O is for Over

April 16, 2007

(UA 8, at Stan 1)
(UA 15, at Stan 1)
(at Stan 6, UA 3)


The UA baseball team had an impressive streak come to a disappointing end while the football team hopes to end a streak of disappointment.

The BatCats hit the road for the first time this conference season and the first two games went according to plan. On Friday night, Preston was Preston. He pitched another nine innings, struck out a career-high 15 batters, and his 1.65 ERA actually got smaller. Guilmet is more than an ace at this point. He would be like a Wild Draw 7 in Uno.

Saturdayís game was cruising along until the Wildcat offense exploded in the fifth inning and opened the floodgates for 11 runs. Actually, ďexplodedĒ isnít the right word. It was more like digging through a dam with a toothpick. The UA recorded eight hits in the frame but only three reached the outfield, and only one was for extra bases. There were four infield hits, a bunt single, two walks, a hit-by-pitch, and a sacrifice fly. It was huge small-ball.

One guy who will never be able to complain about a lack of run support is Brad Mills. The Cats have scored 30 runs in his last two starts. The other pitchers may want to start copying whatever it is heís doing to make his hitters like him so much.

We scored eight runs against Stanfordís best pitching, and 15 runs against the Cardinalís second best. So naturally we can only muster three runs against their worst pitching. That, as they say, is baseball.

Thus ended the 16-game winning streak. But you donít want to downplay a road series win in the Pac-10, and Arizona has won the season series with Stanford five consecutive years. From 1983 to 2004 the Cardinal won the league 11 times, went to the College World Series 12 times, and took home two national championships. But now Stanford hasnít beaten Arizona since Andy Lopezís first year. Itís not exactly a changing of the guard, but it shows the once-dominant program in the Pac has dropped back to the pack and Arizona is one of the schools vying to take its place.

You start the season with the best Pac-10 record in school history, you go 35 days without losing, and when you finally come up short in a single game, you drop out of first place. Thatís life in a strong baseball conference.

It probably wonít be too hard to dislike the team that passed us. The Arizona State Sun Devils now sit atop the Pac-10 standings. I am greatly displeased with those guys.

Both ASU and 8-1 UCLA take this upcoming weekend off from conference play so itís simple math for the Cats as they head north and west to face Washington State: Win three games and youíre alone in first. Win two games and youíre tied for first. Lose the series and you fall into third.

The next winning streak probably wonít reach 16 games, but 1-0 would be a great start.

--

The annual spring football game was this past Saturday and all eyes were on Sonny Dykesí new offense. Unfortunately, my eyes were not among them as I was doing my duty as Family Man, Defender of Domestic Harmony, so I was limited to reading recaps and looking at stats. When youíre studying second-hand numbers from an intra-squad scrimmage your analysis is going to hold about as much water as a fork, but since weíre talking about football in April Iím going to do it anyway.

I was at the spring game last year and there was no doubt the defense was better than the offense. It wasnít even close. The quarterbacks only completed 40% of their passes. There was only one passing TD and it came on a busted play where Mike Thomas snuck behind the secondary.

The running game was even worse. Cat backs gained only 51 yards on 19 carries last year, a paltry 2.7 yards per attempt. I remember watching the first team offensive line creating absolutely no holes against the first team D.

Strangely enough, after all of that, the offense ďwonĒ the scrimmage, 29-20. It was like wrestling your six-year-old, letting him pin you then patting him on the head and saying, ďYou sure are strong, big fella.Ē

We walked away from the scrimmage hoping our defense was just that good. As the season came and went we learned the D wasnít that good and the offense was in fact that bad.

As a result the offensive coaching staff was overhauled. Itís never fun when people lose their jobs, but when your offenseís national ranking number is bigger than the temperature in Tucson you can understand when changes are made.

The point of all this? The offense did better this year! The QBs put up 70 passes and completed 64% of them. There were six scoring drives. But the numbers that jump out are the rushing totals. Chris Jennings, Xavier Smith and Terry Longbons combined for 115 yards on 21 carries. Thatís an average of 5.5 yards a carry! Those are legitimate running back numbers!

And it canít be ignored that the O scored 56 fakes points, which is almost twice as many as last year. Thatís a real big improvement in fake points.

Yeah, the defense is still better. They only gave up two touchdowns all day. They picked off Tuitama twice. But we knew the defense was good. We just needed to know that the offense is on its way to being not bad.

Mission accomplished, and Arizona fans can face the summer with a lot of optimism.

Optimism with a brand new O.



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