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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona football doesn’t need a ‘halftime’ speech

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Larry Hogan / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Thanks in large part to the movies, grand, motivational speeches by a head coach at halftime, when the team is losing, are thought to be a common practice.

They might be, but Arizona’s head coach Rich Rodriguez said he doesn’t believe in making the “Miracle”-esque speeches in the locker room between halves. Rather, collegiate athletes shouldn’t need that extra motivation — it should be an inherent attribute in Division I, Pac-12 level athletes.

Purely based on statistics, that approach seems to be working.

Excluding the anomalous 56-0 win against South Carolina State, the Wildcats exited the first half of play trailing by a combined 72-53. In the second half, not counting the 49-0 debacle to Oregon, the Wildcats turned it around, outscoring opponents 86-68.

The first half struggles have been exemplary of Arizona’s entire season, as the Wildcats are currently on a three-game losing streak and sit at 3-3. Last week’s bye marked the halfway point of the season, and Rodriguez said things are looking up.

“It’s not a clean slate as much as it is the second half,” Rodriguez said. “The first half is over. There [was] some good and some bad, and now we’re in the second half. Every conference game is really important. Our guys understand that.”

If Arizona wants to gain bowl eligibility, it needs to win three of its last six games, and to become a lock for a bowl invitation, it will likely need to win four.

Safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant was one of the Wildcats’ top performers on a weak defensive first half of the season, leading the UA with 10.5 tackles for loss, which ties for fourth in the Pac-12.

Rodriguez might not necessarily look at the rest of the season as a clean slate, but Bondurant does.

“We went through our ups and downs in the first half,” Bondurant said. “But it’s a clean slate for us right now. We feel like we’re 0-0, but we’re trying to go 6-0. It helped getting everybody back healthy and everybody get their injuries and boo-boos out. We’re just planning on coming out strong in the second half.”

That whole 6-0 idea might be a bit of a stretch, just as quarterback Matt Scott declaring the Wildcats would win the Pac-12 South after the Oregon blowout was. If Arizona can beat Washington, though, the second half of the season will go a long way toward salvaging the UA’s chance at a bowl.

Games against Colorado and Utah should be easy wins, so the Wildcats will need to win two or three games between USC, UCLA, Washington and Arizona State. Not an easy task by any means, but if Scott can keep up his spectacular play, the Wildcats could win as many as eight games. If the defense continues to struggle, and injuries to key starters continue to plague the Wildcats, that won’t be the case.

It’s hard to expect much out of a team that’s been missing its starting center, guard, receiver, defensive end and safety.

Starting running back Ka’Deem Carey’s season has paralleled the team in a way, as the sophomore has ran for 167 yards in the first half of five of Arizona’s six games (excluding South Carolina State), compared to 432 in the second half.

Carey is looking at the second half of the season the same way he does when he heads to the locker room at the midway point of games.

“Halftime is when you rejuvenate,” Carey said. “Get ready for the second half and give it all you got. This is exactly what we needed, especially our bye week being in the middle of the season.
Now we just have to go out for the second half of the season and finish strong.”

— Zack Rosenblatt is the sports editor. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu or via Twitter @WildcatSports

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