Bowl hopes slim, future is bright

A 21-point first quarter ASU onslaught and another injury to Willie Tuitama has all but ended the Wildcats' season. Although there are some slim bowl hopes, more than likely the great run at the end of the season will have to get Wildcat fans through the winter.

Bowl Hopes
It looks like the Wildcats bowl hopes have been dashed. There are a few scenarios that would allow the Cats to prolong their season, but all three are somewhat remote. The "easiest" would be to receive a bid to the Hawaii Bowl. Right now UCLA seems to be the choice of that game's bowl committee but there is a lot of politicking to be done. If UCLA upsets USC, any chance of Arizona going to that game is dashed.

One remote possibility is if Cal can somehow manage to get into the BCS. Right now they are 19th and would have to get into the top-14. IF USC gets to the BCS Championship AND Cal cracks the top-14 to receive a Rose Bowl bid, then the other Pac-10 Bowl teams would all move up a slot and Arizona could grab the sixth slot.

The Poinsettia Bowl is also a possibility, but the Cats would need help from the Sun Belt Conference. BOTH Troy (formerly Troy State) and Louisiana-Lafayette would have to lose. If either wins, they get the necessary seven wins to force the Poinsettia Bowl to take them over a six win team.

Troy, who is 5-1 in the Sun Belt, squares off against Florida International. The Golden Panthers are 0-11 and the only thing they look capable of beating is a few Miami Hurricane players. Yes, FIU is the team involved in the brawl with Miami. Louisiana-Lafayette hosts Louisiana-Monroe in a game that used to be a battle between directional schools. Now the "Hyphen Bowl" sees the Wildcats needing the 3-8 Warhawks to pull off a road win. The good news is that they are coming off a win over North Texas and nearly upset Kentucky the week before that.

Irony Pt. 1
The Poinsettia Bowl would LOVE to take Arizona. In fact they'd rather take Washington State and a couple of 6-6 WAC and MWC teams before they'd want to take a seven-win team from the Sum Belt, which is the worst conference in D-I. Arizona is coming off a three-game stretch where they upset three ranked teams, has a strong alumni base in Southern California and is only a six hour drive from San Diego. Troy and Louisiana-Lafayette are both over 1,500 miles way, don't travel particularly well and 0-5 against BCS Conference teams and just 2-6 against out of conference opponents.

For the second consecutive week Willie Tuitama was removed from the game after being hit in the head on a sack. Unlike the Oregon game, the Wildcat offense could do little once he went to the bench. In the past two weeks Tuitama was a combined 14-19 for 156 yards and three scores. The Cats scored 28 points with him in the game. Adam Austin, who replaced Tuitama, was just 12-35 for 112 yards, one score and two interceptions. He did lead the Wildcats to 24 points, but just seven in the final two and half quarters against ASU.

Irony Pt. 2
Wildcats fans have something to be angry about. Remember the botched replay job in the Oregon/Oklahoma game? That win gave Oregon their seventh win, allowing a team riding a three-game losing streak and having lost to the Wildcats to go to a bowl game over Arizona. Had the replay officials gotten it right, then the Ducks would be a six win team and in a logjam with Arizona, Washington State and UCLA (assuming they lose to USC).

The Future
Although the game leaves a sour taste to conclude the season, it must be noted that a lot of positives occurred. The Wildcats, who many left for dead three weeks ago, finished winning three of their last four, beating three ranked teams. They also bring the vast majority of their key players back. Of the players who started against ASU eight offensive and nine defensive players are slated to come back. Those numbers are a bit skewed as Brad Wood, Marcus Hollingsworth and Paul Phillipp have rarely started this year, and Phillipp may be eligible for an extra year of eligibility due to an injury plagued career. Also moving on are Syndric Steptoe and Adam Hawes. Nick Folk is a huge loss and Michael Johnson started the first eight games of the season and will also graduate.

Of the 47 players who saw the field against ASU, just nine graduate.

Arizona won three games in a row for the first time since the start of the 2001 season when the John Mackovic coached Wildcats beat San Diego State, Idaho and UNLV to open the season.

The Cats won six games for the first time since 1999 when they went 6-6, but lost their final three games to miss out on post season play.

It Wouldn't Be A Rivalry Without Wacky Plays
There were a number of strange plays in the game, unfortunately for Wildcat fans they seemed to go against Arizona. There was the fourth down touchdown toss off of the fake punt. The DB's on the left side of the Arizona defense seem so worried about where returner Syndric Steptoe was lined up (he had move up to assist with the fake) that they did not communicate about who was going to cover tight end Jamal Lewis, who was wide open for the score.

Later in the quarter Nick Folk dropped the snap, could not gather up the ball and kicked it not one, but twice on the ground. ESPN showed the highlight but superimposed a soccer ball over the football and it indeed looked as if Folk was returning to the form that made him standout soccer player at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks.

The Cats did benefit from a overturned replay and a few dumb decisions by Rudy Carpenter, but it was not enough.

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