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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

New era ahead

It’s officially time to turn the page.

With Arizona’s bowl-eliminating 34-21 loss to Utah on Saturday, a new era of Arizona football is now under construction.

Sure there are three games to be played. Yes, Arizona will compete in Boulder, Colo., on Saturday. Of course the Wildcats still have a chance to end the season with some sense of pride with a win over ASU in two weeks.

Freshman defensive back Tra’Mayne Bondurant said the team will dedicate the rest of the season to its seniors. Nick Foles, Juron Criner, Robert Golden, Trevin Wade, and other Arizona football lifers certainly deserve the honor.

But with no shot at making a program record fourth consecutive bowl game, let’s face it.

The season, and more significantly an era, is over.

Tim Kish and his Arizona assistant coaches are searching for new employers. Some Wildcats players will seek transfers. And most importantly of all, athletic director Greg Byrne will find Arizona’s new head honcho.

Was Mike Leach searching for houses during his book signing in Tucson last week? Was former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti so adamant about shooting down Arizona rumors because there is actually something to hide? Is Boise State’s Chris Petersen actually out of Byrne’s league?

All of those questions will be answered soon.

While on the surface the Utah loss looks like an embarrassing bowl-eliminating loss on Homecoming, it’s more than that. It’s not just the exclamation point on a bad season for the Wildcats.

It’s the program moving in a new direction. The remnants of Mike Stoops will be weeded out with time. But while all of the unknowns surrounding Arizona football play out, it’s hard not to feel for this 2011 team.

This group of seniors started the Arizona football movement back in 2008. They’ve been to three straight bowl games and helped put the Wildcats back on the map.

Now they’re 2-7. Foles’ 350-plus passing yard games don’t mean much in terms of wins. Trevin Wade’s lights out season goes unnoticed.

These seniors had to endure the roller coaster ride that was the 2011 season. From injuries to coaching changes to flat-out bad play, this season has been one to forget.

“It’s been a tough year. I know they’re heartbroken, I mean, I am,” Foles said after the Utah loss. “It’s tough. It’s a Homecoming game, your senior year. It just hasn’t gone the way I expected.”

But while the present is tough to swallow, change is ahead. Big moves will be made soon. Players and coaches will say all they can do is focus on the next game. Colorado is all that’s on their minds. Then ASU. Then Louisiana-Lafayette.

But that’s tongue and cheek.

Foles and Criner will worry about draft stock. Assistant coaches need to find a new gig. The Stoops players may consider taking their talents elsewhere.

While the Wildcats’ season is lost and uneventful, the future isn’t. There’s huge transformations ahead, and the Utah loss marks the beginning of a new era.

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

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