TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — While Arizona has struggled to a 2-8 record, quarterback Nick Foles continues to produce big numbers.
He set school records for career passing yards (9,289) and total offense (8,995) in the Wildcats’ 48-29 loss to Colorado last Saturday.
But as Arizona has lost three consecutive games, Foles might have started pressing.
After throwing no interceptions in the first four games of the season, he has thrown 13 in the last six games. He was picked off three times against Colorado.
Still, the senior guides an offense that leads the Pac-12 in passing offense (368.3 yards per game) and ranks third in total offense (459.5 yards per game).
Entering Arizona’s game against rival Arizona State (6-4, 4-3) on Saturday in Tempe, Foles is 71 yards short of tying the Arizona record for single-season passing yards. With five more passing touchdowns, he ties the school career record of 67.
Foles, who transferred from Michigan State before his sophomore season, also is one of 10 finalists for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award.
While Foles aims for individual milestones and a possible NFL future, he is playing on a losing team that won’t go to a bowl game for the first time in his career at Arizona. And, yes, it is a little frustrating.
“It wasn’t the year I thought it was going to be, but everything happens for a reason,” he said. “I’m still working hard. I’m still trying to make the guys around me better. We have a big game this week.”
In last year’s game between Arizona and Arizona State, Foles completed 22 of 36 passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns against the school he was once committed to. The Sun Devils blocked an extra-point kick in overtime, winning 30-29, giving Foles some extra motivation this time around.
“This will be the last time I play against them, so I’m looking forward to it,” Foles said.
And Foles, an Austin, Texas, native, is motivated to get better.
Unable to sleep after the Wildcats’ 34-21 loss to Utah on Nov. 5, he returned to Arizona’s football facilities at 3 a.m. to watch game film. He threw two interceptions in the game.
“(His work ethic is) as good as anybody’s,” Arizona quarterbacks coach Frank Scelfo said. “He spends a lot of extra time in the film room, the weight room, and out here on the practice field, getting extra reps, making sure he’s getting it right. The main thing he’s understanding better is how to look at film.”
After the pre-dawn film session, Foles had another up-and-down game against Colorado. He completed 35 of 53 passes for 352 yards and a touchdown, but threw three interceptions. He has completed 68.5 percent of his passes for 3,612 yards and 23 touchdowns this season.
Foles passes to a deep group of receivers, including NFL prospect Juron Criner, but has a young offensive line protecting him. He’s been sacked 20 times behind a line that had just one player with previous starting experience entering the season.
“They’re growing every single week,” Foles said. “Most of them are redshirt freshmen. They’re going to have a great future.”
Whether he’s pressing, Foles said he has to stay aggressive and take chances.
“It’s been a tough year, but I’m still going to play as hard as I can and get the guys around me to keep playing,” he said.
Interim coach Tim Kish said Foles is sorting himself out, and he expects the quarterback to be at “full speed” this week.
“I think Nick Foles is striving for perfection, maybe sometimes to a fault,” Kish said. “He’s trying to get a grip on what he’s wanting to get accomplished,”
Kish added. “Nothing is more important to Nick Foles than helping his team be successful and win football games.”
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.
(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)