By Ryan Casey
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, November 8, 2005
Surprised by the Wildcats' 38-point win over UCLA on Saturday? They weren't.
"It's not an upset," insisted senior safety Darrell Brooks after the game, "because we knew we were going to do it all along."
"You guys really thought this was coming?" asked one of the half-dozen reporters surrounding Brooks.
"Yeah, we knew it all week, we knew it," he said. "You can ask anybody in that locker room right there - you guys (the media) were the ones that didn't believe in us."
So we did as Brooks instructed - we asked anyone in the Wildcat locker room if they saw a 52-14 romp coming over the then-No. 7 team in the country.
"We knew this game was going to be tough, but we came out and played how we knew we can," said sophomore cornerback Antoine Cason.
"I wasn't surprised to put up that many points, and I wasn't (surprised) that we were going to win," added senior running back Mike Bell. "We practiced too hard, we prepared too hard - I just knew our team was going to play together."
"I knew this team was good from the first day that I got here in the summer," said freshman quarterback Willie Tuitama.
The game - called a "defining moment for the team" by senior defensive end Copeland Bryan - could prove to be just that, a huge steppingstone for Arizona football.
"It was great, best game I've played in so far," Bell said.
No, it's not surprising. I've been in this program a long time. It's about time we finally got on the board like we did.
- Darrell Brooks, senior safety
"It's my Number 1 right now," Tuitama said.
"Definitely one of the most enjoyable," added Brooks.
If 1999's 41-7 loss to Penn State was the beginning of a downward spiral for the program, Saturday's slaying of the Bruins will likely be remembered by those in attendance as "The UCLA Game" or simply "The Game" - marking the revitalization of team finally rising from the ashes.
"It does everything for this program, it gives us credibility," said defensive coordinator Mark Stoops. "Our players deserve it because they've fought through a lot of adversity."
"It gives us legitimacy," said Mark's brother, Mike, otherwise known as the Wildcats' head coach.
Credibility, legitimacy - words of optimism unseen for quite some time in conversations regarding Arizona football.
No longer will fans be mocked for discussing Arizona's "legitimacy" as a Division I program. No longer will fans be mocked for saying Mike Stoops and his staff have brought "credibility" to Tucson.
As the fans rushed the playing field for the third and final time Saturday night (they were repelled the first two times, having tried at the two-minute mark and again with 50 seconds to go), Mike Stoops credited his supporting cast for sticking with his team through thick and thin.
"They've been by us even when the media hasn't been," he said of the fans. "A lot of people were taking shots at us - our kids have stayed positive, our staff has stayed positive and the kids have stayed with it."
I'm struck by something Mike Stoops said during the Pacific 10 Conference Media Day in August: "We're much more together as a football team than at any time last year."
The major difference between Arizona's 28-0 loss to California on Oct. 1 and the Wildcats' whooping of UCLA? They played as a team in the most complete victory of Mike Stoops' tenure. He just might have been onto something a few months earlier.
"When we play together as a team, I really feel that we can play against anybody," Bell said Saturday.
Even so, it seems hard to believe the players were taken aback just a tad by the outcome.
"No, it's not surprising," Brooks said. "I've been in this program a long time. It's about time we finally got on the board like we did."