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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    ‘Cats ready for big stage

    Arizona wide receiver Terrell Turner tries to escape the hold of Bruins Dennis Keyes (11) and Reggie Carter (51) in the Wildcats 34-27 win over UCLA at Arizona Stadium on Nov. 3.
    Arizona wide receiver Terrell Turner tries to escape the hold of Bruins Dennis Keyes (11) and Reggie Carter (51) in the Wildcats’ 34-27 win over UCLA at Arizona Stadium on Nov. 3.

    Make no mistake. When ESPN announcers Doug Flutie and Chris Fowler and sideline reporter Erin Andrews arrive at Arizona Stadium tonight, their focus won’t be on the Arizona football team.

    It will be on Oregon, the team picked to finish sixth in the Pacific 10 Conference this year that somehow finds itself as the season’s Cinderella story at No. 2 in the country.

    As the Ducks prepare for what could be a final stretch that includes an appearance in the Bowl Championship Series national title game, their conference foes picked to finish right behind them in the standings would love nothing more than to have that spotlight shifted on them, and also keep their postseason hopes alive.

    “”We want to go out and play well for ourselves,”” said UA head coach Mike Stoops. “”We want to win, not spoil anybody’s season. … We want to showcase what we’re all about, too. We’ve got a lot to show.

    “”We don’t have anything to lose.””

    As the Wildcats (4-6, 3-4 Pac-10) come off two straight wins in games where they were underdogs, todays’s matchup at 7 p.m. may go down as the biggest game in Stoops’ career.

    A win would stun the Ducks (8-1, 5-1) and the rest of the college football world – it would also put Arizona just one win away from being bowl-eligible for the second consecutive season.

    The Wildcats were in an eerily similar predicament when they headed into Eugene to play the Ducks at Autzen Stadium last season.

    It was the second-to-last game of the season. Arizona was coming off two consecutive conference wins against ranked teams and completely dominated the Ducks in a 37-10 victory, by far the team’s biggest victory margin of the season. Moreover, the win qualified the 6-5 Wildcats for a bowl for the first time since 1998.

    It was clearly a different Oregon team last year, but this time Arizona plays in its own house on a night when anyone who wants to watch college football will be able to watch the game on ESPN. It’s the first time “”Thursday Night Football”” has come to Tucson and the first time since Sept. 7, 1995, that the Wildcats have played on a Thursday.

    “”It’s a crazy setting,”” said cornerback Wilrey Fontenot. “”It’s the No. 2 team in the country. Everybody’s going to be watching.””

    The Ducks,

    We have all the motivation in the world to go out there and play the best we’ve ever played. It’s on ESPN, it’s on a Thursday. All that adds to how big of a game it is for us.

    -Spencer Larsen,
    linebacker

    who are also coming off a week-and-a-half layoff, saw their ranking leap to No. 2 this week after then-No. 1 Ohio State fell at home to Illinois on Saturday.

    There has been a pattern of No. 2 teams – Boston College, USC, California and South Florida – getting upset this year, including three consecutive weeks in which The Associated Press’s No. 2 team lost.

    Two of the upsets occurred on “”Thursday Night Football.””

    “”We need to make sure that we don’t think that just because they’re ranked No. 2 and every No. 2 team has gotten knocked off this year that we’ll just be able to roll our helmets out there and beat them,”” said linebacker Spencer Larsen.

    “”We have all the motivation in the world to go out there and play the best we’ve ever played. It’s on ESPN, it’s on a Thursday. All that adds to how big of a game it is for us.””

    The Wildcats have been prone to register one big home upset in each of Stoops’ three full seasons. Last year, they defeated No. 8 California on Homecoming, the previous year they upset No. 7 UCLA and in 2004 they upset No. 18 ASU, all hurting their opponents’ chances of making a more prominent bowl game.

    Fans rushed the field after Arizona’s last home win, two weeks ago over UCLA, but the Bruins were unranked at the time and fell to 5-4.

    That means the Wildcats have yet to pull off that major home victory this season.

    Can it happen tonight?

    “”It would be huge for us,”” said quarterback Willie Tuitama. “”Especially as a program, especially at home. Thursday night, it’s the only game on TV. I have aunties and uncles calling me and telling me they’re having a party and going to be watching.

    “”That’s just the kind of situation that it’s in. Everybody that likes college football is going to be watching.””

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