Hankwitz admits to reluctantly accepting the interim position the day following John Mackovic's dismissal, but he hopes to show program improvement over the course of the team's final seven regular season games.
"We have a chance to make a positive out of the rest of the season," Hankwitz said. "The players are resilient. Our loss to TCU, while heartbreaking, was a stepping stone. We now have to prepare for a Washington State team that is playing very good football."
After a three-plus decade stint as an assistant in successful programs like Colorado and Texas A&M, Hankwitz gets his first opportunity to call the shots. And while the window will likely be just seven games, he is clear about his intent to take over the position on a long-term basis.
"I've pursued some other (head coaching) opportunities, but maybe not as hard as I should have." Hankwitz said. "When I was a coach for Jim Young at Arizona, he told me not to worry about other jobs. Do the best job where you're at and opportunities will present themselves. This is an opportunity to show what I can do."
It doesn't get any easier for Arizona on the field. The UA faces a Washington State team that is the surprise of the conference. If not for a fourth-quarter meltdown at Notre Dame, WSU would be undefeated. Following the setback to the Fighting Irish, Wazzu rolled Colorado in Boulder, topped New Mexico and pounded Oregon in Eugene. But Hankwitz's greatest concern at this stage is improvement on the home front.
"We need to identify the things we do well," Hankwitz said. "I think it was Napoleon who said when things aren't going well shorten your borders and sharpen your swords. We need to simplify things and sustain morale."
Arizona was much more successful in that endeavor against TCU. It yielded just 13 points, 10 in regulation, and only one big play of significance. While it gave up yardage — TCU generated well over 400 yards total offense — the UA kept the Horned Frog offense out of the end zone and gave the team an opportunity to win.
Hankwitz will continue to call the defensive formations from the sidelines. The offensive staff, led by coordinator Mike Deal, will handle the majority of the play-calling responsibilities.
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