TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - Nick Foles threw for 412 yards and had three of his five touchdown passes in third quarter, helping Arizona shake off a first-half funk to open the season with a 41-10 win over Northern Arizona Saturday night.
The Wildcats flew around the field while building a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, then went stagnant in the second, allowing the FCS Lumberjacks to get within four points.
Triggered by Trevin Wade's interception, Arizona pulled away in the third quarter on touchdown passes from Foles to Keola Antolin, Richard Morrison and Austin Hill.
Juron Criner also caught a TD pass, finishing with six catches for 151 yards. Foles was 34 for 42 passing.
Northern Arizona's Cary Grossart threw for 179 yards on 20 of 26 passing. Zach Bauman ran for 99 yards on 27 carries.
The Wildcats were hoping Northern Arizona would serve as a warmup for a schedule that's about to get real tough.
After the Lumberjacks, Arizona has a short turnaround for a road game against No. 9 Oklahoma State on Thursday. Two home dates follow: against No. 7 Stanford and Heisman Trophy favorite Andrew Luck on Sept. 17, then third-ranked Oregon on Sept. 24.
With plenty of new players, including the entire offensive line, the Wildcats needed this game to build some confidence - for the inexperienced guys and the ones who suffered through the season-ending five-game losing streak in 2010.
Everyone looked good early against Northern Arizona.
Foles opened by hitting Criner on a 42-yard play-action pass, then floated in a 10-yard touchdown pass to him in the corner of the end zone two plays later.
Arizona kept rolling, Taimi Tutogi making it 14-0 in the closing seconds of the first quarter on a 5-yard TD run through a huge hole off right tackle.
Arizona's defense was good, too, swarming the Lumberjacks while holding them to 14 yards on 12 plays.
Rout on the way, right? Not quite.
Once the second quarter started, the offense sputtered, with the running game nonexistent - five yards on six carries in the first half - and Foles unable to find his receivers as readily.
Grossart started to find some seams going the other way, picking the Wildcats apart to go 16 of 17 for 145 yards in the first half.
Matt Myers hit a 28-yard field goal midway through the second quarter, and Grossart found Khalil Paden on a 12-yard touchdown pass in the closing seconds of the half, getting NAU within 14-10.
Arizona quickly moved into position for a field-goal attempt, thanks to a 42-yard up-for-grabs catch by Criner, but Jaime Salazar's 36-yard attempt was way right.
It wasn't too much of a surprise that Northern Arizona kept it close; the Lumberjacks were within a touchdown in the fourth quarter against Arizona State last season and had the Wildcats still in their sights at halftime the year before.
Arizona was still in a fog to open the second half, going three-and-out.
Wade's interception jolted the Wildcats back.
Stepping front of a receiver on NAU's second play, Wade made the pick at the 12-yard line, and Antolin scored on a swing pass the next play, bowling over a defender, tightroping the sideline then diving the final few yards to the pylon.
Morrison followed with a 24-yard touchdown reception from Foles across the middle, and Hill all but sealed it with his first career catch, a 24-yard TD that Arizona up 34-10.
Arizona's defense was just as dominant, holding Northern Arizona to 25 yards in the third quarter and no points in the second half.
The Associated Press News Service
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