If a team has superior talent, there's more room for mistakes. Often, the talent will be enough to compensate for a potentially debilitating screw-up. In the case of a team that isn't loaded to the hilt, like Arizona, mistakes must be kept at a minimum. Teams like this probably aren't going to beat the USCs of the world, unless the USCs of the world go into a complete meltdown.
But teams like Arizona can do the little things necessary to compete with a number of other programs in the Pac-10 in the near future. And it's those little things that could make a difference, especially with some help from an opposition that goes into on-field vapor lock.
Ever since John Mackovic took over the program, one of the consistent mantras has been the improvement of the coaching staff. To be sure, the UA has some guys who have delivered in other programs, first and foremost defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz. But the time for talk is over.
It's time for the coaching staff to step up and prove it.
And proving it this year might not take place in the form of wins and losses. Proving it will be as much determined by Arizona's ability to bounce back from adversity. The UA opened the season on a positive note against UTEP. It did a lot of little things well, from limiting turnovers and penalties to filling the gaps on special teams and tackling on a consistent basis, at least in the deciding first half.
Against LSU, it was a different story. LSU is a better football team. That goes without saying. But Arizona didn't help its cause. The number of penalties rose dramatically, and the on-field product deteriorated, in frustratingly elementary ways, as the game progressed.
There's a lot of inexperience, and that inexperience will make more than its share of mistakes. The proof in Arizona's ability to coach is how often those mistakes occur. If it's a lot, there's a problem. If the issue is controlled, that has to be considered a good sign.
We're very much in the baby steps process of the Arizona rebuilding campaign, but there's talent on the roster, albeit painfully inexperienced, that appears to have the ability to pull the UA from its unfamiliar position of cellar dweller.
This is a conference known for its dramatic turnarounds. Many have pointed to the recent rise of Washington State and Cal. Much of that came with the ability to show a competitive tendency while learning from the mistakes that led to close losses. Washington State lost six games by seven points or less in its 1-10 campaign, and used those close calls as an impetus for great things over the course of the following two seasons, capped by an appearance in the Rose Bowl.
Arizona has to worry about getting into close games against quality opposition before it can worry about learning what it takes to win those games. From there, the jump can be put into place. It's up to the coaching staff to make sure the progress is forward from this point on, and that Arizona builds upon forthcoming adversity in a positive way.
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