Excuses, excuses ...

Arizona Daily Wildcat

In crushing Stanford 55-21 last Saturday, Oregon moved to within one victory of its first Rose Bowl in 37 years. In getting crushed by Southern Cal 45-28 last Saturday, Arizona moved to within at the very least 411 days of its first-ever Rose Bowl berth.

Freedom is nice for prisoners, but for football teams looking for a bowl bid, Roses are so much sweeter. Sure, it's tough when you are Sports Illustrated's preseason No. 1. Sure, the Wildcats have said repeatedly that they never wanted that kind of pressure on them, et cetera. But the best teams are generally able to withstand that pressure, are able to handle it. And it has become glaringly obvious that the UA is not the best team.

Of course, Arizona (7-3) isn't bad by any means the Wildcats are 5-2 in a conference that currently boasts four Top 25 teams but they have been less than great the past three weeks.

Examples:

At Oregon, Oct. 29 Following a Josh Wilcox touchdown that put the Ducks up 10-9, Arizona got the ball back and struggled to move it, mostly with running.

Said tailback Ontiwaun Carter: "I don't know why we were playing conservative. I felt we could do a little more."

The final: Oregon 10, Arizona 9.

Cal, Nov. 5 Cornerback Mike Scurlock scores the only Wildcat touchdown in a fortunate win for Arizona. It is the second straight week the UA offense failed to score a touchdown.

"It's a case of execution," quarterback Dan White said after the game. "One thing after another seems to go wrong. It shouldn't happen."

The final: Arizona 13, Cal 6.

At Southern Cal, Nov. 12 The crumbling Desert Swarm defense allowed 116 rushing and 434 passing yards, and a staggering 45 points, the most Arizona had allowed since UCLA scored 54 against it in 1991.

Afterward, Coach Dick Tomey said: "I'm sure there are a lot of teams that would love to be 7-3, but right now that hasn't hit home. We only have the feeling that we

didn't get the job done."

The final: USC 45, Arizona 28.

Tomey was on target when he said a lot of teams would love to be 7-3. However, he doesn't coach a lot of teams, he coaches the University of Arizona. A lot of teams expected the Wildcats to be better than they turned out to be. A lot of teams are surprised Oregon has a bead on Pasadena this close to January. A lot of teams ... Need I go on?

Another point of order: White said the poor offensive play against the Golden Bears was due to poor execution. Carter didn't know why the UA played so conservative against the Ducks. Devoted red and blue fans had silently but persistently questioned Tomey's play-calling for years, but the Colorado State and Oregon losses really had people wondering, "What the hell is happening?"

It seems, to many, that the Wildcats run when they should pass and when they opt to pass in clutch situations in the final minute of both the CSU and Oregon games, for example White just can't connect.

What's the problem? Does Tomey go up the middle too often? Does White buckle in pressure situations? Or could those pressure situations be avoided if Tomey simply didn't go up the middle as often? Carter is an outstanding running back, probably one of the best-kept secrets in Division I, but Tomey needs to mix it up a little.

Anyway, enough analysis of the past. Let's look at what is going to happen over the next couple months. As everybody knows, the closest Arizona will come to Pasadena is Anaheim, the site of the Freedom Bowl. But there is the possibility that the Wildcats can still earn a coalition bid, if they beat ASU, USC beats UCLA, and Oregon State beats Oregon.

Even then, the Bowl Coalition would have to choose between Oregon and Arizona for second place. And even if they did get the coalition's bid, they would likely end up at the Sun Bowl (formerly the John Hancock Bowl). And we all know what happened the last time Arizona went to El Paso.

Oh well, I guess UA fans can say what they always say about this time of year just wait 'til basketball season. I hear Lute's team is Sports Illustrated's preseason No. 1 ... Oh boy.

Thoden K. Janes is the sports editor of the Arizona Daily Wildcat. His column appears every Tuesday.

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