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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


‘Cats still basking in glory of win

Arizona quarterback Nick Foles gets rid of the ball in the face of a USC attack on Saturday. The Wildcats enter the Holiday Bowl faced off against Nebraska and its stingy defense led by Ndamukong Suh on Dec. 30.

Two days removed from the Arizona football team’s 21-17 win against USC, the team is still enjoying the program-defining victory. The Wildcats’ win at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum marked their first win against the Trojans in any stadium since 2001, and that fact wasn’t lost on UA coaches and players.

“”As seniors, to finally get a win against USC, that’s something we’ll be talking about for the rest of our lives,”” said safety Cam Nelson. “”They’ve always been a dominant program and for us to be able to tell people that we know, ‘We beat USC,’ that’s a good feeling for us.””

It was a good feeling for UA head coach Mike Stoops as well. Nelson said his coach was like “”a kid in a candy store”” after the game because beating a team of USC’s caliber — no matter the squad’s struggles this season — is still a great achievement.

“”He’s really been through a lot, just off-the-field issues and then always hearing the threats about him getting fired and stuff like that,”” Nelson said. “”To be able give him a win like this — people always question him as a coach and stuff like that — but to go out and beat USC at USC and come up with a game plan and get to a bowl game two years in a row, I think that’s very, very good for him.””

It might have been just as good for quarterback Nick Foles as he said it was a childhood dream to go into the Coliseum and take down the Trojans, adding that “”it still doesn’t seem real.””

The win put the No. 22 Wildcats in a tie for second place in the Pacific 10 Conference this season, and showed Arizona will likely be a contender in the conference during the coming years.

“”(USC has) always been a great team and I think they had a great team this year, it’s just that they lacked experience,”” said offensive tackle Adam Grant. “”They’ll definitely get back to where they were, but we’ve always known we deserve to play there. We proved it finally that we’re there.””

UA excited for challenge Nebraska presents

Beating USC not only helped the Wildcats’ confidence, it also boosted them into the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl on Dec. 30 in San Diego against No. 20 Nebraska. The Cornhuskers boast one of the top defensive units in the country, led by a Heisman Trophy candidate in defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

“”We’ve got about a month to prepare for him, and I’m sure we’re going to double-team him, triple-team him like every other team does,”” said UA starting center Colin Baxter. “”It’s a big assignment up front. He’s obviously a great player. If you’re going to be a d-tackle making Heisman lists, that’s not very easy to do.””

Even with the challenge that Suh and the rest of the Nebraska defense presents, it doesn’t dissipate the Wildcats’ excitement in playing one of the best teams in the Big 12 Conference.

“”It’s a big bowl,”” Grant said. “”I’m excited to go against one of the top d-lines, one of the top defenses in the country.””

Wildcats showing growth as a program

Last season, Arizona broke a 10-year bowl drought by going to the Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl, but that didn’t seem to impress media that regularly covers the Pac-10. Before this season, the Wildcats were picked to finish eighth in the Pac-10, and that didn’t sit well with the team.

“”Coach Stoops was definitely upset. He brought that up in our first camp meeting, ‘This is what they said and this is where we’re going to be,'”” Grant said. “”Second in the Pac-10 is pretty damn good, I’d say.””

Arizona used that preseason prognostication as motivation all season, and in the process showed the steps it’s taken under Stoops’ guidance. The team went from a cellar dweller to competing for the league title in just six year’s time, which is no easy task.

“”We’ve just been so close so many times, and we still ended up second in the Pac-10 (this year). We fought through it all, we never gave up,”” Foles said. “”The guys showed great character and it just shows where this program is going.””

Injured ‘Cats have time to heal

While most Arizona players will have vivid memories of the win against USC, redshirt sophomore cornerback Trevin Wade won’t. Wade suffered a concussion at some point during the game — possibly from a series of knees to his head resulting from his low tackles on USC receivers — but he should be OK for the Holiday Bowl.

Film sessions likely helped refresh Wade’s memory, but not before Nelson and other players had some fun at Wade’s expense.

“”(After the game) he was like, ‘How was I doing?’ Everybody teased him. I just told him that he gave up three touchdowns,”” Nelson joked. “”He was like, ‘How’d they get 17?’ and I was like, ‘Well you gave up two of the touchdowns,’ just messing with him. I think he’s going to try and watch the film (on Monday) and get his memory back.””

Also suffering from an injury is Foles who has a broken left hand — his non-throwing hand. He said it hasn’t affected his play during the past two weeks and it should be back to normal by the bowl game.


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