By Shane Bacon
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 12, 2005
One win, of course. Two wins, duh. Three wins, sure. Four wins, possibly. Five wins, ehhh.
Six wins? Oh, what dreams may come?
That is the magical number your Arizona football team needs to reach to make it to their first bowl game since 1998.
Yep, if the Wildcats win six games this year, they have a great shot at making the Las Vegas Bowl in, yep, you guessed it, Las Vegas.
Close your eyes and imagine this - you're walking down the Strip after a few two-dollar drinks at Barbary Coast, slapping hands with everyone sporting a "Stoops for President" T-shirt, while avoiding those guys that slap down the porn fliers.
So with that fresh on your mind, and the Wildcats now one step closer to paradise after Saturday's win over NAU, here are six things the Wildcats need to do to give themselves a shot at the unthinkable – a bowl berth in the prettiest desert in all the land.
6. Keep the secondary out of the infirmary
Arguably, the two best players on the entire Wildcat roster are in the secondary.
Sophomore cornerback Antoine Cason broke onto the scene last year as a threat to turn the ball over to the offense on every play, with four interceptions and three forced fumbles.
The credentials speak for themselves – All-Pac-10 honorable mention, Football Writers' Association of America Freshman All-America team, The Sporting News' Freshman All-American team, TSN's All-Pac-10 freshman team selection and TSN's Pac-10 defensive freshman of the year.
Don't look for Cason to slow down at all in this, his second go-around, especially with senior big hitter Darrell Brooks watching his back.
Calling Brooks tough would be like calling Zeus kind of strong - it just doesn't give him his due. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound free safety led the team in tackles last year and will most definitely make a leap to the NFL with another season like 2004.
Keeping these two guys healthy, with the support of improving sophomore Wilrey Fontenot, is a must if the Wildcats hard-hitting defense is to continue to show as much promise as it did against the Lumberjacks (five passing yards allowed in the first half).
5. Throw a touchdown pass somewhere
besides the practice field
For those that have been around for a while, and still remember only vaguely the aerial attack former UA quarterback Jason Johnson employed on opposing defenses, a touchdown pass is one of those six-point things that happen when the ball is actually passed in the air and someone on your team catches it in the end zone.
Arizona had a total of ten touchdown passes last year, with all the opposing teams' scouting reports focusing almost completely on the running game. Getting the ball in the air - as starting quarterback Richard Kovalcheck did 31 times Saturday - and creating a somewhat respectable passing game will only open up the best part of Arizona's offense.
4. Let Bell make some noise
It seems like only yesterday that Bell was just an understudy in the Clarence Farmer circus act.
Now, the senior running back from Phoenix is the centerpiece of Arizona's offense for the second consecutive year and has more pressure on his shoulders than sideline stutter-stepper and head coach Mike Stoops.
Bell has 12 career touchdowns and left us all with a great taste in our mouth after the Sun Devil stomp in November, carrying for 139 yards on 23 carries.
Bell is arguably on the most talented team he's been on since moving south to Tucson, and with the continued maturity of the Arizona signal-callers, he has a chance to be one of the top three running backs in the Pac-10.
3. Richard, Willie or Adam? Don't make a choice
Oh, how we love to switch up quarterbacks.
If it isn't a short, slashing southpaw, it's a tall, lanky basketball bench warmer. It seems that last year we found the man that made us most comfortable in the then redshirt freshman Kovalcheck.
The man out of nowhere started the last four games of 2004, and though he had as many touchdowns, six, as interceptions, he was another Sun Devil killer, being named Territorial Cup MVP as he went 17-of-31 for 239 yards and three
The thing that could haunt the offense, however, is if we stick to one quarterback for too long. If junior Adam Austin gets a shot at starting, he could prove to be just as good as Kovalcheck, and freshman Willie Tuitama has a gun, although coaches may choose to keep him holstered for this season.
Tuitama, possibly Stoops' best recruit this offseason, might be just as good as anyone, but is young. The thing is, give them all a shot, because our quarterback situation isn't going to improve with just one player.
2. Close it out
First, it was nationally ranked Wisconsin that slipped by in the pouring rain. Then, the next week it was a Gilbert Harris fumble with the game wrapped up that let Washington State steal a victory from the Wildcats. Finally, it was against future national champion USC where ... yeah, right.
In any case, Arizona does need to figure out how to close out games if it wants a chance at six victories. After a year of struggling with the concept, maturity may pull the Wildcats through in 2005.
1. 'Bear Down,' not hibernate, in November
If the Wildcats can upset UCLA, shut down Stanford, knock off one of the two Oregon schools, put a pounding to Tyrone Willingham's boys at Washington and deliver a repeat defeat to the Sun Devils the day after Thanksgiving, that gets us to the place where slot machines grow on trees.
Even if we don't follow the perfect dream, this team is exciting to watch and will continue to get better as the season progresses.
Shane Bacon is a journalism senior. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.