Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 8, 2005
As even casual fans can attest, UA football has fluctuated between mediocrity and disaster in recent seasons, long removed from the glory days of bowl games, Desert Swarm and pop-culture currency as the object of mumbled praise from Keanu Reeves in "Speed."
After Dick Tomey played out his last two undistinguished seasons, John Mackovic took control, leading a 34-month train wreck that, as casual fans know, included a player mutiny and Mackovic's midseason firing.
Mike Stoops' hiring was a stroke of sanity and good fortune for Wildcat football. The coach's optimism and championship pedigree instantly reestablished credibility for the program, and alienated fans returned in droves.
In Stoops' first season, fans were willing to give the coach a mulligan as he worked with the wreckage of the Mackovic era while installing his own systems.
Delivering a sweet, sweet victory against a top-grade Sun Devils squad and reclaiming the Territorial Cup made it easier to endure a three-win season from a team that showed promise on defense and flashes of competence on offense.
However, in the aftermath of the latest derailment against Utah last week, some fans may be tempted to point to the Wildcats' disjointed ground attack and ineffective defensive line, concluding that Stoops' reputation is a mirage.
Before dismissing the season as a lost cause, fans may want to look a little more closely at this team.
The players' efforts are not in question. Stoops' Troops seem ready to run through a brick wall for their passionate coach - a welcome contrast to Stoops' predecessor, whom the players might have preferred to entomb behind a brick wall.
The season is still young. Stoops has acknowledged the team's need to improve before Pacific 10 Conference play begins, and he has three weeks to work out the kinks in the running game and on defense.
Before fair-weather fans jump off the bandwagon this season, they could take one last look - preferably in person - at the team Saturday night as the Cats tackle the Northern Arizona University Lumberjacks.
Besides, if nothing else, fans of all stripes have one uplifting, incontrovertible fact they can clasp to their bosoms: Anything's better than Mackovic.