Arizona will know significance of win over Oklahoma State by season’s endby Javier Morales on Sep. 09, 2012, under Sports
Javier Morales is the site founder, editor and writer for WILDABOUTAZCATS.net. He is a former Arizona Press Club award winner
In the waning seconds of Arizona’s 59-38 victory over No. 18 Oklahoma State last night at Arizona Stadium somebody behind me in the press box mentioned the victory was one of the greatest wins in the history of the program.
After compiling my recent Top 50 ranking of games in the history of Arizona football, I am hesitant to rank the Wildcats’ victory — as tantalizing as it was — there quite just yet.
I have the same mindset as Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez, who was asked during the postgame press conference how the victory ranks among those in his 11-year coaching career.
“How does it rank?” he asked. “Well, it’s the best win I’ve had at Arizona.”
The press room filled with laughter. With only two games into the season, and nobody — including Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy — knowing how good the Cowboys really are, it is too early to jump to conclusions about the historical significance of the victory.
Does it mean everything to this season especially with how Rodriguez wants “to make Arizona relevant” nationally as he said more than once after the game? Of course. The Wildcats, who had lost six straight games to teams in the Top 25, are on the mind once again of everybody who follows college football. They are on the tip of everybody’s tongue for the right reason.
The Wildcats cracked the Top 25 with a No. 24 ranking in the AP poll.
“I told our guys that Top 25 teams get on that ticker at the bottom of the screen,” Rodriguez said. “We want to be on the right side of that ticker.”
What the Wildcats must hope for — secondary of course to them finishing at least second in the Pac-12 South behind USC — is that Oklahoma State runs the table. That will add luster to Saturday’s upset of the 18th-ranked Cowboys, who won 24 of their last 27 games, captured the Big 12 title and beat Stanford and Andrew Luck in the Fiesta Bowl last season.
Other times in the past Arizona has achieved significant early-season non-conference wins only for the opponent to have a less-than-stellar season.
>> Arizona upset host Ohio State and Woody Hayes 14-7 in the the Buckeyes’ season opener in 1967. Ohio State started 2-3 and finished 6-3. The Wildcats inexplicably finished 3-6-1.
>> The UA upset No. 3 Southern Methodist 28-6 in 1985 at Arizona Stadium. The Mustangs were serving an NCAA probation and failed to recover after the loss, finishing 6-5.
>> The Wildcats defeated No. 6 Oklahoma 6-3 in 1989 at Arizona Stadium on a dramatic last-second field goal by Doug Pfaff. The Sooners, serving an NCAA probation, finished a disappointing 7-4.
All of these games ranked in my Top 50 list, but they would have certainly been rated higher if the opponent fared better by season’s end.
For the time being, the victory over Oklahoma State is something the UA can use for pride. More than anything, it is one step closer to the players and fans to buy into Rodriguez and his staff. The days of having disappointing crowds of 45,602 — as sadly was the case last night — for such games will become a thing of the past.
“A lot of people think we aren’t relevant,” said UA quarterback Matt Scott, who had doubters despite passing for a career-high 387 yards last week in a 24-17 overtime win over Toledo.
“We beat a ranked team. We beat a good team.”
Arizona has won its first two games with a highly productive balanced offense fueled by Scott (58-of-87, 707 yards, four touchdowns with only one interception) and running back Ka’Deem Carey (282 yards and four rushing touchdowns on 46 carries). They are playing gritty and resourceful on defense behind former walk-on safety Jared Tevis (two interceptions against Oklahoma State) and leading tackler Jake Fischer (27 tackles including 2 1/2 for lost yardage).
Tevis, undersized at 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds, embodies Arizona’s “become relevant” spirit. He also has broken up three passes and leads the team with five deflected passes.
“The kids were saying ‘We have to believe’ and I feel that if you really prepare and work hard, you’ll have confidence,” said Rodriguez, who added that he does not buy into the “Dr. Phil way of closing your eyes” and hoping something magical happens.
“The confidence comes from preparation. If you go work hard and play your tail off, you might not win but you’ll have a good chance.”
If Arizona manages to rise above expectations — many believe the Cats will finish around 6-6 — that will make the resounding victory over Oklahoma State mean that much more. Is the victory top 50 material in the annals of Arizona football? That all depends on what we see from Arizona and Oklahoma State the rest of the way.