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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “UA, UCLA open Pac-10 season”

    UA wide receiver Mike Thomas (10) gets tied up with a UCLA player in last years 34-27 win at Arizona Stadium. With each team  coming off a loss, both the Wildcats and Bruins are aiming to start their Pacific 10 Conference seasons off with a bang.
    UA wide receiver Mike Thomas (10) gets tied up with a UCLA player in last year’s 34-27 win at Arizona Stadium. With each team coming off a loss, both the Wildcats and Bruins are aiming to start their Pacific 10 Conference seasons off with a bang.

    A month has not even passed in the season, yet the Arizona football team has already

    positioned itself so that a single game could conceivably have a great impact on the outcome of the season.

    If there is one thing that has been a constant in college football over the past few seasons, it’s that anything can happen. And while Arizona’s loss to New Mexico last season wasn’t a monumental upset by any means, it sure put a damper on the Wildcats’ plans.

    Now, when Arizona (2-1) travels to Los

    Angeles to take on UCLA (1-1) in both teams’ Pacific 10 Conference openers in Rose Bowl Stadium Saturday at noon, the consensus among the players is that getting a win over the Bruins could almost be considered a must – regardless of how early they are in the season.

    “”Man, we need go in there and get a win,”” said Arizona wide receiver Mike Thomas. “”It is a key game and we can’t lose.””

    With one goal hanging over the heads of the Wildcats – making their first bowl appearance since 1998 – looking closer to becoming a reality through their first two games, the team hit a massive speed bump in the loss to New Mexico last weekend.

    The plan was to sweep through nonconference play, starting off the year 3-0, making a bowl game attainable by winning just four of its nine Pac-10 games.

    But with the loss to New Mexico, Arizona must go 5-4 or better in conference play to be considered for a bowl appearance.

    “”We did a lot of good things (against New Mexico) so we have to see the glass half full, half empty kind of deal,”” said Arizona head coach Mike Stoops. “”We are moving the football pretty much at ease. I like what we are doing offensively. We kind of stop ourselves.””

    Stopping themselves was the Wildcats’ biggest issue in the loss to the Lobos.

    While they put up 388 yards of total offense (53 more than New Mexico) and 28 points, Arizona turned the ball over five times and only forced one miscue. In addition, Arizona only converted 5-of-14 third downs.

    “”It was really frustrating. It is one of those things where when you are beating yourself it is a lot harder to deal with than when you aren’t beating yourself,”” said offensive lineman Joe Longacre. “”It is something we need to fix, but we have to move on and work on it.””

    One of the biggest issues Arizona has had in the Stoops era is the inability to cope with adversity when getting down early in games. When tied or trailing at halftime under Stoops, the Wildcats are a lowly 4-25.

    As of late, the Wildcats have found themselves unable to battle back from early miscues and deficits. This happens for an array of reasons, including play calling and the inability to run the football at times.

    Offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes said during the week his play calling wasn’t exactly perfect when the Wildcats got behind. When desperate calls involving perhaps one too many pass plays had the Wildcats in a bigger hole, Dykes said he “”got away from the game plan.””

    “”What it does is take a lot of pressure off of your quarterback when you can run the ball and are effective doing it and are committed to doing it,”” Dykes said. “”We need to do a better job of committing to do it and finding more creative ways to run the football.””

    With UCLA coming off an embarrassment of its own – a 59-0 loss to then-No. 18 Brigham Young – the Wildcats are expecting a solid battle with two teams eager to redeem themselves.

    “”It is going to be a good game and I am looking forward to going there,”” Longacre said. “”The Rose Bowl is a lot of fun. … They are a good team and we got to see them play against Tennessee (in week one when UCLA won 27-24 in overtime) and they looked pretty good.””

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