October 15, 2007

(at USC 20, UA 13)

There are no more moral victories.

Please donít try and find the bright side. Just donít. This team used up itís ďThatís OKĒ losses a long time ago.

USC was doing all it could to lose this game. Running plays on third and long. Careless turnovers before the half. But nobody out-loses Arizona. Nobody.

When you root for a cursed sports team youíre always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Well, a size 23 work boot came crashing down on the Cats early in the 4th quarter. With the UA leading 13-10, the offense gained ten yards in six plays and had to punt. The special teams kicked it short and gave up a 45-yard return. The defense surrendered the final 25 yards (and the lead) in one play. Itís that rare triple threat that sets us apart from the rest.

Goal for the rest of the year: Learn to tackle. Watching USCís defense compared to our defense was like night (with both of your eyes poked out) and day. When a UA player makes a hit itís no better than a 50/50 proposition that the ball carrier goes down (unless that players is Spencer ďYeah, I tackled 17 guysĒ Larsen). When a Trojan hits you, the play ends, period. Even the SC offensive players tackle so well they cause fumbles.

Whatís the point of saving guys for games if they donít play well during games? Itís much better to lose a couple to injury during the week and play with nine starters who can tackle as opposed to eleven starters who canít. Practice bringing people in contact with the ground in such a way that it is no longer within the rules to advance the ball. Then practice some more.

You still want positives? Fine. I give all credit for the close game to the blue pants. Yes, their three-game road winning streak came to an end but they didnít go down without a fight. Bravo, blue pants. May we see you again soon.

Eighty-three-yard punts are good. You would have to be about 83 years old to remember the last time Arizona had one. So last yearís kicker is winning Monday Night Football games and this yearís redshirt freshman punter is leading the league in average. Has a team ever replaced its head coach with its special teams coach?

Goal for the rest of the year: Practice third down situations. Willie, my boy. Youíve given us a lot of exciting moments in your 2 Ĺ seasons. Iím proud of the way you came back after last yearís dangerous season. But youíre going to be a senior next year. We need you to know where the football has to go on third down. When itís 3rd and 10, a completion for four yards isnít any better than an incompletion. When itís 3rd and 2, a 4-yard completion gets the same first down as a 30-yard completion, but the second option is only successful a fraction of the time.

William Coonley Lemalu Sevea Makapovi Tuitama Elaleni, I believe you can get better. We need you to get better.

Just how much worse are we than last year? To find out I compared the games against the five teams we played last year and so far this year. My rules are, if the offense gives up a touchdown on a turnover they lose 7 points. If the defense scores a TD on its own, they get to take away 7 points from their points-allowed number. Field goals count for/against both sides and kick return touchdowns donít count for anybody. Yards are just straight totals from the box score. And away we go:

POINTS - Offense
Opponent 2006 / 2007 (difference)
BYU 16 / 7 (-9)
Cal 17 / 27 (+10)
WSU 27 / 48 (+21)
OSU 3 / 2 (-1)
USC 3 / 13 (+10)
TOTAL +31 (+6.2 ppg)

YARDS - Offense
Opponent 2006 / 2007 (difference)
BYU 253 / 255 (+2)
Cal 262 / 330 (+68)
WSU 275 / 567 (+292)
OSU 183 / 231 (+48)
USC 154 / 255 (+101)
TOTAL: +511 (+102.2 ypg)

POINTS - Defense
Opponent 2006 / 2007 (difference)
BYU 13 / 20 (+7)
Cal 6 / 38 (+32)
WSU 17 / 20 (+3)
OSU 17 / 17 (0)
USC 20 / 20 (0)
TOTAL: +42 (+8.4 ppg)

YARDS - Defense
Opponent 2006 / 2007 (difference)
BYU 313 / 392 (+79)
Cal 356 / 421 (+65)
WSU 310 / 418 (+108)
OSU 332 / 351 (+19)
USC 381 / 276 (-105)
TOTAL: +166 (+33.2 ypg)

So even when the offense is bad, itís still not as bad as last year. But the defense hasnít given up fewer points against a single team this year, and with yardage it only improved against an injured team trying as hard as it could to lose. And all this with nine starters from last year, Oklahomaís defensive coordinator and Miamiís defensive backs coach. Excruciatingly baffling.

And so begins the 2007 stretch run. If you recall, before the season we set this up as the second checkpoint. The plan was to have four wins at this point and then define our season over the last month and a half. Well, we donít even have three wins and the season has already been defined.

Goal for the rest of the year: Win a road game. There are only two road trips remaining, and one more out of the state. Only John Mackovic goes winless on the road.

You also have but one loss left if you want to match last yearís non-losing, barely-bowl-eligible season. Just one. It would probably be wise to save that for at least a couple weeks.

Here are you updated Whacked-5 standings:
1. OSU 2-2 / 4-3
2t. Stan 1-3 / 2-4
2t. ARIZ 1-3 / 2-5
4. Wash 0-3 / 2-4
5. WSU 0-4 / 2-5

Yes, the Beavers got a big win this weekend but theyíre still only a game ahead of us and they have three road games left. The next two games are large for the Cats in that theyíre league games. We can still go 3-1 against our Whacked brethren.

So, yeah, thereís a game this week. If we win it will be Mike Stoops' 10th home win as well as his 10th Pac-10 win. Donít they say the first ten are always the hardest? No? Well then.

Goal for the rest of the year: Keep supporting the Cats.

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