That warm breeze you felt throughout Tucson Saturday night was Arizona Wildcats fans collectively exhaling.
The UA football team tore open the Washington Huskies, removing any chance for a last-minute loss. The runaway victory also eliminated the fear of Rich Rodriguez starting 0-6 in Pac-12 play.
The best way to avoid losing a lead is to keep extending the lead and, in doing just that against UW, the Cats are now back ahead of pace for a bowl bid in RichRod’s first season in Tucson.
There will be no lamenting the Arizona defense (four sacks and three forced turnovers) or special teams (8-for-8 on kicks and a punt return touchdown) this week. The Wildcats’ machine-like offense happily shared the spotlight and the complete effort gave Washington its third consecutive blowout defeat at Arizona Stadium.
As frustrating as things were during the 34 days between Wildcat wins, this one win not only rights the ship but it jets the UA past the latest checkpoint ahead of schedule.
The original plan was one win out of the Oregon–OSU–Stanford-Washington-USC stretch. Mission accomplished with a game to spare. The Oklahoma State win goes back to being extra and the worst case scenario is now a 4-5 record before games against 1-6 Colorado, 2-5 Utah and ASU.
The breathing room allows Arizona to face the L.A. schools with less pressure. But, then again, if this offense has been feeling pressure for the last three games some team is going to be in a world of hurt when the Cats finally get comfortable.
Have you noticed how little teams have been able to do against Oregon State since the Arizona game? Did you see Notre Dame and Cal struggling to generate any sort of offense against Stanford? Adding the Washington defense to the comparison only enhances the picture:
|Ore. St. opp.||Yards||Points||Stan. opp.||Yards||Points||Wash. opp.||Yards||Points|
When you inspect the OSU or Stanford schedule independently the Arizona game looks like a fluke. But the “fluke” has happened for three straight games now. Do you want to dismiss what the UA did against Washington because LSU and Oregon put up similar numbers? Well, you just favorably compared Arizona to LSU and Oregon.
You know who’s on fire right now? UA receivers coach Tony Dews. After having Johnny Jackson come from nowhere to catch 10 passes in the last game (before getting injured), he dusted off Garic Wharton and David Richards only to have them produce 94 yards and two touchdowns against Washington.
You know what it’s called when a team looks sharp after a bye week instead of rusty? Coaching. The good kind.
Good coaching also helps regroup a team when momentum has slipped away. After sprinting to a 31-10 lead the Wildcats turned the ball over on consecutive snaps wrapped around halftime. If the UA defense falters on that first drive of the third quarter it’s a seven-point game and anything goes. But on the Huskies’ very next play – what may end up being the turning point of the season – Marquis Flowers hit Keith Price, which led to Austin Hill hitting Sean Parker, which led to Washington hitting the eject button.
What could be better? ASU giving up 43 points in just 18-and-a-half minutes? Done. For just the second week of the season all is right in the Wildcat Universe.
The Cats have their record back above .500. It’ll be three weeks before Arizona again plays as a home favorite. We’ll see if this team can continue to extend its lead.
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