Arizona football’s return to relevancy ahead of schedule

Sep 10, 2012, 3:57 PM | Updated: 4:59 pm

This story is courtesy of the Arizona Daily Wildcat

Saturday night wasn’t supposed to be like this. Arizona was not supposed to beat Oklahoma State, especially not by scoring 59 points in a 21-point victory.

The Wildcats were doomed from the start. The Cowboys were supposed to win.

About three hours before game time, the weather was looking a bit gloomy.

I pulled out my iPhone and asked Siri, “What’s the weather like tonight?”

She told me to wear a raincoat.

By the time the game started, it was pretty clear that the stadium was not at full capacity. About 3,200 people short, to be exact.

To top it all off, Oklahoma State burst out of the gates with two touchdowns on its first two possessions.

In 2011 when Arizona traveled to Stillwater, Okla., the Cowboys scored on three straight possessions and won 37-14. In the Alamo Bowl from two seasons ago, OSU scored on its first two possessions in a 36-10 victory.

Here we go again, everyone thought.

And then something strange happened. Arizona kept its composure and scored 30 — yes, 30 — straight points, never looking back.

It was supposed to be a tough game, a tough season even.

Instead, the Wildcats find themselves ranked No. 24 in the nation.

“I did talk all week about us trying to make our program relevant,” head coach Rodriguez said. “The best way to do that is beat a ranked team … I think it’s a good step.”

Irrelevancy was the theme of 2011, but Rodriguez has put the Wildcats back on the map, and it’s only week two.

OK, it’s one win against a team that was probably a bit overrated with a true freshman starting at quarterback.

In his post-game press conference, Rodriguez was asked where this win ranks in his coaching career.

“It’s the best win I had here at Arizona,” Rodriguez deadpanned.

After next week’s cupcake against South Carolina State, the Wildcats should be 3-0. That’s one less win than they had in all of last season.

Just looking at Arizona’s remaining schedule, the mind runs wild with the possibilities for this season.

Oregon State, Washington, UCLA, Colorado, Utah and Arizona State are all beatable, and Stanford barely slipped by San Jose State in week one.

The Wildcats legitimately could win six or seven more games. More realistically, they might win four or five more.

Five wins for the season was supposed to be an accomplishment.

There is also the possibility of a repeat of 2010, when Arizona upset Iowa and jumped into the top 10 a week later, only to lose 14 of its next 19 games, leading to the firing of former head coach Mike Stoops.

There are still some weak spots on the roster. There is no pass rush (zero sacks against Oklahoma State), Shaquille Richardson is a weak link in the secondary (he gave up at least three passing touchdowns in coverage errors on Saturday) and the linebacker core is a bit undersized and thin.

In the future, Arizona can’t give up 636 yards and 38 points and expect to win. The Wildcats won’t score 59 points every week and the opponent won’t committ 167 penalty yards again either.

But overall, this Wildcats team has already exceeded the wildest of expectations after just two weeks.

If Matt Scott keeps this up, I see no reason why he can’t finish with 4,000 passing yards and close to 1,000 rushing.

Ka’Deem Carey has 273 rushing yards and five total touchdowns. He’s on pace for 1,638 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns.

Jake Fischer, after missing all of 2011 with an ACL injury, is flying all over the field and has garnered 27 tackles in two games.

On defense, Jared Tevis, Tra’Mayne Bondurant, Marquis Flowers, Jonathan McKnight and even walk-on Sir Thomas Jackson have all made an impact.

Heck, even John Bonano had a coming out party against the Cowboys, nailing all three field goal attempts and six PATs after struggling against Toledo.

In short, times look like they are a-changing for Arizona football.

“We’re slowly becoming relevant,” said receiver Austin Hill, whose acrobatic catches have carried Arizona over the past few weeks.

“That was a key word that (coach Rodriguez) always said. We’re gonna become relevant.”

Early-season Top 25 inclusion notwithstanding, the Wildcats aren’t quite relevant at the level Rodriguez wants them to be (i.e. playing for the Rose Bowl). But Saturday’s win was a step in the right direction.

Penguin Air

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