They say time heals all wounds. It looks like four months was enough time for Arizona fans to forgive the Wildcats for the Holiday Bowl.
We won’t know for sure how many people jumped off the trolley until the 2010 ticket sales numbers are in, but a few thousand fans spent their Saturday showing they have moved past 33-0 and they’re ready to soak in the optimism again.
It was a relaxed and positive atmosphere at Arizona Stadium as the UA football team took part in its final scrimmage of spring practice. The crowd (6,000 people according to one report) was treated to more than just a football practice.
I love that there were family-friendly events a full two and a half hours before the start of the spring game. Eat some barbeque, meet Max Zendejas and Lance Briggs, play some games with the kids, take in the scrimmage, and get autographs of the current players. You could plan an entire Saturday around the UA spring football game and that’s the way it should be.
Hopefully incoming A.D. Greg Byrne sees the potential of the spring game as a must-see event and makes it even bigger. Tailgating should be expanded and encouraged. Toss some t-shirts into the stands. Keep the drawing for a season of luxury suite tickets (I hear the guy who won last year really enjoyed himself).
The college football season is just too short to hold a grudge against your team. The spring game is the final oasis before the long desert summer and Wildcat fans drank it up. When you saw the size of the line waiting for Nick Foles’ autograph (he was the only one with a table and chair besides Mike Stoops) you never would have guessed you were looking at a guy who threw for a whole 28 yards in San Diego.
As for the scrimmage itself, it’s not about trying to dissect plays and stats and declare which parts of the team are going to be strong and which will struggle. I remember a few springs back watching Willie Tuitama throw horrible passes to receivers who couldn’t catch. There was nothing to show that Sonny Dykes knew what he was doing and the UA offense didn’t look like it was going anywhere. Where Tuitama and company went was into the record books with about every passing record in school history.
So don’t overreact to Foles only completing seven passes for 74 yards (that’s more than the Holiday Bowl!). The spring game is about looking for individuals showing the potential for greatness, and that’s how the crowd correctly responded.
When Ricky Elmore broke through for two early sacks, the crowd cheered. When Juron Criner hauled in each of this two touchdown receptions, the crowd applauded. When Joe Perkins and Trevin Wade pulled off the rarely-successful interception-return-option the crowd issued its resounding approval. When Taimi Tutogi showed hands, speed and attitude on the same 73-yard play the crowd went wild.
As exciting as Tutogi was, Nic Grigsby is still Arizona’s best option at tailback. Keep the guy healthy and you’ve got a true game-breaker back there. Unfortunately keeping the guy healthy remained difficult as an aggravated hamstring limited Grigs to just one carry (and one self-tackle).
The half-full response to the sluggish offense is the intentional use of a vanilla playbook. The half-empty side says a veteran offense should be able to dominate an inexperienced defense no matter what flavor you use.
The reality is we weren’t going to see if the offense has improved until the regular season anyway. When the Cat receivers successfully beat press coverage we’ll know things are better. When more red zone trips result in touchdowns (Hello, Taimi!) we’ll know the right coaches and players are in place.
Until then we’ll have to settle for watching our guys make big plays on a beautiful spring day.
We forgive you for the Holiday Bowl.
(Just don’t let it happen again.)
More coverage of the spring game:
AG’s Observations and Opinions
My Twitter page with live tweets from the game.