September 8 column: New Perspective.....
Stallion (Regular+; 24301)
Posted on: 09-08-2009.
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Cats’ D looks great even from miles away
A new season is the perfect time for a new outlook on things. The potential of a defense. The relief of a kicker. And really, really different seats.
The 2009 season opener wasn’t another 70-0 shellacking but it wasn’t supposed to be. This was a team picked to win its conference with a potential NFL draft pick at quarterback. But the defense almost did repeat the -to-zero portion of last year’s opener and that’s why we should be excited.
It’s easy now for pessimists to say, “Big deal, it was only a MAC team,” but just a few days ago the possibility of that MAC team exploiting us was still on the table. Will there be stiffer tests for the UA D? Of course, but there’s no reason now not to hope we might finally have that dominant defense we’ve been waiting for.
It starts up front and up front we looked really good. Donald Horton looked like a linebacker on his sack and, oh by the way, he’s 275 pounds. When’s the last time we got a legitimate pass rush from our defensive tackles? Add in Earl Mitchell knocking people around, Mana Mikaele blowing up a screen pass, both ends getting into the backfield, and you’ve got to be fired up about our D-line.
You also have to be feeling a lot better about our kicking situation. Zendejas 2.0 put his first kick into the backs of his linemen but a false start gave him a second attempt. As the ball sailed through the uprights young Alex gave a fist pump and you could see the weight lift off his shoulder pads. Zendejas ended up tying a school record with his four field goals, but it’s not really a record you want to see broken, like most kickoff returns, or biggest unemployment check.
So, yes, there were red zone issues. But even if you turn just one of those field goals into a touchdown, doesn’t 23-6 look a lot more impressive? And don’t you think that one TD would’ve been more likely had the guy with 16 touchdown catches in 22 career games been out there, the guy with all capital letters and a punctuation mark in his name?
Matt Scott emerged as the starting quarterback and the most eyebrow-raising stat wasn’t his 200 yards passing or 80 yards rushing. It was his 100% participation.
I wasn’t wanting to see Nick Foles because Scott was stinking up the place (he wasn’t). I wanted to see Foles because Stoops said the battle was too close to call and we were going to see both quarterbacks. It’s like being on a game show. It doesn’t matter how good the prize is behind Door #1, you’re always dying to know what’s behind Door #2. Yeah, this washer/drier set is nice, but what if the second option is a brand new car?
If Stoops had said two weeks ago – or even at the beginning of the week – that Scott had won the job and was going to get starter’s reps from here on out, we would’ve all be fine with him playing the whole game. In fact, we would have insisted on it. The only way a rookie starter gets better is by playing.
But when you’re told both QBs are capable of starting, and the one isn’t dominating the game, you’re curious about what the other allegedly capable starter can do. If there’s any doubt, you have to get it out of the way now. You don’t want to give Scott all the snaps for four games and then put Foles in there just to see what happens. What if Nick plays well? Then you’ve got a full-on QB controversy in the heat of the conference season.
So let us know, Coach, and show us what you tell us. Either say we’re going to play two quarterbacks, actually play two quarterbacks, and see who looks best in live game action, or say Matt Scott earned the starting job and played well enough to keep the starting job, and invest your practice and NAU reps in making him the best he can be.
Even with the low point total the Cats may have wrapped this one up before they left the locker room. Arizona dressed for success and remained undefeated (4-0) when wearing blue jerseys and white pants under Mike Stoops. What other fashion trends are hot for fall 2009? Blue-on-Blue (active four-game winning streak) and White-on-Red (won two out of three road games last year). What’s not hot? Stoops’ troops are 1-6 when wearing White-on-White, including an active five-game (and three-year) losing streak.
With a classic look and a stout defense it looked like the Arizona Football experience of old. But one thing was very different for this Cat Fan. If you recall, I won the drawing at the spring scrimmage and am now in possession of season tickets in one of the luxury suites at Arizona Stadium. As a result, Saturday night was the debut of “The Beverly Hillbillies Go to a Football Game.”
I had to ask a couple different employees before I got correct directions to where I was supposed to enter the stadium (I think they were profiling me). There was a slow line to get into the elevator (media members and assistant coaches get to cut in front of you) but there was complimentary lemonade and popcorn available as you waited. They want to make sure even the inconveniences are comfortable.
It didn’t take long to realize I wasn’t in Marana any more. The suite patrons waited patiently for the freshly-cut roast beef. The hot dog table? No waiting.
Once in my theater-style seat I gazed down at the field far below. We were even higher than the bats. Brian Jeffries was heard through the speakers in the back of the room and TVs in front showed the live broadcast. But one thing was missing: Noise.
The glass is thick enough to make the president feel safe. You can’t hear the P.A. announcer, the crowd or the band. You can barely even hear the fireworks. It’s like watching a game from the Biosphere.
It’s acceptable to clap and cheer after good plays but we don’t take part in the “U of A!” chant between quarters. So much for my chance to be an “A!” instead of an “Of!”
Interestingly enough, the only place where you can hear the normal football game sounds is through the speakers inside the red and blue bathroom. So if your dream is to hear the band play “Bear Down” while you relieve yourself, this is the place.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still very glad I won and I’m going to enjoy the suite the rest of the season. But don’t be surprised if I stick to the hot dog line.
The bats and I have some football to watch.
[Sorry for the delay, but I’m like the trash man. Whenever there’s a holiday the garbage comes late.]
Edited by Stallion at 9/8/2009 8:19:01 AM
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