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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Fans expect team to go bowling

    Last year Arizona football fans’ expectations were higher than in any other season under head coach Mike Stoops. Now, having a roster full of players he recruited, and with the offense hitting its stride in its second year under offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes, fans are clamoring for the team’s first bowl berth in a decade.

    “”They’re going to a bowl game this year. They need to for us fans,”” said 30-year season-ticket-holder Sharon Calabrese.

    Quarterback Willie Tuitama broke 10 Arizona passing records last year. Couple that with a solid group of playmakers returning at the skill positions – running back Nic Grigsby, wide receiver Mike Thomas and tight end Rob Gronkowski – and fans are dreaming about the possibilities when Tuitama gets the ball in his hands.

    “”They’re going to be very strong (on offense) returning 10 starters,”” said Chaz Elsten, 29.

    One of the team’s question marks is its young defense, but it’s an athletic and energetic group of players, Elsten added.

    Despite the fact that eight starters from last year’s team graduated or will be playing on Sundays in the NFL, Ronnie Palmer is expected to set the tone on defense for the 10 other men on the field. The team’s favorable three-game nonconference schedule with home games against Idaho and Toledo doesn’t stifle fans’ hopes for the season.

    ESPN.com writer Ivan Maisel predicted the Wildcats would start the season 6-0, just one win shy of that elusive “”bowl eligible”” tag. If that prognostication becomes fact, that would give Arizona road wins against New Mexico – a team which beat Arizona last year in Tucson – and UCLA.

    Some fans are dreaming larger than ever. One man strolled up and down the fence at Saturday’s “”Meet the Team”” day with his index finger raised, declaring “”Rose Bowl bound”” to each member of the team.

    If that were to happen, it would mean Arizona would shed its label of being the only team from the Pacific 10 Conference which has yet to play in the Rose Bowl.

    Although a New Year’s Day game in Pasadena might seem lofty to some fans, Arizona’s three most difficult games – California, USC and ASU – are all home games, so that helps bolster expectations.

    “”There’s a lot of winnable games,”” Elsten said. “”I think they have a good shot at winning eight or nine games this year.””

    But no matter how the season can be dissected or broken-down, Wildcat fans see the team going bowling this season.

    “”Hopefully they’ll be in the Rose Bowlÿ- that’s ideal – but more realistically I think they’ll play in the Sun Bowl (in El Paso) or the Las Vegas Bowl,”” Elsten said. “”Any bowl game at this point would be a joy to any

    Arizona fan.””

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