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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Commentary: Bowling blunder

Quarterback Nick Foles, left, is consoled by wide receiver David Douglas after Arizona lost 33-0 to Nebraska at the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 30. Foles and the Wildcats ended an otherwise successful season with a poor performance at Qualcomm Stadium.
Quarterback Nick Foles, left, is consoled by wide receiver David Douglas after Arizona lost 33-0 to Nebraska at the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 30. Foles and the Wildcats ended an otherwise successful season with a poor performance at Qualcomm Stadium.

It was simply embarrassing.

“”They wanted it and we came out flat,”” said senior defensive tackle Donald Horton said after his team’s 33-0 loss to Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego, Calif. “”We didn’t do what we needed to do to win. They came out with an attitude — we saw them jump around and they were hyped — and they balled out.””

That fact was easy to see.

But that led to numerous questions about Arizona. Did they even deserve to be in the Holiday Bowl? Was their season a fluke while playing in a Pacific 10 Conference that, after the bowl season, went from deep to overrated?

Neither of those questions are warranted.

The Wildcats did what head coach Mike Stoops has helped them do every single year of his six years in Tucson — steadily improve.

What the fans saw in that fateful Qualcomm Stadium disaster wasn’t the Arizona team they’d seen all year.

“”I think we got a little rattled early and never could recover. It was just a frustrating day,”” said UA offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes. “”The snowball started rolling and we just couldn’t get it stopped.””

In fact, the loss wasn’t even a measuring stick for how close to — or for the naysayers, how far from – the becoming perennial top-25 team the Wildcats are. When they didn’t show up, it was a Nebraska team that had taken NCAA runner-up Texas to the brink in its last game that made the pseudo-Cats look bad.

That isn’t to say Arizona would win a game against the Cornhuskers if they had replayed the Holiday Bowl ten times over. But the real Wildcats, the ones that stayed home while imposters in their jerseys took the field, would at least have a fighting chance — that is, if they fought.

Arizona’s coaches and players alike learned valuable lessons, ones that are inevitable during the process of lifting a once-sunk football program.

Nebraska players reported the Wildcat players were talking trash: they reminded Arizona what happens on the field is all that matters.

Nebraska’s coaches threw in untraditional schemes, like implementing a Wildcat offense, to make themselves unscoutable. That reminded the UA coaching staff to keep things fresh and focused during the weeks after the last regular-season game.

Those lessons will help build the Wildcats up from disappointment once again.

And those lessons will make a team that fought through adversity and wild twists in an exciting-as-ever regular season improve. Reflecting back on the season, Arizona used those simple-seeming lessons to win their way to the Holiday Bowl.

They did earn it. Only when they reached their goal, for a short while, did they forget to lean on their past experiences.

Maybe next year they’ll remember.

 

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