What we're thankful for: Football Edition

Football season has not gone as planned, but Arizona fans still have plenty to be thankful about. Read on to see what it is.

Thanksgiving is a day that calls for us to recognize the good things in our lives and give thanks. WildcatAuthority took some time to count its blessings recognize the things in the Arizona football for which we are grateful.

Tim Kish: When Mike Stoops was fired, Kish stepped up immediately to fill the void as interim head coach. He didn't do so for an opportunity to take over as the team's next full-time head coach; he did it because he cared about his players and the program he has been a part of for the pass eight seasons.

While he'll finish with a .500 record at best, Kish was handed a job he definitely didn't ask for, and he performed his duties nobly. He did his best to restore pride, passion, and fun into a program that was short on all three, and he brought the school its biggest victory in the past two seasons with a dramatic victory over Arizona State last season.

Who knows what the future holds for Kish in terms of his future at Arizona, but no matter what, he should always been held in high-esteem for rising to the occasion in a time of need and acting with such professionalism and class.

Greg Byrne: After making the tough decision to let Stoops go in October, "the Ninja" immediately got to work on finding Arizona its next head coach. With the hiring of Rich Rodriguez, Byrne made a hire that will impact the program immediately and found a coach that should return Arizona football to relevancy before too long.

He worked swiftly but diligently, and there's no doubt he made the best hire for the program in his opinion. A man that represents Arizona Athletics with such dignity, it's clear that Byrne has all 19 UA sports on an upward trajectory and is a man all Wildcat fans can be proud of at the helm.

On a side note, we at WildcatAuthority are grateful Byrne put an end to the craziness that was the coaching search. It certainly was a wild six and a half-week ride.

Rich Rodriguez: Say what you will about his past, but if you watched his press conference Tuesday, it's clear Rodriguez is the perfect hire for an Arizona football team His spread offense and 3-3-5 defense will give the program the identity is clearly lacks at this time, and he'll bring in an exciting brand of football UA fans may not be used to.

He didn't set expectations, and he didn't promise anything specific, but he did say that his teams will work and play hard. That's exactly what UA needs; a man that isn't afraid to roll up his sleeves and get to work. Fans can rest assured knowing they not only have one of the brightest minds in the game at the helm, but also they have a man that wants to bring great things to Tucson.

It may take time, but in the end, Arizona fans will be confident that Rich Rodriguez is their coach and face of the program. Oh and by the way, he did promise that his teams will be reminded year around of the importance of beating their foes from up the I-10 in Tempe.

John Bonano: For the better part of three seasons, the kicking game at Arizona has been a roller coaster ride. Extra points, chip shots, and long distance field goal tries always seemed to find a way not to go through the uprights, and it became increasingly frustratingly as well as less likely that Arizona would ever be able to kick the field goals consistently.

Enter seldom used John Bonano, a kid with a big leg reserved specifically for kickoff duty to this point in his career. That all changed when Kish became interim head coach, as one of his first personnel moves was to promote Bonano to full-time kicker.

And just like that, all of UA's kicking woes came to an end. Bonano went on to be named Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week in his first week of being the team's primary kicker, and he went on to convert 7 of 10 attempts and all 18 of his extra point tries for the season. Even more exciting for Arizona fans is the fact that he'll be back next year; hopefully ensuring a high level of success in the kicking game for Arizona.

Ka'Deem Carey: A highly touted freshman from Tucson, Carey came to Arizona a local celebrity of sorts and with lofty expectations. His first year in the program provided a glimpse of what the future holds for the talented back, but expectations have sky rocketed with the hiring of Rodriguez.

Arizona's new coach will bring a system perfectly suited for Carey, and with the bulk of the carries in 2012, he could be in line for one of the biggest season from an UA running back in recent memory.

It's been widely publicized how well Rodriguez's scheme could fit with the 2012 team, and Carey is a large reason for that. If he picks up the offense well, Arizona fans will be grateful Carey decided to play his college football in Tucson and will have the pleasure of watching him run wild in UA's new offense next season.

Juron Criner: With an offense that will likely prioritize the run from the get-go, it's likely we won't see a talent like Criner at Arizona any time in the foreseeable future. Whether it be an acrobatic catch over one or multiple defenders, an electrifying move that propelled him to long gains, or one of his 30 career touchdowns, Criner emerged as a one of the top playmakers in program history during his time at Arizona.

It certainly didn't hurt that the play that will likely define his career, his 23-yard touchdown reception against ASU in which he broke tackles from four Sun Devils and Kyle Quinn, came just in time to bring the Territorial Cup back to Tucson in an otherwise down season. Playmakers like Criner are very rare, and with the direction the UA offense is headed in, talent like his may not be matched by any Arizona receiver for year to come.

Bryson Beirne: Speaking of the 23-yard touchdown to win the game, Beirne deserves thanks for his poise and calm in the face of adversity Saturday against ASU. It would have been easy for him to check out mentally, but by keeping his wits about him and keeping himself ready, he was able to deliver the pass that ultimately won the Territorial Cup; something virtually every Arizona fan is grateful for.

Nick Foles: Arizona's all-time leading passer, Foles has accomplished too much on the field to recount every single one of his achievements accurately. But much like Criner's wide receiver position, it's likely that pro-style quarterbacks like Foles will become extinct in Rodriguez's new offense.

Aside from his play on the field, Foles always represented Arizona with an immense amount of class and always shed a positive light on the program. Leaders like Foles are hard to find, and his presence will be missed amongst the transition to a constrasting style of the spread.

While Foles never delivered a Pac-12 championship or a Rose Bowl, there was never any doubt about his effort or desire to win. He'll go down as one of the top players in program history, and for his poise both on and off the field, Nick Foles should always be appreciated and regarded as a great example of what it means to be a quarterback and leader.

Matt Scott: One of the few moves that Stoops made in his final year of coaching at Arizona that will not be questioned was his decision to redshirt Scott for his senior year.

With Stoops out and Rodriguez in, UA's new head coach has the ideal quarterback for his system; a quarterback that is both a capable passer and runner. He'll be handed the reigns from day one, and the opportunity to operate within an offense as ideally suited to fit his talents as Rodriguez's is a chance Scott is undoubtedly chomping at the bit to seize.

If he can pick up the schemes, reads, and play designs quickly, Scott has a chance to put Arizona in a position to win the Pac-12 South and compete for a spot in the Rose Bowl. That's certainly an opportunity Arizona fans are grateful for, and come 2012, they'll be grateful that Scott is in the shotgun running the Wildcats' offense.


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