'What If's' mean the team is getting better

It is getting to be an all too common occurrence. The Wildcats lose a close game and the fans are left wondering ‘what if?'

I did not get to watch the game. For the first time in half a decade I missed an Arizona home football game. Due to a death in the family I had to listen to the game over the internet from my hotel room in St. Louis.

I had to listen as the Cats were flagged 16 times, getting yards marked off 12 times. I had to listen as Syndric Steptoe fumbled a punt at the Purdue 40 down just four. I had to listen as Michael Thomas dropped a pass at the Purdue 40 that could have gone for a lot more.

Because I only listened I can't tell you why the Cats burned all of their timeouts early in the fourth. I can't tell you why the team repeatedly committed false starts. I can't tell you why only three wide receivers caught passes.

I can tell you a number of things. I can tell you that the Cats played without five of their seven starters on their front seven. I can tell you that Spencer Larsen, back for the first time since tearing up his knee, left early with a pulled a hamstring. Instead of Randy Sims, Dane Krogstad and Ronnie Palmer the Cats played with Sean Jones, Akin Akinniyi and John McKinney. Instead of Marcus Smith and Copeland Bryan, the Cats trotted out the likes of Jason Parker, Johnathan Turner, Michael Shelton and Donald Horton.

I can tell you that Akinniyi only took five snaps all week at middle linebacker because the coaches thought that Larsen and Krogstad would go. I can also tell you that the fourth string middle linebacker led the team with seven tackles.

I can tell you that the Cats gave up just 10 points in the second half, both set up by poor execution on special teams. Down just four, Syndric Steptoe fielded a punt at the Purdue 40-yard line. Instead of having the ball in Boilermaker territory, he muffs the punt and the visitors take over and score a touchdown just a few plays later.

Later on the Cats would fake a punt, but the Boilermakers were not fooled and the turnover on downs would lead to the final points for Purdue.

I can tell you that the Cats battled back. Down 14 they scored a late touchdown and had the ball with a chance to tie the game.

I can't tell you what happened on the dropped pass by Thomas on that final drive, but I can tell you that the announcers and the coaches all feel that he would have had a great chance to score and tie the game.

I can tell you that Danny Baugher averaged 57.6 yards on seven kicks, a school record that dated back to 1980. I can tell you that Baugher booted a 76 yarder and kept Purdue in poor field position frequently.

I can't tell you where Mike Jefferson is, but I can tell you that just three wide receiver caught passes.

I can tell you that Brad Wood is a force, catching a pair of touchdown passes and forcing Purdue to alter their coverage in the second half to limit his touches.

I can tell you that Richard Kovalcheck does not know the word quit. Like he did in the Utah game, Kovalcheck kept fighting. He threw for 287 yards and three scores, but threw a pick that ended their final drive.

I can tell you that the offensive line had a terrible night, committing numerous penalties and giving up a handful of sacks.

I can tell you that Nick Folk boomed a 51-yard field goal and put most of his kick offs near the back of the endzone.

Sadly, fans, coaches and players are left saying ‘what if?'. What if the Cats don't commit 12 penalties. What if the Cats don't fumble the punt? What if the Cats don't drop passes or miss tackles?

It is another ‘what if?' game in what has been two seasons of ‘what if?' games. I guess that is better than blowouts, but it still isn't easy to swallow.

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