Oct. 16, 2011
TUCSON, Ariz. - After their one and only bye week of the season, the Arizona Wildcats are sure of one thing: they are ready to get back to playing football.
Nearly a week after eight-year assistant coach Tim Kishwas named interim head coach, a sense of normalcy should return for the Wildcats as they enter game week preparations for Thursday night's Pac-12 matchup against UCLA. It will be Arizona's first home game in almost a month when ESPN televises Thursday evening's game set for a 6 p.m. start at Arizona Stadium.
Last week the Wildcats stepped away from game-specific preparations to focus more on themselves. They spent the majority of practice time last week working on fundamentals and competing against each other in spirited scrimmage situations.
As Kish described it, "There's a fine line with what the work ethic's going to be, and trying to get a little bit of fun instilled in the program as well. I'm going to try to find that mix."
Two of Arizona's team captains - cornerback Trevin Wade and quarterback Nick Foles- are welcoming the start of the second half of the season. Both stated their desires to make the most of the last six games of the regular season to the local media last week.
"Everybody is adjusting well and we're going to keep fighting," Wade said. "We're going to pull through and fight for ourselves."
"We've got a lot of season left to play," Foles mentioned. The only thing we can do is focus on our team and stick together.
"With six games left we can do a lot of things," Foles added.
While Arizona completed the first half of the schedule just 1-5, it was not without stiff competition. The Jeff Sagarin NCAA Football ratings rank the Wildcats' schedule as the toughest in the nation to the mid-point in the season.
Moving forward, the Wildcats will look to remain an explosive offensive team. Foles has thrown for the second-most yards of any quarterback in the nation (2,255 yards), and the team's 383 passing yards per game is the third-best mark in the nation. The squad has scored an average of 33 points per game in the last three contests.
The goal now will be to come out of the gates quicker. Arizona has been outscored in the first quarter of games 55-17 on the season, something that has fallen equally on the offense's lackluster starts and the defense's inability to turn teams away.
This week, along with a fresh start, Arizona would like nothing more than a fast start to put a difficult stretch behind them for good. It is something that has boded well for the Wildcats in recent years as they are 27-6 when leading after the first quarter since the start of the 2004 season.
"We're a big family," Foles said. "We're sticking together through the adversity. This is the time to be `all in' and not look back."
The new six-game season for the Wildcats and their fans begins on Thursday night at 6 p.m. Indeed, Arizona can get back to playing football.