The Arizona football team, in a phrase you will often hear for at least the next two weeks, controls its own destiny.
But here’s the thing: The Wildcats don’t even have to win all of their remaining four games to win the Pac-10.
They just have to win three.
As long as they win the right three.
After another wild day of Pac-10 play — Stanford upsets Oregon, Cal star running back Jahvid Best is injured, USC holds on to win at ASU — here are the league standings:
Oregon State, 4-2
Arizona State, 2-4
Washington State 0-6
Arizona has four games left — at Cal, vs. Oregon, at Arizona State and at USC. The Wildcats can lose one of those games — as long as it’s against Cal or ASU — and still be in control of their own destiny.
But they have to beat Oregon and USC for that to happen.
Here’s how it works:
An Arizona team that finishes 7-2 with victories over Oregon and USC would win any tiebreaker involving teams with two league losses. That’s because the Wildcats, who already have defeated Stanford and Oregon State, would have beaten every potential two-loss team.
By the way, those wins over Stanford and Oregon State are looking better all the time.
Here is the upshot: Arizona can LOSE at Cal this week and still control its own destiny.
And that means this: You better get your tickets for the Nov. 21 game against Oregon because it will be the most important home game at Arizona this late in the season. Ever.
There is a breakdown of the rest of the Pac-10 schedule at our partner wildaboutazcats.com.
Postgame notes and quotes from Arizona’s 48-7 victory over Washington State:
YOU CAN HAVE A GAME BALL FOR ONLY $10 MILLION
Jeff and Sharon Stevens of El Paso, who donated $10 million Thursday toward the construction of the north end zone project at Arizona Stadium, were special guests at Saturday’s game. Coach Mike Stoops presented the Stevens — who are both UA grads — with a game ball in the postgame locker room.
UA assistant Jeff Hammerschmidt, who coordinates the special teams, was also given a game ball after his unit returned a kick and a punt for touchdowns. Word is, there was some joking in the locker room that the game ball should have gone to linebackers coach Tim Kish, who oversaw the special teams walkthrough on Friday while Hammerschmidt was out recruiting.
The Arizona first-string defense hasn’t allowed a touchdown in the past two games. UCLA scored its only touchdown on a fumble return, and Washington State scored midway through the fourth quarter when the Cats were using second- and third-stringers.
REED READY TO ROLL
Defensive end Brooks Reed, who had missed almost all of the Pac-10 season because of a sprained ankle, entered the game against Washington State on the Cougars’ third series. On WSU’s fourth series, Reed beat the right tackle around the edge and circled around to knock the ball loose from quarterback Jeff Tuel. Lolomana Mikaele recovered at the WSU 14, and UA scored three plays later to take a 31-0 lead early in the second quarter.
The coaches took Reed out of the game soon after that.
Said defensive coordinator Mark Stoops: “I saw a couple of people rolling up on him and cutting him, and said, ‘That’s enough.’”
Basically, the coaches wanted to test Reed to see if he was full speed for a daunting final month of the season. They came away convinced that he is, which is a big boost for the defense, which now has a better chance of getting a consistent pass rush without having to blitz.
“He really showed his snap,” said head coach Mike Stoops.
RUNNING BACK ROULETTE
Stoops said that backup running back Greg Nwoko, recovering from a shoulder sprain, could have played against Washington State but didn’t. “We didn’t feel like we had to risk it,” Stoops said. Better to rest Nwoko and get him ready for the final stretch. No word from Stoops on starter Nic Grigsby, who has been behind Nwoko’s timetable in rehabbing a shoulder injury. We’ll hear more from Stoops about Grigsby on Monday.
Without those two, Arizona used Keola Antolin, Nick Booth and true freshman H-back Taimi Tutogi at tailback. Booth led the way with 18 carries for 84 yards. The coaches could have given Antolin a larger workload but were cognizant of the need to keep him healthy, too.
COOL STAT, PART II
For the second time this season, Arizona’s Keenyn Crier did not attempt a punt.
FOLES FEELING FINE
When quarterback Nick Foles was last seen on a football field, he threw three interceptions and was involved in two fumbles against UCLA while suffering from what he described as an upper respiratory infection that wiped him out. He played a little more than half the game against Washington State, leaving in the middle of the second quarter but coming back in after halftime for much of the third quarter.
Foles completed 12 of 19 passes for 136 yards, with one touchdown and no interception. The touchdown was a thing of beauty, as he threw an arcing pass from the left hashmark toward the right corner of the end zone. The ball went over a defender to Terrell Turner, who had just enough room to make a nice catch in bounds.
“Nick Foles is really, really good,” said Washington State coach Paul Wulff. “He was so accurate and poised. He’s just a sophomore and he’s really, really good.”
GET THIS MAN A SCORE UPDATE
Stoops admitted he was eager to cut short his postgame interview so he could catch the end of the Oregon-Stanford game. Before the Cardinal hung on to upset the Ducks 51-42, Stoops was asked if he would be surprised by a Stanford victory. “No. I know what type of team Stanford has,” he said. “I have seen them up close and personal, and they present some unique challenges offensively. No one really understands until you play them. They can score a lot of points.”
QUOTE TO NOTE
“The thing I was most proud of is just the way our kids took the field. It wasn’t a jump-up-and-down, hit-your-head-on-the-goal-post kind of week. We were just focused on the details that win you football games.” — UA coach Mike Stoops, on his team’s steady, serious demeanor.