Wildcat football fans: remember '92?

Nov. 7, 1992.

When I graduate from this university, what occurred on that day will be among my fondest memories during my time as a Wildcat.

On that day, in front of 58,510 red- and blue-clad fans, the Arizona Wildcat football team came of age, defeating the then-No. 1 Washington Huskies.

While the 16-3 victory was memorable in itself, what sticks out in my mind was the crowd pressing against the retaining fence as the clock ticked away the final seconds, then bursting onto the field in the late afternoon shadows, jumping and screaming and just happy to be there.

I was part of that mass of humanity who got coated with soda and ice as so many plastic cups were thrown into the air in celebration of the win. I was a freshman then, and on that afternoon I felt for the first time like I was a Wildcat, that the team out on that field was mine, and that I was a part of this school.

Looking back now, the 1992 season was my favorite. Coming off a 4-7 campaign the year before, no one expected anything from that team, except the team itself. UA opened 1-1-1 and lost an 8-7 heartbreaker to then-No. 1 Miami.

That loss turned the season around. Five straight wins followed, all marked by a swarming defense and an economical offense.

In '92, people were just happy to have a good, competitive football team again. No one booed (much) when Arizona ran up the middle and losses were something to be saddened by, not criticized.

1992 gave birth to the monster of expectation, but it was 1993 that made the monster bigger than life. With 10 wins and a Fiesta Bowl thrashing of Miami, it was the best season in Arizona football history. Everyone bought into the football team that year; the newness of actually being a contender in one of the most storied conferences in college football was addictive. No one could wait for 1994, because that would be "the year."

What followed was not pretty. Sports Illustrated put the team on its cover and proclaimed it No. 1. Whether that was fair (it certainly was not correct), the expectations created were far too high. People got concerned with rankings and polls, winning was no longer enough and the score had to look good to impress the voters.

Wins were no longer happily accepted they were expected. Phrases like "Rose Bowl" and "national championship" were tossed about freely, as if it was simply Arizona's turn to win both.

From 4-7 to national championship in three years? Not likely and not fair.

Which brings us to 1995. Arizona has the same swarming defense and the same economical offense, but now fans are dissatisfied.

What has changed? Well, expectations, for starters.

While there is something to be said for expecting success, there is also something to be said for supporting a team simply because it's your team.

Arizona is 2-1, but it's a shaky 2-1. With No. 5 Southern Cal this weekend and four of its last six games on the road, a 7-4 season seems pretty respectable.

Ninety percent of the fans in this country would be ecstatic with such a season. Will Tucson? We'll see in November.

Of more immediate concern, a loss this weekend would drop the Wildcats from the (gasp) Associated Press Top 25 poll. In '91, the letters A-P meant about as much to Tucsonans as the letters N-A-F-T-A.

It's probably human nature get a little, expect a lot but put it in perspective and at the end of the season just be happy (those that managed to stay until the end) there was a game as pulse-pounding as UA-Georgia Tech.

Sad but true, football on this campus is no longer as much fun as it was back in '92. Reading that last sentence makes '92 sounds like the good old days.

I think they were.

Patrick Klein is assistant sports editor of the WIldcat.

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