Cellar dweller to Cinderella?

By Eric Wein

Arizona Daily Wildcat

The Arizona football team was the surprise team of 1992 and has continued its steady rise since then.

Oregon seems to have risen from the Pacific 10 Conference cellar in recent years and hopes to make it to the top soon. This season, their chances seem to be reasonably good.

UA coach Dick Tomey, not one for making comparisons, noted the similarities between his '92 squad and the current Oregon team.

The Wildcats had a similar situation two years ago, when they struggled early but found themselves in the Rose Bowl hunt near the conclusion of the season before finishing at 6-5-1.

"They have high hopes, they have a senior quarterback and some young players," Tomey said of the Ducks yesterday at his press conference. "Things didn't go well for them at first and the fans were down on them. But the team kept believing in themselves and fought back."

Arizona meets Oregon at 12:30 p.m. Saturday in Eugene, Ore. (Ch. 9).

The comparison is interesting. The Ducks are in the Rose Bowl race deeper into the season than at any time in the last 25 years. Their success stems from last Saturday's win over Washington and some other strong teams the Ducks weren't expected to beat. Arizona began the 1992 season 1-2-1 but went on a tear, winning five straight, including a 16-3 decision over the Huskies, before the Wildcats fell in their final three.

Tomey said a strong defense and a youthful offensive line are other points similar to the '92 Wildcats.

Four teams seem to be vying for the Rose Bowl right now: Arizona, Oregon, Washington State and Southern Cal. What frightens Tomey is that Oregon will have played all of the other three after Saturday.

"Oregon is clearly in the driver's seat," Tomey said. "Everyone else loses control of the race."

It seems like you need a high level of proficiency in algebra and calculus to try to figure out formulas for who gets to go to the Rose Bowl.

But associate athletic director Butch Henry said if Arizona loses this weekend, it would still be on top of the race, with three teams having one conference loss. By virtue of Oregon's loss to Washington State and Arizona's win over the Cougars, the Wildcats' nonconference wins figure into the formula.

It's so easy to ask "what if" right now but the Pac-10 is merely half over. Tomey doesn't care about formulas.

"(Oregon) is in control as far as we're concerned,"

Tomey said.

Folks in Eugene normally get excited about every big win but the Ducks' win over Washington sent the town abuzz over Oregon's best showing in the conference in a quarter decade.

A statement in the Oregon press notes this week addresses that.

"Oregon's braintrust must convince its team that nothing yet has been accomplished in actuality despite the immense recent euphoria," the notes say.

"It's a little more eloquent than I would put it," Oregon coach Rich Brooks said. "What we've done at this point is put ourselves to be in the race. We're really not in the race unless we win this weekend. If we lose this weekend, everything we've done slides back into the closet and everyone moves on."

For the second straight week, Tomey will face a coach across the field from his UCLA days. Tomey and Brooks were assistant coaches at UCLA under Terry Donahue in 1976 before both parted Tomey to take the head coaching job at Hawaii and Brooks to begin as head coach of Oregon.

After finishing a speaker phone call to the media yesterday, Brooks was asked if he had anything to say regarding his former co-worker.

"Tomey beat me in golf this year for the first time in eight or nine years," Brooks said. "It's time that maybe I win one on the football field because I haven't been able to do that in quite a while."

Tomey's Wildcats are 3-1 against Brooks, with the Ducks' only win coming in a 16-10 victory in 1989, the last time the two teams met in Eugene. The UA coach did modestly reply that it had been only seven years since he had fallen to Brooks on the links.

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