We're Back

November 13, 2005

(Washington 38, at UA 14)

All throughout the UCLA game we were asking, "Where did our team go?"

I think I found it.

All the old mistakes were back: blowing timeouts early, committing ugly turnovers, saguaro-sized holes on defense, and pygmy owl-sized holes on offense. The O couldn't do anything with the ball and the D made James Sims look like a cross between Jerome Bettis and Gemini from American Gladiators.

Walking out of the Stadium, I was upset. I wondered how Stoops could say the UCLA game means nothing if we don't beat Washington and still let it happen. I wondered why we didn't see the same type of tricky plays we saw against UCLA. I was mad as Tempe and I wasn't going to take it any more.

But even before I went to bed I had calmed down. Logic had returned. We are a better team with Willie Tuitama under center, but we aren't a different team. How do you lose to this Washington squad? The same way you lose to Utah, and Purdue, and Stanford, and Oregon. UCLA gave us a glimpse of the future, not the certainly of a new present.

As far as the play calling, Mike Thomas was open behind the entire secondary at least three times in the first half but we only got one pass interference call out of it. Build This House With was even more open on a great play call early in the second half that was overthrown. The opportunities were there on offense, we just didn't execute.

The good news: We're not going to get in trouble with the NCAA for secretly bringing in a professional quarterback. Willie Tuitama proved he isn't a ringer. He's not a pitcher on the Rolando Paulino Little League team with a bogus birth certificate. He is in fact an 18-year-old freshman.

More good news: Now we know why teams try the Hail Mary. You never know when the opposing team will completely butcher it.

By the way, if you take out that agonizing 69-yard play to end the first half, we only gave up 88 passing yards. In a Pacific-10 Conference football game. So we just lost at home to a team so one-dimensional they probably couldn't even pass the butter at the dinner table.

Good old late season Tucson football: sweat in the first quarter, shiver in the fourth quarter. This has to be the only place where you have to bring both sunscreen and a jacket.

Check that, you only need the jacket if you stay for the whole game. The local citizens were up to their old tricks again. How were their tons of empty seats in the upper deck after the game with the Bruins? And then the streams of red running toward the exits early in the fourth quarter. How can you expect the team to not give up when the fans do? As always, a big Bear Down to all the die-hards who stay till the final gun no matter what.

So another UA home season has come to an end and it's been another one that for the most part we'd like to forget. The Cats finished 2-4 on their home turf. That follows 2-5 in both 2003 and 2004. To quote the really angry guy from the Under Armor commercials, "We must defend this house!"

Where this loss really hurts is in recruiting. If you finish 5-6 with a 4-0 record under your new quarterback, you can easily sell the promise of 2006. But now with the possibility of back-to-back 3-8 records staring you in the face, the recruits good enough to demand to play and win right away will probably look elsewhere. The coaches will certainly have to earn their pay between now and signing day.

Stat updates: Mike Bell needs 165 rushing yards against the Devils to get to 1,000 on the season. We might need that kind of performance. Mike Thomas needs four receptions and 111 yards to hit the UA all time single season top-ten lists. We might need that kind of performance too.

More Money: With 52 catches for 771 yards, Thomas' Wildcat career is off and sprinting. The most prolific receiver in Arizona history is Bobby Wade and Bobby only had 30 receptions his freshman year and 45 as a sophomore. In other words, Thomas is already performing like an upper classman.

Here's a little something for the philosophy majors. Would it have been better if things went as the odds-makers predicted the last two weeks? Would it have been better to lose to UCLA but beat Washington? Is it better to have a great win and a terrible loss or an average one of each? Does the team have a better chance against ASU coming off a win or a loss? Discuss.

One thing about this loss is that it takes away any false hope for next year. From a hype perspective, that's probably a good thing. Losing to the last place team reminds the world that we're still young, we're still growing, and we still have terrible games in us.

Success is a vile temptress. You get a little taste and suddenly you think you can beat anybody. Now we're reminded of all the holes that do remain and we can take a more levelheaded approach into the off-season. But, man, that Success is hot, isn't she? We gotta hook up with her again soon.

What is the statute of limitations on discussing a whipping of epic proportion? Last week's game was why we follow sports. Last week's game was why we pour our entire emotional being into athletic teams and leave spouses and family matters angrily shaking their heads. Last week's game is why we sit through Washington 38, Arizona 14.

Sometimes your team plays a game like we did against UCLA, and every little bit of it is worthwhile.


Now, here come Those Guys.

It looks like both Wildcat fans and Sun Devil fans were right this year…about each other's team. The Devils found it is in fact hard to win shootouts without a record-breaking senior quarterback, and the Cats just aren't good enough yet. Both camps are disappointed this year, but in twelve short days, that's about to change for half the players on the field.

Very interesting parallel between the two teams when you look at the Pac-10 results. Both lost to USC, Oregon, and Stanford, while both beat OSU. Arizona gave up 200 yards rushing to a Washington running back, Arizona State gave up 500 yards passing to the UCLA quarterback. The one-game difference in the standings is because ASU beat Washington State and UA lost to Cal (although if the Cougars' Jerome Harrison was in Arizona Stadium Saturday night, maybe he runs for 500 yards).

Taking a step back, you see that this year looks a lot like last year for Arizona. Painfully close losses. A win against NAU, one road win against a decent Pac-10 team, and one home win against a ranked Pac-10 team. The difference is, we still have one game left to change the final stamp on 2005. The bottom line will always be wins and losses and we can officially make 2005 a better year than 2004 with a win on November 25.

That means there's still a ton to play for. If we win, we have improvement for the second consecutive year. Lose and we're back at the beginning of 2005 again. Yes, we have some freshman stars-in-the-making at quarterback, wide receiver and linebacker but we'd be faced with the harsh reality that we still have a long way to go.

There's a big difference between winning three of your last four, and going out on a two-game losing streak. I vote for A.

We can still keep the Territorial Cup. We can still keep Mike Stoops' record versus the Sun Devils perfect. We can still keep ASU out of a bowl game.

We can, and we will, still keep believing.

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