Arizona Stadium. Not that Nick Foles or Andrew Luck views it that way.

The Arizona Wildcats' quarterback and Stanford's signal-caller are too Texas stubborn, too competitive and too prideful to think about their place in the college football landscape during Week 3 of the regular season. They're too focused to primp for a national television audience on ESPN.

For three hours, predictions and projections and stats and schedules can wait.

"It's not about that. It's about whoever wins the game," Foles said. "(Luck) will tell you the same thing. He wants to beat me, and I want to beat him."

They are 1-1 against each other, with Foles winning in 2009, and Luck prevailing in 2010.

Comparing the two can be unfair, given the different offenses they run, both of which will be on display in the teams' Pac-12 Conference opener.

Foles conducts a spread attack, dinking and dunking safe passes to speedy teammates, and occasionally testing secondaries on deep routes. The senior leads the nation in passing yards (810) and completions (71), and has thrown for six touchdowns with no interceptions.

Foles will focus on Juron Criner, if the star receiver is cleared to play after his appendectomy 12 days ago, but will also spread the ball. Six receivers have caught TD passes for Arizona (1-1) this season; none have more than one.

"That just says it all," receiver David Douglas said. "We've got a lot of guys who can make plays. Nick will make his reads and throw to the guys who get open."

No. 6 Stanford (2-0) runs a pro-style offense, relying on formation changes, power runs and play-action passes. Luck, a 6-foot-4-inch, 235-pound junior, completed 37 of 54 passes for 461 yards in wins over San Jose State and Duke. Last week alone, the 6-5, 240-pound Foles was 37 of 51 for 398 yards.

Luck's ability to operate in such a complicated, often-limiting system is "why he's such a strong commodity for the NFL," UA coach Mike Stoops said.

"It's like an NFL offense already," Stoops said. "I like his pocket presence. It seems like he always has a lane to pass through."

Foles (Austin) and Luck (Houston) both hail from Texas, both are ranked in the nation's top 25 in pass efficiency and both have the body type, arm strength and smarts needed for the NFL. They took part in the Manning Passing Academy this summer. The QBs may not make or break tonight's game, but with a good performance one of them can make it memorable.

"They're both accurate and poised in the pocket. They're special in what they can do," Stoops said.


• What: No. 6 Stanford at Arizona

• When: 7:45 p.m.


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

More inside

Get analysis and preview the UA's game against Stanford with our Insider page and more. B12-B13

On Starnet

Read more about the Cats on reporter Ryan Finley's blog:

rating qb performances

How Nick Foles and Andrew Luck fared in their first two matchups:

Oct. 17, 2009

Foles completes 40 of 51 passes for 415 yards and three touchdowns as the UA outlasts Stanford 43-38 at Arizona Stadium. Luck throws for eight more yards and connects for three scores but is intercepted once.

Edge: Foles

Nov. 6, 2010

Luck completes 23 of 32 passes for 293 yards and two touchdowns as Stanford defeats the UA 42-17 in Palo Alto, Calif. Foles throws for 248 yards and a touchdown while completing 28 of 48, but is intercepted once.

Edge: Luck