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Beating UCLA, it's all about faith

By Seth Doria
Arizona Daily Wildcat
October 9, 1998
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Arizona Daily Wildcat

It's not too often this town sees a game that has as many implications as this Saturday's matchup between Arizona and UCLA.

Basically, whoever wins this game has not only the inside track to the Rose Bowl, but a very good chance at getting one of the two slots to play in the Fiesta Bowl for the national championship Jan. 4.

There are still too many pieces to fall into place before anyone can place UA in the Fiesta Bowl, but starting Saturday at 7 p.m. in Arizona Stadium, Arizona will be all alone on top of the Pacific 10 Conference and sure-fire bets on at least playing in the Rose Bowl - oddly enough UCLA's home stadium - for the first time ever.

UCLA comes in with about as much useless hype as any Heisman hopeful campaign can carry, but when it comes down to it, the Bruins are missing their starting running back in Jermaine Lewis and starting wide receiver in Freddie Mitchell.

Their defense is young and haven't had to deal with the pressure of playing a big-time game with an extremely hostile crowd. They slip once or turn their head in the wrong direction, and they'll get to watch a big ol' celebration going on in their own end zone.

After being hurricaned-out of a chance to play Miami, this is also the Bruins first big test. Somehow I don't think that game at Houston was worth much in terms of prepping the baby Bruins for a down-right nasty road game.

Cade McNown may be overflowing with confidence -he said he wouldn't be afraid to pass against UA cornerback Chris McAlister - but there's no way coming to Tucson could possibly be his ideal way of finding out if his team is for real or not.

Reason being that Arizona Stadium will be packed with loud, if not die-hard, fans and that always - be it a basketball game or a football game - gets the Wildcats up for the challenge.

Do you think Yusuf Scott wants to walk around campus next Monday hearing fans talk about how Arizona choked?

I don't think he would take that very well.

Everybody who's ever sat in the student section in Arizona Stadium knows the trash talking that goes on about Dick Tomey, but no one can deny the fact that Tomey had his team ready to play last weekend. You can't ask for much more than that.

This Wildcat team is by far the most offensively talented in a long, long time. This is Tomey's first squad that can actually win the game instead of just not losing it. And that all goes back to recruiting the kind of athletes that can break plays at crucial times.

Trung Canidate may not be the biggest back of them all, but he can break a 39-yard touchdown run in the blink of an eye. Give the ball to Dennis Northcutt in the flat with some room to move, and he always delivers.

In tough short-yardage situations, how would you like to be a linebacker having to shed a vicious block from Paul Shields only to be treated with Kelvin Eafon smashing in your face mask?

And on defense, McNown will either get to test McAlister, who I'm sure would love to do a little touchdown dance dedicated to the NCAA, or be scrambling for his life trying not to get killed by Daniel Greer or Marcus Bell.

But beyond the play makers, what makes the Wildcats special is the chemistry and confidence.

More than any strategy, a team needs to believe it will win going into a big game. Without that, the other team has the mental advantage and the final score will reflect that. This Wildcat team knew going up to Washington that it could win the game, even without McAlister.

And you can bet that in the locker room, every UA player, coach, trainer, water boy or whatever believes the team will be 6-0 heading up to Oregon State Oct. 17.

In fact, I'll put money on that myself.

Arizona 34, UCLA 24.

Seth Doria is sports editor of the Arizona Daily Wildcat and can be reached via e-mail at Seth.Doria@wildcat.arizona.edu.