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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    ‘Cats ready for next Nov. reign

    What’s more fun? Halloween, or the 30 days after it?

    The answer’s easy for the Arizona football team.

    Since Mike Stoops took the helm as head coach at Arizona in 2004, his Wildcats have compiled a 6-4 record in the month of November, including a 4-1 record against teams ranked in the top 25 nationally.

    In all other months of the season, Stoops is 9-24 – a huge reason why a lot of local football fans are calling for his head.

    “”Honestly, I don’t know (what it is),”” said quarterback Willie Tuitama. “”The last two years we’ve played our best football (in November) for some reason. That’s just the way it is.””

    It hasn’t even just been the last two years. Let’s review some history: In Stoops’ first year, before Tuitama even arrived in Tucson, the Wildcats were 1-7 heading into the season’s final month.

    On Nov. 6, 2004, the Wildcats went into Seattle and beat the Huskies in front of 63,225 fans. Three weeks later in the Territorial Cup game, the Wildcats upset then-No. 18 ASU 34-27. The Sun Devils were 8-2 heading in and effectively lost the chance to play in an elite bowl game.

    Arizona went only 1-2 in November 2005, but in one game Tuitama rejuvenated a fan base, leading Arizona to a 52-14 victory over then-No. 7 UCLA on Homecoming.

    Last season, when it appeared the Wildcats were down and out sitting at 3-5 overall, the team pulled off three consecutive upsets, two against ranked teams and a 27-point shellacking over Oregon, heading into the season finale with a winning record.

    Going back even farther in history, Arizona is 95-76-3 in November since 1959, good for a .556 percentage, and only 11 times in those years did the Wildcats make a bowl game.

    The current team insists there is no rhyme or reason to it. It just claims to play better late in the season.

    The only difference is, Stoops said, this year the team has had 10 consecutive weeks of playing with no bye.

    There are only two games in November this season, with the annual Territorial Cup being played in December for the first time since 1970.

    “”We’re going to have to rally the troops, because it is late in the season,”” said linebacker Spencer Larsen after the Wildcats fell to Stanford on Oct. 20. “”We normally play our best football in November, but we only have two games in November and that’s the problem. We needed to pack five in there.””

    For a team currently sitting at 3-6, it will need a prayer to finish the season at .500 for a second consecutive season, especially since two games on the schedule are against teams currently ranked No. 4 and 5 in the Bowl Championship Series standings.

    But there are a few motivations for the team to play its best football now.

    The obvious one: Stoops’ job will be safer if Arizona wins.

    The not-so-obvious one: The remaining three games are nationally televised.

    Arizona’s lone game on national TV thus far was a loss to then-No. 10 USC on Oct. 13. To date, the Wildcats are 24-41-2 in nationally televised games.

    Since Arizona has already lost its top three recruits for 2008 – for now, at least – winning out may be the only way to convince any or all of them to commit to Arizona again. Not all recruits are flown out for every home game, but you’d have to believe that if the Wildcats are on national television, Gerrell Robinson, Jarrell Barbour, Robert Golden and any other recruit with mild interest will all be watching along with a good portion of college football fans across the country.

    “”Certainly winning helps,”” Stoops said. “”Every game you win gives you more credibility for whatever reason. To have kids see you win, the style of the way you play, I think those are all critical, but we’ve had positive feedback from all our kids who watched the USC game.

    “”A lot of kids will be watching. We have kids coming in for the weekend as well. You always want to win and make it a better environment for the kids.””

    Stoops hopes the recent win over Washington can be the start of a good finish.

    “”It’s not going to be easy, but it gives us great hope and faith in what we’re doing,”” Stoops said. “”And that’s important when you go down this last stretch of games. Told you we always do something special.””

    Mike Ritter is a journalism senior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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