Schu Strings: Home field disadvantage

Arizona's crushing 59-13 defeat at the hands of LSU was more than just the worst loss in the modern history of UA football at home. Couple that with another dominant Oregon performance in Tucson, and it was the continuation of a troubling trend.

As an assistant to Cat Tracks Editor Brad Allis, my job in the press box takes on a different quality. Brad pretty much has to pay attention to every play, regardless of the direction of the game. But I have the luxury of wandering a bit more when things get ridiculous. And by LSU's sixth possession, followed closely thereafter by LSU's sixth consecutive scoring drive, it had become pretty apparent that ridiculous had planted its behind firmly into one of the empty seats that popped up as part of Arizona Stadium's halftime emergency evacuation plan.

So I wasn't necessarily watching the field (although a television monitor was nearby) when Arizona made its triumphant defensive stand on that seventh drive, thus limiting LSU to a paltry 38 points in 30 minutes of play.

Instead, I was conversing with Anthony Gimino. For those familiar with Arizona athletics, Gimino once covered Wildcat football for the Arizona Daily Star. He also possesses a long-standing knowledge of Arizona gridiron history. Now a freelance reporter for a highly-regarded sports outlet, I mention Gimino for two reasons. One, because the gist of this column is based on his observation, and two, because he's one of an estimated eight people who actually read this thing.

During our conversation we started talking about better days. How there was a time when teams were scared to death to venture into Arizona Stadium. Not because the UA was a great football team, but because Arizona defined that ferocious animal that guarded its territory like it meant its life.

This attitude gained momentum on the same day Arizona embarked on a decade-long streak of non-losses to in-state rival ASU. November 27, 1982, was the day the UA toppled a heavily-favored Arizona State team 28-18.

From that point on, if you ventured into Tucson, you knew you had a battle on your hands. Arizona upended UCLA a year later. It pummeled SMU in 1985. Chuck Cecil ran back his memorable end zone to end zone touchdown against ASU in 1986.

Dick Tomey continued that attitude with wins over Oklahoma and Washington back-to-back in 1989. It shocked No. 1 Washington 16-3 in 1992.

But shortly after Arizona's 10-2 season in 1993, the magic seemed to fade. The 1994 team had its undefeated dreams dashed in a 16-10 setback at home to Colorado State. In 1996, the ASU Rose Bowl team marched into Arizona Stadium and rolled to a 56-14 rout. The only loss suffered by the 12-1 Wildcat unit in 1998: 52-28 at home against UCLA.

It was mauled by Stanford in 1999. Crushed by Oregon State in 2000, after earlier in the year losing a 10-point decision to Ohio State in a game that history says should have been a bear for the Buckeyes. Oregon put up 63 against Arizona at home in 2001, the week after Washington State pounded the UA 48-21. Then came LSU and an Oregon team that will probably finish somewhere in the middle of the Pac.

In two weeks on TBS, Arizona was outscored 107-23 at home.

Arizona football has a lot of issues before it, and that's to be expected during a time of rebuilding, but amidst all the strife is the realization that nobody fears playing in Tucson any longer.

Since John Mackovic took over the program, Arizona home wins have come against Idaho, UNLV (2001), NAU, Utah, North Texas (2002) and UTEP (2003). How much do you think Pac-10 opponents cringe when they see a trip to Tucson on the slate?

This seems odd for me to say, given that I've dished out more than my share of criticism toward Wildcat fans, but let's be honest. How can you blame them? What would inspire someone to come out to Arizona Stadium with the knowledge that there's a decent possibility the home team might not just lose, but get absolutely blasted in the process? To the university's credit, it did a fabulous job attracting the student population for the first two home games, but familiar fan apathy surfaced for the Oregon contest, where an announced attendance barely topped 40,000. Unless Arizona pulls a proverbial rabbit out of the hat, or acts like that caged animal fighting for its life, attendance figures will continue to slip. How bad will the numbers be for TCU in two weeks?

At home, Arizona football evokes about as much fear as Wilma. No offense to Wilma…

…Moving on…

…There's this commercial for Mountain Dew Code Red that confuses me mightily. It pits basketball players on a football field against football players, but they use a basketball. The tag line: "They play hard. We play harder," or some such thing. Yet in this "game," the basketball players, who in-bound the ball from the sidelines, commit at least five traveling violations and then step out of bounds to field a long pass that is dunked over the goal-post. Huh?

Somewhere along the line I missed the rules to this sporting gem.

And to think, people have the gall to bag on SlamBall.

[John Schuster is an editor/columnist for Cat Tracks. He writes a weekly column for cattracks.net and actually does watch the game in the press box.]


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