Schu Strings: Light at the end of the tunnel?

As hard as it is to believe, Arizona football has been down this dreary road before. And after being overmatched in 1991, there actually was light at the end of the tunnel.

Loss to LSU: 59-13

Loss to Oregon: 48-10

Loss to Purdue: 59-7

Those scores look a lot like this.

Loss to Washington: 54-0

Loss to UCLA: 54-14

Loss to Miami: 36-9.

In three consecutive weeks in 1991, an undermanned Arizona football team took it on the chin against some national powers. In 2003, UA football has endured a similar curse. Yet 12 years ago, Arizona Coach Dick Tomey seemed to get a reprieve of sorts. Fans, while not pleased with the rash of lopsided setbacks, appeared to understand that Arizona was a dreadfully undermanned and overmatched unit.

The story is familiar to Wildcat football historians. Injuries laid waste to the starters, and Tomey was forced to pull true freshmen out of their redshirts just to field a team. The results were predictable. The UA got pummeled on a pretty consistent basis.

However, Tomey wasn't exactly under the gun. It wasn't until three games into the 1992 season, after the UA suffered a tie at lowly Oregon State off the heels of a last-second loss to Washington State at home, with mighty Miami looming on the horizon, that the first significant calls for Tomey's head started to bellow.

But from there we know what happened. Despite a missed field goal that could have snapped Miami's long home winning streak, Arizona built from the close call and strung together arguably the three best years of Wildcat football in the modern era.

Arizona Coach John Mackovic has not been afforded the same luxury. The cries for his removal have been apparent for some time. Yet he fields a team remarkably similar, complete with a front line (on both sides of the ball) that has been decimated by the loss of well over a dozen potential prospects in his brief tenure. Additionally, he goes to battle with untested quarterbacks, often a recipe for problematic results. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

In 91, Arizona managed a couple bright spots in that 4-7 campaign. After the three-week gauntlet, it routed a lousy Oregon State team 45-21. Two weeks later it belted USC 31-14. Troy was also 4-7 that year. But it also lost 37-14 at ASU in the game that snapped The Streak.

Mackovic might not be in a position to hope for improvement from a more seasoned team next season. If he wants to maintain any opportunity of staying afloat, Arizona has to somehow, some way, show signs of life this year. But looking ahead, one wonders where that reprieve might be.

This week's opponent, TCU, is probably not as good as its national ranking and struggled awhile before toppling a pitiful Vanderbilt team. But defense is its forte, while Arizona has been able to muster nothing on the offensive end.

The game at Washington State now appears much more difficult than initially anticipated. WSU (Oct. 4) is probably the surprise of the conference, yet again, and that does not bode well for the UA's chances.

UCLA (Oct. 11) has played poorly, especially on offense, but appears to have more athletes than Arizona at this stage.

Cal (Oct. 25) has suffered its share of setbacks, but appears a lot more competitive than most originally expected.

Oregon State (Nov. 1) could give Arizona fits on the Corvallis turf.

Washington (Nov. 8) and USC (Nov. 15) appear poised to saddle the UA with even more lopsided setbacks.

Which leaves the season finale against an ASU team that is struggling offensively, but still appears to have more weapons and more ability than Arizona, even though it might be in the midst of a disappointing campaign by that time as well.

In other words, the only patsy on the schedule is Arizona. By this stage, it might be too late just to talk in terms of moral victories, but at least it would be something. Something other than a continuing trend of fielding a team unable to compete.

If ever the term fighting like Wildcats were to come into play, this would be that time…

…Moving on…

…The local art house, The Loft Cinema, opened the doors for a Sing-Along to the 50s classic West Side Story. Here's the gist. For just 18 bucks, you can sit in the theater and sing your favorite movie classics, along with the stars on the screen. It's sort of the Rocky Horror Picture Show gone mainstream.

Some months ago, The Loft kicked off this concept with The Sound of Music, and apparently the damn thing sold out. Now I don't know about you, but my idea of torture is not someone sticking a bright light in my face and depriving me of food and sleep for days while sticking bamboo under my fingernails. No, my idea of true torture is being stuck in a room with hundreds of movie-goers while they belt out Julie Andrews classics. Having to sit through The Sound of Music is torture in its own right. Enduring the live musical accompaniment goes far beyond anything allowed in the Geneva Convention.

Hell, you stick me in an environment like that and I'm ready to tell you where Iraq has hidden the weapons of mass destruction. I wasn't even alive, but I'd be glad to admit to standing on the grassy knoll. Set up a lunch with Rosie O'Donnell and Tom Arnold. I'll be there, if it means not having to be where they sing, for I am not a Jet, nor will I ever croon about being a Jet, at least in public.

Snap, snap, snap.

[John Schuster is an editor for Cat Tracks Magazine and frequent contributor to cattracks.net. He's also a Jet. A Jet all the way. From his first cigarette to his last dying day.]


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