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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Throw in the towel

    Roman Veytsmanassistant sports editor
    Roman Veytsman
    assistant sports editor

    That’s it. I’ve had it.

    Watching Oregon State slowly dismantle any hopes for a bowl game was like watching worms eat out someone’s insides. The hype that came along with Mike Stoops is over.

    I don’t want to ruin it for the freshmen, but it’s not getting any better. Since the class of 1998 (I was 13 at the time), no Arizona senior has sniffed a bowl game.

    Yeah, I bought into all the “”Stoooooops”” chants. But just like you, I’m a sucker for the quick fix. Stoops was a first-time head coach with no background in turning around a beat-down program.

    No, Stoops won’t be fired at the end of his season, nor does he deserve to be…yet.

    His reclamation project still has one season left, and the fall guy will likely be passing game coordinator Mike Canales. But if the once-revered Stoops isn’t on the hot seat next season, then Ricky Williams never smoked marijuana.

    There were positive signs the first two years: the close losses to then-No. 20 Wisconsin and Washington State, the first road win in almost two years against Washington, and the big win against then-No. 18 ASU in 2004. There was also the win against then-No. 7 UCLA and close calls against then-No. 15 Oregon, then-No. 12 Purdue and at Utah last season.

    But this year Arizona has taken a step further back than Jessica Simpson’s career. Rooting for the Wildcats is like going to the Bunny Ranch: The anticipation is high, and they tease you for a while, but eventually you go home disappointed.

    This year Arizona has had a listless blowout loss to then-No. 8 Louisiana State, uninspired efforts against Washington, UCLA and Oregon State, and an offense that couldn’t be described as inept because that would be an understatement. Stoops made changes, making Dana Dimel run-game coordinator and Canales passing game coordinator.

    But in Saturday’s loss to Oregon State, what the Wildcats apparently needed was a fourth-and-inches coordinator.

    On fourth down-and-goal and the ball inside the 1-yard line, with a quarterback who hadn’t played full-time since 2004 and didn’t play quarterback in the first possession because a wide receiver played the position, the play call was a play action pass to the tight end. Read that back to yourself. Still don’t believe it? Me neither.

    If Dick Vitale was covering the game, he’d be pointing to the BDI (Bald Dome Index). The result: a ball so overthrown, an Oregon State defender reached out to make the catch.

    With so much talk of the third year being the charm and finally getting over the hump at the start of this season, the failed conversion was eerily similar to the second game of Stoops’ career, when Utah stopped Arizona on three plays at the 1-yard line before forcing a fumble by running back Chris Henry with 45 seconds left in the first half and a chance to cut the lead to four points.

    The first three offensive possessions of Saturday’s game were a microcosm of the entire season: rush for no gain, rush for four yards, incomplete pass, 55-yard punt; rush for loss of one, incomplete pass, incomplete pass, punt; and rush for 13 yards, rush for 11 yards, fumble. The lesson: It’s usually bad, but when it gets good, something happens to screw it up.

    The loudest cheer of the game came for punter Nick Folk when he booted a 78-yard punt with 9:54 left in the third quarter. When the punter is drawing the most praise from the fans, it’s usually not a good sign.

    But let’s talk about the bottom line: wins and losses. How different is Stoops from the previous head coach, who was run out of town faster than a cowboy wearing bright red inside a bullring?

    During John Mackovic’s first 2 1/3 seasons, his record was 10-17, going 5-6 and 4-8 in his first two seasons, winning more games in each of his first two seasons than Stoops. Stoops’ record in the same number of games: 8-19. Currently, Stoops’ record stands at 9-21.

    Young team, bad offensive line, not enough of his own guys in the program, too many injuries or whatever the case may be, it’s enough.

    I’ve had it with the talk, I’ve had it with wait till next year, or wait till five years down the line. There are no more excuses left to utter.

    If this defense, many of whom were not originally recruited by Stoops (see cornerback Antoine Cason, defensive end Marcus Smith and linebackers Spencer Larsen and Dane Krogstad) has kept Stoops’ job alive, then the offense has done enough to kill it.

    The next four teams on the schedule are a combined 21-9 and two of the games are against top-25 teams. Barring a miraculous victory, Arizona will lose at least eight games for the third consecutive season.

    Check out this passage from the Blue Ribbon’s season preview, recapping Mackovic’s first season at Arizona:

    “”Arizona rebounded with respectable efforts, falling 31-28 at Washington and 41-34 against Southern Cal. …The Wildcats, eliminated from bowl contention, salvaged some esteem with a season-ending 34-21 win at Arizona State.”” Sound familiar?

    Mackovic was the king of second-year turnarounds but couldn’t turn the Arizona program in the right direction, and Stoops hasn’t had any luck either.

    So if you think you’ll see a winning football team in Tucson any time soon, think again.

    Roman Veytsman is a journalism senior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu

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