November 20, 2006

(UA 37, at UO 10)
[hoops: at UA 101, NAU 79]
[at UA 102, NMSU 87]

Another week, another stunning upset. And it is not getting old one bit.

This has to be the most remarkable of the three. We beat a top ten team at home every year. We never win in Eugene, Oregon.

Two weeks ago I said we'd be on to something if we still had the second best Pac-10 scoring defense after the Cal and Oregon games. Not only is that true, but our scoring average in league games has actually gone down after playing the Pac's top two offensive squads.

Cal scored 20 points and gained 356 yards against us. They average 33.6 points and 422.7 yards against everybody else.

Oregon put up 10 points and 346 yards against the Wildcats. They average 33.7 points and 446.9 yards against everyone else.

Cal and Oregon had a combined four possessions inside our ten-yard line. They scored one touchdown.

You want more proof that we're building an elite defense? Our best safety doesn't play due to injury so sophomore Michael Klyce comes in and intercepts two passes. We have good defensive players all over the place now. The progress of the Brothers Stoops must be grim news to the offensive coaches in this league.

And the Arizona offense is starting to catch up. Chris Henry's first carry went for 14 yards, which was longer than any run he had against Cal. He took four of his first six carries for at least ten yards. He set a career high in rushing yards before half time, not to mention putting on a clinic on how to execute the stiff-arm.

This is a guy who didn't even come into the game as our leading rusher. Now he has seven touchdowns in the past three games. Heck, our entire offense only had nine in the eight games before that. Henry took a position that was a question mark going into the season and a huge negative sign for most of the season and made it his own. Not only do we now have a tailback, but he'll be back next year to give more stiff-arming lessons.

It was great to see Henry's bodyguard, Big Earl Mitchell, getting rewarded with his first career touchdown. On a 37-yard pass play no less!

Did you notice which side of the line opened up that gaping hole on Henry's 61-yard TD run? That's correct, the right side, where the Three Amigos Grandes reside. And we got 'em for tres más años, y'all.

Stop the presses: We threw a pass to a freshman wide receiver! And Terrell Turner caught it! Seven yards isn't quite Ferrari-like, but at least the engine is finally running.

Nick Folk was a perfect four-for-four on field goals. Only three of them counted, thanks to an illegal formation penalty, but Nick avoided a potential momentum-changing play by booting the re-do five yards deeper and just as pure.

Thanks to a few first downs and our second special teams fumble recovery, Oregon didn't start its second possession in the third quarter until there were just over three minutes left on the clock. It's hard to come from behind when you don't have the ball.

You know things are going well when you can hear the U of A chants on TV early in the third quarter from the loudest stadium in the Pac-10.

The Cats ended up with a 12 minute and 40 second advantage in time of possession. I like our chances when our offense is on the field for almost an entire quarter longer than the other guys.

Offensive efficiency stat of the week: Arizona scored 4.1 points per completed pass against Oregon.

After securing our sixth and final turnover, the Cats were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. How can you penalize us for celebrating? Have you seen us play the last eight years??

(We interrupt the glee for your one basketball comment: Mono? Kirk Walters is out with mono?! Now we know where all of Spencer Larsen's bad luck went.)

It's tempting to say the football team has turned the corner. But, as impressive as the last three weeks have been, all we've done is prove we can win as an underdog. We've shown we can harness the feeling of being counted out, overlooked and given zero chance, and use it to beat the odds. The problem is, we're not an underdog any more.

It's one thing to succeed when you face low expectations and minimal pressure. The next step is to play a game you're supposed to win, and win anyway.

I know we're bowl eligible for the first time since 1998. I know we've hit my Line Of Agonizing Disappointment a game ahead of schedule which means I'm officially satisfied with the season. But this game is different.

You see, I thought we were going to beat ASU back when we were 1-4 in Pac-10 play. We beat them in 2004, we should have beaten them in 2005, we're better this year, they're worse, and we're at home. We need to win this game.

It won't be easy. Remember, the tables were turned just two years ago. The Devils rolled into town with a shiny 8-2 record. They were scoring points at will. Shoot, Dirk Koetter even had one of his two career wins over a ranked team that year. We were a pitiful 2-8, and we all know how that game turned out.

The struggling Cats pulled off the upset in 2004 and ASU could do the same this year. (Forget for a moment that back then we had a brash young coach in his first season and they have a guy gasping and wheezing at the end of his sixth year.) We need to match their intensity. We need to equal their hunger and exceed their discipline. Do not take them lightly. Do not say dumb things about being four touchdowns better. Do not make references to Cyndi Lauper songs. Win the game.

I know some of you may be a tiny bit torn about this year's Duel in the Desert. If we win, we may lose Dirk Koetter forever. With Lisa Love's first big hire already losing basketball games to NAU and Portland State she may panic and pull the trigger on Koetter after one more loss to keep the lynch mob off of her porch. What if she accidentally hires a good coach?

We can't worry about that right now. We need to get greedy. We aren't in a bowl game yet. We haven't secured a winning season yet. We've only touched the Territorial Cup twice in the past seven years. We gotta make up for lost time and win every single game we can.

We need to stay hungry but we should be confident. The Wildcat players should expect to win and practice hard in order to back it up. The Wildcat fans should walk into a packed Arizona Stadium loud and proud. We have all the momentum, and we have this stone cold fact:

Dirk Koetter has never beaten the same Arizona coach twice.

Win the game.

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