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Arizona QB Foles is shaggy but also poised

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

For a time, it seemed like Nick Foles merely would be Arizona's shaggy-haired, back-up quarterback who looked a bit like Tom Petty. Or is it Dave Grohl?

But Foles, a Michigan State transfer, is no longer free falling or living like a refugee. Heck, after he completed 25 of 34 passes -- 73.5 percent -- for 254 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in the Wildcats 37-32 win at Oregon State, some Arizona fans might be singing, "There goes my hero... he's [not] ordinary!"

Yuck yuck.

"I thought he played awfully well," coach Mike Stoops said.

Certainly not too shabby for a sophomore making his first career start on the road against a defense that thrives on pressure (though the Beavers at present are struggling to create their typical pressure).

The knock on Foles was he lacked mobility. Fellow sophomore Matt Scott won the job coming out of preseason camp in large part because his athleticism added an intriguing dimension to the Wildcats spread offense, particularly after four years of big-armed but slow-footed Willie Tuitama.

Foles, despite being a prototypical 6-foot-5, 235-pound, drop-back passer, isn't that slow, however, and he showed good pocket presence against the Beavers, who failed to sack him.

But it was the production in the passing game that has made Foles the clear-cut starter. The Wildcats entered the Oregon State game averaging just 167 yards passing in their first three games. They also ranked ninth in the Pac-10 in scoring with just 23.3 ppg.

It's likely the Beavers didn't expect so much precision from the Wildcats previously wobbly air attack. Count Oregon State coach Mike Riley among those impressed with Foles' debut.

"I thought he was poised," Riley said. "He handled things well and I also thought he threw the ball quickly -- a nice release. He was impressive."

That's the rub. Playing quarterback is about more than just a good arm or athletic ability. Scott seemed rattled under pressure the preceding week at Iowa. Foles kept his cool at Oregon State.

"The thing you like about Nick is he never gets real up or real down," Stoops said. "He kind of stays even. That's good. He's got kind of that [Oklahoma's] Sam Bradford mentality. He's just very cool. He's not a real excitable guy. He has great poise and great knowledge and great confidence in what he's doing. I think the other players like that. He's a pretty cerebral person all the time. That's a good quality. But he's still a good leader."

Yes, Stoops just compared Foles to the Sooners' 2008 Heisman Trophy winner and future first-round NFL draft pick.

Don't think Stoops, however, is going all hyperbolic about Foles and the now 3-1 Wildcats as they head into their bye week.

"It's just one game," he said. "I don't think anyone is jumping up and down and beating their chest."

The bye couldn't come at a better time. Arizona is banged up, with an injury list that includes running back Nic Grigsby and defensive end Brooks Reed as well as two starting offensive linemen. The Wildcats offense already has lost two starters for the season: tight end Rob Gronkowski and receiver Bug Wright.

Stoops seems confident that most will return to practices next week and will be ready to play at Washington.

As for Foles, it looks like he'll stick around and never be a monkey wrench.