Schu Strings: Football has to keep the faith

Just three games into the season, it appears as though we're into the "need to keep believing" stage for Arizona football. Given the way the conference is shaking down, finding the necessary wins to earn a postseason berth gets more and more difficult.

Close, but not enough has been a rather familiar turn of events for the UA during the Mike Stoops era. Last year's heartbreakers against Wisconsin and Washington State and this season's near misses at Utah and at home against 10th-ranked Purdue are the kinds of encounters that give fans hope, and breed frustration at the same time.

At the onset of the campaign, many pointed to Utah as the key game of the season, and since Arizona came up short, it placed it behind the eight ball in terms of really making a serious run for a bowl game. That has been made tougher in light of the performance of other Pac-10 teams. For instance, Oregon looked potentially winnable three weeks ago, but despite getting rolled by USC it is playing pretty well. That appears to be a tough win. Cal is solid, UCLA looks like it will place well into the upper echelon of the league, and ASU is racking up offense in droves.

But that's down the road. This weekend the Wildcats have to travel to 4-0 Cal, which isn't as daunting as the elite squad it fielded last year, but does have plenty of talent to remain competitive. Then there's USC, and that's been logged as a loss the moment the schedule was released.

The bottom line: if all goes as planned, Arizona's best-case scenario is four wins: Washington, Stanford and Oregon State. As a result, we're returning to some familiar territory. Conversations center around the UA's general improvement, and the ability to at least fight hard against strong competition.

But while that's certainly a step in the right direction over the blowouts suffered prior to Stoops' arrival, the truth remains that Arizona still hasn't gotten over the hump with any regularity.

The Purdue game was a further example of this trend. Statistically, Arizona probably shouldn't have been in the game. It endured severe injuries on the front line and at linebacker, and got controlled on the offensive line, yet hung around to make it competitive and had an opportunity to force overtime late.

But it was more of the same. For Arizona football, the prevailing attitude appears to be not if, but when, will the key mistake be made. Against Purdue it was the Syndric Steptoe fumbled punt in the third quarter and Mike Thomas' missed reception at the tail end of a fabulous Richard Kovalcheck ad lib and delivery on the game's final drive.

If football is about overcoming adversity and dealing with obstacles, right now the UA can write the book. But as we consider reflection on 2005, the growth might occur with the way Arizona handles what it has to face throughout the remainder of the campaign.

The Wildcats really weren't the same after the loss to Washington State last season, and needed about six weeks to right the ship. There's a pretty decent chance Arizona is staring at 1-4 after the Cal and USC road games, and if that happens it must find a way to regroup faster to make things challenging for the other opponents on the slate.

Mentally, it must overcome the notion that a key mistake will happen. At some stage, someone has to do the seemingly simple thing: have the confidence to make the plays necessary to get the job done. For Arizona, that's the next destination on this long football journey…

…Moving on…

…The Bank of Tucson Wildcat Dream Invitational celebrated a decade of fundraising achievements with its annual event at the Westin La Paloma. In addition to its worthy charity endeavors, the Wildcat Dream Invitational is an opportunity for donors to get a sneak peak at the men's basketball team.

Every year the event chooses a worthy charity. This time around, funds went to the Arizona Cancer Center dedicated to women's cancers, a cause close to Lute Olson's heart as he and others lay the foundation for building a world class cancer treatment facility in Tucson in conjunction with the University of Arizona.

Steve Kerr again handled guest of honor duties while Dave Sitton, himself a cancer survivor, delivered his typical stellar effort as Master of Ceremonies.

The proceedings include player introductions. In this format, Sitton attempts to put the Wildcats on the spot in a sort of basketball improv setting. Usually the answers are fairly typical and often reserved, but occasionally something interesting will pass through a player's lips, and in this case interesting took on the form of freshman JP Prince.

When asked what stuck out to him the most about his collegiate experience, Prince said, "That the coaches must have a lot of free time, because they have the time to check up on every class I'm in."

But there's more from basketball's new clown prince.

"The coaches must be getting really old because I see them in their golf carts all the time."

Many think Prince could push junior point guard Mustafa Shakur for minutes. While that's an uphill climb indeed, with quips like that he might be something of a media magnet.

Jawann McClellan attended the event with a soft cast on his leg, but said he hopes to have it removed by the first day of practice. Apparently, he's been afflicted with a minor Achilles malady. McClellan is still waiting on the status of his academic appeal.

Arizona also introduced a new walk-on. David Bagga, a 6-4, 175-pound guard from Mater Dei High School, will aid the UA in practice situations. Bagga, who hails from the same school that produced Reggie Geary and Miles Simon, called the opportunity to join the team a dream come true.

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