Citizen Staff Writer
Arizona has let a few football games slip through its fingers this season, but don’t expect Wildcat athletic director Jim Livengood to overreact.
“This is not a point-your-finger time,” Livengood said on Tuesday.
The Wildcats are assured of their first bowl appearance in 10 years as they prepare for their annual rivalry game with Arizona State on Dec. 6. Yet much of the attention after two straight losses seems to be on UA’s fourth quarter failures and coach Mike Stoops’ job security.
Stoops, with a 23-34 record in nearly five years, has a contract through the 2010 season.
Livengood chooses to look at the big picture.
“We’re more competitive than we have been in the last four years. There’s no denying that,” Livengood said. “This is a better team, a better program. We’re missing one simple thing: the ability to finish some games.”
The Wildcats (6-5, 4-4) have had a chance to win late in every game this season. They have fallen short four times by a combined 28 points, an average of 5.6 points per game.
Arizona had five turnovers against New Mexico in an eight-point loss; settled for a pair of field goals, instead of touchdowns, early in the fourth quarter of a 24-23 loss to Stanford; was within a touchdown of USC; and dropped a fourth-quarter pass on fourth down late against Oregon.
The trend continued with a 19-17 loss to Oregon State on Saturday. The Cats yielded a TD, were unable to run out the clock and allowed a game-winning field goal on the final play.
“We’re living in a society where people want to find fault or blame. We’re in this thing together,” Livengood said. “We’re not far away. You can’t suggest we haven’t improved just because we have the same record, or anything like that. We have better talent.
“We’re just not closing.”
When Arizona wins, it’s by an average margin of 32.6 points a game. But the combined record of teams UA beat is 18-49.
The Wildcats’ lone victory against a team with a winning record came in a 42-27 triumph over California (7-4).
Wildcat losses have been against teams with a combined 35-22 mark.
Arizona has clinched a postseason appearance in the Sun, Las Vegas, Emerald or Hawaii Bowl, depending on its outcome against ASU.
“There’s nothing we can do about the games we’ve played. That is in the past,” Livengood said. “Let’s look at what we can do against Arizona State on Dec. 6.”
ASU (4-6, 3-4)
at UA (6-5, 4-4)
When: 6 p.m., Dec. 6.
Where: Arizona Stadium
TV: FSNA and ESPN or ESPN2