Pile on the optimism, Wildcat fans.
The potential for greatness is there.
Yes, it was only Toledo. The same Toledo team a five-loss Arizona squad scored an identical 41 points against in 2008. But a game like this can only produce two types of feelings. Either…
Does that mean it’s a really good sign when our easy game actually is easy? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
We’re way beyond wake-up calls. Either you wake up, or you’re dead. After every single one of these bad losses we thought the lesson was learned. Yet here we are again. They only let you re-take a test so many times. After a while you just flunk out.
When you play an inferior opponent you can’t confirm what you hope to see but you can confirm what you’re afraid of seeing. It’s fine to have lingering doubt about this year’s Arizona team, but it will have nothing to do with Friday’s performance.
The majority of the preseason hand-wringing was because of the defense. The UA D didn’t produce a single-digit-rushing-yard performance a la the Desert Swarm era but there was more than enough athleticism on display to believe this defense has the potential to be good enough so the offense doesn’t need to score six touchdowns every game.
There’s that word again: potential. The defensive end firm of Reed, Reed and Elmore were pressuring the quarterback, knocking down passes and making plays in the run game. At D-tackle redshirt freshman Justin Washington introduced himself as a player. New cornerback Robert Golden had enough speed to blitz from the edge and stop a 3rd-down run in the backfield.
Then there were the linebackers. The fear was three guys out of position, too small and too slow to do anything about the ball carriers zipping past them. Instead there was Derek Earls using his 6-3 frame to break up passes and haul in an impressive interception. Paul Vassallo recorded a game-high 10 tackles. Jake Fischer contributed six stops and a 2nd-half sack. The early results are in and the polls indicate “just inexperienced” as opposed to “really bad.”
On offense you have to go out of your way to find fault with a game that includes 187 yards and multiple highlight-reel contributions from your go-to receiver. Then there’s this factoid: Nick Foles completed 85.7% of his passes in the 1st half, and it actually brought his game average down. 18 of 21 in the 1st half, 14 of 16 (87.5%) in the 2nd half, 32 of 37 (86.5%) for the game. That’s like Salim Stoudamire shooting free throws, only if the basket was 45 yards away.
Nitpickers will point to the offensive slump after the first touchdown, when the Cats couldn’t pick up a first down on three straight possessions. On the first unsuccessful drive Foles missed an open Juron Criner on a deep out. The next drive was doomed after the ball was knocked out of Foles’ hand resulting in a 2nd-and-20. Then you had the safety that came after a good punt and curious timing for a quarterback change.
So correct two plays and maybe you have two bad possessions the entire game. I’m going to say the Wildcat offense passed this initial test.
Now, if you do want to complain about something I give full permission to grumble about the new pants. The stripes are too thick and I don’t understand why the blue on the inside of the stripe doesn’t match the rest of the pant. I also sympathize with those who aren’t pleased with the smaller A on the white helmets. Maybe it’s supposed to make the players’ brains look bigger.
Speaking of brains, I do like the new double halfback formation with Foles in the shotgun and Nic Grigsby and Keola Antolin on either side of him. It gives you a runner and an outlet receiver on every play, or you can attack both flats simultaneously. Considering Grigs and Ant only combined for 30 receptions all last year the eight for the pair on Friday signaled a shift in strategy. Not a surprise when you remember the new play-caller is the running backs coach.
The bottom line is the Cats have three primary touchdown-scorers in Criner, Grigsby and Antolin. The trio now has 50 combined TDs so it makes perfect sense to get them on the field at the same time and find ways to get them the ball.
A quarterback in complete command, offensive playmakers making plays, and the new defense looking athletic and fast. Not a bad start to a season at all.
A potentially great season.