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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Dream season 10 plays away

    UA wide receiver Delashaun Dean stretches out for a pass during a 36-28 loss to New Mexico on Sept. 13 at University Stadium in Albuquerque, N.M. If the Wildcats could have made a few more key plays, they could potentially have had a much better record than 6-5.
    UA wide receiver Delashaun Dean stretches out for a pass during a 36-28 loss to New Mexico on Sept. 13 at University Stadium in Albuquerque, N.M. If the Wildcats could have made a few more key plays, they could potentially have had a much better record than 6-5.

    In a sense, Oregon State’s potential dream season this year could easily belong to Arizona.

    The Wildcats’ five losses have been by a total of 28 points, and they’ve had a chance to take the lead or tie the game late in the fourth quarter in each of those contests.

    “”We definitely came up short in some games this year. Eight, one, two (points), but that’s how it goes,”” said wide receiver Delashaun Dean. “”We’ve just got to keep fighting, keep getting better and just keep playing.””

    The way the Pacific 10 Conference played out this season was probably one of the best opportunities Arizona has ever had to make the program’s first appearance in the Rose Bowl. If the Beavers are in line for their first Rose Bowl appearance in 44 years, then the Wildcats could just have easily won the conference if it came up with about 10 more big-time plays.

    One less turnover against New Mexico. One more touchdown against Stanford. One more inch against USC. One third down catch against Oregon. One more first down against Oregon State.

    Arizona was that close to its dream season.

    “”We’ve done a good job of putting ourselves in a position to win, and now we’ve got to learn how to finish,”” said UA offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes. “”We were a couple of plays away from being really good, but we’ve got to learn from it and continue to improve. That’s the thing that winning programs do. They know when they have to make a play, and sometimes it’s hard to learn that.””

    Maybe the Wildcats could take a page from the Beavers’ book. They didn’t panic after their kicker missed a game-tying extra point with 3:58 left in the game. The players simply knew they had to come up with big plays on defense to get the ball back and they did. The Oregon State defense bowed up and stopped Arizona on a third-and-eight play from the UA 38-yard line and turned the big play onus over to the Beaver offense. They didn’t disappoint.

    On the first play of the ensuing drive, backup quarterback Sean Canfield hit third string running back Jeremy Francis for a 20-yard gain. On the next play, Francis smartly lateraled the ball to wide out James Rodgers so he could get out of bounds and stop the clock because the Beavers had no time outs remaining.

    Then came the biggest play of the season, and perhaps Beaver history. Senior wide receiver Sammie Stroughter streaked down the OSU sideline past UA corner back Devin Ross and reeled in a 47-yard catch to set up the game-winning field goal.

    “”You’ve got to love it,”” Stroughter said after the game with a smile that seemingly stretched all the way back to Corvallis, Ore. “”It’s never an easy road for Oregon State. It’s never an easy road, never, and we take pride in that. If it means that we have to play the whole game, we’re going to do it; we’re going to strap it up and do it.””

    The Wildcats might not have been on the winning end of the equation as often as Oregon State, but they’re not far off from what might be a breakthrough year because they do strap it up every game.

    Arizona might not play all-out on every play, but the possibilities are quite promising if they can get over that mental hump and play with the tenacity a team needs to go from a yearly enigma to a perennial contender.

    “”You’ve got to execute and play 60 minutes all the way through any game. (All the close losses) tell you that we’re playing a lot of close games and very competitive, but we need to make a couple more plays in each game,”” said UA head coach Mike Stoops.

    “”When you play a good football team, they’re going to be competitive. Just finding a way to make those plays at the end of games is critical to winning and losing, and we’ve just got to make one or two more plays to finish out games.””

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