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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

COMIC: Rat’s Nest #3
Olivia MoreyFebruary 28, 2024
 

    “Loss to New Mexico still stings, but not season-defining”

    Ari Wasserman/Assistant Sports Editor
    Ari Wasserman/Assistant Sports Editor

    Wass This Way

    PASADENA, Calif. – In the wake of Arizona’s 31-10 win over UCLA Saturday, there may still be something tugging at the UA football team.

    The story with Arizona has been the same each year during head coach Mike Stoops’ tenure at the helm of the program. Thoughts of what should have been are mainstays in the minds of past Arizona teams.

    And even with the Wildcats sitting at 3-1 (1-0 Pacific 10 Conference) in the midst of a season that looks to finally be going in the right direction, Arizona hasn’t quite escaped thoughts of what could have been this season.

    “”We should have been 4-0,”” said safety Nate Ness following Arizona’s convincing win over the Bruins. “”But we can’t dwell on it. We got the win here.””

    For the first time in recent memory, that’s exactly what the Wildcats did. Arizona essentially erased the loss to the Lobos with a win in their Pac-10 opener, something that was critical for the possibility of a postseason berth.

    In past years, the Wildcats have always seemed to suffer a season-defining loss. Last year, Arizona had two home losses to New Mexico and Stanford. In 2006, it was a 45-3 shellacking at LSU that made it seem like Arizona wasn’t close to capable of running with high-powered squads.

    And after Arizona started off this season with two blowout wins over some lower-level teams in Idaho and Toledo, a loss at New Mexico had the Wildcats’ backs against the ropes after stumbling to a team they probably shouldn’t have.

    While the New Mexico loss certainly stings for the Wildcats, it has become almost irrelevant.

    “”This team has done everything we have asked them to do,”” Stoops said. “”We have good players. Our players match up with most teams across the board and that hasn’t always been the case here.””

    Stoops said before the UCLA game that his teams have typically struggled with dealing with adversity, whether it be during a game when they fall behind or getting over a big time loss.

    While the old cliché says “”take it one game at a time,”” the Wildcats never showed the ability to actually do so.

    This time, however, Stoops is right. This Arizona team is different and it looks like they may have actually turned the corner.

    The goal has always been the same for Arizona – to make its first postseason appearance since 1998 – and for the first time, it is completely the Wildcats’ to lose. A bowl berth has never been so attainable.

    The Wildcats must win four more in order to qualify for a bowl game, and they have a favorable schedule in terms of achieving that goal.

    Still remaining on their schedule are Washington (0-3, 0-1), Washington State (1-3, 0-1), and Oregon State (1-2, 0-1), while every other game aside from USC seems manageable.

    Seeing the Wildcats bounce back after a deflating loss shows maturity, something many of Stoops’ previous teams have lacked.

    “”We will enjoy (the UCLA win), but to have two weeks to really excite our players about what the possibilities (are),”” Stoops said. “”To go 4-1, that’s all we talking about is winning the next game.””

    And for the first time in a while, Arizona can expect to win.


    – Ari Wasserman is a journalism senior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu

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