It didn’t take long for Brandon Weeden and the high-powered Oklahoma State offense to start clicking on all cylinders.
Nick Foles made sure Arizona didn’t have much trouble moving the ball in its season opener, either.
The two star quarterbacks look to build on their impressive season debuts as the ninth-ranked Cowboys host the Wildcats on Thursday night in a rematch of last season’s Alamo Bowl.
Oklahoma State (1-0), which finished third in the FBS with 520.2 yards per game in 2010, picked up right where it left off under new offensive coordinator Todd Monken, totaling an FBS-high 666 yards during Saturday’s 61-34 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette.
“There were a number of things that the players have confidence in,” said Monken, who replaced Dana Holgorsen after he was named coach at West Virginia. “We’re going to continue to do what we feel like gives us the best chance to move the ball. … There’s a number of things that they did in the past that I think, as I’ve said many times, we’d be silly to change.”
Joseph Randle rushed for 129 yards and two touchdowns, Justin Blackmon - the 2010 Biletnikoff award winner - had 144 yards receiving and Weeden, who set a school record for 4,277 passing yards in his first year as a starter last season, threw for 388 - the second-most in the nation.
While Weeden had three touchdown passes, he was also picked off a career worst-tying three times - two of which were returned for touchdowns.
“He’s mature enough to know what was going on,” coach Mike Gundy said. “He pressed a little bit…I’m not concerned with him. He’ll do just fine. If there’s a lesson to be learned, then now is the time…at this time last year, he was fighting for his life and then he’s been told how good he is and how great he is for nine months.”
Aside from the turnovers, Weeden’s performance left little to be desired. Foles, however, was even more impressive.
The senior quarterback led the Wildcats (1-0) to a 41-10 victory over Northern Arizona on Saturday, throwing for an FBS-best 412 yards and five touchdowns - tied for most in the country. He also posted a career-best 202.6 passer efficiency rating.
“Nick was terrific,” coach Mike Stoops said. “Nick has to do that. Our offense is geared to throw the ball first.”
Foles found his favorite target Juron Criner six times for 151 yards and a touchdown. Criner led the Pac-10 with 1,233 receiving yards last season and kicked off his senior year in impressive fashion.
“Foles and Criner are our go-to guys and are very established players, and that is what we expect from those guys every time they step on the field,” Stoops said.
Foles and Criner, though, could struggle to put up big numbers against an Oklahoma State defense which saw its starting unit allow just two field goals. Foles threw a career worst-tying three interceptions while Criner managed just 47 yards on nine receptions as the Cowboys defeated Arizona 36-10 in the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 29.
“It’s going to be a huge game for us because we had a good score in the bowl game, but it really wasn’t indicative of how the game was,” Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Bill Young said. “There was a couple of interceptions that turned it and big plays on offense and so forth that sometimes you don’t get those, so we have to be ready to play.”
The Wildcats, meanwhile, will look to slow down Blackmon, who has an NCAA-record 13 straight 100-yard receiving games.
Since prevailing 21-6 at then-No. 8 Stanford on Oct. 17, 1992, Arizona has dropped 12 straight road games against Top 10 teams by an average of 18.5 points.