Rick Scuteri-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire
The Arizona Wildcats have found themselves trailing at some point in every game but one this season. It's not a model that can last and the sooner the Wildcats figure this out, the sooner they'll become winners.
And there's that kind of loss, too.
That kind that plays out like a romantic comedy - Will they? Won't they? - keeping you guessing whether or not the destined couple will ever get together as you painfully watch the protagonist squander opportunity after opportunity to seal the deal. Only problem is that there usually is a happy ending on the silver screen; instead, of course, the Wildcats wore defeat, squandering a late lead.
It's a far cry from 49-0 and it sure ain't a win. Saturday night's come-from-behind, lose-from-ahead loss to Oregon State is one of those what if games that haunts come bowl season or a lack thereof.
But there's a different theme we're beginning to notice aside from losing in different manners. In their three games of consequence - we're tossing out SC State and Oregon - Arizona has trailed in some capacity and regained a lead. It was a four-point halftime deficit against Toledo, a quick 14-point hole to the Cowboys, and a 17-point ditch most recently. This is an unsustainable model; one that bit the Wildcats in the tail Saturday.
Catch up is for French fries. Not football teams.
Why has this team, with the capability to score in gaggles and in a hurry, struggled to get the engine started? What's the holdup at kickoff? How come that first hurdle is so tall?
First, we should look at the Oregon game. Certainly on paper this game suggests nothing of fast starts or Wildcat offense of any sort. But, if you'll recall, Arizona spent a fair chunk of first half time in the Red Zone, swiftly finding their way deep into Oregon territory. Now it's certainly an inauspicious position to be deriving tales of success from failed red zone trips; but, anecdotally, it's what we've got and I believe it's telling of the greater context.
We're watching that culture shift.
It takes time and patience is necessary, losses will still sting; but, if we're looking for progress, take solace in the fact that Arizona has made comebacks from each hole they've dug. That's good news. As the season progresses, the Wildcats should be able to build upon their previous successes and gain a better understanding of what they're truly capable of doing. Shifting the culture from "maybe" to "can."
They are a group that, in my estimation, is capable of being a very solid team. Not great, but they're good enough to beat that Oregon State team and I'm curious if they believe that just yet. They faltered early, then again late, perhaps succumbing to the moment. Something Sean Mannion certainly did not do within the construct of his own program's culture. A culture of winning.
Next up for the Wildcats is a trip to Palo Alto. Another tough game and one in which the Wildcats very well could dig themselves another early hole
Maybe this time they'll bury a tree in it.