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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Shanked Redemption

    Last year’s wounds must not have been deep enough.

    After last season’s 29-27 loss to New Mexico at Arizona Stadium, Lobo players taunted the Wildcats and their fans with phrases like, “”The Pac-10 doesn’t want you,”” and, “”You can’t compete with the Mountain West.””

    Arizona players vowed such comments would not be uttered this year when the Wildcats got their chance at revenge, this time in the Lobos’ house – University Stadium.

    Prior to Saturday’s game, running back Nic Grigsby criticized the Lobos’ celebration and even went as far as saying New Mexico “”knows what happened last year was a fluke and we are going to come back this year and put it on them.””

    How wrong he was.

    Five turnovers later – including one by Grigsby, which led to a New Mexico touchdown – the Wildcats found themselves in an eerily familiar place. But this time it was not only the Lobo players enjoying Arizona’s suffering.

    As time ran out on the Wildcats in Albuquerque, patches of UNM students scrambled out onto the field and greeted their team in the north end zone.

    “”It’s hard being on the wrong side of that,”” wide receiver Mike Thomas said Monday. “”But they’re in a little conference and we’re in the Pac-10 so they feed on those kind of wins and why not?

    “”They came in there and took the victory from us so we owe it to them.””

    While the actual sight of the field rush left much to be desired, the message was clear.

    The Wildcats once again were being mocked, and once again, they had no defense.

    Arizona came into the game sounding confident as ever with two blowout wins under its belt. The offense was booming, especially for Grigsby, who already tallied two 100-yard games on the year. They had been nearly perfect without a single turnover going into Saturday night.

    Defensively, the Wildcats had allowed only 16 points along with a measly 356 yards of total offense while collecting five turnovers of their.

    Then they got too confident, perhaps cocky.

    Already a touchdown ahead, Arizona appeared to be on cruise control after cornerback Marquis Hundley severed a promising New Mexico drive, giving the Wildcats the ball and the momentum once again.

    But from there, only mistakes and lackluster play followed. Quarterback Willie Tuitama hit a red jersey instead of white and the game changed.

    Suddenly the Lobos believed they could win. And just as quickly, Arizona did too.

    Tuitama’s miserable night did not end with that game changer. Instead, the senior who came into the game “”angry”” following the 2007 loss looked more like a freshman entering his first career start.

    Misreads on blitzes led to Tuitama standing in the pocket long enough to fry an egg, allowing the New Mexico defense to pry its way in and force two crucial fumbles – both of which were reflected on the scoreboard.

    Offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes referred to his quarterback’s performance as “”the worst I’ve ever seen him play.””

    What a way to exert some revenge, huh?

    The Wildcats’ defense didn’t appear much better as the Lobos’ running back Rodney Ferguson tore apart Arizona’s defensive line for 167 yards and two touchdowns.

    At the start of the second half, as the Wildcats continued their downward spiral, it was already evident that there would be no redemption, no vengeance.

    For all of the talk and all of the hype, it all went to waste as the Arizona team, in midst of a decade-long postseason drought, reared its ugly head once again, much to the disgust and heartbreak of Wildcat fans.

    Now, the season is far from over – and with the equal struggles of nearly every team in the Pac-10 – Arizona could right itself to a seven-plus win season and a much needed bowl game.

    Tuitama said Monday he was “”very tough on himself”” throughout the days following the loss.

    Good.

    Maybe he and the rest of the team will let those wounds dig deep enough.

    – Bobby Stover is a materials sciences and engineering junior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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