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Maybe Not

November 24, 2008

(OSU 19, at UA 16)

Everything on the line. Everything going against you. And you rise above it to keep your dream alive.

Maybe someday itíll happen to us.

The first winning season in a decade isnít the same as the Rose Bowl, but it would have been a big deal to our Arizona Wildcats. This was a large game, and I thought we had it.

Iím always nervous, but it looked like Oregon State was the team that was panicking. Going for it on your own 41 in a tie game? Gambling again on the same drive with a full yard to go at midfield? When the Cats made the stop and marched off the final 50 yards for the go-ahead score I thought the Beavers were done.

Starting QB and MVP tailback injured? Hard to overcome that. Dropped touchdown pass in the 4th quarter? Itís just not your night. Missed extra point to tie the game? Start the bus. This was a team that wanted nothing to do Rose Bowl pressure.

Yet they won. Or, more accurately, we lost.

One first down from victory. I have no problem with the run on first down. Iím fine with the run on second down that took OSUís final timeout off the board. That leaves you with nine yards before take-a-knee time. Why go under center and call another run?

The thing is we were very aggressive just three plays earlier. I loved the play-action pass on 2nd and 8, even if it ended up in a sack. Loved the shotgun pass call on 3rd and 9, and loved Willie running for the first down (and juking a guy!) even more.

Against Oregon we played to win when we were losing. This week we played not-to-lose even though we were ahead.

Everybody complains about the prevent defense. But that doesnít mean you should run an allow defense.

On October 22 we were 5-2 and coming off our biggest win of the year. Since then we're 1-3. Perhaps the entire Wildcat Universe went into mourning the day Robert Luther Olson retired.

(Speaking of which, how Ďbout that start to the hoops season? If the first two games are any indication, the Russ Pennell era is going to show us things we have never seen, and not in a good way. Itís gone from, ďMaybe we donít have enough depth,Ē to, ďPerhaps we should review the rules of basketball.Ē)

I think itís time to give the all-red football uniforms a rest. 1-2 just isnít going to cut it at home. I say we break out blue-on-red for the first time, or stun them by going old-school with blue-on-white. Weíre still undefeated (3-0) under Stoops when wearing blue jerseys and white pants. Be afraid, ASU.

As bad as this most recent bad loss feels, itís hard not to feel good for Oregon State. The longer I cheer for Arizona Football the more I appreciate it when a long-suffering fan base gets rewarded. Iíll definitely be rooting for the Beavers in the Civil War.

(By the way, could you imagine missing out on the Rose Bowl because of a missed extra point? How devastating would that be? Unfortunately, Wildcat fans have a deep memory well from which to draw comparable emotions.)

There are additional reasons to want OSU to win this week. Here are your updated bowl scenarios, from best case to worst:

-Beat ASU, OSU beats Oregon (A)
Two Pac teams in the BCS, and Oregon and Cal are tied for third. If the Holiday Bowl likes Cal better (won the head-to-head, on a two-game win streak, closer), and if the Sun Bowl uses its no-repeat clause to pass on an eight-win Oregon team, Arizona could back into El Paso.

-Beat ASU, OSU beats Oregon (B)
Common sense prevails, the Bears and Ducks end up in the Holiday and Sun Bowls, and the Cats go to Vegas.

-Beat ASU, Oregon beats OSU
We would be alone in fifth place and play in the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco.

-Lose to ASU, OSU beats Oregon
USC in the BCS puts 6th place Arizona in the 5th place Emerald Bowl.

- Lose to ASU, Oregon beats OSU
We would get what our sixth place finish deserves and play in the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve. Aloha means ouch.

We are making two assumptions: 1) USC beats UCLA, and 2) ASU beats UCLA. But go ahead and root hard for the Bruins to upset the Devils on Friday. It just crosses one item off the worst case scenario list.

The Territorial Cup game is two weeks away so we have some time to mope around a bit. Hereís what kills me: The stats say weíre a well-coached team. We donít commit penalties (four against OSU, only 38 all year, easily the best in the league). We minimize turnovers (only 15 on the season, just one behind Pac-10 leader OSU). Isnít that what a good team is supposed to look like? So what does it take to go from disciplined to dominant? What is it that makes a person, a team, a program go from average to superior?

How do losers become winners? And how long does it take?!?

(Pause. Deep breathÖ. OK.)

The season isnít over. The third bye is welcome because it gives us an extra week to try and kill the bad momentum, and that includes We The People.

This is definitely one of those years when you have to wait until you see the complete picture before you decide if you like it. We have a couple two-game win streaks, and our current two-game losing streak. Every time we win we think weíre going to run the table, and every time we lose it looks like weíre going to lose out.

Well, I said we needed eight wins to call the season a success, and the math tells me we can still get eight wins. And the next one would be really, really, really big.

Maybe itíll happen to us.

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