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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Track to bowl begins now

    Arizona vs. Idaho

    As members of the Arizona football team filtered in and out of their practice facility this the week, the first and last thing they saw was a constant reminder.

    Hanging delicately on the fence near the walkway onto the practice field is Arizona’s football schedule for this year.

    While that may not seem out of the ordinary, underneath their final game against ASU states, “”Bowl game to be determined.””

    “”It is a constant reminder,”” said junior center Blake Kerley. “”It is like having a goal written out on the field to remind you during the toughs days when you are grinding it out and you look over and see that ‘To be determined’ sign it kind of gets you back up and going.

    “”I guarantee you it’s out there for that reason,”” Kerley said of the sign for motivational purposes. “”Nobody said anything, we just came out the first day and it was there, but I’m almost 100 percent positive that is why.””

    Through all the talk about finally making the postseason for the first time since 1998, coupled with the head coach Mike-Stoops-hot-seat propaganda, the Wildcats finally get started toward reaching their goal.

    Arizona begins its season tomorrow night at 7 p.m. when it plays Idaho in Arizona Stadium for the first of three nonconference games. With a nine-year bowl drought looming over the Wildcats’ heads, the team is certainly hoping to get off to a fast start this season.

    “”We are feeling really good,”” said linebacker Adrian McCovy. “”I feel confidence in both our defense and our offense, so hopefully we can live up to the expectations. If the offense and defense performs as well as I know we can, we will be fine.””

    But with added expectations comes added pressure.

    And as if that wasn’t enough, when you combine those same expectations with a weaker schedule, particularly in Arizona’s nonconference slate, failure to reach the seven-win plateau necessary to qualify for a bowl berth is almost unacceptable to the ones carrying that outlook.

    Easier nonconference schedule or not -Toledo and New Mexico are on the schedule after Idaho – Arizona maintains its focus in preparing for the games has not changed.

    “”I think the key for us is to play every game, because in college football now you can’t take anybody for granted. If you do, you are going to get beat,”” said offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes. “”I know Idaho will come in here and think they can win the game, just like Toledo will and New Mexico will be a tough game when we go there.

    “”Those are three teams I guarantee you will be thinking they have a chance to beat us,”” Dykes added. “”And that is the most important thing to winning and losing football games – is thinking you can (win).””

    Perhaps the biggest attention grabber for the Wildcat faithful is the second year of Arizona’s spread offense under Dykes.

    With returning stars like quarterback Willie Tuitama, wideout Mike Thomas, and immerging halfback Nic Grigsby all contributing to Arizona, the recipe for success in the offense is certainly present.

    Having been one of the integral parts of Arizona’s offense last year, Thomas is more confident than ever in the Wildcats’ potential this season.

    “”It has been cool. We came together as a team and an offense,”” Thomas said. “”The bond we have for one another is better and I think that plays a role on the field. We just feed off that energy.

    With a relatively inexperienced defense returning aside from senior linebacker Ronnie Palmer, the doubts could be swirling. While Stoops has never downplayed the importance of defense, he said he is not worried about his squad.

    Going into the first game against Idaho, however, Stoops is rather optimistic.

    “”I feel like we have a better football team when you look at the totality of what is coming back offensively,”” Stoops said.

    Late Hits

    Unlike the past, offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes will call the game from the press box this season.

    Dykes, who called the plays from the field last year, is open and optimistic about the change.

    “”I think it is going to be good. I really do,”” Dykes said. “”But it is like anything else when you’re used to doing something for a long time it’s hard to do something different.

    “”Most coordinators are upstairs,”” he added. “”It’s easier to see and you’re not as emotional on the field. Sometimes you can get talked into doing certain things by the players on the field and I think this will allow me to think more clearly and you can see a lot more.””

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