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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Real season starts now

PASADENA, Calif. – At about 4:30 on Saturday afternoon, after a 29-21 win over UCLA, the Arizona Wildcats football season officially started.

Some memorable images include Robert Golden intercepting his first pass of the season, Juron Criner scoring another touchdown and Ricky Elmore getting yet another sack. Yet the lasting images occurred after the game — and they all had Rose Bowl undertones.

After parting ways with UCLA at midfield, most of the Wildcats hustled to the corner of the stadium and led roughly 5,000 Arizona fans donning red and blue in a celebratory rendition of “”Bear Down””.

Wildcat players were the last people on the field, taking in the feeling of playing in this fabled stadium to use as motivation for the rest of the season.

After addressing his players, head coach Mike Stoops stood in front of the media with a “”Rose Bowl”” backdrop behind him, further hammering home the ultimate goal of the 2010 Arizona season.

The Wildcats are 7-1. Think about that. Arizona football is 7-1 with just four games left to play.

The Rose Bowl is closer than it has ever been in the Stoops era, but the four games separating the Wildcats from bowl season are a full season within themselves.

At Stanford. Home against USC. At Oregon. Home against ASU. With the exception of the Sun Devils, that schedule is daunting.

There is reason for optimism — a great defense, a playmaking offense that can pile up yards regardless of who is under center, and a coaching staff that seems to be on the same page and can game plan with the best of ’em — but there’s also cause for worry.

For starters, the Wildcats have a difficult time scoring in the red zone. Scoring 29 points while putting up over 500 yards isn’t good, and co-offensive coordinator Seth Littrell blamed it on red zone inefficiency. Arizona can’t afford anymore turnovers inside the 20 and it needs to establish a better short game. Whether that means pounding it with running back Greg Nwoko or utilizing tight end A.J. Simmons or just calling different plays with its regular personnel remains to be seen, but it is something that needs to be figured out.

The other thing is how the team has had a troublingly difficult time piecing together a complete game. If the offense plays well, the defense struggles. When the defense plays well, the offense struggles. When the offense moves the ball, it struggles to score. When the defense stops the run and rushes the passer, it can’t defend the deep half.

If Arizona wants to make the Rose Bowl, it has to beat Stanford, USC and Oregon in three consecutive weeks — there’s really no other way — and in order to do that it needs to play complete games.

Stanford is a great, well-rounded team, and in order to beat them, Arizona needs to play perfectly. USC has three losses but the Trojans are still good enough to beat anyone, anywhere.

And Oregon? Don’t even get me started. The Ducks are, in my opinion, the best team in the country.

But entering the gauntlet of the season at 7-1 is a heck of a start, and starting its new season while celebrating on the Rose Bowl might be the harbinger the Wildcats need.

We’ll see if the new season ends where it started.

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