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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

With no hope Wildcats can rise

Arizona has always been a team in the “”good but not great”” category, and that lack of respect fueled the Wildcats toward their best start since 1999.

They implemented an “”us against the world”” mindset that led to an Associated Press Top 10 ranking and a 4-0 start.

Arizona lost that edge throughout the middle of the season, but when the Wildcats take on the No. 1 Oregon Ducks in Eugene, Ore., on Friday, they’ll be back in their comfort zone – as the underdog.

No one is giving the Wildcats a chance, and they like it that way.

“”Going out there and knowing all odds are against you, we just want to prove people wrong,”” said Arizona cornerback Robert Golden.

The Wildcats weren’t supposed to beat then-No. 9 Iowa in mid-September – they won 34-27.

They weren’t supposed to beat then-No. 2 Oregon when the Ducks came to Tucson in 2007 – they won 34-24.

“”There’s nothing better than when they came in here my freshman year a few years back, I think my freshman year,”” said Arizona running back Nic Grigsby. “”They came in here, we knocked them off. It was exciting. There would be nothing better than for us to do that (this time).””

The Wildcats thrive in the underdog role, but it was when Arizona was supposed to win games that it lost the focus and hunger that got it there in the first place.

The Wildcats were expected to compete with Stanford – they got embarrassed.

They were expected to take care of USC at home – the Trojans dominated them in every facet of the game.  

There’s something about playing with their backs against the wall that fuels this team. They have always had the talent to be a top team in the Pacific 10 Conference, but they’ve lacked focus and determination from time to time.  

Being the underdog is how they create that motivation to channel their talent and disprove the doubters.

Head coach Mike Stoops has always preached that the Wildcats aren’t good enough to take plays off and not go full speed. Although that’s oftentimes a motivational tactic, against the nation’s top team, it’s reality.

But maybe that’s what keeps the Wildcats focused for the full 60 minutes. While the Ducks have hopes of a national championship on the line, Arizona has nothing to lose.

After its season was all-but lost due to back-to-back losses to Stanford and USC, the Wildcats can finish the season on a high note by upsetting the team that knocked them out of Rose Bowl contention a season ago.

“”That can make our season, to beat the No. 1 team,”” Golden said.

All odds are stacked against the Wildcats.

Oregon’s at home, in 40-degree weather, with an unstoppable offense against a sputtering Arizona defense.

But being the underdog keeps Arizona hungry.

Although no one will pick the Wildcats to win Friday, they like it that way.

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

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