Five Things We Learned This Week: Arizona-Oregon
1. Mike Stoops Has Arizona In The Right Direction
The first call I got after the game was from someone who has been very critical of Mike Stoops. These were his words, "Mike Stoops has you guys going in the right direction."
It's true. For all of the criticism that Mike Stoops has gotten in his tenure at Arizona, he is building a winner in Tucson.
He is recruiting quality players, who only want to get better. The players have all bought into the system that Mike Stoops is running; work hard and play harder. Every player knows they play a crucial role in order to make sure that Arizona wins.
They play for the team, they aren't playing for themselves to get to the NFL. They know in order to get noticed they have to get better as a team, to get noticed as an individual.
Hopefully Wildcat fans are able to see Mike Stoops stick around in Tucson for awhile.
2. Cats Fought Back
Arizona was down 14-0 and seemed it would stay that way going into halftime.
That's when Nick Foles put together a great drive on a short field to hook up with the first of Juron Criner's three touchdown catches. Then Alex Zendejas hit a career long 47 yard field goal to end the half and put Arizona within four.
This might have been the most important stretch of the game for the Cats on offense. Being down 14 going into the second half might have seemed insurmountable having not scored in the first half.
This series of scores gave Arizona momentum going into the second half and some swagger as they scored on their first drive of the third quarter to go up 17-14.
I hate to sound like a broken record but past Arizona teams would have not fought back and just accepted defeat. These are even more signs that Mike Stoops has Arizona going in the right direction.
3. Stopping the Option
If there is one offense that Mike Stoops' defense has had trouble stopping it would be the option.
Oregon runs this offense better than any other team in the country. Oregon QB Jeremiah Masoli is probably the best quarterback in the country to run the option.
Arizona has struggled for years to stop this offense but on Saturday night they kept it in check until the final drive. The defense did a good job of staying at home an making sure that Masoli and LaMichael James didn't run wild on them.
Inside the red zone is where the Cats struggled to stop the option. Whether it was nerves about trying to make sure they didn't score or Oregon just being too good at the option, Arizona couldn't stop Oregon in the red zone.
4. Karmaic Shift
For all of the times that Arizona has rushed the field, you would figure Arizona fans would know what they are doing.
With a minute left and Oregon driving, about 200 students decided to stand on the sidelines in anticipation of rushing the field. This is where Karma came in.
Oregon continued to drive and Arizona had the Ducks down to a 4th-and-4 with 23 seconds left. Oregon converted.
Fan turned against their fellow fans. Chants from the stands directed towards the premature rushers included "It's all your fault."
A lot of fans blame the students jumping the gun for the loss. Oregon was a better team and stepped up when it counted, but Karma works in mysterious ways.
5. Last Two Games Important
For all of momentum that Arizona built going into November, they need to finish on a positive note.
There is a huge difference between finishing 8-4 and finishing 6-6. Arizona started 6-2, to finish 6-6 or 7-5, might suck the wind from the sails for Arizona going into a bowl game.
Arizona will have a rough time going to ASU and USC to finish out the season. They will have to keep playing hard and not hang their heads after two straight losses.
Finishing at .500, puts Arizona in the Poinsettia Bowl. Winning the final two games and an Oregon State loss puts Arizona in the Holiday Bowl. Arizona has to keep improving from year to year bowl-wise.
While spending New Year's Eve in El Paso might not sound like a great time for fans, for the team it is important to make getting to at least the Sun Bowl this year. This would mean a third place finish for the Cats up from fifth-place last year.
While revisiting the site of last year's bowl win might be a good time for everyone, making it to El Paso is an important step for the program.
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