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Commentary: Wildcats due for home conference win

Charles Renning
senior sports writer
By Charles Renning
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday September 12, 2003

Head coach John Mackovic said the first Pacific 10 Conference game "either puts you in first place or last place."

But tomorrow's game holds so much more significance than getting an early lead in the standings.

The way the Wildcats play will go a long way in determining how the season plays out and how the fans react to the team.

Does a loss against the Ducks mean the season is over in only the second week of September?

No, but the way Arizona performs this weekend will be a big deciding factor of how the Tucson community comes behind this year's squad.

Every possible joke was heard this week on campus about the inability of the Arizona football team during the blowout loss to Louisiana State last week in front of a national audience. I would assume the feeling around the country is much of the same.

No one believes these guys can win a big game and for good reason.

The Wildcats are in the midst of an 11-game conference home losing streak.

The last time the Arizona faithful saw a win over another Pac-10 opponent at Arizona stadium was back in the Dick Tomey era, when the Wildcats beat Washington State in a triple-overtime thriller.

It's going to take another win like that to right the ship that drifted off course a long time ago.

It's very hard to say that this weekend's contest is a "must-win" game. But it's as close as any third game of the season will ever be to that.

The Wildcats first must win to build confidence.

This is a young football team, and an early season win over a quality conference opponent would give the team faith in what it is doing and what it is working for. It could be a building block for a team looking for something to build on.

Arizona travels to Big Ten country next week to take on Purdue. If the Wildcats enter Ross-Ade Stadium with two consecutive losses, it could lead to a snowball effect that continues right through the Pac-10 schedule. A win could do just the opposite. If they can go to West Lafayette fresh off a conference win, it could instill a winning attitude against a vulnerable Purdue squad that was knocked off last weekend.

The Wildcats must win to silence the critics.

Arizona was embarrassed in front of a national audience a week ago with its 59-13 loss to LSU. That game wasn't just a regional broadcast that only folks on the West Coast saw. Anyone with cable from New York to Los Angeles could have seen the blowout,

The good news is the Wildcats do get another chance.

This week's game will also be broadcast on TBS and will give UA an opportunity to show that Saturday's loss was on a mere bad day.

The Wildcats must win to cool the mob.

Talk of Mackovic's dismissal ran rampant last fall following the players' revolt, but since his press conference when he vowed to change his ways, people have been eager to see what he would do.

Rumblings resurfaced this week about the future of the Wildcats' leader.

Mackovic has never coached a home win over a Pac-10 team at Arizona stadium and this weekend's Oregon game would be a big one.

If the Wildcats don't win this game, the consecutive home Pac-10 losing streak could easily run to 15 by the end of the year with UCLA, Washington, and Southern California heading to Tucson.

It does seem a bit early to be sounding the alarms but as early season games go, this one should be considered as important as any in school history.

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