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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Kish brilliant in motivating team to win

Tim Kish stood at mid-field of Arizona Stadium with ESPN sideline reporter Jenn Brown to his left and millions watching his first post-game interview as a collegiate head coach.

As he answered questions about his first career win and his team’s explosive victory, senior Robert Golden gave the 57-year-old Kish a pat on the backside.

The stern, yet personable ball coach neared the tunnel, jogged toward the locker room with UA athletic director Greg Byrne, and gave Arizona fans three fist pumps as his parting gift.

And with that, the Tim Kish era began.

While his coaching tenure at Arizona is expected to last only five more games, the job Kish did Thursday night was pure brilliance.

He was given the task of getting his team through what he called a “very emotional 10 days for us as a football program” after losing its coach of eight years. He then had the challenge of digging a sputtering program out of a 10-game Football Bowl Subdivision losing streak.

Kish passed with flying colors.

He brought back the flex defense the Wildcats used during the Desert Swarm days, and it gave a struggling Arizona defense a major shot in the arm.

A usually porous Arizona defense held the run-heavy Bruins to 37 yards on 25 carries for 1.5 yards per carry. The Wildcats were flying around the field and unknown freshman defensive back Tra’Mayne Bondurant racked up a team-high seven tackles.

The sense of fun was evident, and it all started with the mood Kish preached in practice. That loose mentality showed on the field.

“I don’t think I’ve had that much fun in a long time,” said UA linebacker Paul Vassallo. “To experience that with these guys, to know what we’ve been through and to have a moment like this, it’s pretty special.”

Kish couldn’t have asked for a more impressive, yet bizarre, debut.

A referee imposter turned into a streaker. Benches cleared in a team-wide brawl started by UA cornerback Shaq Richardson and UCLA’s Taylor Embree. And Arizona scored 48 points without missing a kick or extra point.

But among all the madness, Kish coached his team to its most complete game all season.

The Wildcats’ offense was finally complete. They rushed for a season-high 254 yards with carries from six different backs. The defense finally showed up. It forced two turnovers and collected back-to-back sacks for the first time all season. The Wildcats jumped out to a first-quarter lead for the first time in five games.

The same night Rick Neuheisel may have coached himself out of a job, Kish gave his players all the tools to rise to the occasion.

Kish made it clear he isn’t auditioning for the job at Arizona.
“All of the focus was on this team,” he said. “That’s all I care about.”

He’s right. The Wildcats’ head coaching job most likely won’t be his at season’s end. But if the job Kish did in managing these players through a tough time is any indication, this season won’t be his last gig as a collegiate head coach.

Bravo, Tim Kish. Job well done.

“He was all over the place this week. That man I don’t think had a busier week in his life,” Vassallo said. “I asked him on the sideline, ‘Are you having fun yet?’ He said ‘Not yet, the game’s not over.’ I know this one meant a lot to him.”

— Mike Schmitz is a marketing senior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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