September 25, 2005
Bye weeks are the time for players to rest their bodies. An off week is the time for fans to rest their minds, and repair marital relations.
I've been a good boy all weekend, keeping football on TV to a minimum. And it's not a show. I do sincerely enjoy spending time with my wife and daughter. It's just that duty calls on Wildcat Game Days. Hopefully now my husband status is back to 100% and I'll be able to give the team my all for seven straight weeks of the conference season. Let's do this. "Happy Home" on three….
A follow-up to last week's story of personal trauma: My failure to produce in the clutch as a high school freshman led me to give up football at the end of the season. I chose instead to focus on my budding career as a baseball bench jockey and bullpen catcher. I am much more confident in Mike Thomas' ability to bounce back. The kid has been excellent so far and I expect we'll continue to see great things from #10.
During my lone season of playing football I did have one moment of glory but that'll have to wait for another time.
A few thoughts as we look forward to our first game of October:
Easily the most pleasant surprise thus far has been the improved production of the Arizona offense. The whole world knows we only averaged 14.9 points per game last year, and that includes the 34 we dumped on ASU. In case you blocked it already (and good for you if you did), here are our point totals for the eight losses last year: 6, 7, 19, 17, 14, 0, 14 and 9. Good gracious.
That's why this year's totals of 24, 31 and 24 are so encouraging. Hold on, doctor, we have a pulse!
The numbers are even more impressive the closer you look. All 79 points to date have come on the offensive side of the ball. We have ten touchdown drives thus far and the shortest one has been 51 yards. We're averaging eight plays and 68 yards per touchdown drive, and four of our TDs have capped off 80-yard drives.
The point is: The offensive has earned these points. There have been no gimme scores or short fields. We can move the ball this year, and I expect us to only get better.
(Yes, the flip side of that is the defense and special teams aren't helping much at all, but we can be negative during some other bye week.)
More cause for offensive optimism: In 2004 Syndric Steptoe lead the Wildcats with 30 receptions. Thirty. I think a couple guys had that many in one game against us.
This year four players are on pace to beat that. If they continue to catch passes at their early season rates, Mike Thomas will have 59 receptions, Steptoe will have 51, Brad "Build This House With" Wood will pull down 44, and Anthony Johnson will snag 33. Even our two senior running backs are on pace for 26 receptions each. Granted, there aren't any Bobby Wade-type numbers up there, but the days of defensive backs leading the team in catches appear to be gone.
(If I were being negative I would point out that the running game isn't holding up its end of the bargain. Richard Kovalcheck is tied for the season long with an 18-yard run. Our longest touchdown run is three yards. Good thing I'm not being negative.)
So cheer up, scoreboard fans! Our offensive progress is as clear as those blinking lights you so admire. The next step: Actually scoring more than the other team.
All right, which of you is making Spencer Larson voodoo dolls? He injures a knee in spring ball and sits out all of fall camp, plus the Utah and NAU games. Then, in his first quarter back on the field, he pulls a hamstring. Now he's listed as questionable for the Cal game. Somewhere Richard Dice shakes his head knowingly.
We have two losses. Both have been against likely bowl teams, and both have been by one score. We've been in every game until the bitter end. This means we're more competitive. This means we're better.
Now we start the real games, against the teams we see every year. They know us and we know them.
What do we know about the Cal game? We won't be afraid of them. We'll have had two full weeks to prepare and get healthy, and they only have eight days. We'll see a lot of hippies on the bus ride to the stadium. Other than that, this Arizona team has proven just about anything can happen. We're way overdue for the good side of anything.
One thing has bothered me recently: We don't do enough as a team. I don't mean the players. I mean we the fans in the stands. Yeah, we all yell and cheer and complain about running plays but I'm talking about speaking in one unified voice.
I'm talking about crowd chants.
When you compare us to other schools out there, we're really lacking in game-time traditions. We've got the standard "U of A!" chant. Then there's the "U!!!" "OF!!!" "A!!!" sectional chant at the end of the first and third quarters. But when your most unique chant involves a third of the crowd yelling a preposition, I think you can do better.
One option is to join the band. I don't mean invest in polyester and faux feathers. I mean join them in their chant after "Bear Down Arizona." They do it right in front of the Red Zone before the game, and while the tubas dance at the end of halftime. We generally give the band a hard time, but this chant is pretty clever. It goes a little like this (spaces between letters indicate a longer pause while hyphens mean you run the letters/words together quickly):
A R I Z O N-A
A R I Z O N-A
A R I Z O N-A
W I L D Cats
W I L D Wild-Cats
W I L D Cats
Whoooooooa Wild-about-them Cats! Wooo!
The tricky part is it's done at a pretty brisk pace. With 50,000 voices it may come out sounding like, "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA," which wouldn't really accomplish much.
I've always thought it'd be cool if the Red Zone could unite in some free-throw-like taunts while the other team warms up. For example, at the Purdue game we could have serenaded them with, "Traaaain Wreeeck…Traaaain Wreeeeck…" before the game and after every penalty, dropped pass, etc. With Stanford as our next home game, one could go nuts with UC-Davis stuff. But that would require creativity and preparation before every game, which may be a little too ambitious.
What's left? Well, we have that thing with the keys on kickoffs. I never understood it when I was a student but I did it, and it's still going on today. Then we do the typical monotone yell that crescendos right as the kicker's foot meets pigskin. Couldn't we modify that to make it more Arizona?
What if we still do the keys, we still do the monotone-to-crescendo, but one beat after the kick we all yell, "BEAR DOWN!"
There you have it, my new Fan Canaan. To start I look to my Red Zone brethren for support. We'll indoctrinate the student section refuges to take the good news back to their homeland. The upper deck will join in, until even the west side sitters feel the power.
Together we can make it happen. Together we can add a piece of Wildcat lore.
Together we can…
(*kick*) Bear Down!
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