The Arizona Wildcats treated their fans to an easy win in their 2010 home schedule. No drama, just big plays and a lot of playing time for the backups. But the celebration did not last long.
The big boys are coming.
Juron Criner only played a couple quarters but it was long enough to catch a thread-the-needle pass from Nick Foles between two defenders and rumble down to the 3 yard line. Nic Grigsby scored the first of his three touchdowns on the next play.
A healthy Grigsby makes for very happy Wildcat fans. When #5 crossed the goal line to finish his 62-yard scoring run it was his 5th rushing touchdown on the young season, matching his total from all of last year.
With Foles, Criner and Grigsby the UA offense has three players you can’t take your eyes off for fear you might miss something. Each of them is a price-of-admission guy. If you get to see one of them at his best you’ve gotten your money’s worth.
Grigsby’s heroics aside, after two games it’s clear Arizona is a pass-first team. There’s nothing wrong with that and it’s not much of a surprise. The question is if you can convert in short yardage and goal line situations. Right now the bread-and-butter play looks to be running behind the right side of the line with Taimi Tutogi leading the way. Can you get to your bread and butter with better teams guarding the kitchen?
The other concern is whether or not this offense can protect a slim lead by keeping the clock running and moving the chains. The Cats would love to get a chance to test it out this Saturday…but we’re not there yet.
The new season brought some changes to Arizona Stadium. A new concrete wall was set up to keep the Zona Zoo from rushing the field (or at least get them to wait until the game has actually been won). New signs were put up to commemorate the conference championships and bowl appearances (but why would you list the bowls in reverse chronological order?). Even the port-a-potties behind the Red Zone had a new sponsor. There was a scent of newness all around.
The pregame atmosphere was excellent. Seeing that many fans for an early-season no-name game was a big step in the right direction. The next step is getting them to stick around.
I know people paid good money for their tickets and they can do whatever they want with them but I will never understand leaving early. And not just ducking out a few minutes early to beat the rush to the parking lot, but leaving with a half of football left.
The way I see it, with only seven (at most) home football games a year you’re dealing with such a precious commodity it’s a shame to waste any of it. If you were only given seven days to live, would you go to bed early on Sunday?
I’m guessing the seats will stay occupied a bit longer this week.
Here we go. The warm-up games are done. The Iowa Hawkeyes are coming to town with their Orange Bowl trophy and top-10 ranking, and the world gets a much deeper look at the insides of this Wildcat football squad.
How much did this team learn and grow from the Holiday Bowl? Lincoln, Nebraska and Iowa City are only 300 miles apart and they’ve even closer in the size of their linemen.
Even though this is the first true test since the 33-0 thrashing you have to like where the UA is positioned for this game: at home as an underdog on national TV. And – most importantly – good enough to do something about it.
It’s the best possible situation in which to try to win a sporting event. Arizona has zero pressure in this game. There have been a number of examples – Oregon last year and Oregon State the last two seasons, to name a few – where a non-conference loss to a good team has only made a team stronger for the Pac-10 season. Win and you get all the glory. Lose and you’re still undefeated in league play.
But a win could do some very nice things. I was absolutely wrong. I thought it would take three wins to crack the polls this year. Three wins would be enough to break into the top 15.
Ticket sales for the rest of the year would go through the roof. Additional games would get picked up for TV. Greg Byrne would find it easier to get people to take his call as he tries to secure funding for the north end zone project.
Beating Iowa wouldn’t make the season. It would, however, take an already-exciting season and launch it into the stratosphere.
No pressure though.