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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Rolling with Ritter

    CORVALLIS, Ore. – Just when you thought you had the Arizona football team figured out.

    Former Arizona Cardinals head coach Dennis Green’s now infamous saying, “”They are who we thought they were,”” simply doesn’t apply to the Wildcats.

    That’s because no one knows anything about how to forecast the team’s performance from week to week.

    After last week’s 48-20 trouncing of Washington State, we all thought we had the Wildcats figured out. The offense was finally gelling. Quarterback Willie Tuitama had six total touchdowns, and the defense finally looked like it was playing up to par.

    Then, on Saturday in the brisk air of the Pacific Northwest, the Wildcats completely turned the wrong corner and embarrassed themselves, giving up 24 first-quarter points on the day ESPN dubbed as “”Gut-Check Saturday.””

    If anything, at the halfway point for the Wildcats, the gut check has just been realized after being unable to compete with a mid-level Pac-10 opponent in the Beavers, who were searching for their first conference win.

    UA head coach Mike Stoops said he “”didn’t even know where to start”” following the loss.

    In a season filled with Arizona’s biggest expectations in a decade, the Wildcat football team’s expectations have now been regulated to just hoping for a decent finish.

    For the fans who were upset that Fox Sports Net didn’t air the game on television in Tucson, you were done a favor.

    Arizona looked like the same inconsistent football team it did the last few years, the one that combined for a 12-22 record.

    “”That’s why it’s so much more disappointing,”” said senior linebacker Spencer Larsen. “”Everybody expected so much more and still does, to tell you the truth.””

    Any hopes of a postseason berth, which seemingly was the only goal for the Wildcats going into this season, have all but been thrown out the window.

    To make a bowl game, Arizona would have to finish 4-2, but probably 5-1 because strength of schedule won’t make matters any easier for them.

    “”You think we would have learned from our past mistakes,”” Larsen said. “”You can’t get that despair. It’s a long few months ahead of us if that happens.””

    How bad was it in Corvallis?

    It was worse than the New Mexico loss Sept. 15, when the Wildcats were close throughout the game.

    It was worse than the California loss Sept. 22, when Arizona made the game moderately interesting towards the end.

    It was even worse than the Brigham Young loss Sept. 1, when an excuse could actually be used for a miserable offensive showing in the opening week.

    The Wildcats have taken a considerable stride backwards, and their toughest games await them.

    “”You can point fingers on whose fault that is, but ultimately it falls on us as players,”” Larsen said. “”We just have to be able to accept our big wins and go on from there. … I don’t know if we’ve ever had that confidence where we expect to win every week. It’s another thing I can’t explain.””

    Next week in Los Angeles, USC will be fighting for a win after an

    embarrassing loss to Stanford, who comes to Tucson the following week suddenly looking like an imposing team on the schedule.

    In the fourth quarter, a miscue by Tuitama was a microcosm of the entire season.

    Tuitama reared back to pass in the red zone, and for the first time in a long time, it looked like he had all the time in the world to pass. He even had open receivers.

    Then, when he tried to plant his feet, his shoe came off. He slipped and fell flat on his face, resulting in an 8-yard loss.

    Saturday’s loss was easily the worst loss of the year, and could even go down as the worst loss in the Mike Stoops era.

    If there was ever a swing game, it was Saturday.

    For the first time all season, the Wildcats had the chance of making a statement. A win would have put them at .500 and still in position, albeit a precarious one, to make their first bowl game in nine years.

    The team also faced the possibility of having some much-needed positive momentum heading into next week’s game against the Trojans. But then Tuitama’s shoe came off and his team choked its way to a startling 2-4 start.

    Antoine Cason has even rid himself of all expectations.

    “”That’s one thing we have to stop talking about is, ‘Oh, we turned the corner,’ and just play football each week,”” he said.

    The Wildcats could come out and dominate the Trojans next week. After all, The Unpredictables have proven everybody wrong so far.

    Suddenly, another three-win season doesn’t seem out of the question.

    The second-half forecast will involve some rain – maybe even a little hail. All signs point to another dark and dreary December for the Wildcats.

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