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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Wildcats all in, not looking back

Mike Christy
Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat The Arizona Wildcats and No. 14 Oklahoma State go head to head in the Valero Alamo Bowl Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010, at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. At halftime, the Cowboys lead Arizona 23-7.

Arizona football ended 2010 as a program filled with uncertainty.

The Wildcats’ unfathomable late-season meltdown led to question after question regarding the state of the program and Arizona’s relevance in the Pac-12.

Why did the Wildcats close out the year with five straight loses? What happened to the once-promising season that included a top-10 ranking? Will Arizona ever make the jump from good to great? And how does a team possibly bounce back from a deflating loss in the 2010 Valero Alamo Bowl?

Senior quarterback Nick Foles and the rest of UA’s leaders answered those questions with a new mindset featured on the wrist of everyone involved with Arizona football: All In, No Looking Back.

“We went through a lot of adversity last year,” said senior safety Robert Golden. “We saw how we didn’t respond. So this year we’re coming with a stronger approach, and just being all in for the team. If we’re going to play on this team we’ve got to be all in. Whatever it takes to win, whatever it takes to do the extra we’ve got to do it.”

At the beginning of the summer, Foles, quarterback Bryson Beirne and a handful of other Wildcats had UA’s equipment staff make more than 200 black silicon bands.

The black Nike bands can be seen on the wrist of everyone from head coach Mike Stoops to study hall coordinators. Although it’s only a rubber wristband, it represents something much more, encompassing the family atmosphere that’s developed as a result of the trials and tribulations throughout the nightmare that was the end of the 2010 season.

“It’s just a band,” Foles said with a laugh. “All it is, is silicone. It’s all in your heart. Everybody has to buy in with their heart and their mind that we can do this thing and every time we step on that field we have to play with that passion, that fire. You can’t be hesitant at all, so that’s really what the band means. We’ll see at the end of the season.”

The bands are a reminder that more than 200 people are dedicated to working toward the same common goal, which wasn’t the case toward the end of last season, players said.

At times, not everyone bought into the system last season and the Wildcats suffered because of it. But for a handful of Wildcats, 2011 is the last chance to buy in and be part of something great.
It’s all in or bust.

“We’ve seen what it’s like to win and we know what it takes to win,” Beirne said. “We’re putting everything on the table this year. We’re not looking back. We’re not going to leave anything on the field.”

Foles will no longer throw a pass at Arizona Stadium after this season, and Juron Criner will take his skill-set to the NFL. Senior defensive leaders Robert Golden and Trevin Wade will no longer represent the Stoops-bred secondary. Keola Antolin’s hard-nosed running won’t be displayed every Saturday.

So the seniors and their understudies have bought into the brand of Arizona football in hopes of weathering arguably the Pac-12’s toughest schedule.

Arizona hasn’t won a game since October 30, 2010, and the Alamo Bowl loss to Oklahoma State was UA’s second consecutive embarrassing bowl performance, leaving the Wildcats with a sour taste heading into 2011.

The wristband is a reminder of not to dwell on one game.

“They put it on the wrist band — don’t look back at anything, keep moving forward,” said quarterbacks coach Frank Scelfo. “You’ve learned a great deal, you’ve come a long way. It’s not going to change. You can’t look back and constantly harp on one game. That’s not who you are. Don’t let anybody judge you and tell you who you are based on one game.”

This offseason, the Wildcats said they have captured the team unity they lacked down the stretch of last season.

“We need to go to the next level of this program,” Stoops said. “We’ve established ourselves as a good team but we want to be a great and elite team and there’s certain things we need to get better at and continue to grow this program.”

Of course, poor play and inferior talent could easily offset a solid mindset, but the Wildcats discovered an ingredient that was lacking last season and ultimately led to their demise.

They found answers to those seemingly never-ending media questions and if they stay true to their newfound theme, they may finally be able to capitalize on a crucial 2011 season and rid the demons of 2010’s forgettable meltdown.

“We’ve always had the potential. We’ve always had the players and the coaches to do it and I think so much about what you do is your mindset and how you approach things,” Foles said. “Right now we’re approaching things the right way and that’s the reason we’ll be successful.”

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