Read the new story; same as the old story.
I wish I had something new to tell you. I wish there was a new storyline, a new angle. You know the scores. You know the trends. Every conversation you’re going have this week about the Arizona Wildcats football team is the exact same conversation you had last week.
The big picture isn’t going to change. So it’s time to focus on the little picture.
I know it’s not fun. Nobody enjoys watching their team get destroyed back-to-back weeks on national TV. Going back to the end of last year it’s been a long 11 months for UA football fans.
It’s like comparing Shakespeare’s tragedies. The plots may be different but everybody dies at the end.
The big-picture question remains: Can Mike Stoops get the UA to the next level? If you say no, you’re not changing your mind no matter what happens the rest of the year. If you’re undecided, waiting until the end of the season will help you determine if you should jump off the bandwagon or figure out how much road the wagon has left before the wheels fall off.
Stoops isn’t going to be fired in the middle of the season. The big picture isn’t going to change in the immediate future. The little picture is making the most of the 2011 season, and that should be the focus.
Six regular season wins, and winning a lower-level bowl game. Forget the two (three? four?) straight blowouts.
I know some will say that’s a “loser’s mentality” and “accepting mediocrity” but it’s merely separating the short term from the long term. Passionately yearning for the Rose Bowl doesn’t change this team’s ceiling.
Here are the steps to emotionally surviving the rest of the 2011 Wildcat season:
Look for signs of improvement.
Be encouraged that Andrew Luck and Stanford were only able to score one touchdown on their first six possessions. Be optimistic that Trevin Wade is back to being a playmaker.
Celebrate individual performances.
Nick Foles completed his first 17 passes. Juron Criner came back and was still dangerous. Ka’Deem Carey showed elusiveness in traffic and finished every run.
Watch for reasonable progress.
Foles helping out the struggling offensive line by turning sacks into incompletions. The run game gradually improving. The passing game finding success in the red zone. Making a 27-yard field goal.
Monitor depth chart movement.
Wildcat Universe, brace yourself for Zendejas: The Return. It makes no sense not to use a guy who made 74% of his field goals last year when his replacement has only made 25% of his tries.
But I would absolutely continue to use Jaime Salazar for extra points, just like John Bonano only does kickoffs. The Cats used three punters in the same game last year. Why not three kickers?
Support the players.
When Alex Zendejas takes the field, root for him. Hard. The Cats need someone who can put three points on the board. As Foles said after the game, “That’s like missing a wide open layup.”
Use your tickets.
Two years ago 53,479 people attended the Stanford game at Arizona Stadium. The reported attendance was only 49,636 on Saturday. I don’t agree with the fan strategy of staying home until the team improves but that line of thought will become increasingly popular.
The UA athletic department is calling for a red/white/blue combo-out against Oregon. The fear is you’ll see way too much gray aluminum.
(I didn’t have the heart to do a full-scale breakdown of the attendance trend. I’ll let somebody else be the bad guy on that one.)
Nobody likes losing. Nobody is accepting losing. There will be plenty of time for foot-stomping, fist-shaking and worrying about Arizona having what it takes to win the Pac-16 Mountain Pod. The big picture stuff will be dealt with in due time.
If the Wildcats can focus in on the little picture they can still have a winning 2011.
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