Holiday Break: Breaking down the Holiday Bowl inside and outby Scott Terrell on Dec. 27, 2009, under Sports
Is the car gassed up? Did you check the tires? Are you stocked up on beef jerky and Tums? It’s like August all over again because the state of Arizona is heading to San Diego.
Holiday Bowl week is here!
The Las Vegas Bowl trip was an absolute blast and I’m looking forward to more of the same this year. I do hope we make this bowl game thing an annual tradition.
Although, looking at UA history the return bowl trip shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Dating back to the ‘80s every time the Cats broke a bowl draught they made it back to the postseason the following year. Now, going bowling again next year would be a bigger accomplishment as the Wildcats have only played in a bowl three straight years one time (1992-’94).
Arizona’s all-time bowl record is 6-7-1 so a win on Wednesday would even things up. That wouldn’t be bad at all considering the school went 65 years between its first bowl game (1921) and its first bowl victory (1986).
This is the first time we’ve played a school in a bowl game a second time. In our previous 14 bowls we played 14 different teams, from the obscure (Centre and Drake) to the name brand (Auburn, Georgia and Miami), but Nebraska is the first rematch.
The ’09 Cornhuskers are known for three things: defense, defense, and defense. In their last seven games Nebraska has only given up more than one offensive touchdown twice. They kept the other team’s O completely out of the end zone three different times. The Huskers intercepted 14 passes over their final six games.
This is not a game for Nick Foles to try and buy time with his feet. Holding the ball against these guys is a turnover waiting to happen. The game plan has to be read-read-read-throw it away.
I would love for our guys to score two quick TDs and coast but we’re probably going to see a game similar to the last two we played. What we need to not see is a third quarter like the last two. Just one first down in the opening period of the second half against both ASU and USC. What’s the opposite of halftime adjustments?
Sustaining long drives is going to be difficult so the Cats have got to look for a couple opportunities to take a shot deep with Juron Criner. We need to get the ball into #82’s hands as often as possible (remember the huge inside screen against Oregon) but it makes a lot of sense to try and set up a quick score or two with a one-on-one jump ball deep.
Field position is crucial in defensive struggles so Keenyn Crier needs to come up big. Thirteen-yard punts aren’t going to cut it. Along the same lines Alex Zendejas can’t miss any short field goals. Hopefully his kick against the Sun Devils will have him ready in case more 4th-quarter heroics are needed.
The fans won’t like it but I don’t see Mike Stoops doing a lot of gambling in the red zone. Yes, touchdowns are huge in this game, but field goals are semi-huge.
I will say this: One act of well-timed deception could make all the difference. I’m thinking something along the lines of going for it on 4th-and-inches, lining up in the “Hey! We’re running a quarterback sneak!” formation…and then passing. If that happens I will leave my nosebleed seat, storm the press box and lift Sonny Dykes onto my shoulders myself.
So word must have gotten out about our poor record wearing white jerseys and white pants. It’s like someone said, “Uniform stats, shmooniform stats. I see your fear of White-on-White and give you White-on-White-on-White.”
Whatever Arizona wears the program will be trying to finish a season ranked for just the sixth time in the Pac-10 era. A win would also give the Cats a rare year-ending win streak. Since leaving the WAC Arizona has only won three or more to end a season four times, with three-game streaks in 1984 and ’88 (no bowl game either year), a four-game streak to end 1997 and the seven-game run that took us to our first Holiday Bowl in ’98.
That’s a lot at stake for the guys from Tucson. What’s not at stake is a successful season. Mike Stoops has already proven that last year was no fluke and he’s providing solid evidence that he’s building a program with staying power.
Because of that it’s a perfect opportunity for the Wildcats to come out relaxed, confident, and ready to play their very best.
Grab your beef jerky and let’s ride.