By Bob Clark
Could it get any worse at Arizona? Well, there are nine Pac-10 games to go for the Wildcats, beginning Saturday at California. "We need to get our swagger back," UA wide receiver Mike Thomas said. "The Pac-10 is coming, and people say that's what counts." The Wildcats better hope so, because they're about to get counted out in Tucson. Arizona is 1-2, with its victory over Northern Arizona. The loss Saturday to New Mexico was rife with mistakes, including UA coach Mike Stoops being assessed a personal foul penalty, for one of his sideline tirades. Give Stoops this: after the game, he told reporters "in my three-plus years here, this is far and away our most undisciplined team ... discipline is my responsibility and something that has to be shored up." Well, glad that's taken care of ... Then came Monday morning's search of the police reports, and the discovery that four Arizona players had been cited for alcohol-related offenses early Friday morning. They'd been suspended for the game, Stoops said in not identifying them, though the police did. Granted, it was three walk-ons and one scholarship player. None would have probably played had they been in uniform. So why fret? They were all underage. It was 12:34 a.m. when police responded to a call of a disturbance at a UA fraternity house. No punches were thrown, though it was alleged one of the players had a brick in his hand and was threatening to bash somebody's head. Because they drove off, a DUI was added to the minor-in-possession charges.
It was also the third alcohol-related incident involving Arizona players this year. In February, quarterback Willie Tuitama was cited for being a minor in possession of alcohol after police went to an on-campus parking lot where squealing tires and loud noises prompted their interest. Then in July, it was defensive end Louis Holmes charged following a scuffle at the Pussycat Lounge in Scottsdale, a Phoenix suburb. UA football, at its worst
Now, back to football, as played by the Wildcats in the loss to the Lobos. "How bad was it?" wrote Arizona Daily Star columnist Greg Hansen. "It was Gila Bend in July. It was Tiny Tim playing a ukulele, singing `Tiptoe Through the Tulips.' "
There was this commentary from Anthony Gimino of the Tucson Citizen: "I'm eager to see if Mike Stoops, facing the biggest crisis of his four-year coaching career, has any special motivational techniques in his bag of tricks. "If he has a bag of tricks. "Screaming obscenities at your players does not count." Maybe it's also time to ask some questions of Jim Livengood, the director of athletics at Arizona. Remember, he was the one who forced out Dick Tomey, Arizona's winningest coach, after the 2000 season and brought in John Mackovic, who only proved why he couldn't succeed in the NFL or at Texas by going 10-18 before he was fired midway through his third season. Then Livengood settled on Stoops, who is 13-24 in his fourth season, with four of the wins over Division I-AA opponents, or whatever it is the NCAA has relabeled that level. It's probably too soon to think Stoops is in trouble. If he is, does the UA administration allow another Livengood search? Plus, Stoops has a win over a top 25 program in each of his previous three seasons, so Pac-10 foes better be wary.
On the other hand ...
"Progress since last season? None," Hansen opined in his column. "It has gone backward, way back to the Mackovic years." Worse, the Wildcats may realize it themselves. "We just don't know how to win," said UA offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes, hired to straighten out that unit. "I think right now that's our issue as much as anything else."
Bears, being wary
Cal knows about those Arizona upsets. It was the Bears, then ranked No. 8, who fell to the Wildcats in Tucson last season. A repeat of that upset isn't likely, but how good is Cal? The Tennessee win is maybe not what it seemed at the time, there was a close call at Colorado State and shouldn't a top 10 team at least do to Louisiana Tech what the Bears did? "We can play better," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "Maybe the first few games we got some kinks out of our system. As we move into conference, there are some lessons to be learned." The Bears also have concerns on defense, with two linemen suffering foot injuries and linebacker Zack Follett forced to leave the past two games with a recurring neck injury.
"It's going to hurt us, but that's why we've got depth," Cal middle linebacker Worrell Williams said. "We've got a lot of guys who have been waiting for that chance." Cal defensive coordinator Bob Gregory, a former UO assistant, said "I liked the way we responded when guys went down but we won't really know about us until Pac-10 play." One thing the Bears have discovered is they don't like playing against no-huddle offenses (yes, like Oregon) that hurry things up. Gregory was perplexed that officials wouldn't allow him to substitute at will. "The tempo of the game was so fast that we were getting pretty gassed out there," Gregory said. Williams, the middle linebacker, complained after the Louisiana Tech game that "they're supposed to give us a chance to get lined up ... they were doing something that was borderline (legal)." There's one offensive injury to worry about, too. Cal receiver DeSean Jackson is still bothered by that thumb injury suffered in the opener. "We're probably going to have to back off and not even let him touch the ball all week long," Tedford said. "He has to let that thumb calm down a little bit."