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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Wildcats’ roller coaster schedule slows down

    If the first four games of the Arizona football team’s 2006 schedule could be considered a roller coaster, the team’s matchup tomorrow with Division-I AA Stephen F. Austin is a welcome lull in the ride.

    The momentary peak the Wildcats achieved from their season-opening win over Brigham Young gave way to a precipitous drop into Death Valley last weekend, as Arizona was trounced by a talent-laden Louisiana State team in front of more than 92,000 rabid Tiger fans.

    With No. 4 USC looming next weekend, the Wildcats are cherishing this game before the start of Pacific 10 Conference play.

    “”I think it does come at a good time,”” UA head coach Mike Stoops said. “”We’ve been really stressed, two weeks in a row, to the max.””

    The situation is reminiscent of 1984, the first time the Wildcats played LSU and USC in the same season:

    • Arizona began with a victory against a six-win team from the year before (Fresno State) and went on to lose in Baton Rouge, La., to a national top-15 Tigers team – albeit by a much smaller margin (27-26) than on Saturday (45-3).
  • The following week, the Wildcats took on a squad from a lesser conference (Long Beach State) at home and came out winners.
  • The week after, the team stayed put in Tucson and defeated a top-20 conference rival (Oregon).
  • A small hitch in the comparison comes after the Ducks win: Arizona proceeded to fall 17-14 to then-No. 14 USC, though the game was played in Los Angeles.

    Although the Wildcats would likely take a three-point loss to the Trojans next week given Arizona’s recent ineptitude in the series – its last two losses have been by an average of 31 points – neither Stoops nor his players say they are skipping ahead on the calendar.

    “”We can’t take anyone lightly,”” junior cornerback Antoine Cason said. “”We just have to build this week, come together as a team and play a lot harder than we did Saturday night. It’ll be a good week to just get back into the swing of things.””

    Stoops ranted during his weekly press conference Monday about how unfair Arizona’s nonconference schedule has been in terms of helping the program get the wins, quality or not, it needs to return to the postseason for the first time since 1998.

    Although facing a top-10 powerhouse in the second game of the season might seem fishy for a team on a six-year streak of sub-.500 seasons, the stars have nonetheless aligned to give the Wildcats a cupcake game they normally would play to start the year:

  • In 2004, Arizona opened with a nondescript, 21-3 win over DI-AA Northern Arizona before taking on then-No. 17 Utah at home. The Wildcats came into the matchup having hardly been challenged and lost 23-6, starting a string of seven consecutive losses.
  • Last year, Utah and NAU flipped spots on the schedule, but the results were roughly the same: a 19-point win over the Lumberjacks, followed by five straight losses, four of which came against nationally ranked teams.
  • It remains to be seen if Arizona’s fortunes change this season with only a minor competitive adjustment in the schedule, but it could help to have one of its toughest stretches already done with.

    “”BYU, that was kind of a good team, we beat them. LSU was extremely good, the No. 8 team in the country. Their program had already been up, (and) we’re up and coming, so it was a big test,”” junior defensive end Louis Holmes said. “”We still got a lot to improve on, and we got to come together more and more.

    “”We’ve got USC to look forward to.””

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