Are Wildcats stumbling into Bears’ trap? (with poll)by Anthony Gimino on Sep. 24, 2010, under Sports
The Arizona Wildcats have been saying all the right things this week.
“We understand we are not where we want to be,” said quarterback Nick Foles. “We have nine games left and we’re a long way away from our goal. … We’re starting the Pac-10 schedule now, so now is where it really counts.”
There has been a lot of that kind of talk this week, and Arizona has to turn words into action Saturday night against Cal.
The Wildcats are at their highest point, coming off a victory against ninth-ranked Iowa.
The Bears are at their lowest point, coming off a 52-31 loss at Nevada.
Do the Cats have a hangover? Are the backed-in-a-corner Bears especially dangerous?
Back in the preseason, Arizona was considered slightly better than Cal, but both mostly were pegged to be somewhere in the thick middle of the league. The teams’ paths diverged after last week’s results.
For Arizona, at some point you have to believe what you see. Winning both sides of the line of scrimmage against Iowa is no fluke. After three games, it seems safe to believe that the new linebackers will be most than just fine, that the coaches have plugged holes at defensive tackle, that Foles is that good.
But the last time the team was feeling this good about itself, it went out and got slapped 33-0 by Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl.
Back to saying the right things …
“If we lose to Cal, then the Iowa game doesn’t mean anything. We’d be right back kind of where we had been,” said left tackle Adam Grant.
Even if you buy into the Wildcats’ emotional maturity — to be as up for this game as it was for Iowa — is Cal as bad as it looked last week?
Probably not. That was the Bears’ “trap” game. A short week of preparation against an unusual offense. A Friday night game on the road. A running quarterback — Colin Kaepernick — to defense. Cal was without standout linebacker Mike Mohamed, who might be able to return this week from a sprained toe injury.
Arizona, meanwhile, could be without star receiver Juron Criner, who is suffering from a turf toe injury.
Cal’s defense looked slow and confused last week against Nevada, but Foles and Arizona have none of the quarterback run game that the Wolf Pack features in its Pistol offense. The Wildcats managed just 16 points, a regular-season low, against Cal last season. Arizona gained a mere 274 yards.
“They’re a talented team,” Foles said of Cal.
“I remember playing them last year, and they just out-played us. We didn’t execute at all. They had our number all game. They’re going to be fired up coming in here.”
Arizona needs to match that, to still have the chip on its shoulder that backup cornerback Mike Turner talked about Wednesday.
“I know a lot of people thought Arizona was going to be nothing — which is fine; they’re entitled to their opinion — but we know as a team we have to prove ourselves Monday through Saturday,” Turner said.
“Coach Mike (Stoops) said he saw us grow up in camp and came closer as a team rather than being individuals. And that’s who we are. We’re a team.”