The thought was the Arizona/Stanford game would be a repeat of last year’s high-scoring affair.
It turns out that was only half right.
The Cardinal offense certainly got whatever it wanted. The fear going into the game was the Arizona secondary wouldn’t be good enough, and it wasn’t. The hope was that the pass rush could bail out the DBs, but it couldn’t. It quickly became apparent the UA would have to match the 43 points it scored last year to keep up.
Instead, Stanford’s well-timed blitzes made Nick Foles look like he was carrying two month’s worth of rust instead of two weeks. Matt Scott didn’t suit up due to injury and Nic Grigsby got one carry before hobbling off again.
It’s hard to win a shootout when you’re short on bullets.
The result was a blowout that took the Wildcats from controlling their own destiny in the Pac-10 race to needing help to finish third.
Arizona will not be going to the Nose Hole. There will not be an all-the-marbles rematch with Oregon the day after Thanksgiving. Jim Harbaugh’s crew put the Cats into their misery early.
It’s OK for Wildcat Universe to be disappointed. It was disappointing last year. It will continue to be disappointing until Arizona Football finally wins the game that clinches the conference championship.
The Arizona faithful were hoping for a peak year and the dream was the peak would reach all the way to football heaven. I still think this is a peak year in the sense that next season will probably be a step back. That feeling got stronger after getting a look at next year’s hideous schedule. But there will be plenty of time to sift through 2011 when this season ends.
What are Wildcats supposed to make of 2010 now?
A lot. If you can quickly get over the Stanford game.
As great as the Cardinal looked it’s hard to think of them as unfortunate, but Andrew will feel unLucky if Auburn runs the table (or Oregon loses exactly once). Last year an 8-1 record won the Pac-10 by two full games. This year it could mean a consolation trip to the Alamo Bowl.
Stanford’s BCS hopes got a boost when Alabama lost and TCU looked dominant in beating a future member of the Pac-12 South. It now appears the Cardinal just needs Auburn to lose at Alabama to put TCU in the national championship game opposite Oregon and allow the 11-1 team from the Pac-10 to head to Pasadena on New Year’s Day.
Why are we discussing this? Because Stanford’s goals are now Arizona’s goals. Life as the third-best team in the conference means you root for the top two teams to make BCS bowls so you can move up a slot. It’s time for Pac-10 pride, even if it means swallowing your personal pride.
It’s just like changing time zones with the end of daylight savings time. No one wants to make the move but the world has shifted around you.
The key for the Wildcats – and Wildcat fans – is to bounce back in time for a huge home game this Saturday. The Stanford game was the crossroads for turning the season from Good to Incredible. The USC game is the crossroads for keeping Good from decomposing into Decent.
Arizona only has had two 10-win seasons in school history. The Cats have only finished in the AP top 25 seven times. Mike Stoops hasn’t done either of those things, but they’re both within reach right now.
Win the two home games, lock up nine wins and then you essentially have two bowl games to try and hit double-digits.
The Arizona Stadium crowd is going to have a big part in this. The difference between the Iowa and Cal games showed how much the fans’ energy (or lack thereof) can affect the performance on the field.
It’s USC. It’s an immediate second chance during prime time on ABC. Show up ready for redemption and revenge.
That and you don’t want to be staring down the barrel of a three-game losing streak heading into ASU week.
A lot of work needs to be done in a short amount of time. Priority number one is getting Nick Foles back up to speed.
Foles has thrown an interception in each of his six full games this year and four of them have come in the red zone. To fix it Nick needs to be more patient and hurry up. The patience is not feeling he has to force the ball into the end zone just because the team is within scoring distance. The hurrying up is more quickly getting to the decision to throw the ball out of bounds.
There is plenty of reason to believe Foles and the offense will be much better by season’s end. The timing will come back as the practice and game reps build up. The receivers will remember what the ball feels like. Keola Antolin and Greg Nwoko look like they could be the answer to the red zone woes. Juron Criner will still be Juron Criner.
There’s still time to do great things. Just hurry up.