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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

‘Cats look to stay Golden

Gordon+Bates+%2F+Arizona+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0AThe+Wildcats+took+on+the+Washington+State+Cougars+Saturday+November+7%2C+2009+at+Arizona+Stadium.+Score+at+the+half%3A+Arizona+34%2C+WSU+0
Colin Darland
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat The Wildcats took on the Washington State Cougars Saturday November 7, 2009 at Arizona Stadium. Score at the half: Arizona 34, WSU 0

No. 18 Arizona’s long-awaited, daunting homestretch is finally here, starting this weekend at California.

And a Rose Bowl birth hangs in the balance.

“”We’re excited about the competition,”” head coach Mike Stoops said. “”The kids seem very comfortable and we seem very peaceful in what we’re doing and the kids have been very focused.

“”They understand the magnitude of each game but you can’t let it overwhelm you,”” he added. “”You’ve got to embrace it and accept the journey for what it is and go out and play your best and prepare as hard as you can.””

Understanding what’s at stake is one thing, but talking about what’s at stake is a different story.

“”We don’t talk about bowl games,”” safety Robert Golden said. “”We take every game one at a time.””

They have always held a one-game-at-a-time philosophy, but since Arizona’s (6-2, 4-1 Pacific 10 Conference) bye week two weeks ago, it has been worshipped. The team soaked in every drop of its time off, using the extra week of practice to get healthy and tie up someloose ends.

Then with fresh legs and fresher minds, the Wildcats dismantled Washington State, showing what they are capable of when all three facets of the game — offense, defense and special teams — are firing on all cylinders.

That’s exactly what Arizona wants to do this weekend, too.

“”It’s going to be a good game with a lot of excitement,”” wide receiver Delashaun Dean said. “”We’ve just got to go out there and do what we do best, and that’s play well and not worry about them necessarily. We’ve just got to worry about us and execute our game plans offensively and defensively and on special teams.””

The offense has been steady and reliable, both on the ground and through the air. With Cal (6-3, 3-3 Pac-10) surrendering 276 passing yards per game, good enough for ninth in the Pac-10, quarterback Nick Foles should have a field day on Saturday.

But that’s to be expected. What wasn’t expected was the emergence of Arizona’s defense and special teams in the past few weeks.

“”We come out to practice every day and treat it like a game situation, so being clued-in is what (defensive success) is all about,”” Golden said of a defense that has been dominant in its last two games against UCLA and Washington State, allowing just 20 points combined. “”We’ve put a lot of emphasis on getting off the field on third down. We try to be one of the best teams in the nation, and in order to do that we have to be able to go out there and perform every play.””

And then, of course, the special teams arrived against Washington State to return a kick and a punt for a touchdown. With William “”Bug”” Wright’s 86-yard touchdown scamper on a punt return, Arizona went from last to first in the nation in punt return average.

Apparently, it’s better to arrive fashionably late.

“”That was about five long weeks of not playing, and then to get my first touchdown felt great,”” Wright said, who missed time due to a knee injury.

If Arizona can play well in all three phases of the game then it will start its brutal, final four game stretch on the right foot.

If they do win you’ll certainly hear some excitement, but don’t expect to hear any whispers about Rose Bowl possibilities.

“”We’re confident, but we’re humble,”” Wright said. “”You always have to have confidence and swagger to win a game, and we knew that we’re a good team and if we go out and execute and do what we’re supposed to do then the things will take care of themselves.

“”It’s a good feeling,”” Wright said of the team’s success. “”We haven’t been ranked around here in so long. We’re trying not to let it get to us too much, but then again we’re trying to soak it all in and have a good time with it.””

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