The Arizona Wildcats are riding high after their dominant victory over Washington. Does it make them the team to beat among those trying to beat Oregon?
Posts Tagged ‘Alex Zendejas’
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.
That’s the way the ball bounces. It’s a game of inches. Zendejas beats Arizona State.
Some clichés are more fun than others. There’s also a cliché about winning ugly that applies.
Nobody was able to make us feel better after the Washington and Cal games. And that same nobody can make us feel bad about beating ASU.
Sometimes the ball bounces off someone’s foot. Sometimes a tipped ball lands in a confused quarterback’s hands. But sometimes a blocked punt isn’t returnable and the team ends up settling for a field goal. Sometimes a muffed punt hops right back into the returner’s hands. The latter two didn’t happen on this particular day and the Wildcats left Sun Devil Stadium victorious.
Each football season is divided into three parts with the opportunity to earn a fourth. There’s the out-of-conference season, the Pac-10 season, and your rivalry game. The Cats did well enough in the first season, the second season is incomplete, but the 2009 version of the third season is officially and forever a success.
On a day when the UA offense never got it going as Nick Foles had to wear a Luke Skywalker-like glove to protect his injured hand, the Wildcat D-line came up huge with a combined five sacks. Not bad for a bunch of converted fullbacks.
Have you noticed all four of our starting defensive lineman have a uniform number in the 40s? Oh, you didn’t? You must have only been looking for useful information.
ASU’s defense is legit but unfortunately for them the Devil offense is really, really, really, really, really, really bad. How strange is it to see Arizona with the superior quarterback and ASU with the defense that is dying for some support?
How terrifying was it that we were staring at overtime with a minute to play? None of us in Red and Blue needed extra football for the second straight week. Overtime should be banned for a while. Blame the economy if you have to. I’ll gladly take a furlough.
If you want to drive yourself crazy consider this: If Foles’ pass at Cal doesn’t get tipped, and if the Cats get the stop on 4th-and-4 against Oregon, this win against ASU clinches the Rose Bowl. Two plays.
But I will be staying sane this week. My glass is half-full and it’s conspicuously shaped like a silver cup from 1899. Bring on the good news…
We won a three-point game! The seven close-game losing streak is over.
We won wearing white-on-white! It was the first win for our palest uniform combination since Willie Tuitama’s first start four years ago. That win was by two points so the flip side is two of Mike Stoops’ three 3-points-or-less wins have been in white-on-white, meaning both of the white-on-white wins in the Stoops era (we’re 2-6) were decided by narrow margins.
Fashion conclusion: Arizona can win while wearing white jerseys and white pants, but rarely, and barely.
Stoops is now 3-3 against ASU but he’s 2-1 against Dennis Erickson. Considering Devil fans’ low opinion of Coach Mike that has to annoy them the way it bothers Wildcats that Stoops finished with a losing record against Dirk Koetter.
Sun Devils should be happy they don’t have a bowl game. Erickson (now 19-18 at ASU) gets to call himself a winning coach for a few more months.
Don’t forget that Koetter was fired for winning 54% of his games, after Bruce Snyder was fired for winning 57% of his games.
Mike Stoops on the other hand had his best season to date last year and he has a chance to better it this year. With seven wins the Cats have now guaranteed a bowl game and winning record for the second straight year.
My prediction is a win against USC puts us in the Sun Bowl while a loss leaves us with the Poinsettia Bowl.
Well, the Poinsettia isn’t a prediction, it’s a fact. But if the UA beats USC and Oregon beats OSU I think the Holiday Bowl takes Stanford and their Heisman Trophy finalist leaving the Cats for El Paso.
The only other potential scenario I see after a win over USC is this:
- OSU beats Oregon to go to the Rose Bowl.
- The Holiday Bowl has to take Oregon.
- The Sun Bowl takes Toby Heisman.
- The Emerald ignores the pleas from Vegas and settles for a repeat visit from hometown Cal.
- The Bowl Formerly Known As Las Vegas has to take Arizona who is ahead of USC in the standings.
The Vegas opponent? BYU, as the Cougars finished second in the MWC with TCU going to a BCS bowl. Could you handle an exact repeat of last year’s bowl matchup?
That wouldn’t be a bad bounce at all.
This always happens. So why does it hurt every time?
It doesn’t matter who Arizona is playing, or how big an underdog the Cats are, once the ball goes in the air we start hoping for a win. When the team mounts a comeback to get it close before the half you begin to think it’s possible. When the defense pitches a shutout in the third quarter and the UA takes the lead you get sucked in. When the lead gets to ten in the fourth quarter you start to feel it. When you get a play-for-the-ages touchdown to retake the lead you know you’re THIS close.
And if you’re a fan of Arizona Football, you know you’re THIS close to losing it all.
That sinking feeling is what we’re fighting as a program. That woe-is-us fear that defeat is right around the corner. The problem is you could sense that fear at Arizona Stadium Saturday night. More specifically, you could hear it.
When Jeremiah Masoli found Ed Dickson for 23 yards down to the Arizona 2-yard line in the second overtime the building went silent. When LaMichael James was stopped short of the goal line it stayed silent. Even when the Ducks were stopped again on second down you could hear a rose petal drop.
That’s not normal. Remember, the Cats were winning at this point. If they get one more stop on third down they could force Oregon to go for the tie. If there’s a false start Arizona’s chances go way up. If there’s a turnover the Wildcats win. In any other stadium the crowd would have been deafening.
In any other stadium and they would have believed.
This is what Mike Stoops is up against. He’s not just trying to get better players to win more games. He has to save Arizona Football from itself.
This is our plea, Coach Stoops. Don’t become just another UA football coach. You have been a part of teams that won the big games. You have a national championship ring. Help us become like you. Please don’t become like us.
The red-and-blue lining is we still care and we keep coming back. As a fan, don’t ever let go of the pain. Do not give in to the numbness of apathy.
THIS will not always happen. Believe it.
. . . .
It was so close to being the perfect football day. The ESPN College GameDay experience lived up to the hype. In additional to the whole national-TV thing there was something about being out before dawn among like-minded people. It was like collecting left-footed platform shoes and finding out there’s a convention.
GameDay is so big it brings out fans of teams that aren’t even playing. There were supporters of Washington State (as always), Ohio State, Alabama, and…the Green Bay Packers? Apparently the NASCAR fans couldn’t make it.
After a day of anticipation the game got started with ESPN’s moving camera suspended above the field. The Stadium was packed and the atmosphere was electric. After spotting Oregon two touchdowns the Cats responded and the cycle of think-suck-fail began.
The Wildcats did make some really big plays. Nick Foles’ fade pass to Juron Criner in the corner of the end zone was a thing of beauty. Alex Zendejas’ 47-yarder to end the first half was huge. Xavier Kelley shutting down the fourth-down attempt with seven minutes left was a championship-level play. The 71-yard Criner catch-and-run had a chance to become this generation’s Chuck Cecil play.
But, alas, the list of Arizona Plays was longer. Fumbling at the one. Two Cats fighting for a fumble and kicking it back to Masoli. Missing a 24-yard field goal. Rushing the field too early. Hold on, that one deserves its own section…
Things Nobody Else Does
- Pour out of the stands in a one-score game while the other team has the ball
Aren’t you just asking to lose at that point? The only way it could have been worse is if they were on the phone buying Rose Bowl tickets.
Moving on. Who do we play this week?
This year’s Territorial Cup game is going to be a battle to see which team can best bounce back from having its dreams crushed. Arizona will finish short of the Rose Bowl for the 32nd consecutive year. ASU has locked up its second-straight losing season for the first time in 62 years. So all that national exposure associated with the Oregon game? This week will be the opposite.
But it’s still must-win for both teams.
With the Rose Bowl dream dying the question has been if the six-win Cats could end up going to the No Bowl. Could a 6-6 / 3-6 UCLA team get a bowl bid at the expense of a 6-6 / 4-5 Arizona team?
This explanation of the Pac-10 bowl selection process from the Emerald Bowl seems to indicate the conference standings take precedence. The Seattle Times says bowls will be able to pick any eligible Pac-10 team regardless of the final standings, but not until next year. So the Cats should be safe as long as the Bruins lose to USC.
But do we really want to find out? You know the Poinsettia Bowl would do everything possible to be able to take a team from the L.A. market that has won three of its final four games. The Cats need to win one more game to ensure they don’t get left out.
So we are playing for a bowl this week.
And did I mention it’s ASU? That should be all the motivation anybody needs.
. . . .
I know, I know, the basketball season is already two games old. We’ll preview (postview?) Miller Era, Year One soon. In the meantime the Maui Invitational starts Monday with the Cats tipping-off against Wisconsin at 10 p.m. Arizona time on ESPN2. Root for Arizona to play Gonzaga and either Maryland or Vanderbilt as the tournament progresses. The best scenario is beating good teams. The next-best scenario is losing to good teams.
Anyone know how to say “Bear Down” in Hawaiian?