Cougars are Hungry

The Cougars ended the regular season on a down note, losing to instate rival Utah, but after having some time to recharge and refocus, the team is ready and raring to get going again. To cap off the season the Cougars will be playing an Arizona team that hasn't been all that familiar with bowls and is raring to go itself.

"We're hungry," said quarterback Max Hall following Thursday's practice. "We have a lot to prove, I certainly have a lot to prove, so we're very anxious to get going and end the season strong."

The Cougar football team took the field Thursday with the attitude Hall described, and although there was some rust, the general consensus was that it went well.

"Just speaking for me personally, I didn't come out so good today," acknowledged offensive lineman Travis Bright. "But as we got going I think we all progressed very well and ended practice well. The desire is there and guys are working hard. We'll be ready for sure to play a great game against Arizona."

The football team was given the week off following the Utah game to recharge themselves physically and have a chance to be with their families over Thanksgiving. Now that they're back, they feel the time off has helped.

"It's really helped me physically," said Dennis Pitta, who is still not 100 percent following his knee injury. "We all used that time well to heal up, and even though I'm still not going, I know that most of the team feels recharged and that's going to help us."

In the Las Vegas Bowl the Cougars will face off against an Arizona team that will present a tough challenge. Despite their mediocre 7-5 record, the Wildcats are deceptively strong, which Hall and his teammates are very aware of.

"I think they only averaged losing by six or so points in each of their losses, so they're tough," said Hall about Arizona. "They're not a bad football team and they really finished the season strong. They haven't been to a bowl game for a while, so they'll be hungry, but we'll be just as hungry with just as much to prove."

Arizona is of course noted for their strong defense. Hall is aware of their defensive strengths and knows that he'll have to be on top of his game in order to see success against them.

"They're good, they play a lot of cover-three and they're very disciplined," said Hall about Arizona's defense. "They're very good at what they do. Coach Stoops does a very good job preparing them and getting them to execute well."

Hall said that Arizona won't likely be throwing as much at him as other teams, but that what they throw at him will likely be better executed and more of a challenge.

As mentioned, Hall doesn't believe that his team will be lacking motivation despite not winning the conference or being where many fans believed the team would be at this juncture.

"I had a good year and I did a lot of good things, but there's so many things I could have done better and things I could have done to make the team better," said Hall. "I feel that I have a lot to prove after that Utah game. I'm much better than that. I'm preparing like crazy and making sure we're ready to go."

Hall mentioned that he's working on making the next necessary progression. He noted that during the season teams have picked up his tendencies, which had him guessing much more than he would have liked on too many occasions. Now the goal is to have defenses guessing more as he works to lift his level of play.

Raising his level of play started in earnest Thursday with the first full practice since the loss to Utah. Hall could tell that the team was hungry and that they'll be ready to go.

"Practice went great today," said Hall on Thursday. "I could tell just being around the guys and watching how they worked that we're hungry. We're not hanging our heads or anything. We have as much energy as we had in the fall when we first came out, and we have a lot to prove and I think we we'll win the ball game and get back to the way we were playing early in the season and with the same emotion."

Johnson Watch

Cornerback Scott Johnson wasn't practicing last night and likely won't begin practicing until next week, as he's still recovering from his double groin tear. Johnson believes he will be ready to play though and is preparing as if he'll play against Arizona in the bowl game.

"We're taking it easy and just seeing how I improve," said Johnson. "I can run just fine. I've been sprinting and not feeling much of anything. It's when I change direction is where it effects me most."

There is no certain timetable to when Johnson will try to practice, but he's working with trainers and he feels that he'll be ready to join the team on the practice field early next week.

"That's the plan," said Johnson. "Hopefully I'll be ready to go and can get in some good practice because I really need to work on my conditioning before game time. The trainers have done a great job with my injury and hopefully I'll be ready to go and be able to help this team."

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