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?

Oh. Them.

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?