Wildcats try to regroup after heartbreak defeat
After a setback like last week's 9-7 loss to nationally-ranked Wisconsin at home, it wouldn't be a surprise if the Arizona football team just rolled over this week at home against Washington State.
Somebody forgot to tell the Wildcats, however, who claim to be as ready as ever for their Pac-10 opener tomorrow at Arizona Stadium.
"It's definitely a different season," said junior safety and co-captain Darrell Brooks of tomorrow's matchup, set to be aired on ABC with a 12:30 p.m. kickoff scheduled. "(The Pacific 10 Conference schedule) is our second season, and that's when it all counts. No matter how well or how poorly you do in your non-conference schedule, whatever conference you're in that's when it counts."
The Wildcats (1-2, 0-0 Pac-10) will attempt to get back in the win column - for the first time since a season opening victory over Northern Arizona - against a Washington State (2-1, 0-0) team fresh off a monstrous 49-8 win over Idaho last weekend.
The Cougars' offense shined against the Vandals, but its centerpiece is in question this week. The status of WSU junior quarterback Josh Swogger may not be decided just before kickoff tomorrow.
Swogger suffered a partially torn ligament in his right knee last week, making way for freshman Alex Brink in the third quarter after throwing for 196 yards and four touchdowns.
Cougar head coach Bill Doba told The Associated Press this week that Swogger's ability to move out of the pocket will determine his fate.
"His mobility is always a question, of course, and if he doesn't have good mobility, he won't play," Doba said, adding that if Swogger plays he'll probably have to wear a brace on his right leg. "With the brace I think he'll be able to run and have mobility."
Whether Swogger hits the field or not, the Washington State offense will have to be ready for a reconditioned Wildcat defense that, aside from some of the names on the back of Arizona's jerseys, bears little resemblance to last year's team.
Through three games so far the Wildcats rank 27th nationally in total defense at just under 290 yards allowed per game, and sit at No. 16 in points allowed at 11.7. Both are a far cry from last year's team which gave up 460 yards and nearly 36 points per game, both in the bottom 10 of the national lists.
Last week, Arizona held the No. 20 Badgers scoreless through three
quarters - including an 88-minute lightning delay in the second - only to see a 7-0 fourth-quarter lead slip away in the final frame. UA sophomore kicker Nicholas Folk missed a 47-yard field goal attempt that would have given the Wildcats the lead with less than a minute to play.
Despite the heartbreaking defeat, Arizona players said it only gives them more confidence that they will eventually start winning some of the close games.
"We've been going into each game with the same attitude," said UA senior tight end and co-captain Steve Fleming. "We're sick of losing close games, so we need to pick up the intensity there."
"It seems to be any team can win any Saturday," Brooks added. "It seems pretty wide open. It gives us a lot more confidence to know we can go out there and compete."