September 3, 2006

(at UA 16, BYU 13)

Every once in a while, you do get a second chance.

In 2004, a Mexican hurricane pushed rain into Arizona the day of a big non-conference home game, we stunk in the last couple plays before attempting a game-winning field goal, and the kick went wide left. In 2006, everything was the same except no one was soaked, and the kick went through the uprights.

Folk yeah!

This day was a painfully long time in coming. It got so bad that I began to hate the Romans for putting 31 days in August. Why couldn't we just run February three times in the summer?

But there we were, with Arizona Stadium packed from the ground to the very top of the upper deck, ready to watch the Wildcats. Happy New Season!

It was a night of victory:

We won the turnover battle! The Cats recovered two fumbles and only threw one interception. Not putting it on the ground once was probably the best part of the offense's night.

We won on TBS! I take back all those mean things I said about Jane Fonda.

We did not, however, win the cheerleading challenge. The cheer boys held the girls overhead in that flexible flamingo pose where they hold one leg in the air, and BYU had three ladies still standing after ours had all dropped out. Bravo, BYU cheerleaders. Bravo.

BYU also earned spirit points for reenacting the "Thriller" video for their fans before the game. Very thoughtful of them.

The contest got off to a torrid start for the home team when Spencer Larson introduced himself to his Mormon brethren with a forced fumble on the very first play. Other introductions included Dominic "The Dominator" Patrick punishing people in the secondary, and some guy named Louis Holmes recording two sacks and forcing a fumble. I'm going to go out on a limb and say he's going to be pretty good.

There were also plenty of negatives. After waiting 9 months and 8 days for this game, the offense made us wait 2 quarters, 8 minutes and 7 seconds for our first touchdown. If you would've told me we were only going to get into the end zone once against BYU's un-vaunted defense I would've said you were crazy and then probably wept a little.

Tuitama had a rough night. The huge abyss where a running game should have been certainly didn't help, and multiple passes were dropped, but Willie made his share of bad throws. The worst part was he wasn't seeing the underneath guys in coverage and could've/should've had three or four passes picked off instead of the one. Plenty for The Franchise to learn from.

We definitely need to work on our first-and-goal-from-the-two plays. We tried running and ended up with a 6-yard loss in the first half, and then in the second half we employed a run-and-shoot strategy.

Speaking of which, this week we had the bizzaro scenario of ASU calling four straight running plays on the goal line (and not getting in) and Arizona calling three straight passing plays on the goal line (and converting).

(You didn't really think I'd ignore the Devils' thrilling victory over Northern Arizona, did you? Honestly, you can't blame the ASU offense for struggling. How is the Sun Devil D supposed to get them ready to play a 1-AA defense? Wx1 = Bye-bye Top 25.)

I certainly had first-game problems as a fan. I didn't get to my seat early enough to spread the *kick* Bear Down word, my standing stamina was poor and I lost my voice before we even had time to start complaining about the offense. It was a C- fan performance at best. I'll have to go back and look at the film, practice hard, and show up against Stephen F. Austin ready to play - I mean - watch other guys play.

My Red Zone family definitely picked up the slack. I am giving the south end zone fans full credit for BYU's botched hold on the field goal attempt in the third quarter. I'm looking forward to our game ball from Coach Stoops.

BYU's punter started with punts of 65 and 79 yards but ended with a 16-yard kick. I guess I wasn't the only guy with stamina issues.

More punting: I know Nick wanted to focus on placekicking, but he's too talented not to use both ways. His three punts went 58, 75, and 47 yards for a 60-yard average. That's just a bit of good.

Everyone will be talking about Chris Henry's long run, but equally huge was his tough third-down catch near the goal line to set up our lone touchdown. His stats didn't look pretty (especially when you take out the 54-yarder) but his confidence should be high for Game 2.

We were oh-for-one in the video replay department and it came at a crucial time. Instead of a first down we were faced with third and long with the game on the line. Willie's connection with A.J. was an absolutely monstrous play to keep the game-winning drive alive.

Besides the aforementioned receptions by Henry and Johnson, we only had one other third down conversion the entire night. File that under Things To Work On.

One suggestion would be testing out your best new players. What's the point of talking up your trio of freshman wide receivers if you aren't even going to let any of them touch the field? It was like promising someone a couple Ferraris and then burying the keys in the backyard. We're gonna have to fire those babies up, especially if Money Mike isn't 100%.

The new clock rules clearly came into play as the final 10 minutes of the game produced only two drives. BYU took 4 minutes and 42 seconds to travel all of 38 yards to tie the game, and we used 5 minutes and 22 seconds to go 44 yards (plus the kickoff return) to win it. It was a really, really big deal that we had three timeouts to work with in the fourth quarter and they only had one. Put play-clock management right under the lack of fumbling on the offense's (modest) list of achievements for the night.

1-0. Now what?

This isn't going to be popular but, as fans, we may as well treat Games 2 and 4 as bye weeks. Our chances of beating LSU are now a lot worse than the chance of rain this past weekend, and we probably aren't going to get our USC upset this year. But that's OK. If you look back at our bowling road map, you'll notice we weren't counting on scoring those big wins anyway.

(Speaking of USC, talk about a scheduling faux pas by the Arkansas A.D. In the just-completed home-and-home series with the Trojans, the Razorbacks were outscored 120-31. Southern California seemed to take it personally against the entire state. Did Monica Lewinsky go to USC or something?)

Sure, we could beat LSU this week (the odds of them looking past us have certainly increased) but there's not much point in getting our hopes up. Play hard, don't get hurt, and come home.

We basically have two weeks to make sure we beat Stephen F. Austin, then two weeks to prepare for Washington. Even if we have to struggle through two more 16-13 games we can still get our three wins in September and then we'll have two months to improve enough to get the other three wins we so desperately desire.

For me, there's only one question about the LSU game: What are we going to wear? LSU wears white at home so we have access to our full array of colorful combinations. My fashion sense is tingling.

The TV announcers Saturday night pointed out that Kyle McQuown made an excellent play to pull down a high snap on the game-winning field goal. Even though his punting debut didn't go as planned, he still kept his head in the game and contributed heavily on the biggest play.

Kyle is a pretty good metaphor for the entire team this week. Maybe we performed more like a benched punter than an all-conference quarterback, but we gutted it out and made the plays we needed at the end to get the win. The 2006 season opener is upů

And it's good.

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