homecoming float

Homecoming was a success on and off the field at the UA. Photo by Wildcat Universe

The Wildcats dispatched Colorado on a beautiful Homecoming day to push Arizona’s 2014 record to 7-2. The seventh victory ensures Rich Rodriguez of a winning mark for the third consecutive season since coming to the UA.

Arizona and its fans are already eyeing the next game and looking for the next win and that’s the way it should be. It is very positive that the bar has been raised for Arizona Football but don’t ignore the significance of a third straight winning season.

Three in a row has never been easy for the UA, especially since moving up in conference 37 years ago:

Most Consecutive Winning Seasons since joining Pac-10

CoachStreakYears
Larry Smith61981-1986
Dick Tomey41992-1995
Dick Tomey31988-1990
Mike Stoops32008-2010
Rich Rodriguez32012-2014

It’s even more impressive that RichRod instantly got the program back to winning and hasn’t slowed down. You have to go back to Jim Young and the WAC days to find the last UA coach to post winning records in his first three seasons in Tucson. Young’s Wildcats went 8-3, 9-2 and 9-2 in 1973-’75.

(We will ignore the fact that Young left for a Big Ten job after his fourth season.)

So an Arizona coach getting above .500 in a season is still noteworthy. Doing so with three regular-season games to spare is very exciting.

(We will also ignore the fact that the last time Arizona had seven wins this early – 2010 – the Cats ended the season on a five-game losing streak.)

The challenging part of this home stretch is the opponent gets tougher every week. Washington beat Colorado by two touchdowns, Utah beat the UCLA team that beat Washington by two touchdowns, and ASU beat Colorado, Washington and Utah.

(I’m telling you, the Sun Devils – playing Oregon State and Wazzu next – are going to be 10-1 and No. 5 or 6 in the playoff rankings when they come to Tucson, and it’ll be the Cats’ job to take it all away. The atmosphere at Arizona Stadium will be insane.)

Posting a third straight winning season is a big deal. Beating Washington to match last year’s win total would be a bigger deal. Continuing to win and finishing the season ranked would be better still.

This is what it looks like when a program works to move from Dangerous to Contender status. Acknowledge the milestone and then appreciate that it’s not the end of the road.

The 2014 Cats still have places to go.

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Quick hits from the Colorado game:

• It was very encouraging to see Nick Wilson showing his early-season burst in the second half. He had five runs of at least 10 yards Saturday night and two carries that went for more than 30. Wilson’s home-run power will be needed as the opposing defenses get tougher.

• A lack of rushing yards has been a knock on quarterback Anu Solomon this year and he answered the call with 115 yards including scampers of 19 and 22 yards against the Buffaloes. A 100%-healthy Wilson and threat-to-run Solomon would help keep the field goal unit off the field in the red zone.

• The number of off-target and/or dropped passes remains a concern. Here is Solomon’s completion percentage in each of the six Pac-12 games:

OpponentCompAtt%
Cal477364.4%
Oregon203164.5%
USC437259.7%
WSU263868.4%
UCLA184837.5%
Colorado213855.3%

It’s not good that the three lowest outputs have come in the last four games and it’s not coincidence that two of them ended as losses. The Cats do need to run the ball but the team’s strength remains the passing game and hitting on a high percentage of throws and keeping the chains moving is crucial.

• The area where Anu has really excelled is throwing touchdown passes. His 25 scoring tosses are the fourth-highest single-season total in UA history and just three shy of the record shared by Willie Tuitama and Nick Foles. I suppose if you’re going to have a calling card, putting the ball in the end zone isn’t a bad one to have.

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