October 9, 2005
(at USC 42, UA 21)
So there we were. At #1 USC. Down seven in the fourth quarter. Staring history in the face. Then we lost by 21.
Before the game I did an exercise that I'm going to repeat if we're ever in a situation like this again. Nobody in the entire country was a bigger underdog than us on Saturday. The whole world knew we were going to lose this game. So I made everybody in my viewing party honestly predict the score before the opening kickoff, and I wrote them down. That way when things started to get ugly we could look back and say, "Look, I knew this was going to happen. No need to get overly upset," instead of spending the afternoon yelling, "Another third down conversion?! Why can't we EVER tackle somebody?!?"
At the end of the day we all had underestimated our offensive production, and overestimated the final margin of defeat. So, from that perspective, we had reasons to be pleased with the results.
The thing is, it took a really long time for things to get ugly. It was a 7-7 tie at the end of the first quarter. We were only down 14-7 at halftime. We played them even in the third quarter and took that same seven-point deficit into the final period. With 12:49 left in the game, we were only trailing Almighty Southern California by a single score.
I know the naysayers will immediately reply with, "We're past the point of moral victories! We need wins and only wins! I'm stomping my feet and giving you my angry face!" Well, after the Cal debacle a moral victory against the #1 team is the best we could hope for this week, and it gets us back moving in the right direction.
On to the rest of the good news:
Copeland Bryan is certainly making up for the time he lost to injury. He was the only Cat to sack Matty Heisman. He put the pressure on Leinart that forced the interception, and he caused multiple holding penalties. The TV guys pointed out repeatedly how he was abusing SC's all-world tackles. It was quite the impressive display.
Mr. Bryan is very aptly named. Without Copeland, our land just can't cope. For next year all we need is a Copeland on either end of the line, and two bigger Copelands up the middle. Piece of cake.
On special teams, Danny Baugher put it all together this week. He was booming them from our side of the field all game, but his first four punts were downed at the USC 4, 5, 10, and 12-yard-lines. If we had won we would've been carrying our punter off the field on our shoulders.
Speaking of specialness, wasn't Syndric Steptoe's kick return the quintessential Wildcat Football play? He followed his blocks well. He made the move to get past the initial wave. He kicked it into high gear to carry the ball 76 yards down the sideline. Then he falls down. Not touched by anybody. Only at Arizona.
This little tale had a happy ending however as the offense picked up Step took the ball the final 22 yards for the score. Definitely something to build on.
And did you see how we capped that drive? We did it! We used play action on the goal line and, guess what? It worked!! We ran up the middle on first down. We then faked up the middle on second down and passed it to the fullback in the right flat. The throw itself wasn't pretty, but Gilbert Harris was wide open and made a great shoestring catch for the touchdown. It looks like ol' Rich the Third is going to have to find a new kingdom.
So here we sit at the dreaded 1-4. But you know what? Forget about it. That needs to be our strategy. Forget the past five games. The season starts now. "Today is the first game of the rest of your season" and all that.
We need to go back to the 1920's when you only played six or seven games a year. Don't be a lollygagger, old boy. Grab some simoleans and buy a ticket. I know my onions and we've got a hotsy-totsy schedule the rest of the way. A winning streak would pos-i-lute-ly be a sockdollager in this town. See you at the Stadium for some whoopee!
Why does the season start now? Because four of our next five games are at home. Only two of our final six opponents currently have a winning conference record. Besides, who wouldn't want to erase four losses from their record?
We're finally playing a team on our level. I know it's hard to believe, but they do exist, and they do occasionally make their way onto our schedule. Yeah, Stanford is 2-2, but the first one was a three-point win against Navy, and the one this week was against the Washington State team that we came within a dropped bar of soap from beating last year. Add in the Cardinal's infamous loss to UC-Davis and you've got to be downright giddy about going to the game this week.
As you prepare, make special note that U-C-Da-vis contains four syllables and sounds really good wrapped around rhythmic clapping.
Also, do not forget, the revolution starts this Saturday: *kick* Bear Down! I'm counting on you.
We can win this week. Not like "we can beat Cal" or "Ashton Kutcher can win an Oscar." We honestly, sincerely, logically CAN WIN this game.
Now we just have to do it. The team needs to be fired up to play. We should come out in the all-blues and pretend it's our first game since ASU. The crowd needs to be loud and positive. Expect good things to happen for a change. Expect the other team to make mistakes for once. Let's get out there and go undefeated on October 15, 2005!
I'm not going to talk about the rest of the schedule. I'm not going to speculate about anything past this Saturday. For this team, for this season, this game is as Must Win as they come.
Beat Stanford. Now.
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