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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Fresh start for Arizona

Colin Darland
Colin Darland / Daily Wildcat David Douglas 85

Last year’s nightmare ending carried over to the 2011 football season. The Wildcats couldn’t have asked for a worse start to the season, getting slaughtered on national TV three games in a row.

But with Arizona opening Pac-12 South play with USC at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday in Los Angeles, players and coaches agree it’s time to wipe the slate clean.

“It’s tough when you come out of all of those games with losses but we’re starting fresh now,” said senior receiver David Douglas. “New month, new season really and we’re just going to take it from here. That’s all you can do, wipe it clean, come out and practice well and hopefully get after it this week.”

It’s impossible to forget Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden completing a school-record 42 passes, Stanford hitting the Wildcats right in the mouth both on the ground and through the air and LaMichael James rushing for a school-record 288 yards.

Arizona faced three top-10 opponents back to back to back and got put in its place in humiliating fashion.

“It’s been a tough month, let me put it that way,” said head coach Mike Stoops. “We’ve played some very elite teams and some very elite players. We’ve seen pretty close to the best. We’re seeing if we can get Oklahoma and Alabama for the 13th and 14th game, and LSU.”

But although the Wildcats sit at 1-3 and have been outscored 130 to 55 in their last three games, the real season starts Saturday. Arizona was expected to lose to both Stanford and Oregon, but it’s the Pac-12 South where the Wildcats knew they could realistically be competitive.

“It’s new life for our team knowing that we still haven’t missed our goal that we’re trying to accomplish, just trying to go out here and run our division,” said senior safety Robert Golden. “But we can only take one week at a time so we just want to go out there and beat USC.”

While still a storied program with grade-A talent, the Trojans looked uninspired during a 43-22 drubbing at the hands of ASU last weekend. Sun Devils running back Cameron Marshall ran all over USC for 142 yards and three touchdowns while ASU sacked quarterback Matt Barkley twice, forced two interceptions and a fumble.

In addition to its poor showing against ASU, USC barely snuck past Minnesota, 19-17, in the season-opener and didn’t exactly overwhelm Utah in a 23-14 victory.

The Coliseum is a tough place to play, but the Wildcats proved they could win there in 2009 when Juron Criner’s 36-yard touchdown catch with 3:14 left in the game locked up a 21-17 Wildcats win.

“It was a good feeling,” Stoops said of the victory. “Certainly there are some players that were part of that. We’ll draw from those memories but we just have to go out and play better than we have.“

Stoops made it clear that Arizona needs playmakers and a leader to step up on defense. The Wildcats’ offensive line also can’t give up five sacks again as it has in each of the last two games.

Simply put, Arizona needs to play better in all three phases of the game to right the sinking ship and achieve its goal of winning the Pac-12 South.

“It’s another huge challenge for our team,” Stoops said. “I’m excited to see how they embrace this challenge and this difficult time. I feel very confident in what we’re doing and certainly our players are improving.”

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