The Arizona Wildcats got exactly what they wanted with a nice workmanlike win at Washington State.
Except for that whole Franchise-Quarterback-Lying-On-His-Back-Holding-His-Knee-In-The-Air thing.
Injuries are the unspoken disclaimer in any sports projection.
“Arizona could set passing records (if everyone stays healthy).”
“Oregon will play for the national championship (if no one gets hurt).”
“ASU has a chance to make personal foul history (if the headbutts only injure the other team).”
At 5-1 the Cats are off to their best start in a decade but they didn’t get to enjoy it for very long. How quickly can a team’s fortunes change? Faster than you can say patellar dislocation rehabilitation.
It was a stereotypical quarterback injury. Nick Foles had thrown the pass and was looking downfield. WSU lineman Travis Long rolled up on Foles’ leg and the QB went down like he had been shot.
And Wildcat Nation held its collective breath.
(Check that, everyone has a Nation these days. I hereby establish Wildcat Universe.)
At halftime Mike Stoops said he thought the injury would be a week to week deal. Anyone who has ever heard Stoops give an injury report knows that could mean anything up to and including Foles having his leg amputated in the locker room.
The report after the game was a sprained knee with Foles out “two to three weeks.” Looking at the schedule the Cats better hope it’s the two weeks.
As the injuries piled up it was easy to be jealous of the four conference teams on a bye. The best move in the Pac-10 right now is to not play. The Wildcats jumped into the top 10 during their bye week. Now Oregon was so dominant sitting at home that it vaulted to the top of the polls. Not a bad week’s rest.
On top of that Oregon State came up short in double-overtime leaving Oregon as the only Pac-10 team without a conference loss. If Arizona beats Washington, UCLA beats Arizona, Cal beats OSU and Washington beats Stanford the Pac-10 race would be over by Halloween.
But next week can wait. Everything else is put on hold as Arizona tries to deal with its new today.
We have no way of knowing which way this goes. Will the team rally around their new quarterback as he rises to the occasion? Will the season fall apart as frustration sets in? The entire spectrum of possibilities is in play.
To make things more difficult it’s not like you have two quarterbacks with the same skill set and one just a little better than the other. Foles and Scott have completely different strengths and it’s going to take a significant game plan adjustment to give Scott a chance to succeed. If you’re looking for some positive spin, the element of surprise could work in Arizona’s favor against Washington.
Having this week’s game at home is another big plus, if the fans do their part. It doesn’t do any good to complain about Scott. Grumbling in the stands isn’t going to cause a medical miracle on the sideline. Complaining won’t turn Scott in a blonde guy who completes 75% of his passes.
Matt Scott is Arizona’s quarterback and the offense will be his.
It’s not like Mike Stoops hasn’t been here before. Willie Tuitama missed parts of seven games in a 2006 season that was so tough even third-string QB Kris Heavner got pressed into service. The ’06 Cats started 1-4 in Pac-10 play before rallying to win three straight games (all started by Tuitama) to finish 6-6.
Keeping this ship together can be done but it’ll take a new mindset from the team. Relying on the long pass to bail you out isn’t an option any more. You have to be tougher than the guy across the ball from you. Find the hidden yards. Grind out first downs. Be aggressive in trying to force turnovers.
For Matt Scott to succeed Arizona has to get gritty.
The Wildcat Universe holds its breath.