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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Win over ranked foe different this time

    After a hard-fought, come-from-behind 42-27 win over former Pacific 10 Conference leader California, a highly energized Wildcat coaching staff celebrated in the endzone.

    UA offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes high-fived players leaving the field on their way to the locker room. A swarm of fans surrounded the doors, clamoring for record-setting senior quarterback Willie Tuitama and freshman running back Keola Antolin, who had a career day.

    One fan was bold enough to say “”Bring on USC”” as he strolled through the gates.

    These sights have been few and far between at Arizona Stadium over the past decade, but the 28-point third quarter blasting the Wildcats handed the Golden Bears could have been a glimpse of what’s to come for the program.

    While Arizona now has six upset wins over top-25 teams during Stoops’ tenure, none registered quite like this one.

    Assuming the 2005 crushing of then-No. 7 UCLA was an anomaly for the Bruins that year, each of the five other wins had a dramatic finish. The Wildcats simply aren’t known as a team that will run out the clock and kill the game against a ranked team.

    The Wildcats don’t pound out 90 yards on 28 carries in the second half on a stout defense. They don’t bury good teams in the second half.

    But the 2008 version of Arizona did.

    “”We’ve shown great character and maturity (this season) and we’ve had an opportunity to win each time we’ve stepped on the field,”” said Arizona head coach Mike Stoops.

    Heck, this game can’t really be considered an upset. Simply put, Arizona was the better team in all three phases of the game against the Golden Bears. This was undoubtedly a big win for Arizona, and it was a long time coming for a group of much-maligned players and coaches.

    “”I just feel like our kids have worked so hard, and the coaches have worked so hard, and I’m just proud of all this,”” Dykes said. “”This is a hard-fought win, and one that we came from behind to win, and that’s progress for our program.

    “”I’m not sure how we would have responded down 10 at halftime to a good football team,”” he added. “”(Saturday) we really bounced back and answered the call, and I was really proud of them.””

    There’s a good reason for Dykes’ excitement. The win put Arizona at 5-2, on the cusp of a bowl berth, and 3-1 in the Pac 10. The three conference wins put the Wildcats in a tie with Oregon, Oregon State and No. 5 USC – which visits Tucson next weekend – for a first-place tie in the conference.

    With Arizona facing all three teams in the next five games, along with lowly Washington State and struggling ASU, the Wildcats suddenly control their own destiny in the Pac-10 race, thanks to Stanford’s 24-20 loss in Pasadena to UCLA.

    If Arizona can keep up its effort similar to the performances in its five wins over the last five games of the year, anything is possible. With the crazy Homecoming atmosphere Wildcat football has become accustomed to, a defense that has its swagger back and a balanced offense that’s taking what defenses are giving it, senior linebacker Ronnie Palmer said a win over USC isn’t that far-fetched if Arizona plays up to its potential.

    “”It’ll be hard not to (keep this level of play up), to be honest, because we have the best teams coming up,”” Palmer said. “”Cal was one of them. SC, everybody’s already talking about SC if you look at the fans or TV.

    “”It’s gonna be another great week,”” he added. “”Homecoming – I couldn’t be in a better place right now.””

    Win or lose against the Trojans, there’s no denying that as far as football goes, Tucson is a better place than any time in recent memory.

    – Brian Kimball is a journalism senior. He can be reached at

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